TWMX Race Report: Unadilla

James “Bubba” Stewart and Kevin Windham both turned in perfect moto scores at Ward Robinson’s fabled Unadilla Valley Sports Center in the rolling green hills of upstate New York. While Stewart’s toughest competition in the 125 class seems to be himself, K-Dub etched his name in motocross history as the rider who ended the twenty-one race winning streak of fellow Honda rider Ricky Carmichael. Needless to say, RC didn’t go down without a fight, and both riders gave it everything they had for the appreciative East Coast crowd.

Since the return of reigning champion Stewart to the 125 class at round five it seems a foregone conclusion that everyone else is racing for second place…and a national championship. With practice lap times five seconds better than his closest rival, Sunday promised to be no different.

Moto one was a showcase to Bubba’s talents as he holeshot and pulled the pack at a startling rate. By the end of lap three his lead was already fifteen seconds over Grant Langston, Brock Sellards, Craig Anderson, series points leader Mike Brown, Ryan Hughes, Eric Sorby and a hard-charging Branden Jesseman. Sellards was flying in the early laps, before succumbing to the effects of a respiratory infection and fading to eleventh at the finish.

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As they headed up the hill in the back of the track Stewart went down, damaging his front brake lever in the process. Langston had a brief moment of glory, nudging ahead of Bubba as they made their way past the mechanic’s area to start lap four, but the Chevy Trucks Kawasaki rider would have none of it and regained the lead before they reached the next corner. To his credit, Langston kept his KTM within sight of the front-brakeless Stewart for the next several laps.

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Ryno led Sorby and just-returned factory Suzuki rider Jesseman past Anderson, Brown and Sellards. Jesseman looked anything but rusty as he went around the outside of Brown while standing up through a rutted and technical section of turns after the mechanic’s area. On lap eight, Sorby went down hard in the same section, smashing the radiator on his Pro-Circuit KX125 and ending his moto. Hughes and Jesseman caught sight of Langston, and with three laps left the 125 East SX champion passed Ryno, leaving only Langston between him and leader Stewart, who by this time was on auto-pilot some ten seconds in front.

The young RM pilot was a crowd favorite, leaping higher and further out of “Gravity Cavity” than any other rider, including Stewart, during his charge to the front. When Langston had a lapse in concentration, overshooting a soft right-hander in front of the mechanic’s signal area, Brandon was right there to capitalize on the mistake, taking away two costly national points. At the end of the day, those points would have put the likeable former world champion into the series points lead.

Stewart won by seven seconds over the trio of Jesseman, Langston and Hughes, with Aussies Brett Metcalfe and Michael Byrne finishing fifth and sixth. Rounding out the top ten was Brown, Anderson, triple-digit rookie sensation Brian Gray and Kelly Smith.

Moto two saw Anderson narrowly take the holeshot over Smith, with Ryno and Jesseman on their tail. Stewart began moving through the pack immediately from his mid-pack start. Jesseman’s decent start was too good to be true as the entire pack went by when he high-sided in a slow left-hand turn before dropping into Gravity Cavity. This time he would only work back to eleventh in the moto and sixth overall.

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Anderson led after one lap with Hughes, Stewart, and the KTM’s of Metcalfe and Langston giving chase. Langston had been in third, but a big swap followed by a rodeo ride and run alongside his bike before falling over had dropped him back behind his teammate.

Stewart assumed his now familiar point position by the completion of lap two, with Ando ehanging passes with a charging Hughes, before relenting to an onslaught of orange bikes. At the end of five it was Bubba checking out, followed by the orange wave of Hughes, Langston and Metcalfe. Things remained that way with the exception of Brown apparently realizing he’s a contender and stepping up the pace around the halfway point, passing Anderson and pressuring arch rival Hughes. On lap ten Brown got past Ryno, and two laps later he bagged third from Metcalfe. Eric Sorby was black-flagged and very nearly took out a wide-open-in-fourth-gear Branden Jesseman when he pulled off the track in disgust.

It looked as though that’s the way they’d finish, but in an apparent tactical team maneuver, Metcalfe suddenly slowed before the finish, allowing Hughes to pass for the fourth place points. Hughes later graciously thanked his teammate “for the love” from the podium.

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At the checkered it was Stewart with another painless 1-1 day for the overall win, with Langston second in the moto and second overall. Brown’s third place in the second moto salvaged him fourth overall and a meager one point lead over former vice-champion Langston going into round eight next week at Washougal, Washington. Hughes filled the podium with 4-4 moto scores, followed by his benefactor Brett Metcalfe who went 5-5 for fifth overall. Sixth in moto two was Ivan Tedesco, who had suffered his way to a sixteenth in moto one, for tenth overall. Craig Anderson’s seventh in the second moto was enough for seventh on the day, and Kelly Smith used 10-8 scores for ninth overall. Rounding out the top ten in moto two was the Honda of Byrne and the KTM of Steve Boniface.

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Things have definitely tightened up as Brown now leads Langston by a single point in what looks to be a repeat of their epic 2001 season-long battle for the title. What role, if any, Stewart will play remains to be seen…but no one is counting him out just yet.

Unadilla 125cc Results

  1. James Stewart 1-1
  2. Grant Langston 3-2
  3. Ryan Hughes 4-4
  4. Mike Brown 7-3
  5. Brett Metcalfe 5-5
  6. Branden Jesseman 2-11
  7. Craig Anderson 8-7
  8. Michael Byrne 6-9
  9. Kelly Smith 10-8
  10. Ivan Tedesco 16-6

125cc Point Standings

  1. Mike Brown 249
  2. Grant Langston 248
  3. Ryan Hughes 216
  4. Brock Sellards 167
  5. Eric Sorby 160
  6. James Stewart 150
  7. Ivan Tedesco 149
  8. Brett Metcalfe 149
  9. Michael Byrne 147
  10. Craig Anderson 143


250cc Action

Kevin Windham used his near-perfect riding style and a pair of holeshots to become the first person to beat Ricky Carmichael at an outdoor national since the last time he himself did it, nearly 103 weeks ago! To say that RC didn’t go down without a fight would be the understatement of the year…both riders held nothing back as they battled each other, lapped riders and the famed Unadilla circuit for the top step of the podium.

Windham’s practice lap times served notice early in the weekend that Ricky’s win streak was in serious jeopardy. When they dropped the gate in moto one it was Windham’s Factory Connection/No Fear CRF 450 Honda thundering through the fast right-hand sweeper in front, followed by Damien Plotts, Clark Stiles, Ezra Lusk, Kyle Lewis and German Suzuki rider Marco Dorsch, who’s battle with Roncada in his qualifier was impressive. Carmichael was buried in the pack, working his way into second by the end of lap three, only to find K-Dub nowhere in sight.

Windham continued to stretch his lead slightly over Carmichael, the two of them leaving their old friends Tim Ferry and Lusk to battle with RC’s supercross nemesis Chad Reed. Reed’s supercross skills have not yet resulted in outdoor speed and today was no exception. David Vuillemin turned in his best effort in recent memory as he worked from twentieth to fifth by moto end.

At the finish it was Kevin Windham in a cakewalk, beating RC by nineteen seconds. Next was the consistently fast Ferry, followed by the Kawasaki of Lusk, then first European David Vuillemin in fifth and McGrath clone Reed in sixth. LaRocco, Dowd, Lewis and Roncada completed the top ten.

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On the podium Carmichael seemed almost resigned to the idea of Windham beating him today, you could hear it in his words and you could hear it in his voice. “It’s good for the fans, it’s good for the sport, and everybody wants to see a good race. Kevin rode well and has been all weekend. I just have to get a better start and do my best…we’ll see if it’s enough”. Those are hardly the words fans have come to expect from Carmichael. It’s a good thing that Windham didn’t pay any attention, because RC was anything but laying down for him!

When they came around the first turn in the deciding moto it was once again Windham just ahead of Reed and Carmichael. RC dispatched of Reed by the time they hit turn three, and the race was on! Windham was riding his usual buttery-smooth race, but things got interesting very quickly as Ricky was in hot pursuit. The four-stroke of Windham seemed to have a slight horsepower advantage (what’s that slogan, “There’s no replacement for displacement?”) over Carmichael’s CR250R in the rolling hills that make up the Unadilla track.

At the halfway point the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife, as Windham led Carmichael by three-and-a-half seconds, the gap remaining the same from the second lap. The two leaders were pulling away rapidly from a group including DV, Ferry and Reed, who were having their own battle for first Yamaha, a battle eventually won by Ferry. Behind them the two Canadian riders, Jean Sebastien Roy and Marco Dube were moving into the top ten, as were Mike LaRocco and Kyle Lewis.

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Things got scary for the two leaders as they began lapping the field at a ferocious rate…Windham seemed to encounter less resistance than RC, but both riders were taking chances and it was apparent that Carmichael wasn’t about to let him have it. With two laps to go RC had closed to within two seconds and both were having near-misses while carving through heavy traffic.

On the next-to-last lap Carmichael was about ten bike lengths behind, but that was as close as he was going to get…Kyle Lewis came across the front of Ricky’s bike in the back section of track, sending Ricky into a fourth gear tank-slapper that he later confided “scared the sh*t out of him!”, allowing Windham some room to breathe.

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At the checkered flag it was pandemonium as Windham crossed with both hands in the air and RC a second behind. It was a core motocross moment for the ages as Windham and Carmichael took a victory lap together on the legendary Unadilla track, much to the delight of the throngs of fans that had seen the fastest laps ever ridden there, without a doubt. Both riders had ridden the last ten laps on the absolute edge, a fact made evident by Carmichael’s pride and absolute lack of disappointment in defeat. “I’m not disappointed at all, Kevin rode fantastic. If anything, I’m pumped by the way I rode! I’d have liked to have won, but it was so much fun to be behind Kevin and watch him ride…I’m not the least bit disappointed.”

To give you some idea of just how frantically RC and K-Dub were carving through traffic, there were nineteen lapped riders between Carmichael and the third place rider, Tim Ferry. The last rider lapped by RC was ninth place, Ezra Lusk, who didn’t exactly move over for his former best friend Ricky.

Carmichael still holds a commanding lead in the series with five events to go, 338 points to Windham’s 285. Next stop will be Washougal, the site of RC’ exception. David Vuillemin turned in his best effort in recent memory as he worked from twentieth to fifth by moto end.

At the finish it was Kevin Windham in a cakewalk, beating RC by nineteen seconds. Next was the consistently fast Ferry, followed by the Kawasaki of Lusk, then first European David Vuillemin in fifth and McGrath clone Reed in sixth. LaRocco, Dowd, Lewis and Roncada completed the top ten.

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On the podium Carmichael seemed almost resigned to the idea of Windham beating him today, you could hear it in his words and you could hear it in his voice. “It’s good for the fans, it’s good for the sport, and everybody wants to see a good race. Kevin rode well and has been all weekend. I just have to get a better start and do my best…we’ll see if it’s enough”. Those are hardly the words fans have come to expect from Carmichael. It’s a good thing that Windham didn’t pay any attention, because RC was anything but laying down for him!

When they came around the first turn in the deciding moto it was once again Windham just ahead of Reed and Carmichael. RC dispatched of Reed by the time they hit turn three, and the race was on! Windham was riding his usual buttery-smooth race, but things got interesting very quickly as Ricky was in hot pursuit. The four-stroke of Windham seemed to have a slight horsepower advantage (what’s that slogan, “There’s no replacement for displacement?”) over Carmichael’s CR250R in the rolling hills that make up the Unadilla track.

At the halfway point the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife, as Windham led Carmichael by three-and-a-half seconds, the gap remaining the same from the second lap. The two leaders were pulling away rapidly from a group including DV, Ferry and Reed, who were having their own battle for first Yamaha, a battle eventually won by Ferry. Behind them the two Canadian riders, Jean Sebastien Roy and Marco Dube were moving into the top ten, as were Mike LaRocco and Kyle Lewis.

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Things got scary for the two leaders as they began lapping the field at a ferocious rate…Windham seemed to encounter less resistance than RC, but both riders were taking chances and it was apparent that Carmichael wasn’t about to let him have it. With two laps to go RC had closed to within two seconds and both were having near-misses while carving through heavy traffic.

On the next-to-last lap Carmichael was about ten bike lengths behind, but that was as close as he was going to get…Kyle Lewis came across the front of Ricky’s bike in the back section of track, sending Ricky into a fourth gear tank-slapper that he later confided “scared the sh*t out of him!”, allowing Windham some room to breathe.

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At the checkered flag it was pandemonium as Windham crossed with both hands in the air and RC a second behind. It was a core motocross moment for the ages as Windham and Carmichael took a victory lap together on the legendary Unadilla track, much to the delight of the throngs of fans that had seen the fastest laps ever ridden there, without a doubt. Both riders had ridden the last ten laps on the absolute edge, a fact made evident by Carmichael’s pride and absolute lack of disappointment in defeat. “I’m not disappointed at all, Kevin rode fantastic. If anything, I’m pumped by the way I rode! I’d have liked to have won, but it was so much fun to be behind Kevin and watch him ride…I’m not the least bit disappointed.”

To give you some idea of just how frantically RC and K-Dub were carving through traffic, there were nineteen lapped riders between Carmichael and the third place rider, Tim Ferry. The last rider lapped by RC was ninth place, Ezra Lusk, who didn’t exactly move over for his former best friend Ricky.

Carmichael still holds a commanding lead in the series with five events to go, 338 points to Windham’s 285. Next stop will be Washougal, the site of RC’s last national defeat…at the hands of Kevin Windham.

Unadilla 250cc Results

  1. Kevin Windham 1-1
  2. Ricky Carmichael 2-2
  3. Tim Ferry 3-3
  4. David Vuillemin 5-4
  5. Chad Reed 6-5
  6. Ezra Lusk 4-9
  7. Mike LaRocco 7-7
  8. Jean Sebastien Roy 12-6
  9. Kyle Lewis 9-10
  10. John Dowd 8-11

250cc Point Standings

  1. Ricky Carmichael 338
  2. Kevin Windham 285
  3. Chad Reed 255
  4. Tim Ferry 242
  5. Mike Larocco 198
  6. David Vuillemin 179
  7. Ezra Lusk 177
  8. John Dowd 156
  9. Ernesto Fonseca 135
  10. Larry Ward 131

 

RC’s last national defeat…at the hands of Kevin Windham.

Unadilla 250cc Results

  1. Kevin Windham 1-1
  2. Ricky Carmichael 2-2
  3. Tim Ferry 3-3
  4. David Vuillemin 5-4
  5. Chad Reed 6-5
  6. Ezra Lusk 4-9
  7. Mike LaRocco 7-7
  8. Jean Sebastien Roy 12-6
  9. Kyle Lewis 9-10
  10. John Dowd 8-11

250cc Point Standings

  1. Ricky Carmichael 338
  2. Kevin Windham 285
  3. Chad Reed 255
  4. Tim Ferry 242
  5. Mike Larocco 198
  6. David Vuillemin 179
  7. Ezra Lusk 177
  8. John Dowd 156
  9. Ernesto Fonseca 135
  10. Larry Ward 131