May 25, 2008

Glen Helen Practice: a nice day at the (raceway) park

Doom and gloom was the forecast, and there were dark skies and plenty of mud puddles in the parking lot this morning for sure, but by the time the pros hit the track for practice, the course was actually looking awesome.

And I mean that in a good way. I was struck by how fun the Glen Helen course looked; I'm used to it being the most fearsome track on the National circuit. There is no question that in years past, Jody Weisel and his crew have built some just plain scary racetracks... this year's course seems to be "lightened up" a little. Don't get me wrong, it is still very challenging, and the whole REM section of the track is all about major airtime. MAJOR airtime, do you hear me? They're jumping far AND fast to clear the triple step up and other jumps back there.

Still, the course this year looks like it would actually be fun even for a non-jumping, slow-ass beginner like myself. This obviously means I haven't been on a bike in a long time, to think I could actually handle this course.

On to the real deal: who was fast in practice?

Here are the top five numbers for the 250Fs:

1 - Jason Lawrence, Yamaha 2:44.053
2 - Ryan Villopoto Kawasaki 2:45.150
3 - Brett Metcalfe Kawasaki 2:45.913
4 - Austin Stroupe Kawasaki 2:46.134
5 - Nico Izzi, Suzuki 2:46.427

And here are the top five in the big bike class:

1 - James Stewart, Kawasaki 2:42.278
2 - Andrew Short, Honda 2:43.294
3 - Mike Alessi, Suzuki 2:44.135
4 - Jeff Alessi, Honda 2:45.000
5 - Timmy Ferry, Kawasaki 2:45.343

Okay. Stewart being a second faster than Short was to be expected; Lawrence more than a full second faster than Villopoto is a straight out surprise. Jason looked strong and smooth today. Ryan looked astonishingly fast, but sometimes he looked like he was fighting his bike a bit, just a little on the edge. But these are just the timed practice results. Timed QUALIFYING was a little bit different...

250F group A (or 3):

1 - Stroupe 2:42.502
2 - Kyle Cunningham, Honda 2:45.036
3 - Trey Canard, Honda 2:45.094
4 - Izzi 2:46.813
5 - Matt Goerke, KTM 2:47.127

250F group B (or 4):

1 - Ryan Sipes, KTM 2:46.826
2 - Jake Moss, Yamaha 2:48.112

blah blah blah, now I'm tired of typing this mess...

In any case, the track only got faster and so did the riders, as they learned their way around the course. The AMA's weird qualifying/practice structure still confuses me, but hey, it was all about watching the fastest riders in the world at one of the best tracks in the world.

More thoughts:

- There were a lot of people there! I was surprised at the turnout, considering the weather issues and the general alarm sounded throughout the motocross internet. I like the cool, unhurried vibe that Saturday practice has at the Nats.
- James Stewart looked healthy and humble in the pits, and ridiculously fast on the track. I think he has a lot in reserve as far as speed is concerned.
- Ben Townley looked really fast (and his fast time in qualifying, a 2:42.463 compares very well to Stewart's fast practice time. Towns reminded me a lot of Sebastien Tortelli with the way he rides, but more fluid like Chad Reed.
- Monster Energy drink does everything big. There used to be a big hue and cry about people setting up tents and canopies in the infield, blocking other people's view of the track. Well, Monster has set up the biggest (or at least tallest) infield structure I've ever seen at Glen Helen. The thing is HUGE. It has a viewing platform/lounge on the top (complete with palm trees!) that must be at least 30 feet off the deck. The bottom part looks to be a stage or something; maybe that's where the band Ten Man Push will play.
- The new Glen Helen sand section looks amazing.
- Ryan Dungey looked SOOOOO smooth, I can't help but think he's top three tomorrow.

Okay, I'm going to go enjoy the Racer X Preview show and call it a night.

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