Suzuki Wins the Battle, Kawasaki Wins the War
In the 450cc class of the Lucas Oil AMA MX Pro Championship, the national title would not be decided until the final lap of the final moto of the 2011 season at Pala Raceway. Southern California race fans turned out in record numbers to watch the showdown between Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey, last year’s national champion, and Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, this year’s AMA indoor Supercross champion. To keep the pair of title contenders honest, Honda had rookie rider, Justin Barcia, and a seasoned former-national champion, Chad Reed of Two-Two Motorsports, ready to compete for the event win. After losing points to Villopoto when his Rockstar Makita Suzuki did not show up on time for the start of the second race at Steel City MX, Dungey was confident that with a little luck he could still make up a fourteen-point deficit.
At the beginning of Moto One, both Dungey and Villopoto looked beatable. The duo were buried in mid-pack as KTM’s Mike Alessi pulled the holeshot and started to gap the field. Canadian national champion Colton Facciotti was running second with the big red machine of Justin Barcia in third. Realizing his opportunity for another moto win, Barcia quickly moved his Honda to the lead. However, the two Ryans were just getting started and collectively worked their way to the front of the pack. Villopoto was first to get by Barcia for the lead followed by Dungey. At one point, the two Ryans were literally swapping the lead between corners. Villopoto would eventually garner a three-second gap over his rival. Barcia held on for a well deserved third followed by Alessi in fourth place.
Even though he increased his points lead at the end of the first moto, Villopoto knew all too well how quickly you can end up on the ground, out of the race, and out of the championship. So, as the gate dropped on the most important race of the season, the two Ryans again prepared themselves for one last battle in 2011. The Honda of Chad Reed would lead Justin Barcia and the rest of the 450cc riders across the line at the end of lap one. It didn’t appear that either contender would be able to catch Reed or Barcia early on. But, as the race neared the half way mark, Barcia pressured Reed into a mistake and took over first place. As the championship contenders caught Reed, Dungey would slip by leaving Villopoto to battle with the former champion.
Dungey would catch and pass Barcia for the win but it was too little, too late. Villopoto’s third place was good enough to win the “450cc War” allowing the Kawasaki rider to claim both the indoor and outdoor motocross titles, just as Dungey had done in 2010. Ironically, or maybe rightfully so, Dungey and Villopoto have been chasing each other their entire lives and were fierce competitors throughout their amateur motocross and 250cc Pro careers. So, what’s upcoming for the two Ryans? Both riders will be teammates representing the United States in the Motocross Des Nations next weekend in Saint Jean D’Angely, France. A big shout-out from all of the E3 spark plug racing fans to all of the Mx teams and a special thanks to Lucas Oil for sponsoring another terrific AMA outdoor motocross season.