PulpMX's Steve Matthes checks in direct from the US every Thursday, presented by Fox.
The Supercross series is over and it was quite a season. One that started out with all of us ‘experts’ determining that it was wide open and any one of about six-seven guys could win the thing. And as we saw, it really wasn’t a contest at all. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto won ten races on his way to the title and really, the only reason it was as close as it was (and it really wasn’t) was because early on in the series, Villopoto crashed a bunch and got some crappy starts. Once he figured it out, it was curtains for everyone else although it was good to see rookie rider Justin Barcia of the Muscle Milk Honda team get a couple of wins and set himself up for a full assault on RV in 2014.
As with any book or chapter that comes to an end, we do learn a few things along with the way and the end of the 17 round SX series I thought I’d write out a few things that I’ve learned this year.
I’ve learned that Ryan Villopoto is truly going to be among the best ever when he hangs it up. Regardless of what he says to the fact that he doesn’t care or pay attention to where he ranks with the legends, he’s right there with anyone. Three straight Supercross crowns fifth on the all-time win list and climbing. Villopoto, somewhat quietly, is to be looked at with the all-time greats, no doubt about it.
We learned that as the seasons tick past, it’s going to get harder and harder for Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart and Team TwoTwo’s Chad Reed to try break their tie of two Supercross titles each. Both racers didn’t have their best years in 2013 with Stewart getting one win and Reed, shut out for only the second time in his career.
No one in the history of the sport has gone more than two seasons without winning a title and we’re now at least three seasons for both of the vets. Both riders saw their bodies let them down as well as Stewart missed a bunch of races and Reed had minor knee surgery and missed one race. I don’t think the question of do these two have another title in them is appropriate, I think it’s more like do there two have more race wins in them? This sport stops for no one.
I learned that besides the obvious choice in Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, it will be that kid Barcia that comes on strong in 2014. Barcia won two races, was a force in others but he did struggle at times with being consistent. But what rookie doesn’t? I believe that we’ll see Dungey’s usual consistency and Rockstar Racing’s Davi Millsaps continue his strong riding but you watch, Barcia will be Villopoto’s main challenger in 2014.
As we laid out above in regards to Reed and Stewart, this sport stops for no one and next year, we’re going to see the two 250SX champions and the runner-up in the west in the 450SX class. Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen, GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn and Eli Tomac are all making the jump up to the big boys class and it’s just going to add to an already deep class. Villopoto’s going for four in a row but the usual challengers and these kids will be there to stop him.
I learned that the Supercross series track designs can alter the series itself and I hope that the powers that be learned from that this year. After a injury-decimated field in 2012, the guys went to the most basic of tracks for the first half of the year. They were so basic that six out of the first eight races saw the holeshot winner go on to win the race.
The racers were all doing the exact same thing at the same time. At one race the top nine racers were all within a second of each other in qualifying. That’s not Supercross racing, that’s road racing. But in the second half of the year the tracks got noticeably tougher, the whoops got bigger and we saw some great racing. We need the racers to make mistakes to have this and early on, it was a freight train of racers going at it. We hope the steep learning curve for the racers continues on in 2014.