Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Manager James Hanson gives his insider view of the sixth round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at the Moto-X 338 National at Southwick.
Rockstar Energy Racing and its trio of riders converged on the sands of Southwick for one final time. Moto-X 338 has been a staple of the Outdoor Motocross Championship for 35 historic years. News broke recently that the track will no longer be a part of the series due to unforeseen circumstances. This came as a disappointment to many as it is the only track of its kind in US motocross. However, MX Sports will surely find a solid replacement as proven on the inaugural race at Muddy Creek in Tennessee earlier this year.
Ryan Sipes has certainly experienced growing pains in the 2013 MX season; his first full year aboard the bigger bike. This was one of those weekends where he will just need to take the good from the bad and chalk-it-up to a learning experience. He has been suffering from periodic crashes throughout the season, but all of them have just been simple tip overs in corners. Perhaps it is just a patience issue because Ryan so badly wants to do good. Once again those are just lessons that need to be learned. Overall in the series though Sipes has opened many eyes. Even with his less-than stellar races, his potential has been shown. Ryan’s style is very suiting to the 450 and he will no doubt be a consistent fixture in the class for many years to come.
Ryan’s first moto was simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time immediately after the gate dropped. Typically being inside entering the first turn is the place to be so you can control the pack and take the shortest distance into the next section. At Moto-X 338 however, it’s a bit of a gamble. There are frequent pile-ups on the inside of the near 180-degree initial turn and Sipes was collected in one. His bike was bent up pretty badly and he tried to continue.
The team decided it would be best for Ryan to pull off so they could tend to the bike and focus on Moto 2. Sipes is not a fan of pulling off for any reason before the ‘checkers’ wave, but sometimes it has to happen. His second moto proved that starting a bit farther outside can pay off. As yet another pile up took place; he safely passed around it for a solid top ten start. He worked his way into seventh right where he needed to be for a good result. Unfortunately he experienced another tip-over and struggled to re-fire his machine. He was upset with his performance but can only look ahead and think positively.
“Terrible weekend. It’s not my favourite place to ride, but I still felt like I could run a decent pace. I just kept tipping over. In the first moto, I had some bad brakes and in the second moto, it was all me. I was running about seventh and felt good. Then I just tipped over and it took me a while to start my bike. I don’t know ‘man, I’m just frustrated.”
Jason Anderson had what could be considered a break-out day. After terrible flight issues the night before, he was unable to travel via aeroplane to the race and get a good night’s sleep. Jason and two team members had quite a distance between them and Massachusetts to travel and very little time to achieve that goal. They had to rent a car and drive through the night.
The back seat of an automobile is not the most comfortable location to rest! The guys drove straight from North Carolina, arriving at the track just prior to the first practice. This can be looked at one of two ways: Either you dwell on the negativity or look at the adversity put in front of you and overcome. Sometimes in motocross, being one of the most mentally-challenging sports in the world, this can be taken as a positive. MX riders grow-up spending their lives conquering these types of situations so it’s almost oddly inspiring.
Jason’s first moto started with even more distress. The sand was thick and wet and Anderson did not get the best of starts. With heavy roost being thrown into his face, he reached up to pull a tear-off. His vision was completely obscured. In doing so, he grabbed the entire wad and pulled them all in one swipe. This was less than half-way through the first lap. In the process he also lost three positions. Now he had a lot of work to do. He methodically moved past rider after rider, knowing he was at a visual disadvantage. He found himself trailing Cole Seely and trying to keep a safe distance out of the sand being thrown from his rear tyre and hoping for his competitor to make a mistake. He eventually got around Cole and rode to a commendable sixth place.
His second moto began much better but he had a fierce battle on his hands. He was in a sandwich with Zach Osborne in front of him and Eli Tomac in tow. The trio moved through the pack as a single entity until they were in second, third and fourth. All Jason needed to do for his first-ever podium was move past Osborne. That’s much easier said than done however, as they had moved into a cluster of lappers. That can typically help the rider who is behind but that’s just not how it went down. It seemed Zach was able to move past the lapped riders in wider parts of the track and Jason would get behind them in the one-lined less-turn section losing some time. In the end Anderson finished fourth overall for a very successful day.
“Weekend started out ‘kinda crappy with flight problems. I ended having to drive 13 hours from Charlotte straight to the track. I ended up going ‘6-4’ on the day which is my best overall yet. I had a podium in me so hopefully we can just keep progressing from here.”
Blake Wharton suffered from a very tough crash in his first moto, cartwheeling down a hill. Wharton was pretty beat-up from the crash and spent the majority of the time in between motos just trying to recover. He soldiered-up and headed back down to the line for the last ever 250 class professional moto to take place at the facility. As a result from his DNF, he had a very difficult gate pick. On a track where the lap times were very similar through the pack, the start was very important. Wharton did not exit turn one in a favourable position, but he made the best of his situation and worked his way as far forward as he could.
“Southwick is tough ‘man; you gotta get a start. This definitely helps at least. I had a pretty big crash in the first moto. I just lost my front-end coming over the hill and hit the ground hard. That set me back a bit, but I tried to get out there again in the second moto with the gate-pick I had and just try to go. I didn’t get a good start, not even close. I was riding and just went down again. It was tough; this track seems to get rougher every year. More demanding ‘ya know. I’d like to be in the top-10, top-five battling for those good positions. Next weekend is Redbud; it’s the ‘4th of July’ and I want to finish strong.”
The team will head to one of the most highly-attended Nationals next weekend over the 4th of July Holiday at Redbud MX. Sipes rides really well on the Michigan track and will look for another top five. Anderson will try to build off his best-ever finish and land on the podium. Wharton will look to rebound from his big crash and finish inside the top 10.