Four Australians on track for Anaheim 1 this Saturday.
The highly anticipated 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, will commence this Saturday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.
While the championship takes place over the course of 17 races, the season-opener has proved to be a key ingredient in making a championship run. In 39 seasons, the eventual champion has finished inside the top five at the season opener 34 times.
Last season, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto staged the sport’s third-greatest comeback when he started the season in 16th place before rebounding to win his third consecutive championship.
Villopoto lines up for a shot at his fourth straight 450SX Class title Saturday night in Anaheim with history at stake. Only Jeremy McGrath, the sport’s all-time winningest rider, has won four consecutive titles.
“I’m not here to break records,” said Villopoto. “My goals are to win and be as successful as I can while I’m on top of my game. If I were to break [McGrath’s] record, that would be a great accomplishment, but it is not a goal of mine.”
Standing in his way are proven champions, racers on the rise, and a pair of fast rookies – James Stewart, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey, Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen.
Stewart and Reed have each won two championships and currently stand ahead of Villopoto on the all-time wins list. Dungey has one championship to his credit and has been Villopoto’s biggest rival during his three-year title run.
Barcia scored two wins last year and has 250SX Class title triumphs on his resume, as do both Tomac and Roczen.
Australia’s Reed sits fourth on the all-time win list behind his longtime rival at 41, but went winless after a full season of competition for the first time in his career last year.
Rider and owner of TwoTwo Motorsports, Reed has changed manufacturers, moving from Honda to Kawasaki, in hopes of a fresh start as he enters his 12th season of 450SX Class competition. He holds the record for the most podium finishes in history with 121 in 162 starts.
Reed won’t be the only Australian to line up this weekend, as Matt Moss and Lawson Bopping line up in the 450SX Class, while Dean Ferris will make his highly anticipated debut for Red Bull KTM in the West Coast 250SX series.
Two riders who will not line up on the gate this Saturday night are Davi Millsaps and Trey Canard. Millsaps, last season’s 450SX Class runner up, suffered a knee injury while training aboard his Rockstar Energy Racing KTM, while Canard broke his arm in preparations for the upcoming season with Team Honda Muscle Milk.
Angel Stadium has played host to 60 450SX Class and 52 Western Regional 250SX Class races. Monster Energy Supercross has sold out Angel Stadium 27 times since the 1999 season when it began hosting multiple races in the championship.
The first race held in Anaheim was on 4 December 1976, and Mart Smith won on a Honda. This weekend will mark the 61st time the gate will drop for a 450SX Class race in Anaheim and the 24th time the city has played host to the season opener.
James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath are tied on the all-time 450SX Class win list at Anaheim with eight victories.