by Jon Row
Dodger stadium may have been apprehensive about hosting its first ever Motorsports race but it turned out to be a stellar event. Ryan Villopoto, Cole Seely and the AMA Monster Energy Supercross series gave L.A. one the most exciting shows ever. 41,107 Angelinos, including some first time SX fans, got an evening of Supercross at its best.
Trey Canard was the only rider close to Stewart’s top qualifying time but an ugly heat race endo and DNF forced him to win the LCQ before he could proceed to the main to battle RV , Dungey and James. Canard was lucky to escape uninjured. Martin Davalos was the fastest Lites rider.
Josh Hansen came to L.A. with the series lead, won his heat convincingly, then holeshot the main event only to stall on the first lap and watch as 19 jerseys went by him. Cole Seely grabbed the lead and held on to the end to take his first ever Lites main event. Eli Tomac had to first hold off Broc Tickle and then a hard charging Ryan Morais for second. Morais got third while Hansen put in a heroic ride to salvage fourth and retain the West Coast series points lead over Tickle.
Brett Metcalf grabbed the holeshot but then went down on the second lap letting Ryan Dungey have the lead and setting the stage for Stewart, Canard, Dungey and Villopoto to bang bars and heads for 19 more loops. Villopoto had to overcome a bad start taking 5 laps to get into 3rd but ultimately passing Dungey and Stewart while also turning the fastest laps of the race. Stewart thrilled the crowd repassing RV before going down on lap 10 and giving Villopoto the lead for good. Stewart had to re-fight his way back past Canard and Dungey to get second. Dungey nabbed the final podium spot. Reed was 19th at one point before working up to 7th but was never part of the mix. It was the best race of the season by far and one of the best multi-rider duels in the last several years.
The rear wheel sensor that set off so much buzz and internet chatter this week was reportedly spotted on Stewart’s bike again in practice. Its probable purpose: data acquisition. For what you may ask? Better starts are the most likely goal, especially for James. Rear wheel speed sensors are indeed used with traction control. The sensor is legal. Traction control (in SX ) is not. Without a front wheel sensor or GPS however, (both currently illegal), traction control is hard to facilitate. Comparing rear wheel speed though against engine RPM can provide data useful for anything from tire/pressure selections to flywheel weights to fork height launch settings. Yamaha is not the only team doing it. As the season is showing, starts are pretty critical for Stewart. Yes he can come from behind and pass almost all his competition, but it’s the risk taking that goes with a bad start. Case in point: in his heat, being second off the line, although only by inches, got James pushed off the track in the first turn and directly into last place. The resulting passes and risky lines that took him past 16 riders back to fourth place saw him get squeezed off track again and endure more potential traffic take-outs. Not the stuff most champions like to deal with. Given the tenacity of the competition again this year Yamaha is looking to give James a few more edges. Data acquisition appears to be one,
We also suspect most teams are forward looking using the data acquisition technology, preparing themselves for the day that Traction Control may be permitted.
Click here for more photos from the Inaugural 2011 Los Angeles Supercross