ANAHEIM, Calif. — After months of build up to the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship opener at Angel Stadium, not even a rare California rain storm could force the thousands of racing fans in attendance to miss the action of opening night.
Those fans were rewarded with a historic night, as Yamaha swept both classes for the first time since 2008.
In the premier division, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia came into the Anaheim Supercross healthy and happy with his team, his motorcycle and his home life; having gotten married in the off-season.
And when the rain began to fall, New York-native Barcia’s smile grew just a little more.
When the gate dropped to start the main event, Barcia rounded the first turn just inside the top-five while DW15/Rockstar/AGL/Ignite Husqvarna’s Dean Wilson held the lead over Smartop/Motoconcepts/Bullfrog Spas Honda’s Malcolm Stewart and defending Supercross champion Jason Anderson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna).
Barcia made an aggressive pass on Anderson to take over third a couple of laps into the race, then waited patiently behind Wilson and Stewart until Stewart went down just past the halfway point.
Seizing his opportunity, Barcia immediately applied pressure to Wilson before making the pass and setting sail for his first 450SX victory since the Seattle Supercross in 2013, and the first win for Yamaha in the class since 2012; 93 races ago.
Wilson struggled with his goggles in the closing laps and had to toss them aside in the mud and ended up fourth. Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen passed Wilson for second with a few laps left, and then Wilson succumbed to the pressure of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac on the final lap. Roczen was second and Tomac was third.
Tomac led the Anaheim Opener in 2018 before crashing out of the lead and ending the night with a DNF. Third in the mud is a vast improvement.
Last year’s Anaheim winner, Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, ended up eighth on the night.
In the Western Regional 250SX class, reigning champ Aaron Plessinger graduated up to the premier division for 2019, so there was a definite sense of urgency as the field jockeyed to see who would succeed him atop the division.
At least at the opener, the successor was Plessinger’s former teammate, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Colt Nichols. Nichols led every lap of the 250SX event on his way to his first victory.
Barcia and Nichols will both be sporting red numberplate backgrounds on their Yamaha motorcycles for leading their respective championships as the series heads to round two at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, this coming Saturday night.