One of the fastest motocross riders of all time, James Stewart was finally able to hit the track in competition for the fist time in 2015 at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm.
Fairplex in Pomona, California was again the location for this, the second edition of an event that’s an evolution of the sport of supercross.
In case you’re not familiar with the event it goes down like this: Some of the top motocross and supercross riders in the world go head-to-head down an unwound track – there’s no turns, just a 1/2 mile-long straight rhythm section.
There are two classes, Open and Lites. Open is just what it sounds like – last year Travis Pastrana took to the track on a custom 500cc two-stoke Suzuki RM-Zilla beast (sadly no Travis this year), whereas the Lites are limited to the 250cc.
Always worth a watch: Travis Pastrana’s backflip finish GoPro run – Red Bull Straight Rhythm 2014
James Stewart returned to defend his Open title and younger brother Malcolm – who James beat in the Open final in 2014 – had moved to the Lites class.
There were no surprises in store during round of 16 with the star riders, like 450 motocross/supercross champion Ryan Dungey, the returning James Stewart and German import Ken Roczen all making easy work of their opponents.
But the Vince Friese vs Andrew Short battle was the stand-out head-to-head match-up of the first round. Friese lost his back brake coming up to one of the speed checks and launched it, sending himself and his 450 about 25 feet straight up and down onto the face of the following jump.
Remarkably, Friese saved himself from a wreck and rode the next race but would ultimately lose to Short.
Britain’s Dean Wilson would face SR75 Molson Racing’s Thomas Ramette – a Dirt Bike Rider supported team. It was always going to be an uphill battle for the 2015 UK Arenacross Champion against the former Lucas Oil 250 Motocross champ, and the Frenchman gave it his all – riding the nuts off his KX450F SR75 Molson machine but in the end the Red Bull KTM pilot came out on top and progressed to the next round (make sure you check back on dirtbikerider.com for exclusive footage of Ramette on his Red Bull Straight Rhythm adventure).
Ken Roczen vs. Tevin Tapia
Andrew Short vs. Vince Friese
Justin Brayton vs. Adam Enticknap
Dean Wilson vs. Thomas Ramette
Ryan Dungey vs. Deven Raper
Kyle Partridge vs. Kyle Chisholm
James Stewart vs. Nick Schmidt
Josh Hansen vs. Mike Alessi
Quarterfinals – Open class
In the first of the Open Class quarterfinals Ken Roczen faced off against riding buddy Andrew Short. K-Roc was too strong for Short, comfortably beating Short in both races.
It was a replay of the semifinals from 2014 for KTM riders Dean Wilson and Justin Brayton and again it was Brayton who edged out Wilson.
Kyle Partridge ran Ryan Dungey really close in their first race with Dungey only marginally taking the win but in race two Dungey showed why he’s a multi-time champ of the sport, laying down the fastest time we’d seen all weekend at 41.7.
For the second straight year James Stewart took on Josh Hansen in the quarterfinals and once again made quick work of Hanny to move on.
Ken Roczen vs. Andrew Short
Justin Brayton vs. Dean Wilson
Ryan Dungey vs. Kyle Partridge
James Stewart vs. Josh Hansen
Semifinals – Open class
As you’d expect, it all started to heat up in the semifinals.
It was Ken Roczen vs. Justin Brayton in the first of the semifinals and although Brayton brought his A game in both races the German pilot got the job done, securing his ticket to the final.
But the second semifinal overshadowed the Roczen/Brayton match-up, with James Stewart and Ryan Dungey going head-to-head. This was the race the fans had been waiting for and it had them on their feet.
Stewart had the advantage, using a sweet line jumping the dragon back into the whoops, but Dungey never gives up and somehow gained an edge in the rollers – taking an incredible win to set up a cliffhanger of a second race and then third race. But Stewart put two perfect runs together to take the win over Dungey.
Ken Roczen vs. Justin Brayton
Ryan Dungey vs. James Stewart
Final – Open class
The stage was set for a final many of the fans had hoped to see. The 2014 Straight Rhythm champ, Stewart defending his crown against the prodigy Roczen, who had not lost a race all day.
Could Roczen be on his way to a perfect day, just like Stewart in 2014?
The answer came quickly, with Stewart just edging out Roczen in the first race, using his skill in the whoops to devastating effect.
Coming into the second race, Roczen would of course be determined to take the final to three races. But as the two star riders – both former supercross champions – left the gate and hit the first section of the track, Roczen made a small mistake – completely checking up, handing the race win and the 2015 championship to Stewart, who cruised home for his second straight Red Bull Straight Rhythm title.
Ken Roczen vs. James Stewart
Quarterfinals – Lites class
Malcolm Stewart, who was looking to take his first professional title took pole position in the Lites class.
Stewart went head-to-head against his GEICO Honda team-mate Matt Bisceglia and made quick work of their two races, booking his place to the semifinals.
The other two GEICO Honda riders, Jordon Smith and RJ Hampshire went next, and the day would end early for Hampshire as he got it all wrong in the whoops of the first race, dropping the front end and going straight over the bars – Straight Rhythm 2015 was over for RJ.
Malcolm Stewart vs. Matt Bisceglia
Jordon Smith vs. RJ Hampshire
Jessy Nelson vs. Austin Politelli
Shane McElrath vs. Michael Lieb
Semifinals – Lites class
It was battle of the team-mates in the Lites semifinals. Malcolm Stewart would face off against Jordon Smith and Jessy Nelson would go head-to-head with Shane McElrath.
Stewart, who had yet to drop a race kept his winning streak going against his GEICO Honda team-mate. Smith failed to bring the aggression of Stewart in either race and Mookie qualified for another final.
In the second of the Lites semifinals McElrath impressively took the top spot over his team-mate Nelson in their two races, so it would be a McElrath vs. Stewart final.
Malcolm Stewart vs. Jordon Smith
Jessy Nelson vs. Shane McElrath
Final – Lites class
Despite his outstanding win against team-mate Nelson, it was going to be a race against the odds for the TLD KTM rider Shane McElrath.
Malcolm Stewart had taken inspiration from older brother James’ 2014 Straight Rhythm outing – winning every single race of his weekend.
The TLD rider impressed again on his KTM250 but it just wasn’t enough against the skill and speed of Stewart, who kept his 2015 100 per cent record intact, clinching his first professional title at Red Bull Straight Rhythm. But also helping the Stewart brothers to the bragging rights of a sweep in both classes.
Malcolm Stewart vs. Shane McElrath