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This Just In Freund: Daytona & Thailand

Another weekend in the books and another weekend full of excitement. At Daytona, we saw some different riders running up front battling for the lead versus what we saw earlier in the year. At the GP’s we saw our hometown hero, Ryan Villopoto (RV2), show the world the raw speed he always had on display in America.

I’ve always enjoyed more old school things and Daytona is no exception. About 20-25 years ago, Daytona was held during the day. There were 30 riders in the main event, the track was much more “outdoorsy,” and the races were close to 35 minutes long. I think this would be really cool to see in today’s supercross series. We are just past the halfway mark in the series and most of the team members and riders admit they are getting burnt out from the same thing week-in and week-out. To me this would be a great change of pace for the riders, teams, and spectators. Yes, Daytona as it is now, is very different than any other supercross the teams go to, but the last ten years its gotten closer and closer to a standard supercross track. I would love to see a race that gives an advantage to the riders that train harder than the others, or even just giving an opportunity for an outdoor-style-rider to have a better showing than he normally would have at the other rounds.

Daytona Supercross 250 Class

In the Lites class, it was still the same three riders that separated themselves from the rest of the field. I personally thought Jeremy Martin was going to dominate his rivals Justin Bogle and Marvin Musquin. However, a bad start left him climbing through the pack trying to make up for a 10+ second gap. In a post-race interview, he said that he had a hole in his rut right out of the gate, and when he hit it his holeshot device released, which forced him to let off to keep from pulling a wheelie. He showed a lot of speed and even at the halfway point; I thought he would be able to catch Marvin out front. Martin and Musquin are probably the two fittest riders in the class, so I knew neither of the two would slow their pace in the closing laps. Musquin trains at the Bakers Factory with Aldon Baker, who is the most successful trainer in the history of motocross/supercross. Meanwhile Martin stays at Ricky Carmichael’s house, and we all know Ricky has a good idea of how to win races.  Martin’s fastest lap time was a half a second faster than Musquin’s, but he rides on the edge and that leads to mistakes and inconsistent lap times, where as Marvin is so precise lap after lap turning bumps into jumps. Martin ended up having some pretty big mistakes and settled in where he was, finishing third, following Bogle (2nd), and Musquin in first.

Daytona Supercross 450

The 450 class was interesting, because we saw some riders up front who normally aren’t. Baggett got his first podium of his 450 career; Pieck looked great the first few laps coming from sixth up to second, and stayed there for six laps (his whoop speed was incredible). I really thought Seely was going to make a run for the win before getting together with Dungey in a very aggressive pass attempt. That run in made Dungey realize how important it was to get out front and distance himself from all the carnage that took place behind.

Any Pilots Available for Short?

Short led seven laps, which was very impressive. His plane had mechanical issues in Texas and he spent all day at the airport waiting for it to get fixed; it never did. He watched the sunrise and fall from the same boarding gate. His trainer Seiji posted on Facebook asking if any of his friends were pilots with an available plane. When they finally got it all lined out, made a fuel stop in Pensacola, and landed on a very foggy runway in Daytona, it was close to four in the morning. Five hours of sleep the night before the toughest supercross of the season is far from ideal, so when he was running out front I was surprised he lasted as long as he did. When Dungey did decide to make the pass, Short made it very easy; I wasn’t surprised because KTM writes his checks.

That’s Not a Rut

It was disappointing when Reed went down, because I really felt he could challenge Dungey for the win, and make it a very exciting race. It seemed like he may have forced it too much, he had a good drive and looked to be able to make the pass, even though he was trying to go around the outside. However, the line he was in was just a small loose berm and not a firm rut that he thought it was, causing him to lose traction and go down.

Fighting the Traffic

Tickle was the quiet surprise of the main, he came from 22nd to 10th, and while fighting through traffic he set the fastest lap of the entire main event. Tomac was consistently fast all night long. He worked his way from eighth on the first lap up to second by lap fourteen. From that lap on, he closed in almost two seconds a lap on Dungey out front, but ran out of time to get close enough for a pass.

Taking a Leave of Absence

Rumor is that Roczen is going to take a few weeks off to try to get his ankle back to 100%. In the first practice, he dabbed it in a corner, and added to the already injured ankle. He originally injured it in one of the first few rounds when he came up very short on the triple, then smashed it when he hit the wall at Atlanta 1, and it’s only gone downhill since. Maybe a few weeks off will get him back where he needs to be. The good thing that can come from this is with the supercross title off his plate, he can now focus his attention on outdoor testing, while Dungey and Canard are still practicing supercross week after week.

GPS - THAILAND

The Thailand track looked like something out of Southern California in the middle of summer. The dirt looked hard, dry, slick and choppy. I was really surprised how dusty it was at times during the races; you generally don’t see that with that level of racing. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the layout (seemed perfectly fine from my couch), but like I said it was designed just like the SoCal tracks, much more jumpy than any other GP track and much tighter. Collectively, the riders were very open about their displeasure with the circuit. Alessandro Lupino was extremely unhappy with the track design saying, “you make the track to let him win, but please don’t put at risk our security,” referring to Villopoto. Lupino went 21-22 on the day, and talks about a shoulder injury that is holding him back, so he may just be bitter.

Cairoli is a lot like Chad Reed, he is not afraid to talk about track conditions without sugar coating the truth.  He said he didn’t like the track, as it had too many jumps, was too tiny, and too dangerous.

Villopoto’s Revenge

All weekend Villopoto reminded the Europeans that he should be feared. On Saturday, he absolutely dominated the qualifying race. Sunday, he made a few quick passes and pulled out a big win, also setting the fastest lap of the entire day. In the second moto, he didn’t have as good of a start. He chose the very inside gate both motos, which is a conservative move. With the start design, it would be very tough to make it into the first turn ahead, because it’s such a tight line that you have to start your braking much earlier. The advantage to that is even if you get pinched off right out of the gate, you can keep a tight line and creep through the inside while everyone pushes wide. Coming into the turn, he was very far back, but he came out of the turn in about fifth or sixth, and made a few quick passes. He worked his way up to third and I really thought he was going to make a run for the front riders. All weekend he topped their speed, and at that point, he wasn’t very far from them, but RV took the conservative approach and settled in to third, which was good enough for the overall.

After the race he said, “When I got to third I just tried to be smart, and at this stage of the season a safe third is better than risking a crash.”

He also admitted that they made some good adjustments to their suspension during the week, and that the track was more jumpy and suited him well.

Cairoli went 5-1 on the day, allowing RV to close in a few more points.

Every Point Counts

This series is so long it’s hard to find a good balance in strategy. With a track that was so slick it was easy to crash, most people were just thinking that it’s a long series, and they just want to be up close to the podium to stay in contention. In the back of your mind you also have to remember that every point counts, if it comes down it and RV lost the title by one or two points, he would be kicking himself for not going after the front two guys this last weekend.

Who knows, either way they need to start doing something about the ultra consistent Clement Desalle, who has had four straight second place finishes, and now the points lead for the first time since 2013. Romain Febvre had a great weekend. Last weekend he went 6-7, and this weekend he improved with 3-4, not bad for his first four motos in the 450 class. He seems to be the standout rookie who has moved up from the lights class last year, and is now fifth in the points, only three points back from RV.

Max Nagl the big winner from a week ago didn’t have as good of a weekend this week, going 4-11. After the race he said, “I hoped to keep the championship leader’s red plate here in Thailand, but with the heat and the track conditions the way they were I wasn’t taking any risks at all. It was so, so hot and that was tough. Also, the track was challenging, so like I said I wasn’t taking any risks.”

Tommy Searly had a nasty crash on the big finish line tabletop in moto one. He hit a kicker on the face and endoed leaving him with a concussion and a fractured vertebra. As bad as that sounds he is doing well, he was able to leave the hospital and fly home already.

Jeremy Van Horebeek was another factory rider that failed to score points after he crashed and hit his head towards the end of moto one. He was actually running a fine fifth in race two, but withdrew when his vision started to become blurred again. He now sits twelfth in the MXGP standings.

MX2

In the MX2 class, most of the excitement came from the pits and not on the track. With temperatures close to 100 degrees, Jordi Tixier, Jimmy Seewer and Tim Gajser, all received an IV for fluids after moto one. Just like the AMA, you’re not allowed to race the next moto after getting an IV in the GPs. After using consistency to clinch the MX2 title last year, Jordi has had a disastrous start to the year; he has not yet finished within the top five of a moto. However, that appears to be the least of his problems, as he was handed a hefty fine by the FIM after reportedly coming to blows with an official once he was told that he could not compete in the second moto. There are also rumors that he may not be allowed to race in Argentina, although there is no confirmation at this time.

On the track it was a dominating performance from Herlings sweeping both motos easily despite being sick in moto one and nearly fainting after moto two. Julien Lieber was having another great run coming through the pack until he tried to seat bounce a big triple that had a kicker and threw him over the bars, ditching the bike, landing on both feet. I was shocked he wasn’t hurt, I was even more shocked when he lined up for the second moto and came through the pack for a third place finish. Lieber is still in fourth in points even after his DNF in moto one. He could challenge Herlings for a win by the end of the season.

Next Week:

As far as the GPs go, the racers get two weeks off before returning to race in Argentina on March 29th. This will be a nice break for the riders to regroup after the first couple of rounds, and come back swinging at the end of March.

Supercross this coming weekend takes place in Indianapolis. The dirt there is similar to what we see at St. Louis Supercross. The race has suspense around it, because we are not sure if Roczen will be there or not. The title could take a drastic turn if one of the main contenders is out.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

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