In the span of five weeks, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto has climbed from a 24-point deficit and sitting third in the 450SX Class standings, to carrying a nine-point advantage as the points leader into this weekend’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, visit to Canada’s largest city of Toronto. The lone international race of the 2013 season will return to the Rogers Centre for the 12th race of the championship on Saturday night.
Live broadcast coverage of the action from Toronto can be seen exclusively on SPEED, beginning at 7:30 PM ET.
The key to Villopoto’s resurgence in the championship has been a result of a string of victories that reached three straight last weekend in Indianapolis. The reigning back-to-back Monster Energy Supercross Champion has won four of the last five races and now boasts a class-leading six victories this season.
In Indianapolis, Villopoto positioned himself inside the top three out of the gate, following Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart and Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki’s Davi Millsaps. This trio set a fast pace early and Villopoto was able to move past Millsaps for second on Lap 5 and set his sights on Stewart out front. Just one lap later, Stewart stalled his motorcycle while navigating the slowest turn on the track, which allowed Villopoto to take over the lead. Once out front, Villopoto never relinquished his hold of the top spot.
Behind Villopoto, a battle for second ensued between Millsaps and Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey. At one point it appeared as though Dungey and Millsaps may have made contact after landing from one of the largest jumps on the track, but it gave Dungey just enough of an edge to take over the position and look to track down Villopoto out front.
Dungey narrowed his deficit to mere bike lengths on several occasions and looked like he could have enough momentum to attempt a pass on Villopoto as the 20-lap Main Event began to wind down. However, a slight bobble by Dungey late in the race separated the duo and allowed Villopoto to take the win with relative ease. The win was Villopoto’s fourth consecutive inside Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Lucas Oil Stadium has been great to me,” said Villopoto on the podium. “It’s an amazing stadium and I love coming here. Ryan [Dungey] was able to make up some time on me here and there, but I just kept pushing hard until the end.”
The Toronto stop will mark just the third race this season in which Villopoto’s bike will carry the red number plate that signifies the championship leader. After losing possession of the plate at the first race of the season in Anaheim, Calif., Villopoto has overcome a 16th-place start to the championship to make up a deficit in the standings that was as large as 27 points following the sixth race of the season. After taking over the points lead from Millsaps for the first time two races ago, Villopoto has almost opened a double-digit margin over his Suzuki-mounted counterpart.
After back-to-back weeks in which he posted consecutive season-worst finishes, Millsaps was back in the thick of the battle for the podium in Indianapolis. The two-time winner this season held the third and final spot on the podium on the final lap of the Main Event, but lost traction and tipped over just after the finish, forcing him to settle for fourth. However, it was the best result in three weeks for Millsaps and a much-needed boost to his hopes to reclaiming the championship lead.
With his second consecutive runner-up finish Dungey is quickly becoming an established third player in the championship, despite sitting 17 points out of the lead and eight points behind Millsaps in second. Dungey has one win already this season and the speed he showed in Indianapolis by catching Villopoto made for a competitive final half of the Main Event. He is a former winner in Toronto and has arguably been Villopoto’s biggest rival for the past three seasons, making this familiar territory.
Once again, these three riders will lead the world’s fastest riders into Canada in what is always one of the most unique and anticipated stops of the season. During the 2012 stop from the Rogers Centre, over 47,000 Canadian fans watched at Villopoto raced to his seventh win of the season. Coincidentally, he has the opportunity to capture win number seven once again in Toronto.
The Eastern Regional 250SX Class Championship has shaped up to be a competitive battle to the finish on the heels of a second consecutive win by Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin in Indianapolis. Just one week after capturing his first career Monster Energy Supercross victory, Musquin overcame an incident in the first turn of the Main Event inside Lucas Oil Stadium to pass virtually the entire 20-rider field and take over the lead on the final lap and steal another win.
“We have been talking about confidence, and tonight I had it,” said Musquin. “I fought really hard, and I believed in myself. Anything can happen out there, and tonight was kind of lucky but I got the win.”
Musquin’s fortune was Rockstar Energy Racing rider Blake Wharton’s heartbreak. The Suzuki rider was the first rider out of the gate and led 14-and-a-half laps of the Main Event only to make a mistake on the last lap and crash. He ultimately finished ninth.
In the championship, Musquin moved to within nine points of GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn, who finished third in Indianapolis and has finished on the podium in all five races this season. Musquin also took over second in the standings after Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson was unable to compete following a crash on the opening lap of his Heat Race. Wilson was taken to the hospital for further evaluation and reportedly suffered a broken rib, broken back, broken shoulder, and punctured lung as a result of the incident.
With Wilson seemingly out of the picture for the remainder of the Eastern Regional Championship, this appears as if it may be a two-rider battle for the title. Both Hahn and Musquin had never won a Main Event prior to the 2013 season, and both will be going for his first career championship.
Last season’s Eastern Regional 250SX Class race in Toronto featured a great battle for the win between Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen, with Barcia prevailing.
The first 450SX Class race held in Toronto was March 8, 2008, when Chad Reed won aboard a Yamaha. Villopoto is the only rider to win more than once inside the Rogers Center, winning two of the last three seasons. No rider has ever won in both the 450SX Class and 250SX Class in Toronto, but Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia will look to become the first on Saturday night. Christophe Pourcel claimed the first 250SX Class victory in Toronto in 2009 while riding a Kawasaki. With the injury to Dean Wilson, the 250SX Class will feature its fourth different Toronto winner in five years of racing from the Rogers Centre.
Tickets are available at the Rogers Centre Box Office, all Ticketmaster Outlets, charge my phone at (855) 985-5000, or online. Practice and qualifying begin at 12:30 p.m. and the main event starts at 7:00 p.m. Total Access Passes are $125 Adult/Child; Gold Circle $42 Adult/Child; Extreme Seats $25 Adult/Child; Treadhead $15 Adult/Child; Pizza Pizza Kids Tickets $15 (excludes TAP and Gold Circle seats).
Supercross LIVE!® is back in 2013 with a three-hour mid-raceday program from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. local time. Hosts, Jim Holley, a former World Supercross Champion, and Kevin Barnett, a former member of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Volleyball Team and professional broadcaster, will provide in-depth analysis of the afternoon’s practice and qualifying sessions as the riders and teams prepare for the night racing, in addition to interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage. As the only place to follow live practice and qualifying coverage from Monster Energy Supercross, Supercross LIVE! provides fans with an inside perspective before the gate drops on the night’s qualifying and Main Events. Additionally, there will be video snippets made available throughout the race day that can be viewed on the official website of Monster Energy Supercross, or the YouTube Channel.
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