EAST COAST LITES
What is so refreshing about the Supercross series heading east though, aside from the brisk weather, is the start of the East Coast Lites Supercross Series. In years past, the West Coast Lites contingent has been a bit heavier on overall talent, but this time around, the poles have reversed. Not to put the West Coast rider down, but the lineup for the East, which includes many who were originally slated to ride West but had to sit outdue to injury, is straight up stacked. Among them are two World Motocross champs, numerous National and Supercross main event wins, and about 1,000 Loretta Lynn's titles. It's impossible to say who will end up where on Saturday, so we will simply break things down by team, starting with the current #1 plate holder.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
#1E/377 Christophe Pourcel: The French rider showed up last year with many fans not even aware of who he was, but he quickly made his name known. With a riding style and effort similar to that of his fellow countryman, Jean Michel Bayle, Pourcel is poetry in motion on a motorcycle. Although he might not have the best relationship with fans or media yet, he is still a good racer and took his experience to the 2009 East Coast Lites title. Can he repeat his performance?
#28 Tyla Rattray: Ratters entered the Nationals as the 2008 MX2 World Motocross Champion, and as such, had plenty of high expectations placed upon him. The South African rider had his successes, with a few podiums and even one moto win, but overall it probably was not the season he had hoped for. Expect Tyla to return reinvigorated for his rookie Supercross season.
#108 Dean Wilson: Remember this name. The former TransWorld Motocross Magazine cover boy was on a roll last summer leading up to his pro debut at the Motocross of Nations. The Scottish born Canadian completes Pro Circuit's team of international talent, and although he has yet to compete professionally in the States, we hear that Deano absolutely rips on a Supercross track.
#17 Justin Barcia: The young kid from Upstate New York has held a pro license for less than one year, but he is already becoming a household name. A product of the Millsaps Training Facility, Barcia used his unique and flashy style to lead several Nationals before claiming his first overall at Southwick in 2009. The long time Honda rider has also been riding Supercross tracks since he was on 85s, so although this is his rookie indoor season, expect Barcia to come out swinging.
#24 Brett Metcalfe: In terms of age and experience, Metty is at the other end of the spectrum than his younger teammate. Now a veteran of the Lites class, Brett only raced one round of the East Coast Lites SX series last year until he got hurt. Now the Aussie is ready to comeback strong in what will be his final series aboard Lites machinery, as he scheduled to ride the 450 Class outdoors.
Honda of Troy/Kilbarger Racing
#36 Darryn Durham: That's right, the infamous Honda of Troy shop is back at it, and will be attempting to reacquire its Fifth Dragon status as a top team. Heading the lineup is Darryn Durham, who in reality, did not get a fair chance in his rookie effort. Granted he had a full ride last year and had a few good finishes, but it was a learning year, and with cutbacks, he was dropped from his former team before he could really shine. Now with HoT, Darryn is ready to show that he has more than just talent, but determination and grit as well. Joining him will be a few more MTF recruits:
#92 Michael Willard
#412 Levi Kilbarger
#505 Sean Linpanovich
#45 Austin Stroupe: We have already seen Austin a few times this season when he made his Supercross Class debut with several holeshots and some impressive performances. The multi-time Lites main event winner is certainly a championship threat, so long as he can keep it on two wheels.
#40 Jake Moss: Although Jake may not have the same credentials as some of the other riders, the kid is undoubtedly talented. After breaking his back at the onset of last year, he came back after only a few months and almost immediately began carding top 10, and eventually top five, finishes in West Coast Lites. Then he came out for the Nationals, was picked up as a replacement rider for Tim Ferry on Monster Energy Kawasaki, and came away with podium rides. Now Jake is dipping back into the East Coast Lites before stepping up to the big bikes Outdoors.
#66 Blake Baggett: When silly season began, there seemed to be a big question mark as to which big name Kawasaki Team Green rider would get the nod for a coveted spot aboard the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team. There was talk going back and forth about Dean Wilson and Blake Baggett. Eventually Wilson got the ride, but Baggett went to the next logical place, the Canidae supported Rockstar/Suzuki team which until this season was known as the Canidae/Motosport/Kawasaki team, that also ran the amateur Team Green effort for a few years. The long and short of it? Baggett is an extremely fast rider who has some serious cred coming into his rookie season aboard some excellent equipment. He will be a threat when the gate drops this weekend.
#31 Matt Lemoine: Lemoineaid is one of those riders who is always on the cusp. He will have one great ride that shows his true potential, but then he will falter the following weekend. But his low national number comes from hard work, and Matt is looking to make his mark on the Supercross tour starting February 20th.
#43 Steven Clarke: Known as Scuba Steve to his MTF brethren, Clarke was probably one of the most under rated riders of the 2009 SX season. Although he was only able to muster one top-five performance last season, Steve hauls the mail and will be looking to improve his street cred, and earning potential, when the season kicks off.
DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing/Yamaha
#341 Nico Izzi: Don't be mistaken by the three digit numbers of either of these riders, the Star Racing team will be a force to rekon with this season. Long-time Suzuki rider, Izzi, has now switched to blue machines. Nico finished on the podium and at nearly every round last season until the series final in Jacksonville: he had third locked up until the he missed a shift over a triple on the last lap, forcing him to eject and resulting in a severely busted heel bone. Nico sat out the rest of the year but is healthy once again and enters the East Coast as another heavy title favorite.
#577 Martin Davalos: The native of Ecuador has been living and racing here for several years now and finds himself back on the team that welcomed him into the pro ranks to begin with. Martin is one of the many Lites riders who call MTF home, and will be using his skills learned at the fabled training ground to take him to some top finishes in 2010.
#46 Ryan Sipes: Ryan has been in the Lites class for several seasons now, and is probably as much a veteran of the small bikes as Brett Metcalfe. The Kentucky native has gone through some injuries here and there, but when he stays healthy, he is known for a taking a podium or two.
#61 Vince Friese: According to Vince, his surname is pronounced "Free-zee", but we have heard every other variation you can imagine. Either way, this amateur standout had some decent finishes in his rookie season last year and looks to continue his rise through the ranks.
#41 Kyle Regal: The Texan was one of the nice surprises of the 2009 Outdoor Nationals. When he first made his debut, he struggled to finish within the top 20, understandably though as he was aboard some fairly stock equipment in the 250 Class. However, when he bumped up to the 450s for VMS, it was a different story. The kid straight up kicked some factory butt, scoring several top five finishes, many of them come-from-behind rides. For this season VMS retained his services, attained Yamaha support, and maintain that Kyle will again be a threat when the East Coast starts up. Like so many other youngsters, while he may have never actually raced on a Supercross track, Kyle has been riding SX for years alongside nearby neighbors Chad Johnson, and Wil and Tommy Hahn.
We polled 100 riders, mechanics, and industry insiders, asking for their top three picks in the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Championship Series. We instructed each of them to be unbiased and honest, as their votes would be anonymous.
Christophe Pourcel – 28%
Austin Stroupe – 21%
Justin Barcia – 15%
Nico Izzi – 12%
Brett Metcalfe – 7%
Dean WIlson – 6%
Darryn Durham – 2%
Ryan Sipes – 2%
Jake Moss – 1%
Martin Davalos – 1%
Kyle Regal – 1%
Blake Baggett – 1%
Tyla Rattray – 1%
Scott Champion – .5%
Kyle Cunningham – .5%
Matt Lemoine – .5%
Vince Freise – .5%
What are your predictions?
We are now well into the 2010 Monster Energy Supercross season, but the series finally heads east after six rounds of racing for a bit of a refresher. In the premier class we have so far witnessed a whole new breed of racing, not because of new riding styles or radically different machinery, but as a result of new contenders. It's hard to believe, but since 1998 we have seen only four different riders win the Supercross titles. Yes, that is 12 years of repeat winners and legendary names. Heck, go back another five years and only one more name gets added to the list. So let's see: 17 divided by five = not very exciting.
Don't be mistaken, the races and seasons that Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Emig (thanks to his 1997 title), Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed, and James Stewart wowed us with their abilities were (and hopefully will continue to be) absolutely spectacular displays of skill and determination. But the fact there has been such a long spell of recycled victors makes each season not seem much different from the last. Well, that all changed a few weeks ago.
When Reed and Stewart both got hurt during the second round, it seemed surreal. By the time San Francisco rolled around, that surreal aura transformed into a harsh bite of reality, as both Chad and James had officially undergone surgery. But what was harsh for them was a breath of fresh air for all the other racers. For the first time in more than a decade, a new rider other than MC, RC, Reedy, or Bubba will be crowned as Supercross champ come Las Vegas.
Ryan Dungey had the upper hand for the first few rounds, but since his first two wins, he has failed to land on any step of the podium and now sits tied for first place with Josh Hill. Hill, although he has yet to secure a win, has been another revelation this season, landing on the podium at every round other than the season opener. And then there is Ryan Villopoto who took a few rounds to get moving but finally seems to have his head on straight, already claiming two wins this season. As the series heads into Indianapolis, there is a three, (yes, 3!) point gap separating the top three riders. You can be sure that each and every rider is doing their homework during the week, and hopefully 2010 will continue to be one of the most exciting, and refreshing, seasons we have witnessed in years.