First round of a new season – always lots of anticipation for that. And it all looked very exciting, great talent in both classes and the heats, yeah they promised more to come – only then the rain came for the main events. So not quite the usual excitement, but plenty to entertain and get you thinking about the season ahead, that’s for sure.
Big news on the night was Yamaha winning both mains, thanks to Justin Barcia (450SX) and Colt Nichols (250SX), and if that wasn’t enough then taking the runner-up in the 250SX as well thanks to Dylan Ferrandis (no AMA season, no podium, can be complete without high-ranking French internationals). So the Blue Crew came out on top, by a good length.
So looking to this Saturday here’s RUST’s own assessment of who’s firing and who’s not.
Justin Barcia. Bam Bam is back. Of course he’s been back for over a season now. He was in good form throughout 2018, finishing up with a great win at the Ironman Raceway for the final round of the motocross season. So this form shouldn’t come as a surprise. Given the conditions this wasn’t a spectacular ride, instead a win based on consistently nailing speedy laps – a professional job. When his rivals started slipping and putting in duff laps at mid race, Barcia kept rocking, still knocking in a solid 1:06, even at lap 17, while rivals like Musquin, even Roczen, were a second slower and more. With teammate, and class Rookie, Aaron Plessinger very much in the fight, looking an exciting prospect for the season, and finishing 6th, the Yamahas looked very strong at Anaheim.
Ken Roczen. ‘Kenny’ is a different Kenny these days. Gone is the flashy brash cockiness, those arm operations seem to have put paid to that. Instead, while still a man of steely determination and superlative skills, it seems in transitioning from boy to man – via Alpha Dog – Roczen is now a thinking man’s pro. Minimizing risks, doing what’s necessary. He’ll take the wins when they come, he’s not hungering for them so veraciously, not reaching from them. So at Anaheim, in slick conditions he put in a solid night’s work, he’ll wait for the conditions to be more consistent, predictable – and when the time’s right – to really pull the pin.
Eli Tomac. Another rider who’s looking at the long game. So even when he started mired down in 10th, Tomac took his time to find his way forward, the conditions were simply too sketchy – it was way too slippery off-line – to make a rampant charge. He didn’t even look like a podium finish until the last lap when he put in a mini-burst to lap at a fast 1:05.862 to a fading Dean Wilson’s 1:11.899 – that’s ripping six seconds out of the Husqvarna privateer in one lap – to take that last podium step. Tomac at a dry race – he’ll be on it, for sure.
Dean Wilson. Hmm, Mattighofen’s best performance on the night came from a privateer, not their factory racers. If only he could have sustained his pace just that little longer he could have been a podium finish too. Still, an excellent performance, and at no point did Wilson look ragged. Question is, can he do the same when conditions are optimum?
Cooper Webb. On the deck in T1, restarting in 20th, Webb’s fight back to 5th was arguably the performance of the night. He hung it out all night, it wasn’t until lap 10 he put in his – and the race’s – fastest lap, a superb 1:02. Yep, the most aggressive 450SX rider on the night.
Not a stellar night for the KTM/Husky camp. Champ Jason Anderson (Husky) was not on peak form at all. Nearly two-seconds off the pace (lap times) in his heat (he placed 5th), he was even slower in the main. The man simply did not engage. The official Husky PR for the night had to lead with his junior teammate’s 12th place in the 250SX class. Hmm, 14th, and not a word of explanation. Marvin Musquin fared little better, but 8th is not going to please a cheque-writing team manager. Both these guys have given their toughest rivals, Tomac and Roczen, a nice little points buffer for the season start. Anyway, how good was it to see Malcolm Stewart up there in the second spot for the first half of the race? A mid race bobble cost him dear, dropping him to 5th then he suffered a bad case of fade at the race end cost him two more places, but there’s promise there, and he looks comfortable. Aaron Plessinger certainly looked at home on the YZF450, and looked to be on for a top finish but his pace dropped for the last third of the race – gotta keep that intensity gate-to-flag…
RUST’s predictions for Glendale: Tomac to win, Roczen again second, then Bam Bam – but we expect to see Musquin and Anderson putting in a lot more work.