The various practice and qualifying sessions are complete at the Monster Energy Cup, as the chequered flag just waved to mark the conclusion of the last-chance qualifier. The MEC is effectively a race that means nothing, as far as points go, but intrigue is always at an all-time high when gates drop beneath the beating sun in Las Vegas.
The fact that certain riders, like Cooper Webb and Joey Savatgy, make their respective debuts aboard new steeds helps that. The million-dollar prize is a huge draw too, then there are unique elements like the Joker Lane that really spice up proceedings in a big way. Put simply, energy levels are high at Sam Boyd Stadium today. The results that emerged in qualifying actually had a lot to do with that too. Marvin Musquin made a statement by recording the fastest time, which actually ended up being significantly faster than Eli Tomac in second. The advantage that he was sat on was a little over four tenths.
Although that may seem like a fairly small figure, it is quite rare for there to be a gulf of that size during the qualifying sessions at the Monster Energy Cup. The track is tamed down compared to a stereotypical round of Monster Energy Supercross, as most are aware, and that means that it is tough to make a difference. It is not like an elite rider can go a little further than his competition in a rhythm section and then gain a lot of ground in a single straight. When was the last time that the polesitter had an advantage as great as the one that Marvin Musquin had earlier on? It was at the inaugural MEC in 2011, when Ryan Villopoto claimed pole position by a little more than five tenths.
It is also worth noting that this is one of the shortest lap times that the riders have faced at this event. It is clear that this is a conscious effort by the promoters, because the times have dropped at the previous three editions of the Monster Energy Cup specifically. This obviously means that there is a slightly smaller window of opportunity for someone to gain ground too. Where was Marvin Musquin making up time? The way that he tripled into the first sand section stood out. It was a line that a lot of guys tried to execute, but very few riders actually pulled it off. It is unlikely that the line will work in a race-situation though.
The fact that Eli Tomac and Jason Anderson dropped in behind Marvin Musquin is not a shock at all, but a lot of pundits were surprised to see Joey Savatgy slot into fourth. The transition from Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki to the all-new KX 450 is not as much of a challenge as jumping onto a completely different manufacturer and he has spent a considerable amount of time aboard his new steed, so perhaps this is not too much of a shock? It will be most interesting to see if this speed translates into noteworthy results and if it does then it may end up being one of the greatest stories that emerges from the Monster Energy Cup.
Everything is going to pale in comparison to the hype that will surround Ryan Villopoto though, especially if he has enough in the tank to garner a good result. Eighth was a respectable start to his adventure. It is quite tough to gauge what a good showing would be for him though, as everyone has different expectations. Would an eighth place at the end of the programme, the same position that he acquired in qualifying, be considered a success? There are some who are pegging him to finish on the podium or even win, then others who have stated that it is most unlikely that he will even complete a race. It is an interesting bench-racing tussle.
Anyway, there is not too much time left to do any bench-racing now. Opening ceremonies will begin in half an hour and then the night show will get underway! It is going to be a great night of racing in Las Vegas.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX