Interestingly, there were multiple storylines to follow at Budds Creek this weekend, round five of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series. With Adam Cianciarulo making his debut and a handful of riders attempting to get their season on-track, a lot of people were focused on a few different things. However the first lap of the opening 450MX race was pivotal and very interesting, I believe.
It is quite clear that the 450MX championship in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series will go to either Ryan Villopoto or Ryan Dungey, as these two have been the class of the field in all five of the rounds that have been run so far. However they are two very different riders; the first lap at Budds Creek showcased just how different the two riders are. Ryan Villopoto is known for being aggressive immediately, which served him well in the opening moto, as RV found a way passed both Dungey, and Alessi to move into the lead straight away. The Kawasaki rider made the pass in the second turn, with the sweeping rollers, which seemed to be one of the most technically challenging sections on the circuit.
Overall this rollers section in the second turn proved to be quite difficult throughout the day; some of the riders stated that it halted their forward momentum, as the section was so deep and rough. However, you could describe the entire circuit like that, as Budds Creek was most definitely the toughest circuit of the year thus far. Ryan Villopoto said it best, I believe, when he said that wherever you positioned yourself you ended up in a deep, nasty rut. It was clear that the track was physically demanding by the amount of guys that were visibly tired in race two, however the one-hour intermission was a contributing factor, as well.
Despite the difficulty of this section Ryan Villopoto hogged the inside to take the lead, whilst others drifted to the outside of the turn. I was impressed with the way that he took the lead, as he wasn’t really in the picture exiting turn one – he came out of nowhere! Surprisingly, RV has just one holeshot point to his name thus far. However he always seems to be up front by the end of the first lap; his form on lap one is certainly one of his strengths. Alternatively, his primary competitor, Ryan Dungey, really struggles with this, and he has done for much of his career.
Although Ryan Dungey did not garner the holeshot in that opening moto, he had put himself in a very good position as he was ahead of his rival, Ryan Villopoto. However, he gave up this advantage in the second turn, by letting RV get by him. In the first race, Villopoto established a gap of three seconds on the first lap, which proves how much better the points leader is on the opening laps. If Dungey had been able to keep RV behind him there is a strong possibility that he would have been able to take the victory in the opening encounter. Interestingly, the Red Bull KTM rider inched slightly closer to Villopoto from laps four to ten in race one, which seems to indicate that he may have been slightly quicker on the day.
It seemed as though we would be privy to a titanic battle between the two towards the final few laps of the first 450MX moto. However, Ryan Dungey made an uncharacteristic mistake, and crashed quite hard. Coincidentally, the fall happened in that roller section! Rarely do we see the Red Bull KTM pilot crash; perhaps it was a result of him pushing to get right onto the back wheel of Villopoto? Although Dungey did not win that moto, I am certain it was a relief for him mentally, as he proved that he could run the pace that RV is setting up front. Clearly Dungey put in the work during the break; it seems as though the gap at the front has shrunk following the weekend off.
Prior to his fall Ryan Dungey lost a couple of seconds to Ryan Villopoto, as he wasn’t as quick when working his way around the backmarkers. Obviously it’s a well-known fact that Dungey needs to be more aggressive if he is going to challenge RV. The opening moto at Budds Creek served as proof of this, if he could have stayed ahead of Villopoto at the beginning, he would have been in contention for the moto victory. Evidently Dungey was more than fast enough to win on the day, as he took the 450MX overall following a victory in moto two.
Honestly, part of the reason for his win in moto two may have been because RV was buried back in the pack off of the start, whilst Dungey started up front. Once Ryan Villopoto got up into second place, he did not close in too much on the Red Bull KTM rider; so I do think that he would have had nothing for him, even if he had started with him. Interestingly, Villopoto has only lost two motos at Budds Creek in his career. Obviously one of those came this past weekend. Although he occupied the second step of the podium, Villopoto didn’t really lose, or gain anything at the weekend, as he tied on points with his rival.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Simon Cudby