Villopoto Still Hot As Motocross Season Opens

Ryan Dungey (1), Ryan Villopoto (2), James Stewart, Josh Grant (33) and Mike Alessi (800) battled all day during Saturday's Hangtown Classic. (AMA photo)
Ryan Dungey (1), Ryan Villopoto (2), James Stewart, Josh Grant (33) and Mike Alessi (800) battled all day during Saturday’s Hangtown Classic. (AMA photo)

SACRAMENTO — With a record event attendance of nearly 25,000 fans, the 45th running of the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic proved to be one for the history books as the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, kicked off Saturday.

After missing an entire season in 2012 due to injury, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto made a valiant return, sweeping both 450 Class motos atop one of the most stacked fields in the series’ recent history. Additionally, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen claimed his first career 250 Class overall victory at Hangtown.

Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart, who missed most of the second half of the 2012 season, made a comeback of his own by grabbing the holeshot in Moto 1, garnering one point toward the overall championship holeshot bonus of $25,000 in the 450 Class. However, keeping the lead wasn’t an easy task as three other former 450 Class Champions and several returning contenders chased the 2008 champ early on.

Villopoto took over the lead on the opening lap with Stewart and defending champion Ryan Dungey close in tow. The trio diced it out in the first half of Moto 1 but it was ultimately Villopoto who locked in the moto win, with Dungey in second and Stewart in third.

Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard returned to the Hangtown Motocross Classic for the first time since his 250 Class championship-winning season in 2010. Canard made a statement early on as he jumped in behind the lead battle and even closed in on Stewart near the end of Moto 1. Just behind was the epic battle for fifth place between Canard’s teammate Barcia, BTO Sports/KTM’s Andrew Short, Lucas Oil Troy Lee Honda’s Malcolm Stewart, Smartop/MotoConcepts Mike Alessi and 450 Class rookie Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson. Malcolm Stewart, Alessi and Wilson experienced issues that dropped all three in the running order, while Canard and Barcia prevailed, rounding out the top five, with Short sixth.

James Stewart began Moto 2 in similar fashion to the first, grabbing the Motorcycle-Superstore holeshot once again and taking over the points lead in the season-long chase for the end-of-the-year cash prize. From there, Stewart engaged in a battle for the lead with Dungey, while Villopoto followed close behind. Near the halfway mark, Villopoto made his move to the front, leaving Dungey and Stewart to fight for the second place position. Dungey bested Stewart for the second place spot in Moto 2, giving the Minnesota native second overall for the day with a pair of second place finishes. Stewart, the 2012 Hangtown winner, scored (3-3) for third place overall. Villopoto went on to secure the first overall win of the 2013 season with a score of (1-1).

“Hangtown has always been a rough place for me so for the bike to feel like it did today was amazing,” Villopoto said. “I’m obviously happy with that and happy with how I rode. I feel like we’re in a really good place and it’s only going to get better from here.”