Monday Kickstart: Phoenix 2007

By Josh Allen and Brendan Lutes

Like every other year at the Phoenix Supercross, the crowd was massive. Walking through the pits between the hours of 12:30 and 5:30 was a tall order, as the crowd made it very difficult to maneuver to different teams. Needless to say, the autograph lines for riders like Monster Energy Kawasaki’s James Stewart were very long. All told over 43,000 people turned out to watch the races and catch a glimpse of their favorite rider in the pits.

As we wrap up Phoenix and had back to California for Anaheim 2 this weekend, we are starting a new era in Supercross; Ricky Carmichael’s semi-retirement officially begins this weekend, as he will not be racing A2. Carmichael did say he would attend A2 as a spectator and announcer; “Yeah I’m gonna come to the race. I have a function that I have to do with Monster on Saturday morning, and I’ll be there announcing. I’m a fan just as much as I’m a racer; I really love it. I’m gonna miss racing James, but I’m sure it will be going down in San Francisco and back on the east coast for our hometown fans. It’s gonna be a good time.” Of the races left on this 2007 Supercross calendar, Ricky has said he will be racing San Francisco, St. Louis, Atlanta, Daytona, and Orlando.

If you read the race report than you probably already know that the Supercross Class main event was red-flagged when Team Xyience/MDK Racing’s David Vuillemin had a horrible crash in the first rhythm section following the finish line jump. DV was violently thrown to the ground, and laid there for several minutes after being knocked out. Due to the position that he was in when it happened, the AMA decided to stop the race so medical personal could attend to him. After a few tense moments, Vuillemin got up—with the help of the Asterisk Medic crew—and walked off the track under his own power. “Hopefully David is okay,” Ricky Carmichael said after the race. “I saw him coming off, and maybe he rang his bell. Unfortunately, that’s the bad thing about this sport. I hope he is okay, that was a gnarly section. I think I’ve only had one other red flagged race in my career.” DV posted an update on Mototalk Sunday morning where fortunately he told his fans he is doing okay. “Just got to the airport in Phx. I spent the night in the hospital. Nothing broken just some pain in the belly. I’ll take it easy this week and I’ll try to race A2. Thanks for all the posts and for the support.” said DV in his post.

At the opening round in Anaheim, Team Yamaha’s Josh Hill didn’t have the best of luck. The likeable rider from Washington cased a triple during his Supercross debut and soldiered on to a 19th place finish in the main, but in some intense pain. This week, Hill had a little better luck, as he finished seventh in the main event. Before the race we spoke to the rookie racer about his hand. “Yeah, it’s feeling better, but it still hurts pretty bad at times,” Hill said as he showed us his palm. Look for Hill’s results to improve as the season progresses.

Another rider on the mend was Team Makita Suzuki’s Ivan Tedesco. In his first race back at Anaheim last weekend, Tedesco had a little bad luck, as crashes held him back. This weekend “Hot Sauce” toughed it out to finish seventh in the main event. Before practice began, we ran into Ivan’s trainer Darin Stockton who told us that Ivan’s hand is slowing getting back to normal, and that all they are really concentrating on right now is making sure he can ride for an entire 20-lap main event.

Darin also informed us that he has been working a lot with rookie racer—and Ivan’s teammate—Ryan Dungey. Dungey is riding the East Coast Lites Supercross Series; so don’t expect to see him anytime soon. “Ry is a good kid with a good family, and I was pretty impressed with how quickly he picked up Supercross,” Darin said. “It’s been cool working with a Lites rider again. I haven’t done that since Ivan was riding in the Lites class.”

Grant Langston’s Yamaha YZ450F has joined the growing list of factory bikes that are grounded in the pits. In case you somehow missed it, GL had a nasty get-off during practice on Thursday that left him with a broken collarbone and bruised lung. Grant called Swap and shared his frustrations, “I am extremely disappointed about this and I cannot tell you how upset I am. I was feeling very good on the bike and we had just finished up testing some new settings and I had an exceptional feeling about this weekend’s race in Phoenix.” Langston is expected to miss the next four to six rounds.

New to this year is the timed-practice-qualifying format where riders’ lap times determine their gate pick for the evening program. And while it might be a good idea, like most things, there are still a few bugs that need to be worked out. During the riders meeting, the AMA informed riders of a few of the problems that they have been running into. The biggest one has been when riders cut out a section and gain time. In order to stop this, the AMA announced that if a rider gains time at any point on the track, that rider would have that lap erased. If it happens again the next fastest lap will be taken away. And if it continues to happen, all of the rider’s laps will be taken.

We received some clarification on RC’s red number plates this week, courtesy of the AMA. While everyone in the press—us included—had reported that it was FIM rules that lead to the red plates on RC’s Makita/Suzuki RM-Z450, it turns out they are actually a new AMA requirement. The new AMA rule that took effect this year requires the reigning champions in the Supercross and Motocross series to run a red number plate with white numbers, and the reigning Motocross Lites champion to use a red plate with black numbers. Apparently the rule does not require the West or East coast Lites Supercross champs to run the red backgrounds.

Speaking of new AMA rules, the sanctioning body has also implemented new sound restrictions for both the Supercross and Motocross series. The 2007 AMA rulebook states that bikes must meet sound limits of 99 dB/A in pre-race tech inspection and 101 dB/a in post-race inspection. The 2006 rules only required a 102 dB/a pre-race limit. Due to the heightened AMA sound requirements, teams are starting to get serious about testing—if they haven’t already. We caught the Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki crew testing their mufflers prior to heading over to the tech inspection area.

While strolling through the pits we noticed an addition to the radiator on Ryan Villopoto’s Team Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki KX250F. According to his mechanic John Mitcheff, the added radiator is actually an oil-cooler designed to keep the oil at a lower temperature during the tight Supercross races. John also told us that they have been running it for a season or two now.

Pro Taper’s Big E was eager to show off Pro Taper’s newest addition to their product line—their handguards. No word yet on when they are going to be released, but they definitely look to be able to do the job of keeping your hands protected from a fresh stone spray sandwich.

It seems we keep seeing Opee the motorcycle dog and his person everywhere these days. We ran into them at the Marty Moates memorial ride this past week, and this weekend, the two made the trip out to Phoenix to take in all the action at Chase Field, although, we aren’t sure if they rode a bike or drove. Oh yeah, and it’s always safety first for them, as they never took their helmets off even when sitting in the stands.

The weather in Phoenix was super-chilly for the desert city. During the day, temperatures didn’t feel like they climbed much higher than the high 40s, while at night, they dropped to the mid 30s. There was also a cloud cover that never really burned off. Thankfully, though, the rain stayed away.

Before the final Supercross Class practice session we caught Team San Manuel Band of Mission Indians/L&M Racing/Yamaha’s Chad Reed using a strange looking wand to rub out his arm. Perhaps he was massaging his sore shoulder and arm before taking to the track, or maybe it was a magic anti arm-pump wand. We may never know… After the race, Reed commented on his injury, “At this point, a normal broken bone takes four to six weeks. I’m not getting a lot of pain from my broken bone; it’s everything else,” Reed said. “It’s my chest, and I can’t hold on and take big hits. Everything kind of compounds each other. You can take the hit, but then you have to breath. At this point we are just trying to work our butts off trying to get healthy and fight for wins.”

Like the first round of the series in Anaheim, Reed once again finished third behind Stewart and Carmichael. This time, however, he didn’t have a chance to battle up front with the two riders. Instead he rode a consistent race, but towards the end he felt some pressure from an impressive Travis Preston in fourth. “(Travis) Preston was working it for me at the end of the race,” Reed said. “He was chasing me down. I was watching him and he kept coming. I’m hoping to get a little healthier this week and not have to deal with that.”

During the press conference, Carmichael talked about bike set up. With the way the technology has been going in motocross, the difference between top riders like RC and James Stewart has been coming down to minor bike changes. “James and myself are so close in speed that it does come down to bike setup,” Ricky said. “My bike works great in areas, and his bike works great in areas. Obviously, there is a little bit of skill involved with twisting the throttle, but it’s just so close. I think we are riding the bikes as fast as they will let us go. It does come back to bike setup. Between him and I, it is becoming a lot like car racing.”

Just like during the opening ceremonies at Anaheim, before RC was introduced at Phoenix, a short video played highlighting Carmichael’s illustrious career. This is RC’s final Phoenix Supercross, and if you ask him, this round is one of his favorites. “Phoenix is special to me. My family is from here, and I got my first 250 podium here in 2000,” Ricky said. “That was very special, because I worked so hard to get that and it finally came. I like everything about it here. It’s a great venue, it’s pretty inside, and the dirt is good.”

During the closing laps of the Supercross Class main event, Stewart and Ivan Tedesco had some contact as Stewart came up to lap the Suzuki rider. After the race the two riders shook hands and spoke on top of a triple. “I don’t have any hard feelings against anybody,” Stewart said. “At the end of the race I kind of knew it was coming. I had been hearing things going around and I just didn’t really think it was too much, because I didn’t do it on purpose (land on Ivan Tedesco), so I knew that if he got me back that he was just doing it out of spite on his part, and he got me. I knew if he was going to do something it was going to happen then. It was the last lap and his teammate was behind me—I’m sure he wanted to help out. Eake in all the action at Chase Field, although, we aren’t sure if they rode a bike or drove. Oh yeah, and it’s always safety first for them, as they never took their helmets off even when sitting in the stands.

The weather in Phoenix was super-chilly for the desert city. During the day, temperatures didn’t feel like they climbed much higher than the high 40s, while at night, they dropped to the mid 30s. There was also a cloud cover that never really burned off. Thankfully, though, the rain stayed away.

Before the final Supercross Class practice session we caught Team San Manuel Band of Mission Indians/L&M Racing/Yamaha’s Chad Reed using a strange looking wand to rub out his arm. Perhaps he was massaging his sore shoulder and arm before taking to the track, or maybe it was a magic anti arm-pump wand. We may never know… After the race, Reed commented on his injury, “At this point, a normal broken bone takes four to six weeks. I’m not getting a lot of pain from my broken bone; it’s everything else,” Reed said. “It’s my chest, and I can’t hold on and take big hits. Everything kind of compounds each other. You can take the hit, but then you have to breath. At this point we are just trying to work our butts off trying to get healthy and fight for wins.”

Like the first round of the series in Anaheim, Reed once again finished third behind Stewart and Carmichael. This time, however, he didn’t have a chance to battle up front with the two riders. Instead he rode a consistent race, but towards the end he felt some pressure from an impressive Travis Preston in fourth. “(Travis) Preston was working it for me at the end of the race,” Reed said. “He was chasing me down. I was watching him and he kept coming. I’m hoping to get a little healthier this week and not have to deal with that.”

During the press conference, Carmichael talked about bike set up. With the way the technology has been going in motocross, the difference between top riders like RC and James Stewart has been coming down to minor bike changes. “James and myself are so close in speed that it does come down to bike setup,” Ricky said. “My bike works great in areas, and his bike works great in areas. Obviously, there is a little bit of skill involved with twisting the throttle, but it’s just so close. I think we are riding the bikes as fast as they will let us go. It does come back to bike setup. Between him and I, it is becoming a lot like car racing.”

Just like during the opening ceremonies at Anaheim, before RC was introduced at Phoenix, a short video played highlighting Carmichael’s illustrious career. This is RC’s final Phoenix Supercross, and if you ask him, this round is one of his favorites. “Phoenix is special to me. My family is from here, and I got my first 250 podium here in 2000,” Ricky said. “That was very special, because I worked so hard to get that and it finally came. I like everything about it here. It’s a great venue, it’s pretty inside, and the dirt is good.”

During the closing laps of the Supercross Class main event, Stewart and Ivan Tedesco had some contact as Stewart came up to lap the Suzuki rider. After the race the two riders shook hands and spoke on top of a triple. “I don’t have any hard feelings against anybody,” Stewart said. “At the end of the race I kind of knew it was coming. I had been hearing things going around and I just didn’t really think it was too much, because I didn’t do it on purpose (land on Ivan Tedesco), so I knew that if he got me back that he was just doing it out of spite on his part, and he got me. I knew if he was going to do something it was going to happen then. It was the last lap and his teammate was behind me—I’m sure he wanted to help out. Even after the race, I said, ‘Hey dude, I’m sorry about the incident.’ He came up and apologized to me. But for me personally, I just felt like there was just a little bit more to it then just him running into me. It’s okay, though, I’ll move on and do what I have to do.”

If you’re thinking Stewart won because he felt he had to, you’re wrong. Even though the Kawasaki rider could have held back and finished fourth since Carmichael isn’t riding the whole series, he still went for it. And rightfully so, as he says he was just feeling good by the time the main event rolled around. “I don’t care about race wins; I care about winning championships,” Stewart said of the race. “If I had to take second tonight I would have. I found a little extra—not speed, but just lines. I used that to my advantage. The way I’m riding, I feel like an Ironman. Even with the mistakes and the lappers, I was never rattled. I could see him (Carmichael) putting a few front tires in, and I just went on riding like I was putting laps in at my house.”

At the press conference, Ryan Villopoto was asked what it was like having a new rider on the team with him. As it turns out—or as expected—it is a welcomed change. “It’s good to have a new rider on the team,” Villopoto said. “Not really to show him what’s going on over here, because he does it over there in Europe too. It’s pretty much just hanging out with someone different.”

When Ryan Villopoto and Chris Gosselaar entered the post-race press conference, they were both sporting big cowboy hats decorated with their sponsor’s logos. According to Gosselaar he and his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammate had to wear the hats as part of a bet, although he never did clarify what they were betting on. “Last night we got them at dinner for twenty bucks!” said Ryan Villopoto from under the brim of his big hat.

The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team has had a very successful season so far in 2007. Last weekend Villopoto and Christophe Pourcel claimed the number one and two spots in the Lites main, respectively. In Phoenix all three of their riders; Villopoto, Pourcel, and Gosselaar, finished on the podium in the Lites main event. Of course success is nothing new for this team. In 2005 Ivan Tedesco won the Outdoor Lites title as a member of the Pro Circuit team, and this year Villopoto ensured that the number one national plate stayed under the Pro Circuit tent. To learn more about the team’s success and Pourcel’s future we talked briefly with Mitch Payton, the mastermind behind the Pro Circuit team…

The team did well last weekend in Anaheim.
For the first race, truthfully our goal for each guy was to get top three. It was awesome to see Ryan win; he’s been practicing really well and I assumed he’d run up there. Pourcel was a nice touch too; he had a really good start and put in fifteen good laps, and showed that he can be up there on the podium as well. It was a little bit of a rough weekend for Little Goose; we expect more from him and I think that with a good start and doing all the things that he needs to do, I am sure he’ll be there and be on the podium. That’s our goal for him, but he had a rough weekend.

Coming into the season a lot of people were saying the West coast was Ryan’s to lose. He had a great rookie season last year, and some have even described him as the next RC. Where do you see things going for Ryan in the future?
I hope he can be the next RC; you’ve got to have goals to shoot for. With him being young and winning a championship; if people can say that and see that in him, that’s something to aspire to be. Anybody should want to be Ricky Carmichael; he’s done a lot in the sport and a lot for our sport. That’s an awesome