Three-time defending champion, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto grabbed the holeshot in the main event and looked to be checking out before suffering a crash on his own. He remounted to charge forward and finished one spot shy of the podium in fourth. Teammate Jake Weimer had a long night and had to transfer through the Last Chance Qualifier, but was able to salvage a top-10 finish in the main event. Kawasaki rider Chad Reed raced his KX™450F to an impressive third place finish in his first race on Kawasaki since 2010.
In the 250SX class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson was fastest qualifier of the day and carried that on the main event. Wilson got a top-five start and quickly worked his way into third where began to battle back and forth until a mistake forced him to settle for fourth place. Behind Wilson, Justin Hill and Darryn Durham were not far behind. Hill was forced off the track but fought hard to catch back to seventh while Durham round consistent to finish eighth.
During the off season it was rumored that Reed was going to make a change in his TwoTwo Motorsports program and after months of testing he chose the KX450F over every other bike on the market. After posting competitive times all day in qualifying and riding 20 strong laps in the main event to finish on the podium, Reed is very comfortable on his new Kawasaki and will be a threat for the podium all season.
“For me it’s all about feeling and I have that on the Kawasaki,” said Reed. “Tonight I rode pretty well but I think I still have more. I’m happy to get this season started off on the podium and look forward to progressing with each race.”
Villopoto dug himself a deep hole last year at the season opener, one he had to fight hard to come back from. This year he looked like it would be the complete opposite as his KX450F rocketed out of the gate and grabbed the holeshot in the main event. He started to get into a rhythm and was clicking off continuous fast laps for the first half of the race until a small mistake in a bowl turn put him on the ground. Remounting in fifth, the reigning champion rode smart and methodic to take home fourth place.
“The goal is always to win,” said Villopoto. “But feel I rode well and have the bike where it needs to be. Without that mistake I think we would have been on top of the box tonight. Grabbing the holeshot made my life easy until I went and threw it away. We’ll continue working this week and be back in Phoenix.”
After a frightening get off leading up the Anaheim, Wilson was not at his best come Saturday. Although he was sore, he was determined to not let that interfere with his results. He posted the fastest time of the day and rode 15 strong laps to finish just off the podium in fourth. Still in contention for the championship, Wilson expects more from himself and will look to show his full potential in Phoenix.
“As of Friday I wasn’t even sure if I was racing,” said Wilson. “I really wanted to salvage a podium, but considering how the day went I’m happy with fourth place and plan to be back on the podium next weekend.”
As the season opener, Anaheim 1 always has a high amount of media attention and the riders have a variety of commitments they must complete on top of the pressure of performing well and setting the bar. For Durham and Hill, Saturday was their first time racing Anaheim 1 as they both have only raced the Eastern Region in years past. Although both riders rode well and finished within the top-10, they expected more of themselves and plan to rebound at Round 2.
“You know it’s almost been two years since I’ve raced supercross,” said Durham. “I’m happy I stayed on two wheels every lap and it’s a solid start to the season even though I don’t feel like I rode like myself. I learned a lot about how the west coast tracks develop as the night goes on and I look forward to building from here.”
This year in the 450SX class they have bought back the Semi races to the format, which changes to process of how riders transfer to the main event. For 2014, the heat races have been cut down from eight to six laps and only four riders transfer directly to the main event. Those outside the top-four in each of the two heats will move on to two semi races, which are five laps and qualify five riders to the main event. The remaining riders from the two semis will line up for the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) where the top four will take the last remaining gates in the 22-rider main event.
Weimer was forced to take the longest route possible to the main event on Saturday, as misfortune seemed to follow him around the track. After getting off to a top-five start in his heat race, Weimer got caught up with another rider in the first rhythm lane and went down hard. Torn up and bruised, he lined up for the semi race where he was sitting in qualifying position before another crash knocked him out. Finally, in the LCQ, Weimer was able to ride conservative and make it into the main event but had second to last gate pick. Starting from the very outside, Weimer had no chanc e of a good start, but charged through the 20 laps and picked off close to half the field to finish 10th.
“It’s always hard at Anaheim 1, but this one was harder than usual,” said Weimer. “We’ve been working really hard to be ready but the nerves are always there and it’s a big change coming from the off season. I think I’m close to where I need to be but did not ride like it tonight. We’ll get into the swing of things and be better next week.”
With the craziness of Anaheim 1 behind the riders, Round 2 is almost a fresh start. They have seen where they size up against the field and know what they need to work on. When the gates drops at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., next Saturday it is very possible the fans will see an entirely different outcome from Anaheim.