Mitch Payton’s talented seven rider lineup embarked on their quest for a 2013 AMA Pro Motocross Championship last weekend at the season-opening Hangtown Motocross Classic. With sunny skies, balmy temperatures, and the largest Hangtown crowd in history watching on, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s four 250 Class riders and pair of 450 Class competitors set the tone for a promising summer by showcasing their speed and impressive aggression.
Baggett Starts Title Defense on the Podium
Reigning 250 Class Champion Blake Baggett has not lined up on a starting gate since the opening round of Monster Energy Supercross in January. The time away from competition not only allowed Baggett to recover from a wrist injury, but also ensure he was at his best for the challenging summer season.
Baggett picked up the 2013 season where he left off in 2012 by cementing himself at the front of the field and challenging for the overall win. While he ultimately missed out on duplicating his victorious effort at Hangtown from a year ago, Baggett was still in the mix during each moto, posting 3-2 finishes landing second overall.
“Obviously I wanted to win and start this season off right, but it’s hard to complain about a podium finish with so many good riders out there,” said Baggett. “We’ll learn from this weekend and come out event stronger next weekend.”
Hill Captures Hard-Fought Top 10 in Debut
Justin Hill’s AMA Pro Motocross debut wasn’t as easy as the rookie might have liked, but despite some adversity thrown his way, Hill refused to give up and was rewarded with a top-10 finish.
After some misfortune on the opening lap of the first moto, Hill crossed the line in 31st and instantly began his climb through the field, passing 18 riders en route to a 13th-place finish. In Moto 2, Hill’s fortunes improved with a mid-pack start, but he still climbed from 16th to ninth to secure 10th overall.
“It was kind of a wild day for me, but my KX250F was just so strong that I didn’t realize how many riders I actually passed,” said Hill. “It was great to get two solid motos under my belt and know what it’s going to take to get the job done this season. I’m pumped with how things started.”
Davalos and Durham Plagued with Misfortune
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s most experienced 250 Class riders – Martin Davalos and Darryn Durham – had hopes for a strong start to their first full seasons with Mitch Payton’s squad, but both veterans were stuck with misfortune that hurt their position on the overall results.
Davalos was hit with adversity in the opening moto, when he crashed on the third lap while battling for a spot inside the top 10. Davalos was unable to finish the moto, but returned to action in Moto 2, bouncing back to finish 12th and salvage 17th overall.
“It wasn’t the day we wanted, but considered what happened in the first moto I’m just happy to come out of here healthy,” said Davalos. “The bike was good and the speed is there, I just need to do some work heading into the next weekend.”
Durham set the tone for a good day with an impressive ride in Moto 1, battling at the front half of the field the entire race and beginning the afternoon with a sixth-place result. In Moto 2, Durham put himself up front again, but was hit with bad luck after contact with another rider resulted in a crash on Lap 3 that took Durham out of contention. Unable to finish the moto, he settled for 14th overall.
“Everything was going great and then it just ended so abruptly,” said Durham. “I’m definitely bummed and I’m a little banged up, but I’m pumped with how well we were able to race. I know I have the speed to run up front, so I just need to stay out of trouble and hopefully things will work out.”
Rattray Leads the Way for the Team in the 450 Class
After a stellar debut season in the 450 Class last season, Mitch Payton added a second bike to his stable for 2013 with Tyla Rattray and Dean Wilson.
Rattray led the way for the effort at Hangtown with a consistent day that resulted with a top-10 finish. The former world champion and veteran rider knew coming into the season that consistency would be the key in the highly talented 450 Class and he was just that at the opening round, posting a pair of ninth-place moto results to finish ninth overall.
“There’s a lot of guys who know how to get the job done out there, so I just wanted to find my place and set a good tone for the season,” said Rattray. “I definitely want to be up front with the big names, but it’s a long season and it was good to get a solid foundation. We’ll just look to make improvements from here.”
Wilson Shows Promise in 450 Class Debut
As a former 250 Class Champion, Dean Wilson knows what it takes to succeed in AMA Pro Motocross, but his move into the 450 Class presents a new level of challenges for the rising star. At Hangtown, Wilson learned what it takes to run up front after battling around the top five for most of the first moto. A late stall hurt his finish, but he proved the speed is there.
In Moto 2, Wilson needed to show his ability to come through the field and was able to overcome an incident on the opening lap to climb from 32nd to 14th, passing 18 riders in one of the most talented fields in history. Despite not racing since March, Wilson showed promising speed and resiliency en route to 14th overall.
“This isn’t the way I wanted things to start, but all we can do is learn from it,” said Wilson. “I was able to learn a lot in both motos and if I keep working on my fitness for these tough motos I expect to be a top five guy.”
Missing from Action
Adam Cianciarulo was eagerly awaiting his pro debut at Hangtown, but the decorated amateur rider was forced to watch the race from the sidelines after an illness prevented him from competing. Cianciarulo will continue his recovery in hopes of getting on the track next weekend in Colorado for the second round of the championship.
Looking Ahead - Thunder Valley
The 2013 AMA Pro Motocross Championship heads to the Rocky Mountains next weekend with the annual Thunder Valley National in Lakewood, Colo. The second round of the championship will celebrate Memorial Day Weekend with one of the most unique and picturesque tracks on the planet.