After a summer full of some of the best competition in series history, the 2011 Lucas Oil AMA Pro MX championship came to a close on Saturday in the heart of the motocross industry in Southern California.
Thousands of fans were on hand to witness the Traxxas Pala National from Pala Raceway as Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto secured his first premier 450 class title. In the 250 class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson capped off his championship season by sweeping the day’s motos for his third win of the season.
In the opening moto of the 450 class all eyes were on Villopoto and his championship rival, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey, who were separated by just 14 points. Out of the gate the duo positioned themselves within the top 10 and immediately began working on moving forward. Out front Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi looked to pull away with American Honda’s Justin Barcia in pursuit. After just three laps Barcia took over the top spot but it was only a matter of time before the series’ perennial front-runners were battling for the lead.
Both Villopoto and Dungey followed nose to tail throughout the moto and on Lap 12 Villopoto slipped past Barcia and never looked back. Dungey followed suit two laps later to finish second and lose an additional three points in the standings.
In moto two the championship leaders found themselves in similar positions off the start while TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing’s Chad Reed took over the early lead. But Reed went down, allowing a closely-pursuing Barcia to assume the position. Upon remounting, Reed was forced to deal with a hard-charging Dungey and Villopoto.
Dungey worked his way past quickly and set his sights on Barcia and the overall win. Villopoto took his time getting around Reed but eventually settled into third where he would finish the moto. At the front of the field, Barcia and Dungey brought the fans to their feet over the final two laps with Dungey prevailing to secure his fourth win of the year.
“It was a great day,” says Dungey. “It’s been a long, hard-fought season. I’m bummed I couldn’t come out on top but there is a sense of happiness along with it. Every race you had to be on top of your game. Every single week just trying to get more out of yourself. This is definitely the toughest season of my career. I know I gave it my all and did everything I can so I can walk away happy knowing that.”
Villopoto’s 1-3 moto results placed him second overall for the day but with 12 points to his credit over Dungey was able to claim the season championship – his fourth career AMA pro title. With the AMA Supercross championship to his credit earlier this season, Villopoto becomes the 12th rider in AMA pro racing history to win the title in both disciplines in the same year.
“I didn’t want to just go out there and ride today,” says Villopoto. “I felt good in the first moto and I went into the second just looking to stay out of trouble. We started off outdoors not very good but we finally came around. It’s been a tough year. If it weren’t for [Dungey’s] DNF at Texas I would have come up a little shy. But, things like that happen. The turning point was at Unadilla when we brought out our new bike. We made a lot of progress there.”
With the 250 class title wrapped up one week ago, the storyline in the smaller displacement turned to Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s attempt to become the first team in AMA Pro Racing history to collectively win all 12 rounds of the season in their division.
Newly-crowned champion Wilson kicked off his team’s efforts with a convincing moto one win. The Scottish teenager took over the lead on the opening lap and never looked back, leading all 16 laps and even fending off a late challenge from team-mate Blake Baggett.
In moto two Wilson had to charge from a fifth-place start in order to claim the overall. GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle, of Cushing ran out front for nearly the entire moto but Wilson gradually closed in, ultimately taking over the lead on lap 11 to remain the only rider in the 250 class to ever win a moto at Pala Raceway. The win also signified the historical feat Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki had achieved.
“To win both motos today was a great feeling,” says Wilson. “It feels so good to finish the season that way. I fought for it hard. I’m not sure why I do so well here. The track just maybe suits my style. We just gel together.”
Baggett’s 2-3 moto finishes placed him second overall while Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin grabbed his second straight podium finish in third (4-4).
In the 250 class standings, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki finished 1-2-3 with Tyla Rattray and Baggett following Wilson. This marks the first time since the inception of factory teams for each manufacturer that such a feat has been achieved.