Race Report:
2006 Motocross of Nations
Saturday Qualifiers

2006 MOTOCROSS OF NATIONS
Saturday September 23, 2006
Matterley Basin—Winchester, England

The weather in England is unpredictable, to say the least, and on Friday, torrential downpours soaked the Matterley Basin facility. With a great track crew and moderately dry soil that was accepting of the moisture, the track was in superb condition for Saturday’s practice sessions and qualifying motos. With blue skies and a bright sun greeting the huge crowd on hand at England’s premier circuit, the 2006 Motocross of Nations went off without a hitch.

Saturday’s schedule consisted of separate practice sessions for each of the three classes (MX1, MX2, and Open), as well as a qualifying heat for each. The significance of the qualifiers? With 31 countries on hand, only the top 19 teams qualify for the Motocross of Nations’ three main event motos on Sunday. Each team’s rider is scored in their individual class qualifier, and a team score is tallied in the end, ultimately yielding 2006’s top-19 qualifying countries. When all was said and done, the USA team consisting of James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, and Ivan Tedesco landed on top of the list with very impressive 1-1-2 moto scores. Weather permitting, Sunday looks to be a fantastic day of racing, as Team USA attempts to break the 16-win tie between themselves and the home country of Great Britain for the most overall Motocross of Nations wins.

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QUALIFYING HEAT MX1:

When the gate dropped for the first qualifier of the day, it was MX1 World Champion Stefan Everts who rocketed into turn one with the lead. Everts’ lead was short lived, however, as Team USA’s captain James Stewart piloted his number one KX450F around him in the second corner. France’s Sebastien Pourcel was the next to make his move on Everts, and then quickly set his sights on Bubba up front. Pourcel appeared to nearly match Stewart’s speed for a lap or two, as the gap remained at about four seconds, but that quickly changed as James fell into his groove. By the halfway point, Stewart had charged to a near 12-second lead, and once comfortably out front, threw it into cruise control for the remainder of the 25-minute qualifier.

By moto’s end, Everts had worked his way back into the second spot and looked extremely strong aboard his YZ450F, finishing a mere three seconds behind Stewart at the checkers. The racing wasn’t nearly as close as the gap would assume, however, as Bubba only pushed as hard as he needed to take the win. “It was a good race, Stewart told us at the end of the day. “I knew I had a comfortable lead, so I didn’t push it too hard. Today was just a qualifier, so we’ll show up with our A games tomorrow.

Behind the top-two, there was a great battle between Great Britain’s Billy McKenzie and New Zealand’s Josh Coppins that went all the way down to the wire, with McKenzie eventually taking the third spot.

RESULTS:
1. James Stewart (USA)
2. Stefan Everts (Belgium)
3. Billy McKenzie (Great Britain)
4. Josh Coppins (New Zealand)
5. Tanel Leok (Estonia)
6. Maximilian Nagl (Germany)
7. David Philippaerts (Italy)
8. Sebastien Pourcel (France)
9. Jonathan Barragan (Spain)
10. Marc De Reuver (Netherlands)

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QUALIFYING HEAT MX2:

Next in the gate was the MX2 class, featuring Team USA’s Ryan Villopoto and newly crowned MX2 World Champion Christophe Pourcel from France. Villopoto’s starts during the ’06 National series were hit-and-miss, but he appeared to leave that bad habit in the States, as he rocketed out of the gate and captured a monster holeshot to kick off the moto. Behind Villopoto came Pourcel, and the Motocross of Nations fans erupted as the two charged their way through lap one. Villopoto, looking fast and comfortable the Matterley Basin soil despite having to deal with a bent shift lever after running off the track on lap one, began slowly stretching his lead over the Frenchman near the halfway point of the moto.

Behind the two Kawasaki riders, South Africa’s Tyla Rattray and New Zealand’s Ben Townley rode strong, as well, never letting the leaders get too far away. Coming through the pack after a mediocre start, Italy’s Antonio Cairoli was also on a mission, and the Yamaha pilot eventually passed both Rattray and Townley to finish third in the moto.

Though the top two positions remained unchanged throughout the entire race, Pourcel slowly began reeling Villopoto back in toward the finish. With smoke (that we later learned was caused by burning oil coming from his head) billowing off of his motor, Villopoto held tough to take the race win aboard his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki. “To be honest, I didn’t even know the bike was smoking, Ryan laughed after the race. “I bent my shifter on the first lap, which gave me some trouble, but other than that the bike was working great.

RESULTS:
1. Ryan Villopoto (USA)
2. Christophe Pourcel (France)
3. Antonio Cairoli (Italy)
4. Ben Townley (New Zealand)
5. Tyla Rattray (South Africa)
6. Kevin Strijbos (Belgium)
7. Tommy Searle (Great Britain)
8. Brett Metcalfe (Australia)
9. Rui Goncalves (Portugal)
10. Carlos Campano (Spain)

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QUALIFYING HEAT OPEN:

The final qualifier of the day featured the Open class riders, and it was Wyatt Avis from South Africa who grabbed the holeshot aboard his KTM450SX-F. Close behind in the second spot was Team USA’s Ivan Tedesco who got an outstanding jump out of the gate for a guy who has seen only limited racing action all summer. Hot Sauce continued charging to put a pass on Avis before the end of lap one, crossing the finish line with the lead. The two continued trading the lead back and forth throughout lap two, but on the third lap, Belgium’s Steve Ramon (who finished runner-up to Stefan Everts for the MX1 World Championship) got by both riders to take over the top spot. By lap four, Tedesco settled into second place and latched on to Ramon as the two steadily pulled a sizable lead over the rest of the field.

In the end, Ramon rode a flawless moto, never to be challenged by Tedesco again. Crossing the finish line 4.5 seconds behind the Belgian, Hot Sauce looked extremely solid, however, and with the first moto jitters now a thing of the past, we’re expecting even more speed out of him on Sunday.

RESULTS:
1. Steve Ramon (Belgium)
2. Ivan Tedesco (USA)
3. Wyatt Avis (South Africa)
4. Yves Demaria (France)
5. Jussi Vehvilainen (Finland)
6. Blair Morgan (Canada)
7. Carl Nunn (Great Britain)
8. Marc Ristori (Switzerland)
9. Cristian Beggi (Italy)
10. Cody Cooper (New Zealand)

With Saturday’s three qualifiers now in the books, Team USA clinched the number one qualifying position with 1-1-2 moto scores. As the top qualifiers, the US squad will have the first gate picks in all three of Sundays main event motos—Moto One: MX1 + MX2; Moto Two: MX2 + MX3; Moto Three: MX1 + MX3. Behind Team USA, the Belgians put in an expected strong performance to qualify in the second spot, with France, New Zealand, and South Africa rounding out the top five.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a complete Motocross of Nations race report from Matterley Basin in Winchester, England.

QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATIONS
(Countries Qualified to Sunday’s MX of Nations)

1. USA
2. Belgium
3. France
4. New Zealand
5. South Africa
6. Great Britain
7. Italy
8. Estonia
9. Finland
10. Spain
11. Australia
12. Japan
13. Germany
14. Portugal
15. Canada
16. Norway
17. Czech Republic
18. Slovakia
19. Switzerland

ia
9. Finland
10. Spain
11. Australia
12. Japan
13. Germany
14. Portugal
15. Canada
16. Norway
17. Czech Republic
18. Slovakia
19. Switzerland