The last few rounds of the Garmin Arenacross Tour have been tough on Oakleaf Kawasaki. Every round has dangled that promise of a Main Event in front of the team’s star signing, Tyler Villopoto, and every time it’s stayed just that. But this past weekend at the fifth round of the tour, up at Newcastle in Britain’s industrial heartland, that promise became a reality – just.
For Villopoto, the round nearly did not happen; a stomach complaint left his weekend in the balance, but in the end, he felt strong enough to go out and qualify in 13th, while his French compatriot, Romain Biela, ended the morning qualifying session three spots up in 10th. Biela did not walk away unscathed either; a wrong landing jarred his back badly.
Biela’s afternoon saw him struggle with the soft dirt in his first heat; in the second, things did not improve much either. The LCQ however was a different story. Into the first corner in second behind Carl Nunn, Biela soon found himself in the lead of the four-lap sprint. With a lap and a half to go, he conceded the lead to his team-mate, crossing the finish line in second and transferring into the Main Event.
After a very short break, Biela lined up again for the final race of the afternoon, where he found himself on the ground with Yamaha rider McCoy virtually immediately. After picking himself up, he was only able to make modest progress and settle into ninth, collecting 10 points for the evening.
The afternoon’s races saw Villopoto again show flashes of the famed Villopoto talent. Although the first heat saw him start from the back, he worked his way forward to end seventh. His second heat, which he shared with Biela, also saw him make great strides to the front, only to be pipped to fourth halfway in. His results put him at the top of the LCQ list, and there finally everything fell perfectly into place for that long-awaited spot in the Main.
But all was not well. After the start, it was immediately clear that he was injured, and after an agonisingly slow lap, he pulled back in, collecting his most points in a round yet.
George Braeger – Standing in for Shaun Anthony commented: “It’s mixed emotions for us this evening, I mean, Romain’s on it, he was on it in Birmingham and he’s been feeling it all day. Tyler’s still adapting to conditions here, he hasn’t been well, and he came to Newcastle unsure if he was going to come out to ride because he had a bit of a bad stomach. It was a bit of hit and miss.
“In the LCQ both riders, him and Romain, went for it. Tyler had the first pick and Romain was fifth, but that race showed their potential, right? We’re over the moon with the results, all we wanted was both our boys in the final and we can’t ask for more than that.”
“I hurt my back a bit in qualifying, and I’m not used to this kind of dirt; at home it’s hard pack and it was much softer than I expected,” said Romain Biela. “But I made it into the final and I’m happy with that result.”
“Well, it’s been a roller coaster ride so far and this weekend was crazy,” says Tyler Villopoto. “I didn’t think I would be riding at one point as I had a stomach bug and had been to and fro from the bathroom, but I knew I had to just get out there. I was happy to make the Main, but I hurt my ankle in the LCQ when I cased the triple as many others did as the take off was so soft. It’s really sore and I’m going to get it checked out, but I was glad I made the final for me and the team.”