TWMX Race Report: Hangtown ’04

Carmichael and Stewart Take First Wins of the National MX Series in Sacramento

In a style reminiscent of their 2003 outdoor seasons, Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart dominated their perspective classes at the opening round of 2004 AMA Chevrolet Motocross Championship competition in Sacramento, California. Both riders enjoyed fairly large margins of victory when the checkers flew, but not without some major hurdles to clear in the process.

[IMAGE 1]

“My arms were pumped from the first lap to the last lap and I was only able to ride at about 75%, but thankfully it was enough to come back and win the opening round, said an elated Ricky Carmichael just moments after his second moto victory. “It was great to win, but most importantly it was really fun to be back on the track racing again. After taking the entire Supercross season off, I have been waiting for this moment for months and I’m excited to be back. The win also marked the first for Carmichael aboard a four-stroke.

Carmichael enjoyed a mammoth lead by race’s end, but at the start Team Yamaha’s David Vuillemin kept RC in sight for several laps after both riders made their way past Team Subway’s Jason Thomas, who nabbed the first holeshot of the year in the premier 250cc division. Though Vuillemin’s pace looked surprisingly close to Carmichael’s in the opening laps of the moto, DV began to fade just before the halfway point of the race. Vuillemin was eventually passed by Factory Connection/Honda’s Kevin Windham on lap eight and his teammate Chad Reed on lap nine before finally settling into the fourth position where he would remain. Team Suzuki’s Sean Hamblin rounded out the top-five in moto one.

The second moto was once again all Ricky, as he led the pack for sixteen straight laps around the rough and steamy Sacramento circuit on his way to yet another commanding win. This time, however, Vuillemin kept his YZ450F much closer to the defending 250cc outdoor champion. Vuillemin settled into second place from the beginning and was able to keep RC in striking distance for a large portion of the race before eventually fading back slightly but still holding on to the second spot.

Behind le Cobra was a battle royale between first moto runner-up Windham and Chad Reed, with Reed eventually getting the better of Windham and nabbing third in the moto. Still, Vuillemin’s strong second moto ride was enough to propel him to second place overall, via 4-2 moto scores. Reed’s consistent 3-3 scores gave him the final spot on the box, with Windham going 2-4 for the fourth overall position. Hamblin put in a consistent sixth-place ride to back up his first moto fifth, allowing him to finish the day in fifth overall. Other notable rides of the day came from the Canadian Blackfoot Honda team, with Damon Huffman scoring a fifth place position in the second moto for eighth overall and his teammate Jean Sebastien Roy getting sixth overall with his consistent 6-7 scores.

In 125cc action, James Stewart elected to stay aboard his race-proven two-stroke KX125. The disadvantage in power didn’t seem to hold Bubba back much, as he picked up right where he left off last year with two perfect moto scores.

Perhaps the biggest surprise all day long in the 125cc class came from professional rookie Josh Grant, who grabbed the first moto holeshot. Grant, who is filling in for the injury-plagued Factory Connection 125cc team, looked amazing as he led the pack of tiddlers for nearly three laps before laying his CRF down in a corner. Grant had major trouble getting his four-stroke motor to fire after the engine stalled and was only able to muster a 35th position when the dust settled, but still rode impressively.

[IMAGE 2]

Class winner James Stewart was forced to make his way past several riders before capitalizing on Grant’s mistake and taking over the lead on lap three. Behind Stewart was Pro Circuit’s Eric Sorby and Stephane Roncada, witth Roncada eventually getting the better of Sorby as he chased Bubba to the finish line. Red Bull/KTM’s Ryan Hughes got by Sorby late in the moto to finish third, as did Yamaha of Troy’s Mike Brown for fourth. Sorby held on to fifth at moto’s end.

As good as the first moto was, the second race was even tighter. Roncada took the lead early on, with Broc Hepler and Stewart in tow. The three went on to bang bars in what became one of the closest races in recent history. Hepler eventually bowed out and settled into third, but Roncada didn’t let Bubba go without a fight. The two Kawasaki riders swapped the race lead some eight times before it was all over with, and Roncada dogged Stewart until the end.

[IMAGE 3]

With only two laps to go, RonRon finally let James enjoy a small lead and held on for second. His 2-2 scores put Stephane in second for the day, while Mike Brown, who finished fourth in the final moto, rounded out the top-three overall positions. Hepler’s strong second moto finish offset his tenth-place finish in the first moto, allowing him and his RM-Z250 to finish in the fourth overall position. Hughes suffered from a first-turn crash in moto two but rode like a man possessed to the eleventh spot, which was good enough for fifth when combined with his third in the first race.

125cc Overall Results

  1. James Stewart, 1-1
  2. Stephane Roncada, 2-2
  3. Mike Brown, 4-4
  4. Broc Hepler, 10-3
  5. Ryan Hughes, 3-11
  6. Nathan Ramsey, 13-5
  7. Chris Gosselaar, 9-9
  8. Danny Smith, 8-13
  9. Kelly Smith, 17-8
  10. Ryan Morais, 18-7

250cc Overall Results

  1. Ricky Carmichael, 1-1
  2. David Vuillemin, 4-2
  3. Chad Reed, 3-3
  4. Kevin Windham, 2-4
  5. Sean Hamblin, 5-6
  6. Jean Sebastien Roy, 6-7
  7. Heath Voss, 8-8
  8. Damon Huffman, 13-5
  9. Nick Wey, 9-11
  10. Michael Byrne, 12-9