Grant Langston was docked 5 seconds for a pass for the lead on lap 2 that was very close to the early leader Michael Byrne. There are differing accounts of whether Langston took out Byrne’s front end in a turn or if they just bumped handlebars. The 5 seconds translated to two positions, or 4 points. AMA Pro Racing has not released a statement as of this writing, but it is expected they will call it “rough riding.” After word was out after the 250 main that the decision was made to dock Langston 5 seconds, officials were reviewing video of the incident, and even the following day they were still looking for more video. The sport doesn’t really have “instant replay” guidelines.
San Francisco somehow just creates controversy. Last year there was a fuss over David Vuillemin jumping on a caution flag (ruled OK) and an incident with Matt Walker and Travis Preston in the 125 class. Even the dirt caused controversy last year when local officials who didn’t complain when dirt was trucked in for the race suddenly decided that trucking it back out again was a concern. For a couple days local papers were covering the dumping of what they called “unknown dirt.” San Francisco is probably the only city in America where you can pick up a piece of dirt, and you can’t put it back down again.
In the heat races, tempers flared between Mike LaRocco and Tyler Evans over what LaRocco called a takeout. After their heat, Evans and LaRocco stopped in the track and argued, but that was all.
The 250 main started with the series front runners stuck in mid pack. Kawasaki’s Michael Byrne got the holeshot and led Langston, Robbie Reynard, LaRocco, and Ryan Clark in that order after one lap. Reed was in fifth and moving up fast, and Windham was just two places behind him. Vuillemin was outside the top 10 and charging hard as well.
On lap two, Byrne had the outside line in a berm just before a triple. Langston made a move on Byrne in just about the same line. The two got really close and reportedly bumped handlebars, which caused Byrne to go to the right and bump a tuff bloc, then he fell back into the track, dropping from first to almost last. He was obviously upset over it, but without prompting from Byrne or Kawasaki, AMA Pro Racing decided to dock Langston 5 seconds, dropping him two positions.
Windham was trying to make a move on LaRocco for 4th on lap 4 but went over his bars on the whoops, sending his bike off the track. He got going again in last and caught up to 5th.
Reed moved into the lead without incident on lap 5 and rode smooth out front on his own. Reynard dropped a couple of spots but still was running near the front until a flat rear tire slowed him to a disappointing 16th. LaRocco took a while to get around Langston for second, then Vuillemin came up through the pack and took second himself with three laps to go.
Fourth went to Suzuki’s Nick Wey, who was on Dunlop’s for the first race this year. The team started the season on Michelin’s, then raced two races on Bridgestones before making a deal with Dunlop.
Vuillemin was making time on Reed in the closing laps, but Reed still won by a couple of seconds.
“It was definitely bumpy out there tonight,” said LaRocco, both about the track itself and the contact with Evans, “I had to work just to get into the main event. The track was really short and it really didn’t seem like we were out there that long. Maybe the lack of a Friday practice made me ride a little more clumsy but it was the same for everybody. I had the start I just didn’t out there and make things happen. I made mistakes. Chad was just riding a little more aggressively and a little be cleaner on the obstacles. I was just picking my way through the jumps and the track instead of racing like I needed to do.”
“(Trying to pass Langston) definitely frustrated me a little bit and put me off my game,” said LaRocco, “I just didn’t make things happen when I needed to. I need to be more aggressive. I just don’t want to be around him.” About the incident with Evans, LaRocco said, “I was unhappy because he kind of took me out. I made a mistake and he had passed me anyway but he took me into the bales and I went down. I was just unhappy about that.”
Vuillemin was impressive in the main, but was stuck in mid pack after the start. “The thing was to get there (to the front) because I got two terrible starts tonight,” he said, “I worked my way up and got to 4th or 5th kind of quick. I got behind Grant and Mike and wanted to pass them quick. Mike made a little mistake on the jump on jump off before the finish, I could jump on but couldn’t jump off and then went off the track. I am happy with the way I rode tonight. I lasted 20 laps and had to charge the whole way. Mike was behind me and I had to charge to keep my second position.”
“I was stuck in midpack after each start,” said Vuillemin, referring to both his heat race and the main, “I wish I could have started a little more to the inside. The track wasn’t that great technically. I struggled with passing all night long. I was happy we did not have a lot of practice Friday. The tracks are easier and we have too much practice. I think this was the first time this year I charged for 20 laps. Tonight I made two or three bobbles and almost crashed one time but I just kept it wide open.”
Reed talked about he and Vuillemin struggling with starts this weekend. “I think David and I struggled a little bit because our bikes are so fast they were hard to control on the start. That was pretty much it,” he said, “The dirt was a little rocky and hard packed. The plan was to get a good start and push for 20 laps. I was talking to Mike (LaRocco) and it seems like every week the tracks are getting worse (easier). The whoops got chopped up tonight and that was probably the best thing that could have happened.” Reed was referring to track changes in 2004 that make them a little easier in hopes of reducing injuries.
Reed has had close racing with LaRocco, but so far no penalties. “Every weekend we don’t plan on running into each other,” he said, “We just both want to get to the front and we both want to win. We are pretty equal in speeds and you have to be aggressive. It is tough with the new AMA rules. You really never know where the line is.”
Reed happens to be neighbors with Nathan Ramsey, team Honda’s winner in the 125 class. “This weekend was great racing,” said Reed, “NateDawg (Ramsey) put the pressure on them. We are neighbors and we have been talking about winning a race on the same night. He went out there and won and then it was my turn. I am just happy for the neighborhood.”
THQ World Supercross Series/THQ AMA Supercross Series Event Results, San Francisco, Calif.
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
2. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
3. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda
4. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki
5. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda
6. Sean Hamblin, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
7. Grant Langston, Temecula, KTM
8. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda
9. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha
10. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki
THQ AMA Supercross Series Season Standings
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha, 144
3. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 114
2. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda, 112
4. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda, 112
5. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki, 84
6. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 82
7. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki, 79
8. Grant Langston, Lake Elsinore, Calif., KTM, 64
9. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 55
10. Keith Johnson, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 50
THQ World Supercross GP Season Standings
1. Grant Langston, Temecula, Calif., KTM, 163
2. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 162
3. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 114
4. Tyler Evans, Canyon Lake, Calif., Suzuki, 128
5. Keith Johnson, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 112
6. Ryan Clark, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 94
7. Ernesto Fonseca, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 81
8. Mike Brown, Johnson City, Tenn., Yamaha, 80
9. Erick Vallejo, Dallas, Texas, Yamaha 70
10. Joe Oehlhof, Hesperia, Calif., Honda, 70
Pro Circuit was so well prepared in 2004 they won everything in the opening races, even the heat races. In fact for a while Tedesco and his teammate Stephane Roncada together had led every lap of competition. The last rider to sweep a 125 regional supercross season was Ricky Carmichael in the east in 1998. Tedesco was on track to tie that until tonight.
Tedesco had his hands full in his heat race in a heated battle with Motoworld Racing.com’s Andrew Short. He won the heat in a photo finish.
In the main, Tedesco took the holeshot and was on track to win again. After one lap the running order was Tedesco, Ramsey, Brock Sellards, Greg Schnell, Travis Preston, Steve Boniface, and Joaquim Rodrigues. Tedesco held on to the lead until about 2/3 into the race, then mistakes started costing him time and Ramsey caught him.
Ramsey made his move for the lead in a step-up/step-off section before the finish line, and led the last three laps for the win.
Roncada had a mid-pack start and made it up to 5th behind Sellards.
San Francisco was the last west regional race for a while. The series moves east next weekend in Houston and the next west race will be in Dallas, April 17th.
“The track was really weird this weekend, said Preston, “I rode really hard in the heat race but it seemed like in the main I just couldn’t put stuff together. I am happy (about the season break) because now I get to go and ride a 450 on the east coast. I haven’t started riding yet so I will skip one week. I think riding a 450 helps.”
“In the first couple of laps I made some bad choices and rolled over a few things and Schnell go by me and I kind of messed around with Sellards a little bit,” said Preston, “it was really weird. I was coming into them hard, and then started jumping them. That kind of kicked me out so I backed it down there.”
Tedesco was disappointed to have his win streak end, but he still has a strong series lead. “Everyone has been talking about records and all that, but I have been trying to keep that aside and just try and win as many races as I can,” he said, “I am just trying to win this championship.”
About the heat race, Tedesco said, “(Short) I made a clean pass on him and he just shot in on me before the triple and hit my front wheel. That kind of fired me up and I ended up passing him in the last corner and it turned out good.”
“I got the holeshot (in the main) and rode the first five laps pretty hard and got a bit of a lead,” said Tedesco, “I started making a few mistakes. I wasn’t hitting the whoops as good as I was. Actually I saw a Honda coming and I thought it was Travis. When he made a pass I saw #25 (Ramsey). I tried to make a charge back but by that time I was kind of tired. The only problem I had was I have been a little under the weather and didn’t get much sleep last night. It kind of affected me in the main. In the beginning I think I was really strong in the whoops. After I started making some mistakes he started catching me. He rode a solid race. I made a few mistakes and that is what cost me.”
Ramsey’s win was his first since 2002 when he won the 250 class in Pontiac on a 450, Honda’s first win on that bike. He also won this weekend’s race on a 4-stroke, the new CRF250R, and it was Honda’s first AMA win on that bike as well. Ramsey is also picking up tips from the leader in the 250 class, Chad Reed.
“Chad and I live next door to each other so it is good to be able to train together,” said Ramsey, “We have the same trainer, Jeff Spencer and that helps too. We are just good friends and have a lot of fun riding our little bikes and our big bikes. Any chance I get to ride with him is a learning thing. He shows me every weekend what he has.”
“In my heat race it was pretty pitiful, said Ramsey, “I ran off the track and messed up as many times as possible in a heat race without crashing. In the main, I felt smooth and felt confident. I found my way through the whoops and found the right line and pushed as hard as I can. The race was short and there was not a lot of time to be super patient, but that is what I needed to do. For this race I was able to put it all together and make the pass on Ivan to win.”
“Once I got to second he had a bit of a lead,” said Ramsey, “we stayed together a little bit. I was barely inching up on him. I started out jumping through the second set of whoops. I thought about that on the hot lap but it didn’t work out for me so I went back to skimming. I think that brought my level up a little but and got me excited. He bobbled in the rhythm section and I thought this is my chance to ride as hard as I can and make the move as quick as possible because the laps were running out quick.”
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Western Regional Event Results, San Francisco, Calif.
1. Nathan Ramsey, Menifee, Calif., Honda
2. Ivan Tedesco, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki
3. Travis Preston, Hesperia, Calif., Honda
4. Brock Sellards, Sherrodsville, Ohio
5. Stephan Roncada, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Kawasaki
6. Steve Boniface, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
7. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., Suzuki
8. Jeff Gibson, Westerville, Ohio., Yamaha
9. Joshua Summey, Stanley, N.C., Yamaha
10. Joaquim Rodriques, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Western Regional Season Standings
1. Ivan Tedesco, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki, 147
2. Travis Preston, Hesperia, Calif., Honda, 117
3. Stephan Roncada, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Kawasaki, 116
4. Nathan Ramsey, Menifee, Calif., Honda, 109
5. Brock Sellards, Sherrodsville, Ohio, Yamaha, 92
6. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., Suzuki, 89
7. Troy Adams, Brooksville, Fla., Kawasaki, 71
8. Greg Schnell, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Yamaha, 67
9. Joshua Summey, Stanley, N.C., Yamaha, 49
10. Christopher Gosselaar, Victorville, Calif., Honda, 42
Texts and photos by Steve Bruhn