The 450SX class in the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series may have the deepest field in the history of the sport; not many people would dispute this. However that did not have too much of an affect on the results at the head of the field; in Salt Lake City this past weekend, Ryan Villopoto grabbed his third successive 450SX title. I expected things to start getting heated and tensions to rise in Utah, seeing as the final round was so near. However the 450SX action was quite low-key, in comparison to the smaller 250SX West series.
In such a short series, the common consensus in the 250SX field is that you cannot afford to have a bad race. I believe that it speaks volumes for the skill set that both Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen possess as both riders have effectively missed a round each thus far and they are still sat quite comfortably at the front of the field. However, I am sure that both of them are very disappointed that they could not take advantage of the others misfortune.
Of course the biggest story to come out of the 250SX West class in Salt Lake City was the guy who was sat up in the stands: Ken Roczen. Following a handful of unfortunate events in both the heat race and the last chance qualifier Roczen found himself watching from the sidelines when the gate dropped for the main event, to the surprise of just about everyone. There has been a lot of debate surrounding what Roczen should have done in those races; for example, a few people have stated that he blew it when he pulled off in his heat. However, I think this was because of a miscalculation on his part; full credit to Roczen for admitting that he made a mistake and it was all down to him.
If Ken Roczen had stayed out there and finished that heat, he would have started around the box in the last chance qualifier I believe. Admittedly he would have avoided the first turn fall had he started around this position. However, Ken was just unlucky to not make it; obviously he was more than fast enough. I do believe he would have transferred through that LCQ, if it weren’t for a crucial mistake on the last lap. In the rhythm section exiting turn two, he didn’t make it over the tabletop on the entrance to the section, so he was forced to double his way out rather than his usual line. I believe that cost him around a second, which is how short he was of second place at the finish.
It was presumed that Eli Tomac would grab the red plate from the German, as soon as it was apparent that Ken Roczen would not be on the starting line in the 250SX main event. If there is one thing that we have learnt from the class thus far this year, it is that Roczen and Tomac are on another level in comparison to the rest of the field. So, when Eli started up in second; it seemed like only a matter of time before he would move into the lead. But instead Tomac started to drop backwards; this is particularly uncharacteristic of Eli.
Surprisingly, it was the whoops section that seemed to bite him each lap; usually this is one of his strong points I believe. Seeing as he is so tall, he usually can get right over the back of the bike in the whoops. At one point Eli dropped as far back as ninth, however he managed to rebound late in the race to take sixth at the finish. However, the Geico Honda rider must look back on the race as a missed opportunity. If he had won the race (which is realistic) he would be in the driving seat heading into Las Vegas. Instead he is still playing catch up.
So what does the current points situation look like? Although it has shrunk considerably, Ken Roczen does still possess the points lead going into the final round this weekend. Roczen has to finish in the top two; he will secure the title if he can achieve this. Now we have seen that this could be slightly harder than you would expect, especially with the stakes so high.
Jason Anderson went unnoticed it seemed, as the first win of his career was overshadowed by the misfortunes of the two title contenders. However Anderson took the win straight up; he even had to fight his way passed the reigning champion. Jason is starting to prove that he is a valuable asset to the Rockstar Energy Racing team; now that he has the monkey off his back he is in a position to challenge for the championship in 2014.
Although the 450SX title is safely in the hands of Ryan Villopoto for the third successive year, there is still a lot to look out for in Las Vegas this weekend. Of course, there is the two 250SX title fights to keep an eye on as both the 250SX West and 250SX East class are going down to the wire. There is also the annual East/West shootout, to determine which coast is superior. You can bet that Villopoto will be looking to finish off his championship-winning season with a main event victory, as well.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Simon Cudby