The opening round of the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series has come and gone. While Ryan Villopoto was the big winner in the premier class, Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda rider, Cole Seely, managed to ride away to his third career West Coast Lites victory in front of a sold out crowd.
As always, the decisions of which rider will contest which coast for which team remained a question mark up until the first set of practices. With several guys getting injured only weeks before round one, there were numerous changes to team rosters to allow the injured riders time to heal up for the start of the East Coast Lites Championship at Houston. So, you might say Seely won the battle of both staying healthy, and racing against half of the best Supercross Lites riders in the country.
Back in 2009, Roger DeCoster gave Cole a shot on the Suzuki factory team for the ridiculously muddy Budds Creek National, and to be honest, he was not very impressive. Then again, it was a mud race, so it only somewhat counts. But TLD picked up Seely two years ago and he immediately began to deliver with podiums, and clicked off two wins in 2011. So far he has a 100 percent win percentage in 2012, but watching guys like Dean Wilson, Tyla Rattray, Wil Hahn, and Eli Tomac (who was über düber fast with the third quickest main event lap time, including the Supercross Class), Seely will have his work cut out for him in the coming weeks.
Back to Tomac, his ride from way back up to third was one of the best of the night, and he was one of the only Lites riders doing a difficult little triple out of a right hand corner, which probably helped him gain about half a second every lap. And it was Tomac's charge that was simultaneously Wilson's undoing. On the last lap, Tomac was within inches of Dean and forced the Scottish/Canadian/American/Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider into a mistake that cost him several points and a podium finish.
Who was really impressive though? Jason Anderson. He didn't have the best rookie season in 2011, but fortunately Rockstar/Suzuki saw fit to give him another shot and I think it's going to pay off this time around. After a horrible start in his heat, Anderson was miles away from qualifying, but he made moves and somehow qualified directly into the evening program. Then he completely missed the Main Event gate drop since they held it for so long, and made his way up to seventh after coming from a dead, and I mean rigor-mortis/beginning-to-decompose-dead, start. Okay, Jason's starts are not even remotely impressive so far, but his riding is. The New Mexican (is that how you say it?) has some insanely low scrubs, creative lines, and I would be surprised if he doesn't at least land on the podium this season.
From the GP front, the temporarily repatriated Zach Osborne is an American who has been racing in Europe for the last few years and has chosen to race a few Supercrosses before the FIM World Motocross Gran Prix kick off in April. At the very least, he has reclaimed his AMA number 338 (which was held for a long time by Jason Lawrence [where is that guy?] in the pros, but was Osborne's amateur number). If you think the big bumpy bouncy GP tracks hurt Osborne's SX skills, think again. He laid down the third fastest lap in practice; just a smidge off of Ryan Sipes. Zach didn't do very well in the main, but this was his first SX in a several years; he will be up there. Red Bull/KTM's Marvin Musquin isn't a GP rider anymore, but A1 was the first official AMA Supercross Championship race for the two-time FIM MX2 World Champ. Musquin had the sixth fastest lap time in qualifying and came away with fourth in the main. Then there was Max Anstie. The globetrotting Brit is on his third team in as many years, and will again be contesting the MX2 World GPs. Max made the main event, but had some bad luck. Of course, Tyla Rattray is also a former GP World Champion, but he has been in the U.S. for several years. Still, this is only his second season in SX and although he doesn't have a style that would seem to lend itself to indoor racing, the South African makes it work. Tyla was very strong on his way to second place.
For being the first round, Anaheim 1 was missing a certain...I don't know what. The pizzazz was subdued and even Lurch's screaming over the PA couldn't make up for it. While Supercross racing is definitely a lot of show, there's no substitute for good racing. And that is what was lacking in the main events.
The heats actually had some good battles, but they don't mean very much. During the main events, it became obvious that there were only a few places on the track to pass, and they were not on the supposed "outdoor" section, which could just be renamed the "boring" section. Don't get me wrong, it was technical and it was possible to make or lose time in this area, but what the outdoor section really accomplished was slowing down the action and lap times. It was as if they had plopped a segment from a local public track into the middle of the biggest race of the year. One of the many reasons people like Supercross is because the pros can make even the most technical jump combination, that average riders would never even want to roll over, look easy. If there had been sand, or some other obstacle within the outdoor section, it could have made a difference. As the section was, it allowed for a good time to rest my eyes.
Nevertheless, the season is just getting started, and from the look of the Phoenix track map, there will be a sand section, but a lot of rhythm lanes as well. Will Seely be able to run with his momentum, or is another rider going to step up? Watch the race live on SPEED to find out for yourself.