Every Spring, the amateur season fires up in Texas with a pair of back-to-back events. It’s sort of the MX world’s equivalent to Spring Break. By the time the two weeks are over, you’ll have a pretty good idea of who might step up to the next level or make a name for themselves during the upcoming season. It’s sort of like catching all the previews before a feature movie…a peek into the future of what’s to come.
Lake Whitney was host to the 2005 AMA Parts Unlimited Spring Classic, which was followed by the GNC International Final at Oak Hill a week later. Like all the big amateur events, it’s nearly a week at each venue, between practice, qualifiers and finals.
Interestingly enough, Lake Whitney has been hosting MX races since the early 70s, when the Euros first came over to the U.S., showing the Americans what motocross was all about. The track itself is an interesting mix of three distinct areas. There’s a flat infield area, a venture into the hill that backs the track, and through a wooded section. The one universal aspect was the red dirt that looked to offer luscious traction when wet.
Driving through the rolling terrain toward the track at Lake Whitney, we were surprised to spy a small herd of zebras. Sure, the track sits on part of the WB Ranch, which is a private hunting retreat, but that’s not the kind of circus-like atmosphere we were expecting to see.
As the motos churned through the schedule with plenty of good racing, a couple veteran observers mentioned that they thought riders were taking it easy (or maybe just riding a little smarter than the previous year) to save themselves for Oak Hill. Or maybe it was just that they were spooked by all the first turn carnage during last year’s event, which was partly caused by rain and mud. Fortunately, the race was blessed with better weather this time around, and some different track prep which also seemed to help.
Unfortunately, some of the excitement was quashed on Thursday when Ricky James tangled bars with another rider and shot off the track, where he suffered a variety of injuries, including spinal cord damage that left him paralyzed from the chest down. It was inspiring, however, to see the amateur community rally together, raising a substantial amount of money for his recovery from donations, raffles and an auction at the Parts Unlimited trailer on Saturday night. There are definitely some good people among the announcers, riders, parents and sponsors out there.
One thing that really caught our attention in Texas were the Schoolboy and Collegeboy classes. There’s nothing quite like a full gate of 125 two-strokes, and with the changes in AMA bike requirements for these classes, it was fairly intoxicating to sit behind the gate and revel in the smell and sound of the high-revving 125s. Okay, maybe it’s not the best thing ever for your lungs or ears, but in a world increasingly filled with four-strokes, it sure was refreshing. Sure, some people grump that the rule was made to sell two-strokes…and maybe it was. But either way, it makes a great bridge for younger riders moving up from the minis and superminis, and the 250Fs that fill the gates of what used to be the 125cc classes.
Through several days of age groups, bike sizes, two-and four-strokes, here are a few riders who caught our attention and are definitely worthy of the Coming Attraction title.
Ryan Villopoto’s always a rider to watch, since he’s near the top of the “next” list. The talented Team Green teen used Whitney as his last tune-up before turning pro, racing five classes and winning three of them. DNFs in two of the finals cost him a shot at more titles. He’s now living in Menifee, CA, leaving behind the motorhome “home” base that he, his mom and brother used last season while training in SoCal.
One rider who turned a lot of heads was Martin Davalos. The Ecuadorian native has been living and training at the Millsaps Training Facility, and has shown great improvement, moving from the B classes in ’04 to leading the A classes in ’05. He won the 125 250 + A, as well as the 125 A/ProSport titles, and finished second in two others (behind Jason Lawrence in one and Josh Lichtle in another).
At Whitney, Zach Osborne is straddling the line between 85cc bikes and the KTM 125SX. He looks as fast as ever on the bigger bikes, and we expect that Texas may have been among his last races on the smaller bikes.
Jessica Patterson’s no newcomer to the front of the Women’s Pro class, with over 60 women’s titles.
Sean Hackley is more than just a promo between Disney Channel shows. He was flying during qualifiers, but a string of DNF and DNS scores in the finals don’t adequately show his true speed.
Jason Lawrence continues to run at the front of the A Pro pack, taking the 125cc A/ProSport title, and finishing second in two other pro classes.
While he didn’t leave Lake Whitney with any titles, Josh Hill continues to show blazing speed.
Earl May won four Senior and Vet classes, and finished behind Shaun Kalos in another one. That’s probably not a big surprise, considering he rides with Ricky Carmichael.
Blake Wharton was first in 85cc 12-13 Mod, and ran up front in several other classes.
Leah Cantrell tallied four seconds in women’s classes behind…you got it…Jessica Patterson. The fast Georgian did run up front on more than one occasion, though, before being reeled in by JP.