Undoubtedly, Unadilla is the most historic circuit on the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross schedule, as the track (based in Upstate New York) has hosted all kinds of events in the past. However, the long history of the venue is part of the reason that Unadilla is criticised by most for being past its prime. Still, it is a great test of the riders, as the surface gets chewed up quickly and creates a lot of lengthy ruts, which have claimed more than a few of the riders in the past.
Usually, the old-school fans are not best pleased when a change is made to a historic circuit, such as Unadilla. However the changes made in preparation for the event this year received quite a lot of praise. Unfortunately, the change saw the demise of ‘the tree turn’, which was always a cool feature in the past. Still, that was a sacrifice that just had to be made. I think it helped the racing, as it seemed to open up that specific part of the track, which offered up a couple more lines. It seemed to offer up some fresh dirt, also, rather than the hard soil used around the tree turn.
It seems to have been overlooked by most, but Unadilla is a circuit that Ryan Villopoto excels on, as he has enjoyed a lot of success there in the past. Since his first visit to the venue, Ryan has lost just one moto at Unadilla, and that was because of a mechanical problem! The DNF in race one back in 2007 cost him the overall victory, and a perfect streak at Unadilla. But apart from that, he has been unbeatable in Upstate New York.
I was a bit surprised to see that Ryan has been that good at the circuit – it isn’t a statistic that most opt to put the spotlight on. Obviously Villopoto likes the facility, as he was dominant at the weekend – it could not have been any better for him. I mean, having a day where you are fastest in practice, grab both holeshots, and lead every lap on your way to a double moto victory is the type of thing that most people dream of.
Justin Barcia is another rider that has enjoyed a lot of success at Unadilla, which makes some sense, as Unadilla is practically his home race. Although he has not actually won the race, he has spent a lot of time on the podium there. Remember 2011? Barcia jumped up to the 450f, and ran the same pace as Dungey for the duration of the moto. So it is clearly a place that he is comfortable at. Obviously the fact that he ended in second overall on Saturday means that he had another successful ride at the venue, as he tied his season best. In the second moto, I was impressed with his performance, as he was quite in control whilst in second. It really wouldn’t surprise me if that ride secured his spot on the American team for the MXdN.
Jake Weimer is a guy that had a positive Unadilla; it was definitely a good way for Weimer to rebound from a lackluster season (by his high standards). Jake had an average opening moto again – a ninth – but he backed it up with a third in moto two, his first podium this year. Contrary to popular belief Weimer doesn’t have to worry about a deal for next year, as he is locked in at Monster Energy Kawasaki. However, this ride will definitely serve him well going into next season, as he has proven himself to be a podium contender. In the end a ninth and a third gave him fourth overall, which tied his season best – he finished in that position back at Washougal two rounds ago.
Recently, Josh Grant has stolen quite a few headlines, as he has seemingly redeemed himself after some lackluster years. Josh was up inside of the top five overall again, with two fifths. It was another ride that highlighted the fact that when healthy, Grant is capable of running the speed needed to land on the podium. Josh actually had a good little battle with Ryan Dungey, in moto two, as he kept the Red Bull KTM rider at bay for a good amount of time. It seems as though his rides of late have secured him another ride with JGR Yamaha for 2014, which he’s certainly deserving of. Hopefully Josh will stay healthy, and perform like this more often than not, which is what everyone wants to see.
Interestingly, Ryan Villopoto could clinch the 450MX title this weekend; if he wins both races he will hoist the number one plate above his head, it would not matter what Dungey does. It is unlikely, but Eli Tomac could clinch the 250MX title also. Eli would have to win both motos, and Roczen would have to go 3-4 in order for it to happen. Whatever happens I do think that the new Utah national will see a champion crowned on Saturday.
Words by Lewis Phillips