TWMX Race Report: Steel City ’05

We wouldn’t want to call the weekend at Steel City predictable, but with Ricky Carmichael being his usual dominating self, and Broc Hepler on a familiar track in front of hometown fans, the results weren’t all that surprising. Here’s how it went down.

125 Moto One

When the gate dropped for the first 125cc moto, Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi got the quick jump and immediately began building a sizeable lead. Team Samsung’s Steve Boniface and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Matt Walker both got good starts, and were running in second and third.

While Mike was circulating up front, three riders were putting on charges through the pack behind him…

Team Makita Suzuki’s Broc Hepler started off in seventh spot, but jumped to fourth by lap two after passing Brett Metcalfe and Akira Narita. A lap later he went by Boniface, and then moved past Walker on the following lap. From there, he went to work on Alessi’s lead, methodically reeling him in.

Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Grant Langston started in tenth, and moved to fourth by lap seven.

Maybe most impressive, though, was 125 point leader Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Ivan Tedesco, who was 15th after the first lap. His charge moved him to seventh by lap eight, and fifth on lap nine.

With a handful of laps left in the moto, it was pretty obvious that Hepler was faster than Alessi, but Broc took his time and didn’t force the issue. Then, once he got by, he stretched a comfortable gap en route to the moto win. With Alessi in second, it was a parade of Pro Circuit riders, with Langston, Walker, and Tedesco behind him. Team ECC’s Bobby Kiniry was the only thing that spoiled an even bigger Pro Circuit train, as he finished just in front of Ryan Villopoto.

250 Moto One

With an already-sizeable point lead, all Team Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael needed to wrap up the 2005 250cc crown was a 16th place finish in the first moto. Of course, with 18 moto wins coming into Steel City (including the last nine in a row), there was very little doubt that he’d have the title wrapped up with three motos remaining in the season.

When the gate dropped for moto one, Ricky quickly jumped into the lead and with great efficiency, put in one of his “boring” motos. Behind him, however, there was some great racing. Riders who were up front behind him included Honda’s Ernesto Fonseca and Travis Preston, Kawasaki’s Michael Byrne, Sean Collier, and Ryan Hughes.

Kevin Windham went down in the first turn with several other riders, and remounted in 37th spot. But he put on an amazing charge, and was in 20th place at the end of the first lap, 13th on lap two, ninth at the end of lap three, and fourth by lap six.

Ryno and Yamaha’s David Vuillemin could probably have ridden a tandem, as they worked up through the pack together, moving into third and fourth on lap five. Two laps later, DV passed Ryno, and moved into third.

Kevin Windham was still charging forward, and he caught and passed DV on lap 11. Then he set off after Fonseca, and passed him one lap later to move into second. That’s 37th to second place…very impressive.

Vuillemin also wasn’t done, and he passed Fonseca with two laps to go. At the checkers it was RC, Windham, DV, Fonseca, and Ryan Hughes.

After the moto, AMA Pro Racing’s Steve Whitelock presented RC with another number one plate to go with his already-impressive collection.

125 Moto Two

Mike Alessi worked his holeshot magic again in moto two, jumping out ahead of Ivan Tedesco and Honda’s Andrew Short. Shorty’s first moto was a frustrating affair, which saw him running as high as ninth, as low as 34th, and finally finishing in 20th. Ryan Villopoto also got a good start, and ran as high as second spot before Broc Hepler went by him and took off after Mike Alessi.

Broc didn’t take as long to get by Alessi this time around, and moved into the lead on lap five, stretching a sll lead that he maintained until the checkers. The top five was maintained for nearly 2/3 of the moto, with Hepler, Alessi, Tedesco, Short, and Villopoto. The only change was when Team Makita Suzuki’s Davi Millsaps got by Villopoto on the final lap.

At the post-race press conference, Alessi attributed his recent string of excellent starts to recovering from a recent foot injury. “I think the main reason why I’m getting starts again is that I can shift. I couldn’t shift when my foot was all messed up. I just tried so survive through Colorado and Washougal, and finally felt 100 percent at Millville, and Binghamton, and today.”

Mike also had some kind words for his competition. “I battled with Broc in the first moto, and he was going really fast. I couldn’t keep up with him. In the second moto, I got a great start and led about four or five laps, and we battled it out again, and same story, he was going too fast for me.”

Mike’s still second in the 125cc standings, 35 points back of Tedesco. “The championship’s still alive, but realistically, Ivan’s got it. I’m just going to go there and try and win and hope for the best. It’s been a great year. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, I’ve had fun, and it’s definitely a year I’ll never forget.”

With his 5-3 finishes, Ivan Tedesco scored third overall for the day, and while he did lose some points to Mike Alessi, he still has a solid lead heading into the final round. When quizzed about whether leading the title chase has changed the way he rides, he replied, “I try not to (let it), but when you have a big points lead, it’s kind of hard not to. I think it’s in the back of your head, and the whole time you’re thinking I’ve just got to have a consistent ride. There are guys out there who are kind of out of the championship, but are capable of winning races. They have nothing to lose, so they’re pinning it. I’m trying not to do that, but I think I have a little bit. It’s working for me, and I’ve been consistent, so I just need to keep on doing what I’m doing.”

“The game plan hasn’t changed. I’m just going to go there (Glen Helen), and try to do the best I can. That’s what’s been working for me the whole season. I haven’t done the math for what I’ve got to get to win, but I’ve at least got a points lead, so if I win, great. If I get on the podium, great. I just want to wrap the title up and get it out of the way.”

Of course, Hepler’s win was wildly popular with his hometown crowd, and he was mobbed by friends and fans atop one particular hill as he took a victory lap. Afterward, when asked about the hometown crowd, Broc said, “I think it makes you more nervous. All my buddies were up on the hill. Whenever I come over towards the front, especially when I’m trying to chase down Mike, they’re really going wild. So that’s when I want to work harder and get up there and win, just as much for them, as myself and the team. It was great. High Point’s also really close for me, too, and I did really bad there, so I kind of had to make it up to my fans and friends and family.

While Broc looked really solid on the track, his day wasn’t without a few scary moments. “On the first lap of the first moto, on the off-camber as you go to the pro section. The bars tucked and I just kind of landed on the handlebars and got back on the gas. I don’t know how I saved that one. Then right after the tabletop, I clipped Matt Walker’s back wheel and went down. After that first lap I dropped back three or four spots. I knew I had to do something because my arms started pumping up and I didn’t want to lose a race when I had such a good start, so after that lap I kind of took a moment and regrouped and did what I’m supposed to do. I’ve been working on my starts really hard. I’m happy when I come out in the top five, so I can try and chase those guys down. I think we’ve got that figured out. “

Broc was also complementary about the competition. “Mike was riding really good, especially in the second moto. He stayed closer and kept me honest all the way to the end.”

250 Moto Two

For moto two, Ricky Carmichael was sporting a jersey with a number one. This time around Vuillemin ran in second for several laps before being displaced by Windham, and Ernesto Fonseca also caught and passed DV in the duel for third on the podium, and for third overall in the 250 series. After trading 3-4 finishes, DV and Ernie are still tied for third in the series, and their battle in the season-long bragging rights will come down to next weekend at Glen Helen.

Ernesto scored his third straight podium finish, and is still tied with Vuillemin for third in the standings. After being somewhat frustrated by being chased down in the first moto, he wasn’t excited about the prospect of doing the chasing in Moto two. “I thought they were gone and I’d never be able to catch them. David and Kevin were riding at a really good pace and Ricky was gone. I don’t know if I got in a good rhythm or they slowed down, but I caught David.”

Now with one week to go in the series, and third place up for grabs, Ernie said, “My goal (at Steel City) was to try and get a little bit of a gap on him, and try to beat him in both motos. I just need to go there next week and make it happen.”

Windham scored his usual second overall, but now without some work, particularly in the first moto. “I thought, ‘Man, I need to really put my head down,’ and I wanted to get to the podium. I did it, and I was excited with that,

“It’s amazing that you ride from almost dead last and come to second, and then in the second moto, I get a fourth place start and the result’s the same, and Ernie’s like the same distance behind me. I was a little bit of a man on a mission there in the first moto. I think the pace was pretty good today. Ricky, in weeks past, has kind of gone away, and this week we got beaten by a tolerable amount. Some weeks we get beat so bad it’s pathetic. But today I felt like we were holding our own. There wasn’t a big gap between Ernie and me, and there wasn’t an overly large gap between me and Ricky. The racing was pretty competitive today.”

“I’m fortunate to be here and happy to get second again. It seems like I’m the most second-est rider around.”

For his part, RC was happy to have another championship wrapped up. “It was a great weekend for me. I got killer starts and I’m really happy about that. I’ve never gotten really good starts here for some reason.”

Looking at the results for the season, they had their struggles, though you’d never know it. “I was really scared coming into this season as far as outdoor goes, just because we had problems in testing, running out of fuel, and it wouldn’t run good when it got hot. The week of Sacramento we kind of got things together. Sacramento started out good, and we made improvements through the first half of the series, so the bike was good.”

He summed up the title by saying, “I think I’m happier for Suzuki than I am myself.”

125 Overall

  1. Broc Hepler 1-1 (Suz)
  2. Mike Alessi 2-2 (KTM)
  3. Ivan Tedesco 5-3 (Kaw)
  4. Grant Langston 3-8 (Kaw)
  5. Ryan Villopoto 7-6 (Kaw)
  6. Davi Millsaps 10-5 (Suz)
  7. Ryan Sipes 8-7 (Suz)
  8. Andrew Short 20-4 (Hon)
  9. Joaquim Rodrigues 12-12 (Hon)
  10. Tommy Hahn 11-13 (Hon)

125 Point Standings

  1. Ivan Tedesco 402
  2. Mike Alessi 367
  3. Andrew Short 336
  4. Broc Hepler 321
  5. Grant Langston 316
  6. Mike Brown 312
  7. Josh Grant 302
  8. Davi Millsaps 268
  9. Matt Walker 224
  10. Paul Carpenter 164

250 Overall

  1. Ricky Carmichael 1-1 (Suz)
  2. Kevin Windham 2-2 (Hon)
  3. Ernesto Fonseca 4-3 (Hon)
  4. David Vuillemin 3-4 (Yam)
  5. Ryan Hughes 5-5 (Suz)
  6. Michael Byrne 6-6 (Kaw)
  7. John Dowd 10-7 (Suz)
  8. Nick cially in the second moto. He stayed closer and kept me honest all the way to the end.”

    250 Moto Two

    For moto two, Ricky Carmichael was sporting a jersey with a number one. This time around Vuillemin ran in second for several laps before being displaced by Windham, and Ernesto Fonseca also caught and passed DV in the duel for third on the podium, and for third overall in the 250 series. After trading 3-4 finishes, DV and Ernie are still tied for third in the series, and their battle in the season-long bragging rights will come down to next weekend at Glen Helen.

    Ernesto scored his third straight podium finish, and is still tied with Vuillemin for third in the standings. After being somewhat frustrated by being chased down in the first moto, he wasn’t excited about the prospect of doing the chasing in Moto two. “I thought they were gone and I’d never be able to catch them. David and Kevin were riding at a really good pace and Ricky was gone. I don’t know if I got in a good rhythm or they slowed down, but I caught David.”

    Now with one week to go in the series, and third place up for grabs, Ernie said, “My goal (at Steel City) was to try and get a little bit of a gap on him, and try to beat him in both motos. I just need to go there next week and make it happen.”

    Windham scored his usual second overall, but now without some work, particularly in the first moto. “I thought, ‘Man, I need to really put my head down,’ and I wanted to get to the podium. I did it, and I was excited with that,

    “It’s amazing that you ride from almost dead last and come to second, and then in the second moto, I get a fourth place start and the result’s the same, and Ernie’s like the same distance behind me. I was a little bit of a man on a mission there in the first moto. I think the pace was pretty good today. Ricky, in weeks past, has kind of gone away, and this week we got beaten by a tolerable amount. Some weeks we get beat so bad it’s pathetic. But today I felt like we were holding our own. There wasn’t a big gap between Ernie and me, and there wasn’t an overly large gap between me and Ricky. The racing was pretty competitive today.”

    “I’m fortunate to be here and happy to get second again. It seems like I’m the most second-est rider around.”

    For his part, RC was happy to have another championship wrapped up. “It was a great weekend for me. I got killer starts and I’m really happy about that. I’ve never gotten really good starts here for some reason.”

    Looking at the results for the season, they had their struggles, though you’d never know it. “I was really scared coming into this season as far as outdoor goes, just because we had problems in testing, running out of fuel, and it wouldn’t run good when it got hot. The week of Sacramento we kind of got things together. Sacramento started out good, and we made improvements through the first half of the series, so the bike was good.”

    He summed up the title by saying, “I think I’m happier for Suzuki than I am myself.”

    125 Overall

    1. Broc Hepler 1-1 (Suz)
    2. Mike Alessi 2-2 (KTM)
    3. Ivan Tedesco 5-3 (Kaw)
    4. Grant Langston 3-8 (Kaw)
    5. Ryan Villopoto 7-6 (Kaw)
    6. Davi Millsaps 10-5 (Suz)
    7. Ryan Sipes 8-7 (Suz)
    8. Andrew Short 20-4 (Hon)
    9. Joaquim Rodrigues 12-12 (Hon)
    10. Tommy Hahn 11-13 (Hon)

    125 Point Standings

    1. Ivan Tedesco 402
    2. Mike Alessi 367
    3. Andrew Short 336
    4. Broc Hepler 321
    5. Grant Langston 316
    6. Mike Brown 312
    7. Josh Grant 302
    8. Davi Millsaps 268
    9. Matt Walker 224
    10. Paul Carpenter 164

    250 Overall

    1. Ricky Carmichael 1-1 (Suz)
    2. Kevin Windham 2-2 (Hon)
    3. Ernesto Fonseca 4-3 (Hon)
    4. David Vuillemin 3-4 (Yam)
    5. Ryan Hughes 5-5 (Suz)
    6. Michael Byrne 6-6 (Kaw)
    7. John Dowd 10-7 (Suz)
    8. Nick Wey 9-8 (Hon)
    9. Sean Collier 8-10 (Hon)
    10. Evan Laughridge 11-11 (Kaw)

    250 Point Standings

    1. Ricky Carmichael 544
    2. Kevin Windham 443
    3. Ernesto Fonseca 352
    4. David Vuillemin 352
    5. Travis Preston 279
    6. John Dowd 273
    7. Michael Byrne 265
    8. Chad Reed 258
    9. Nick Wey 233
    10. James Stewart 138

    ick Wey 9-8 (Hon)

  9. Sean Collier 8-10 (Hon)
  10. Evan Laughridge 11-11 (Kaw)

250 Point Standings

  1. Ricky Carmichael 544
  2. Kevin Windham 443
  3. Ernesto Fonseca 352
  4. David Vuillemin 352
  5. Travis Preston 279
  6. John Dowd 273
  7. Michael Byrne 265
  8. Chad Reed 258
  9. Nick Wey 233
  10. James Stewart 138