Rockstar Energy Racing migrated to Muddy Creek Raceway at the weekend to begin a swing of several consecutive nationals on the east coast. This first stop represented the first Motocross National in the south east in 15 years – at the Tennessee National.
Needless to say that caused much excitement as moto-deprived fans came out in droves. It was a successful event for holding their first national ever. The track was set in a valley with plenty of elevation changes and great viewing for all in attendance. It was rough, rutted and presented several lines in every corner so the racing was very captivating.
This was also the final race that Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 riders Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos could attend to mix up the points a little. In the end both the riders we’re sad to go but they have their own series to attend to where they are both in the championship hunt.
Ryan Sipes’ homecoming went nothing like he had hoped. He qualified well in practice and his speed was excellent all day. He looked poised for his first top-five finish in moto one when he went down. He would have only lost one position to Desalle but his clutch side grip was stuck in the mud. It was very difficult to pick up the bike and keep it running, so he ended up losing several spots. He got up and put in an impressive comeback all the way to ninth. His second moto just came completely unravelled from the start. He was collected in a first turn pile up, then just plain had a bad moto from then on. He was still able to muster 21st after multiple incidents but obviously was in no way happy with that. He is very hungry now heading into next weekend.
“Muddy Creek…..it was fun, besides crashing four times in the second moto. The first moto I felt really good, felt like I had a top-five in me and I just lost the front end and ended up ninth. The second moto – the start crash – I couldn’t really avoid it. After that back in 36th, guys just don’t ride like they do in the front. Maybe I was just in a hurry but I hit a guy and went down, then went down two more times. It was a tough second moto.”
Jason Anderson rode well every time he was on the track but just didn’t finish where he is capable of doing. He moved into the top three in moto one but experienced some bike problems and ended up going back to seventh. In the second moto he went the opposite direction after a less than stellar start with the same result; another seventh. It was good enough to finish sixth overall and closer to the top five. He has podium speed however and won’t be kept off the box much longer.
“The weekend was alright. I ended up 7-7 on the day which isn’t bad. I struggled a little bit again with some situations. All in all it’s a step in the right direction. I think I got sixth overall, so I matched my second-best finish ever outdoors.”
Blake Wharton is slowly but surely improving each moto and this week was no different. His endurance is improving and so are his results. He’s consistently finishing in or around the top 10 every time he crosses the finish line. He wants to finish higher up and is doing the right things to make that possible.
“I used to race Muddy Creek a lot as an amateur. I’ve been coming here since I was nine. It was a tough track then and it’s still pretty tough. It’s got gnarly ruts and you don’t know where you’re going sometimes and you just ‘gotta pin it. My first moto, I got 11th, second moto I got ninth. It was a decent weekend for me just putting in more time. I just have to keep pushing and not rest no matter what. I’m looking forward to finishing further towards the front. Highpoint will be similar to this I feel. I’m looking forward to next weekend.”
Nico Izzi is also continuing to improve but unfortunately he didn’t have a good weekend overall. He was putting in a good positive moto in the top 10 in the first race until disaster struck. He came into contact with another rider several laps prior and to the knowledge of no one including Izzi, he had punctured his radiator. His bike slowly ran out of coolant and then began to lose power. Instead of pulling off he strived to make it to the end of the race and he was oh so close. As he went up the finish line table and the white flag waived, his bike expired catapulting him over the bars. Landing on your feet without your bike from that height and going that fast is very scary and does not feel good. One positive thing is that Izzi did get over the bars cleanly and was not hit by the bike. He was pretty beat-up and was forced to DNS the second moto. He will be ok and back fighting for positions next week.
“I felt good rolling into Tennessee. Killed it in the first practice with P4 and the second with P6. Then we came into the first moto and I didn’t have the best start, probably around 12th. I made a couple passes and was battling with [Cole] Seely for ninth. Then with four laps to go, my bike was losing a lot of power and I rode it until it died and I went over the bars. I’m going to be back to lay the hammer down at Highpoint. I love that place.”
Clement Desalle came over to the US with a very difficult schedule and adapted immediately into becoming one of the top guys on the track. Being completely foreign to sprint speed, he was still able to qualify with the second fastest lap in both Colorado and Tennessee. He had a very solid first moto and was close to getting his best finish of the trip as he was attempting to make his way around James Stewart. He was trying everything to get by him until finally he went for an outside line that ended up landing him on the side of a jump off the track on the last lap. His attack was thwarted but it was still a very successful finish in fifth. His second moto did not go as well but was equally as impressive. He went down in the first turn and his bike was literally buried in a yard sale of other motorcycles. He moved through the pack picking up position after position all the way into ninth. It looked as if he would be able to garner one more spot for eighth but he was just spent and wisely cruised to the finish safely. He passed enough riders that he may have won the Ricky Carmichael Hard Charger award which is yet to be determined. If that’s the case he’s very excited to place that kind of special trophy on his mantle back home.
“This morning’s qualification was good. In the second practice, I was second fastest. It feels good to go into the first moto with a good gate pick. I tried a new technique on my start because I have nothing to lose here and it’s good practice for me. It was positive and my first start I was fifth or sixth. Then in the first two laps, these guys ride much different than what I’m used to – so aggressive in the first couple laps – so I lost some positions and at the same time made some mistakes. Then I was eighth or ninth and I came back to fifth. On the last lap I almost passed [James] Stewart. It was exciting. I didn’t get him but it was good racing.
“In the second moto my start felt so good. I was about fourth in the first corner and I think somebody hit me. I lost the front wheel and crashed and some guys ran into me. It was a big pile of bikes and mine was at the bottom so I started last. Then I came back to ninth and I tried to keep pushing, but I was really tired. The conditions were really warm here for me. But it was good practice for the season and hopefully the weather is less humid next week in Europe.”
Kevin Strijbos had another good day for the final race of his first trip to the United States. He struggled a bit in practice but his riding was much better when the gate dropped. He had a solid race going in moto one, but just went down in a tough turn. It was a sharp, rutted right-hander immediately after the landing of a high speed double. He went around the corner pedalling his foot as if he was on a skateboard, saving it, saving it; and then finally succumbing to gravity. It was a tough spot to remount being on the landing of a blind jump. Kevin re-joined the race well back in the pack but was able to move past several competitors by race’s end. Strijbos improved on his performance in moto two in every aspect. A better start, no crashes and a higher finish. In the end it was a positive day and he was happy with his riding the entire trip.
“The day started out quite difficult. I didn’t feel that good on the track and I was 13th in second practice which is not so good. The start in the first race was ok. I was back in about eighth or ninth, and then I crashed from my own mistake. I had to regroup for a few laps and I moved back forward to 13th. I think my riding was good again, that I had the speed to be fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth.
“The second race I had a really good start but I braked too early before the corner and my team-mate crashed in front of me and I hit him. I was a little bit further back then because I think I should have been second or third. I tried to hang with those guys but they are so aggressive in the beginning of the race and we’re not used to that. I kind of pushed and made a few mistakes, then Ryan [Villopoto] passed me in the same corner where I crashed in the first race. I tried to follow him and learn some lines but he was gone too quick. Then I was just riding by myself and I saw James [Stewart] in my sights. I knew I didn’t lose much time so I was quite happy with that. In the end I was done; I gave so much in the first moto.”
Next week the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team continues in the East. Sipes wants to recover from a less-than stellar weekend. Anderson will look to put everything together and finish closer to the podium. Wharton will push to keep finishing closer to the top five. Izzi will recover from his big crash and try to have his best race of 2013 on a track he is very fond of. Desalle and Strijbos will immediately travel much further east to France and the next round of the GP’s. They both finished on the podium in the previous round in Brazil.