Features 26 Apr 2012

The Matthes Report: 16

Pulp MX's Steve Matthes checks in from the U.S. every single Thursday, presented by Fox.

What a crazy week in our sport. There are so many things flying around right now to talk about that there’s no possible way I can just write one column dealing with everything out there. Let’s get a random thoughts on random stuff column going ASAP!

Ryan Villopoto's 2012 supercross season has been a bittersweet one. Image: Simon Cudby.

• The big news was six-time AMA national and supercross champion Ryan Villopoto crashing at Seattle and injuring his left knee. And the prognosis is surgery is needed to fix the joint up. That will take RV out of the outdoor series and the next time we see him racing will be Anaheim 1 2013.

This is for sure a big blow to RV as he had captured three titles in a row and looking great for a fourth. Villopoto’s in a contract year and most guys would be scared shitless of tearing up a knee and needing a contract but something tells me Villopoto will be just fine.

There are a lot of riders out there that don’t have an ACL ligament in their knee that are racing and there are a lot of racers who won championships without an ACL. Unfortunately in speaking to Ryan, his knee would not have held up for the season and even it had made it halfway through the outdoors and then goes out, what then? He will have cost himself the 2012 motocross series and the 2013 supercross series recovering from it.

The weird thing was after the race Ryan was joking with his mechanic, the track doctors judged the knee as being fine and there wasn’t much swelling. But that was all false optimism and he’s going to have to get fixed. It’s a blow to the outdoor series for sure because having Ryan there is star power but I’m sure that his competitors don’t mind the number one Kawasaki not being out there.

So of course in our sport where energy drink money drives everything and teams are required to have a certain number of racers out there to fulfill their agreements. So about .3 seconds after I heard the RV news, I thought to myself – who is factory Kawasaki going to get to put on the bike?

The early word was that Kawasaki was going to try and get Pro Circuit rider Tyla Rattray on the bike but I just don’t see how Mitch Payton from Pro Circuit would let that happen. Sure Payton’s got defending champion Dean Wilson and uber-fast Blake Baggett also in the class but Rattray is also a legit championship contender so who knows.

Ultimately the PC guys are under a Kawasaki contract and I suppose the factory guys can do what they want but do they really want to anger Payton?

I know privateer hero Kyle Regal has reached out to them, I know Hart & Huntington’s Ivan Tedesco wants to do the outdoors and as well, Nick Wey could be an option if he drops his Rockstar Energy Drink deal. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens from here on out.

Matthes Prediction: I think we will see Regal on the bike as I do think Rattray would be a better choice but I can’t see Pro Circuit letting Rattray move up there despite Tyla wanting to.

My other prediction is that Reid Nordin’s (the man who makes the decision along with manager Dan Fahie) office answering machine blows up from the amount of calls from riders and agents wanting to see if they can put their hat in for the ride.

• It was great to see Andrew Short win his first career supercross in Seattle this past weekend. A long time veteran in the series, Short’s been on the podium a bunch and just has never been able to get it done. In Seattle he rode a great race for the entire twenty-laps and it had to be extra motivation for Short to see Ken Roczen, his buddy, behind him.

Ryan Dungey is a hot favourite coming into the 2012 outdoor series after healing his shoulder injury. Image: Simon Cudby.

The part about beating his buddy was probably sweet but what I’m talking about is the fact that Roczen was on a KTM 350 which is the same bike that Andrew rode last year to somewhat-dismal results (at least dismal results for him, a perennial podium contender).

Short wasn’t a fan of the bike and just could never get comfortable on the bike that, really, isn’t ideal for pro racing. What if the 350 passed him and motored away for the win? Well, methinks that Short would have been checking out the locations of some mental hospitals for the damage that could have done to him.

No matter though, he held on strong and won the race. Not bad for a guy whose team lost their title sponsor a while back and went to Seattle in a van because the funds are a little short to bring the semi. Look for owners Larry Brooks and Jeremy McGrath to announce a new title sponsor any day now and the team will be back in business.

Mathhes Prediction: This win had to work wonders for Short and with RV out for the next two races and the outdoors, look for Andrew to keep stepping up his game. Ryan Dungey is the favorite to win both the two remaining supercrosses and the outdoor title but I think that there could be a #29 right there in the mix.

• Ryan Dungey came back this weekend after a collarbone break and although he got sixth after a fall, there was nothing there that showed us he had lost any of his speed while off. Dungey won his heat and was all over Justin Brayton when he fell.

I think that coming back to race is the best move that Dungey could have made. Too many times egos get in the way of these guys coming back and they don’t want to get beat but there’s nothing that you can do to replicate racing.

So what, you come back and get beat at three supercrosses at the end of the season? When you come out at the first motocross national already tuned up for racing week in and week out, that will be a distant memory. No arm pump, first-race back jitters or whatever else at the first national with you coming back early.

And besides, when’s the last time you saw a top-level racer get hurt, come back and not be right back at the level that he was previously at? All those people who remember Chad Reed’s end of supercross rides on a Kawasaki where he was getting eighths put your hands down. That was about the only time I ever remember it happening.

Matthes Prediction: It was a great thing for Dungey to come back and it will benefit him down the road if not immediately when he wins Salt Lake City Supercross this weekend or Las Vegas next.

Dungey’s got to be the co-favorite for the outdoor title as well but I have to admit, I am a little wary of the KTM’s reliability. They’ve had some problems the last few years outdoors with Mike Alessi and Andrew Short. There hasn’t been anything so far this year for Dungey so let’s hope that keeps on going.

This image sums up the majority of James Stewart's time on the JGR machine. Image: Simon Cudby.

• James Stewart’s name was on the tips of everyone’s tongues in Seattle and the question is always, what’s going on with him? Well as of right now he’s a member of JGR Yamaha but in talking to those guys, it seems that they’re in acceptance that Stewart wants out of his agreement with the team.

The Yamaha YZ450F is just not working out for him despite the best efforts of everyone on the team. I don’t think anyone is angry at anyone but we’ve all been following the sport here to see that there isn’t enough wins to make either side happy. And in a way, JGR can’t be happy to write those checks and not get to see the James Stewart magic that we’ve all been accustomed to seeing.

You can debate the whys and what-fors until the kangaroos come home (that’s me bowing to my Aussie audience by the way) but that’s the bottom line.

We should know something soon but until then there’s lawyers on both sides that have to work out the separation stuff. This union is doomed in my opinion and we’ll have to wait and see what happens and when it becomes official. The lasting memory we’ll have of James is crashing hard in Houston and walking off the track which at the time, many of us watching predicted would be the end of the Stewart/JGR deal.

Matthes Prediction: Like I said, JGR releases Stewart from his contract (probably any day now) and James ends up on a Suzuki for either the 2013 supercross season or the 2012 outdoor motocross season.

Stewart didn’t have to ride the outdoors for JGR and he could have taken his cash, gone to beach and hung out all summer. Instead he’s so not happy and so willing to put it out there and believe in himself that he’s willing to walk away from that to ride a Suzuki outdoors. That’s something to be respected in my eyes.