The Monster Energy Supercross series arrived at Chase Field in Phoenix this weekend for the second round of the 2014 season. Following A1, we were left with a lot more questions than answers, but Phoenix was just as crazy, so it is still unknown how this season is going to play out. Whilst some guys have had a great start to their year, others have had a disastrous time of it thus far. Who were these riders? We look at that in this unique feature.
Ryan Villopoto: Anaheim 1 was not disastrous for Ryan Villopoto. However, it (a fourth) was not the type of result that they were expecting, so I am sure that it was important for him to rebound in Phoenix and reassert his dominance. Well, the reigning champion did just that at the weekend, as he won in a convincing fashion. Ryan passed eight riders whilst he made his way up through the field, including some of his main competitors. Some were surprised that RV did not pull away from the field too much when he got into the lead. But, the fact that he worked his way up from the edge of the top ten made it quite obvious that Villopoto is still a step ahead of the rest of the 450SX class.
Justin Brayton: Wow. Seriously, where did that performance come from? Justin Brayton has never showed speed like that in the past. But, he came out in Phoenix and looked like a new rider. Justin was very impressive at the season opener too; he made some huge gains during the off-season, clearly. Surprisingly, his lap times were not the most impressive, however he was solid for the entire main event, which was instrumental in his success. Brayton was very strong in the whoops, specifically. In fact, you could argue that Justin was the fastest rider in that specific section. Will he be this great at the third round? Well, time will tell. But, he has been in this hot column two weeks in a row now, so he is clearly doing something right.
Jason Anderson: Honestly, prior to the start of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross series, I did not think that Jason Anderson was going to be a contender for the championship. Well, I was very wrong. Jason is clearly the strongest rider in the 250SX West class currently, but he does seem to have a strong rival in the form of Cole Seely. Seely could have quite easily won both of the main events thus far. Anyway, back to Anderson. The Rockstar Energy KTM rider looks so confident on the bike, at the moment; he has a lot of momentum on his side, which makes me wonder how anyone is going to be able to halt his win streak.
Cole Seely: I almost put Cole Seely into the cold section, as the last two weeks have not gone well, clearly. But, despite the fact that the finishes have not been as great as they could have been, you cannot ignore the fact that he is one of the fastest guys on the west coast. Neither Anderson nor Seely have been a title contender before – so it is unknown who will falter first out of the two. Cole is going to get a victory eventually; I just hope that these last lap defeats have not had too much of a negative affect on his mentality.
Cooper Webb: In his first two appearances in the Monster Energy Supercross series, Cooper Webb has been very impressive. Although he has not had the speed to contend for wins like some rookies have done in the past, he has been consistent. At A1, Webb started his indoor career with a fifth, which was a strong showing. In Phoenix, he could have battled for a spot on the podium. However, a mistake when attempting to pass McElrath for fourth left Webb in ninth. The Yamaha rider then fought back to sixth, which was another great result. I think that Cooper could match the speed of the top four in the future – he has the potential.
Josh Hill: Josh Hill was expected to battle with the frontrunners prior to the start of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross series. But Hill has really struggled at the opening two rounds. In fact, he did not qualify for the main event in Phoenix this past weekend. Josh finished fifth in the last chance qualifier, which was one spot short of a transfer position. Hill is not meant to have a problem qualifying each week – he is on a factory Suzuki, after all. At Anaheim 1, Josh was dealing with a back problem, which hindered him. However, he should have been closer to one hundred percent in Phoenix. Hill has to put in a good showing at round three, and get back on-track.
Darryn Durham: Unfortunately, Darryn Durham has had an underwhelming start to the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross series. In Phoenix, Durham had to go through the LCQ to get into the main event. But, he ended up winning that race with ease. In the main event, Darryn had some issues, which hindered his result; he ended up in fourteenth. The Kawasaki rider fell on lap four and lost thirty seconds, as a result. It is worth noting that this is the first time that he has raced on the west coast, so the slick surfaces are relatively new to him.
Zach Bell: Zach Bell fell in practice in Phoenix and broke his collarbone, as a result, which will force him onto the sidelines for a few weeks. Bell crashed in the technical section before the finish line, when attempting the tricky triple, triple, triple line. Presumably, the contract that he has with Geico Honda is going to expire at the end of this year. So, Zach has to post some impressive results when he returns from injury; he has not had too many good finishes since he joined the professional scene.
Dean Wilson: It has not been a great start to the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross series for Dean Wilson, as he has failed to jump onto the podium thus far. Admittedly, Wilson banged himself up prior to Anaheim 1. However, he seemed to be much more comfortable this past weekend, hence why his fourth on Saturday night was a little more disappointing. Dean had the speed to fight for the podium spots, as he won his heat race comfortably; he was one of the fastest riders in practice, also. Following the race, Dean mentioned that he tightened up in the main event, which obviously would have hindered him. But, he needs to start fighting with that front pack before they break away in the series standings.
Chad Reed: Chad Reed seemed to be struggling all day, as he did not make an impression on the top five at any point. Chad has not had too much success in Phoenix, in the past, which leads me to believe that he does not gel with the notoriously slick track. In the end, a ninth was not exactly disastrous, but it certainly was not great. Reed had a terrible start in the main event, hence why he finished towards the back of the top ten. However, he did not move through the field as quickly as I expected him to, to be honest.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: James Lissimore