Once again, the 450SX class in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series provided us with a great night of racing at the third round on Saturday night! But, are the results from Anaheim 2 (the third round) going to be pivotal in the final series standings? History suggests that they might be.
In recent years, the winner of the third round has ended up winning title. Is it a coincidence? You would think so. But, for nine of the last ten years the final points standings have ended like this. Of course, that is with the exception of 2012. Chad Reed was the winner of the third round in 2012; however a leg injury ended his chances at the title, as he was forced to sit out the rest of the series. Sure, there is not something physically ensuring that the results turn out this way; but there are a few factors that indicate why the results do often end up like this.
When entering a new year (and a new series), the riders do suffer from some anxiety. In the first two rounds there are so many unanswered questions, and added pressure. Whilst some excel under the pressure, others falter. We have seen exactly the same scenario again so far this year. But, by the third round most of the riders nerves have settled down; round three is often considered to be the first true indicator of everyone’s speed, because of this. Perhaps this is why the winner of the third round is often the eventual champion?
I would argue that last weekend, most of the riders did look the best they have done all year. It is not just the nerves that have settled by the third round; most riders have perfected their bike setup following forty-laps of race time on the bike. Although testing throughout the off-season does provide a solid base to work off of, there is no way to replicate race conditions. So, when riders do turn up at the opening round they find that specific aspects of their bike are not where they need to be.
The air-fork is a perfect example of this; evidently two of the biggest names in the sport (Villopoto and Reed) did struggle to set up the new component throughout the opening two rounds. At round three both riders achieved their best finish of the season, and seemed to be happy with their setup. Is it a coincidence that it is at this time every year riders seem to find their stride? The third round often serves up the best race of the season, because everyone is comfortable enough to push the limits, which is exactly what we saw at Anaheim 2, the racing was superb in the 450SX class (just like it has been at every other round thus far this year).
I would argue that the streak would continue again this year. Although he is sitting fourth in the point’s standings, I am sure that not one fan worldwide doubts that [Ryan] Villopoto will be in possession of the red plate sometime in the future. RV looked cool, calm and collected at Anaheim 2, on his way to his first win of the new season. The small crashes that Ryan has had frequently so far this year were eliminated on Saturday night. Once again, this indicates that at the third race of the year Villopoto has found that fine line between going incredibly fast, and crashing. Will he now go on a streak? Time will tell, but the statistics reveal that it might be another good year for the defending champion.
Chad Reed also looked the best he has done this year, at Anaheim 2. Perhaps it is just natural progression; however he too achieved his best result of 2013. This further adds to the theory on riders being most comfortable at this point in the season, which is perhaps why the victor at round three is the eventual champ. Arguably, Trey Canard had his best race at Anaheim 2, also. Although he matched his result from the first round, the minor mistakes that he has made in the first two weeks seemed to have been eliminated from his riding last weekend.
Most interestingly, the winner of the third round is often the champion in the 250SX class as well. In the last ten years, it has happened eight times. Although it has not been as frequent in this class that is still an amazing percentage of recent years! Eli Tomac was the last 250SX rider to win the third round, and then the title; he did this just last year. Guess who was the winner of the third round this year? Yep, it was Eli Tomac. Currently, Tomac is the favourite for the 250SX West title, undoubtedly. The Geico Honda rider has not lost a race in the first three rounds; he does seem to be unbeatable at the moment.
Although it is more than likely a coincidence; it is astonishing still that this takes place almost every year. Will it be the same in 2013? We’ll have to wait and see. But the way that both Eli and Ryan have been riding does indicate that we may be looking at the eventual champions. Both riders will undoubtedly win many more races in the coming weeks; maybe this statistic does not apply to round three only? Either way, it is certainly intriguing how it seems to play out this way every year.
Words by Lewis Phillips