Features 8 Jan 2015

Top 10: Hot topics from Anaheim 1

What we witnessed as Monster Energy Supercross opened.

The opening round of any championship always throws up crazy twists and curveballs, and the first hit-out of the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross Championship at Anaheim on Saturday night was certainly no exception. In fact, there were so many talking points, surprises and plot twists that it was difficult to narrow it down to just 10.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Image: Simon Cudby.

1. Roczen delivers for RCH Suzuki:
Ken Roczen’s move from Red Bull KTM to RCH Suzuki was arguably the most high profile team switch of the silly season, but the German hotshot has already delivered for his new outfit. Not only did Roczen claim back-to-back wins at Anaheim 1, his victory was also RCH’s first-ever experience on top of the podium, sending team owners Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart into raptures. RCH also proved to be the standout team of the round, with Broc Tickle returning from a near career-ending crash nine months ago to finish the Main with an impressive eighth place.

2. Jessy Nelson takes first blood:
With three of the last year’s 250SX West title contenders (Jason Anderson, Cole Seely and Dean Wilson) stepping up to the 450SX class, the door was flung open for someone to stick their hand up to be noticed in the 250 field this year. Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM racer Jessy Nelson did just that. The kid had never scored a podium place or race win on the pro circuit, but rebuffed his closest rivals like a veteran as he led every lap of the 250 main event. The feat surprised everyone, including himself, but if he can continue that form over the remaining rounds, he’ll be tough to beat this year.

3. The favourites stumble:
From all the sweepstakes, bench-racing and tipping that went down in the lead-up to Anaheim 1, there were two riders who regularly featured as favourite place-getters alongside Ken Roczen: Eli Tomac and Davi Millsaps. Things looked like they were going to plan early on, before Tomac crashed and tumbled down the field, eventually finishing 20th. Shortly afterward Millsaps too crashed twice following an impressive charge to fourth place. He finished a disappointing 19th. Needless to say, don’t expect them to have similar results this weekend.

4. Aussies do it tough:
The Australian contingent of riders had a rough, bruising start to the world’s most prestigious supercross championship. Kawasaki pairing Jake Moss and Adam Monea didn’t even make it to race after sustaining injuries in the days leading up to the opener. It didn’t get much better on race day. Matt Moss got caught in a crash in the LCQ and finished 10th, while Jackson Richardson fared only marginally better with a ninth in the 250SX LCQ. Brett Metcalfe’s return to American Supercross was also somewhat disappointing as he finished the night in 17th position, as Chad Reed was the best of the Australians with a less-than-desirable 10th place.

5. Historic night for Husqvarna:
One of the biggest shocks of the night was 2014 Western Regional 250SX Class Champion Jason Anderson putting his new Husqvarna FC450 on the podium of the 450SX class with an incredible second place finish. Not only did it fire a huge warning shot across the bow of the title favourites that ‘El Hombre’ was a serious threat and meant business, it also signalled Husqvarna’s first AMA Supercross podium in 39 years – the last time the Swedes featured on the dais was back in 1976!

Image: Simon Cudby.

Image: Simon Cudby.

6. 250SX battles:
It goes without saying that an opening round is a pressure-cooker and everyone is eager to make the biggest impression and show they mean business this season. Inevitably sparks will fly. The 250SX class saw some intense action throughout the night, with Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Tyler Bowers regularly featuring in some aggressive (and possibly borderline) passes. On top of that, the multiple-lap three-way stoush between a rejuvenated Josh Hansen, Justin Hill and Bowers in the 250SX main was intense.

7. Tight times:
Traditionally Anaheim 1’s track layout is always on the basic side as the promoters try to coax the racers back into the groove of racing. A1 certainly didn’t stray too far from that tradition. You know it’s a fairly straight-forward track when, at the end of the 450SX main, there are 20 out of 22 riders still on the lead lap and just 55 seconds separating everyone!

8. Forgetful opener for TwoTwo:
Australia’s GOAT Chad Reed and his new TwoTwo Motorsports teammate Josh Grant had a night to quickly put behind them. While Reedy finished 10th, Grant couldn’t seem to find the higher gears and eventually crossed the finish line down in 18th position. Straight afterwards Reedy took to social media saying it was a night to forget, but they’d figured out the problem and would be more competitive this weekend at Phoenix. A top 10 result isn’t anything to laugh at from a topsy-turvy opener, but it’s still well below the expectations that Reedy set for himself and his team.

9. Aaron Plessinger charges:
2014 Monster Energy Cup Amateur All-Star winner and 250SX debutant Aaron Plessinger well and truly put his name on the register at Anaheim. The Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha ripper’s charge from 14th through to fifth in the main caught many people off-guard and will establish him as one of the kids to keep an eye on for the rest of the series.

10. Wil Hahn’s crash:
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Wil Hahn can’t win a trick at the moment. In his first race back since St Louis last year, the Texan had a huge OTB in a rhythm section during practice and suffered a rebreak of his humour, as well as damaging vertebrae and snapping ribs. The Kawasaki team has since confirmed he will miss the remainder of the 2015 supercross season. Rest up, mate.