Dec 27, 2008

One week away from a new Supercross season

Finally here we are. After a very short off-season that saw its fair share of silliness and a smaller number of serious injuries than in previous years (well, I don't want to talk too early, there are still 3 to 4 more days of practice for the SX circus). 2009 will see a few guys changing ride, including the 2 fastest Supercross riders on the planet, as well as the arrival of strong and skilled rookies on the big bikes, in the SX class.
Of course all eyes camera lenses will be on James Stewart riding his #7 San Manuel Yamaha and Chad Reed on his Makita Factory Suzuki 450 when we get to Anaheim next weekend; both are expected to fight for the title and dominate this upcoming season. Both having a lot to prove, both seeking some kind of revenge and both fairly disliking each other. James has proven in the past that he is the fastest of the two when all the stars and planets are aligned properly for him, but Chad Reed has always reached his best when he has had to prove something, when he has been angry; and as the MX World converges on Anaheim, I think that Chard Reed is pretty upset about a few things and will ride with the knife between his teeth.
Stewart is on a new bike but he will adapt very well. I think that he was a bit upset by the way it ended up with Kawasaki and will make sure he proves them that he is still the fastest SX rider around. He missed the '08 season due to his knee injury and wants to reclaim his title, stolen by Reed. His team is very sharp, has a title under its belt and run by the very strong and experienced Larry Brooks. I would play it safe if I had to bet on the series and I would, like many I believe, go for James Bubba Stewart for the '09 SX title.
But Chad is pissed (forgive my language!). He was dropped by the San Manuel Yamaha team and his archenemy took his job. He didn't get as much as he wanted in his new contract and will need to win races to make more money and above all, for some fans, his 2008 title will always have the annotation "James Stewart wasn't there" linked to it. Chad Reed wants to show that he deserved his second championship and that he can race, and beat, James Stewart in a full series. Chad has a lot to prove and in these circumstances, he goes fast, very fast.

So we all know who are the 2 guys who are going to make the main show. But what about the rookie. What about the very strong, very fast, very serious, Ryan Villopoto?!
Will RV get his speed right away and turn into a title contender at A1? Will he play it smart and learn the SX class in the first rounds before winning his first SX races by the end of the series? Having watched him enter the pro ranks with patience, determination and with the right attitude, I believe that RV will be ready for the SX class. I believe that he is better prepared than Ricky Carmichael was in 2000 or James Stewart himself in 2005. Villopoto will learn and he will learn fast and I believe that the Factory Kawasaki will take him to the top of some podiums in his first 450cc season.

Behind those 3 aliens, we have a good amount of very good riders, a good amount of guys who can reach a podium this season. Some have a lot to prove, some will be there for the first time and will need to adapt and work hard (Josh Grant on his Joe Gibbs Racing Yamaha). Short needs to win his first SX. Tedesco and Millsaps have to be consistent and keep the Honda colors at the top of the class. Mike Alessi will probably take it easy, betting it all on the AMA National title, but still riding as fast as he can, and going for it if the opportunity arises. I hope that the #800 will come out of the SX series healthy. Red Dog will be very strong as usual, along his "Vet class" compadre Kevin Windham. Those 2 could really upset a few riders this season again. By the way, as funny as it will be to see James Stewart riding with his Answer Racing gear and Bell helmet, it will be strange too to see K-Dub wearing something else than No Fear.

An exciting season is coming for the fans. Whoo hoo!!

I can't even get into the SX Lites class, West and East, without going for another 2 pages but the main contenders will be ready and stronger than ever. Dungey and Jason Lawrence hating each other with Dungey due to a title before he moves to the 450 class and Lawrence having to prove that he is worth the champion that he is and has decided to clean it up a bit. It's Dan Reardon's second season in the US and time for him to be regularly Top 5. Actually, his team looks the strongest to me this season. With the very talented Trey Canard who is a real champion with the right attitude, the arrival of Brett Metcalf and Wharton. It is the first time that I don't see Pro Circuit as the potential title cleaner. I believe that Mitch Payton's team is very strong, for sure, and has strong riders, but I don't see Weimer, Morais, Pourcel or Stroupe win the SX Lites titles this season. I think that Jake Weimer is an awesome rider and has been coming very strong over the last 3 seasons but I do not see him win it yet, even if I wish that I am wrong because the guy is gifted, has speed and the right work ethic. I think it may be a transition year for Jake. Stroupe is very fast but can he do it in his 2nd season, does he have the right tools yet? I don't know. Morais is very solid but I don't see him winning the title, even if I see him making podiums. As far as ex-MX2 World Champ Christophe Pourcel, well it's a big question mark. He has achieved an amazing recovery from his terrible crash but will he be at 110% for this '09 SX season? I am not sure, even if I wish it to him. I hope that 2009 will be a very positive year for the French #377.

Like always, the Lite classes will be great show, lots of racing, lots of excitement.

I will keep an eye on the MDK/KTM riders, especially Justin Brayton who had a great Winter, keep a close eye on the CANIDAE/Motosport Kawasaki team with PJ Larsen and Kyle Cunningham.

A special attention to some fast young French SX riders who will be doing some part-time racing at A1, Phoenix and A2. Hugo Dago who was MD Racing last year is now on his own, racing a KTM #411, as well as Didier Vuillemin's MD Racing team with the very promising Cedric Soubeyras #412 (if he keeps his 2008 number) and new teammate Mickael Musquin who will experience his first US races.

Good luck to the team Wonder Warthog, Darrell and Scott!

OK, it's party season, despite the "crisis" and I have to go to one more of those. Can't wait for the new year and this new SX season.