The opening three rounds of the 2010 Super X season have been a hit with fans, and an even bigger hit for US riders, who have dominated the results so far. Chad Reed starred in the opening rounds at Newcastle, but the American guest riders - Josh Hansen, Kevin Windham and Justin Brayton - have made the following rounds their own, comfortably finishing ahead of the local challengers.
Round 1 - NEWCASTLE
The talking point prior to the start of Super X 2010 was Chad Reed and exactly what he would be riding in the SX Open class. Reed had ended his connection with Kawasaki prior to the start of the series, and rumours linking him to just about every motorcycle manufacturer were circulating before he appeared on a Honda, with new Vodafone backing to boot, at the opening round.
American riders appearing in the SX Open class included Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Josh Hansen, JGR/Muscle Milk/Toyota/Yamaha's Justin Brayton (riding out of the CDR Rockstar Yamaha tent), and Jagermeister KTM's Mike Alessi, who was riding with the support of JDR Motorex KTM. Billy Mackenzie was still getting over the broken collarbone he suffered in the penultimate AMA MX round, so was a non-starter. In the SX Lites class, JDR Motorex KTM's P.J. Larsen was back, hoping to emulate his motocross success. UK-rider Steven Clark, riding for Raceline Pirelli Suzuki, was the other overseas rider in the Lites class. There was rain in the lead up to the event at Newcastle's Energy Australia Stadium, but it wasn't a factor in the races.
In the two ten-lap Lites finals, Larsen picked up where he left off from the outdoors, 1-2 results seeing the opening round go his way. While Lawson Bopping (Rockstar Motul Suzuki) scored the holeshot in the opening race and led for nine of ten laps, a last lap move by Larsen meant Bopping had to settle for second place behind the KTM rider, the winning margin less than a second. It was Larsen's turn to settle for runner-up in the second moto, as victory went to fastest qualifier, Matt Moss (Rockstar Motul Suzuki). After crashing in the first moto, Moss got a much better start in the second, stealing the lead from Kawasaki Racing Team's Cody Mackie on lap six and holding off Larsen to take victory. Moss finished the round in second place, followed by JDR Motorex KTM's Ryan Marmont and Cougar Bourbon Thor Honda's Kade Mosig.
Ross Beaton's first SX round in CDR Rockstar Yamaha colours was over almost before it started when the young Tasmanian crashed in the heats and was sent to hospital with suspected rib and shoulder fractures.
Demonstrating that he's over the worst of the Epstein-Barr virus he was diagnosed with earlier this year, Chad Reed won both SX Open twelve lap motos in the 'double header' format final.
Daniel Reardon, back home after a stint in the US and riding under the Cougar Bourbon Thor Honda banner, was another quick Aussie, scoring the holeshot in the opening twelve lap final, followed closely by Hansen and Reed. Brayton was pushed over a berm on the opening lap and rejoined the field in last place but fought his way back to finish fifth. At the front of the field, it was a three-way battle between Reardon, Hansen and Reed. A small mistake from the American gave Reed the opportunity he needed to pass then set his sights on Reardon. Reed took the lead midway through the race and rode away to victory. While Hansen got close to Reed at several stages, he wasn't quick enough for the defending Super X champion, whose speed was demonstrated by the fact he was the only SX Open rider to post a sub-39 second lap in either final.
The second Open holeshot went the way of veteran Craig Anderson, but it wasn't long before Reed was in front again, followed by Brayton, who got a better start the second time around, and Reardon. Hansen fought his way past Reardon, and from there the three internationals held formation until the finish, where Reed threw out a huge whip for the fans.
"First and foremost I want to thank all of the Newcastle fans for coming tonight." Reed said after the finish.
"It has been a long term plan to have a race here and after three years it has finally happened. I felt right at home racing out there tonight and it feels great to get the win. 2010 has been a tough year for me, but I had a blast riding tonight."
Round 2 - CANBERRA
Rain yet again threatened to interrupt Super X round two and while afternoon showers made the Canberra Stadium surface slippery, they didn't have a huge impact on the result or the standard of racing, which once again was first class. The 'Triple Challenge' format at Canberra - 3 x 7 lap races for the Open and 3 x 6 lap races for the Lites, with only a few minutes break between each - meant fitness would be just as important as speed.
With Chad Reed returning to the US hoping to secure a ride for the 2011 AMA SX & MX seasons, the field was arguably more open for both the local and international riders. Geico/Powersport/Honda's Kevin Windham was the new US arrival for this round, and 'K-Dub' made his presence felt right from the start, qualifying strongly and comfortably winning his heat race. Justin Brayton won the second heat, setting up an all-American battle for the three finals.
In the SX Lites, P.J. Larsen was once again top qualifier, but Suzuki's Matt Moss wasn't far behind. Moss spent the week after Newcastle practising his starts and it paid off, as he not only got the holeshot, but held the lead each lap on his way to a comfortable victory in the opening final, followed by Larsen and his JDR Motorex KTM team mate, Ryan Marmont. Moss rocketed away again in the second final and the results were almost duplicated, but Raceline Pirelli Suzuki's Steven Clark overcame his disappointing first round result to claim the third podium spot behind Moss and Larsen. The third and final race of the Lites Triple Challenge once again went the way of Moss, making it a clean sweep for the defending SX Lites champion. Clark improved to second, while Ford Dale finally put Serco Yamaha on the board with a third place result. Larsen's challenge ended when he crashed in the sand section, but he did manage to remount and finish fifteenth. Larsen struggled at Canberra, having to fight his way through the field after bad starts in all three races of the Triple Challenge format.
In the first SX Open final, CDR Rockstar Yamaha's Jay Marmont got the holeshot but was passed by Hansen, Brayton and Windham within a lap. From there, Windham hunted down first Brayton then Hansen to take the lead on lap five and hold it until the finish, recording the fastest race lap in the process. Rockstar Motul Suzuki's Jake Moss was the best of the Aussies, finishing fourth.
The second Open final once again went the way of Windham, despite Brayton scoring the holeshot. Windham was challenged by Brayton for the first five laps before the Yamaha rider made a small mistake in the whoops section, allowing both Hansen and Marmont through to claim second and third place respectively.
The third and final race of the Triple Challenge format once again went the way of Windham, making it a clean sweep for the Honda rider. Windham grabbed the holeshot and was untroubled for the remainder of the race, despite some close attention from Hansen, who finished over three seconds adrift at the chequered flag. Brayton rounded out the podium, with Marmont the best of the locals in fourth place.
Jagermeister KTM's Mike Alessi was running as high as third at one stage and finished fifth, his equal best result of the series so far, but the KTM rider was penalised 15 seconds for clearing the triple jump under a yellow flag, which dropped him back to ninth in the results. After a good first round, Daniel Reardon struggled at Canberra, unable to find pace in the slippery conditions, managing a best race finish of seventh. Windham won the round, followed by Hansen and Brayton.
"What a great start to my time here in Australia. I am really enjoying the country and the people and had a lot of fun racing here tonight." Windham said after the final.
"The different formats definitely make it interesting because anything can happen. I'm just glad I rode well and consistently and got the win in all three races."
Round 3 - LAUNCESTON
The surprise for the third round of Super X was the reappearance of Kevin Windham. The Geico Powersports Honda rider was only scheduled to compete in the Canberra round, but after such a dominant performance he decided to contest the Launceston round, too!
"I had so much fun racing last weekend and the competition and tracks over here are great. My wife and I are really enjoying the country and the people so the decision to stay on and compete in another round was an easy one" Windham said in the lead up to the racing at Aurora Stadium.
The prediction of rain for this round proved correct, making it extra challenging for both Lites and Open riders alike. Despite this, the 'usual suspects' were at the top of the time sheets after qualifying - Matt Moss, P.J. Larsen and Ryan Marmont in Lites, and Kevin Windham, Josh Hansen and Justin Brayton in the Open class, with less than a second separating the top four qualifiers in each class. However, Open class qualifying counted for little at Launceston, thanks to this round's 'Survival' format. While the Lites riders ran a conventional pair of 'long' finals (14 and 12 laps respectively), the Open class featured a quartet of seven lap races, where the bottom five finishers from each race are dropped, whittling the field down until the fourth and final survival race is contested by only five riders. This meant there was no margin for error, and one crash could end your evening, irrespective of how good your qualifying or race pace was.
In the first Lites final, Marmont jumped to an early lead but was reeled in by Larsen, Lawson Bopping (Rockstar Motul Suzuki) and Moss after the KTM rider crashed on lap seven. From there, the top three held station until the finish. Moss's result was particularly gutsy, considering he was riding with a suspected broken kneecap following a fall in qualifying. Bopping was also on the comeback trail after a spectacular - but fortunately not serious - spill in the opening moto at the Canberra round.
On a track softened by steady rain, the second Lites final got underway and Marmont was again the star, scoring the holeshot and revelling in the conditions to hold the lead for the bulk of the race. However, the KTM rider snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when he crashed trying to regain the lead from Bopping, who had passed Marmont on the final lap. Moss took advantage of Marmont's misfortune to make it a Suzuki 1-2 finish, while Advanti Yamaha's Robbie Marshall came from nowhere to claim the final podium place. Larsen also had an off-track excursion while running in second place and had to settle for fourth at the finish. Bopping's win is his first in Super X competition and the 21-year old from New South Wales was clearly rapt by the result.
"I've been waiting for this. It's great to come back after the big crash last week. The RM-Z250 was great, the team was great. I'm just super pumped!" Bopping enthused.
The survival format for the Open class riders made staying upright crucial, and the first of four races got underway with a dominant display from Justin Brayton, who led from start to finish. Behind him, the minor placings were rotating between Windham, Hansen and Jake Moss (Rockstar Motul Suzuki), who was on the comeback trail after crashing twice at Canberra. Windham and Moss eventually claimed the minor podium places. Craig Anderson (Berry Sweet/Pro Grip/Talon Honda), Daniel McCoy (Coastal KTM) and Tye Simmonds (JDR Motorex KTM) were consistently quick, finishing well inside the top ten, but Jay Marmont (CDR Rockstar Yamaha) had a shocking start, in tenth at the end of the first lap, before struggling back to finish eighth. Cougar Bourbon Thor Honda's Todd Waters and Daniel Reardon had similarly disappointing starts, but both managed to avoid being eliminated.
Survival final two was a good one for Josh Hansen, who got away early and looked to have the measure of compatriots Windham and Brayton, before a small mistake on lap five allowed both through. From there, Brayton rode away to another victory, followed by Windham and Hansen. Moss was the best-placed Aussie, while Marmont improved to fifth, followed by Simmonds and Alessi, who continues to struggle in the series. McCoy crashed out on the opening lap, while Reardon and Waters once again only just avoided elimination, finishing ninth and tenth respectively.
Survival final three started to sort the wheat from the chaff, and as per the previous two finals, the American riders were strong from the start. This time, however, it was Hansen's time to shine. The Kawasaki rider bolted from the gate and held the lead until the finish, recording the quickest race lap in the process. Reardon was an early challenger, putting in a blazing pair of opening laps before dropping off on lap three, which allowed Moss and Windham through, the latter duelling for position with Brayton for the remainder of the race. At the elimination cut-off point, Marmont was having his own battle with Reardon, but the CDR rider prevailed to make it through to the final five-rider race, joining the three Americans and Moss.
The final survival race was a classic. Hansen again took the early lead from Brayton, the Kawasaki versus Yamaha battle eventually going the way of the blue team when Brayton passed Hansen on lap four. Behind them, Marmont came out swinging, passing Windham early and moving into a podium spot. But two laps later the CDR rider made a small mistake that allowed Windham to re-pass for third place.
Moss scored the fastest lap of the race on lap two, but his race was done when he dropped out on the sixth lap after crashing at turn one. Confusion reigned when the 'last lap' board was accidentally produced one lap too early, which may have been a factor in Brayton being able to hold off Hansen and make it three wins from four starts.
The round win went the way of Brayton, who had promised a big finish for his farewell appearance, but Hansen retains the series lead.
"This has just capped off a great month I have had in Australia" Brayton said after the race.
"I am excited to go out on top, but it's a little bittersweet because I would like to stay and race the whole series. I have had such a good time here in Australia and I really hope I can come back and compete here again next year.
"I really want to thank the team at Super X for bringing me out here and for putting on such good events, as well as Craig Dack and his team for making me feel right at home."
With US stars rotating throughout the series, the real battle is for the number one local rider. On that count, Jay Marmont is comfortably ahead. Take Chad Reed out of the mix (who's unlikely to return as he continues to search for an AMA ride for 2011), and the CDR Rockstar Yamaha rider has consistently been the fastest local, followed by Jake Moss. Daniel Reardon was quick at the opening round, but failed to find pace in the slippery conditions at Canberra and wasn't in serious contention at Launceston either.
Super X heads to New Zealand for the next two rounds before returning to Australia for the penultimate round at Parramatta Stadium on November 27 and the finale at Brisbane's QSAC Stadium on December 4. Go to www.superx.com.au for full results, ticketing info and further details.
SUPER X Championship Results - after 3 of 7 rounds
1. Josh HANSEN (USA), Monster Energy / Pro Circuit, Kawasaki, 130
2. Justin BRAYTON (USA), Muscle Milk / Toyota / JGRMX, Yamaha, 121
3. Jay MARMONT, CDR / Rockstar / Yamaha, Yamaha, 106
4. Kevin WINDHAM (USA), Geico Powersports / Team Honda, Honda, 95
5. Daniel REARDON, Cougar Bourbon / Honda / Thor, Honda, 92
1. Matt MOSS, Team Rockstar / Motul / Suzuki, Suzuki, 157
2. P.J. LARSEN, JDR / Motorex / KTM, KTM, 140
3. Ryan MARMONT, JDR / Motorex / KTM, KTM, 118
4. Lawson BOPPING, Team Rockstar / Motul / Suzuki, Suzuki, 105
5. Cody MACKIE, Kawasaki Racing / Cool Air Cond., Kawasaki, 98
A popular sideshow to the main event at Launceston was a pair of all-new exhibition races - the Super X Eliminator Challenge and the Super X International Relay Challenge. The latter was a team affair, pitting five US riders against the cream of local talent, where each rider rode a lap and a half before 'tapping' the next rider into the relay format. Team USA was made up of Windham, Hansen, Brayton, Alessi and Larsen, while Team Australia consisted of Jay Marmont, Reardon, Simmonds and the Moss twins.
Matt Moss was the lead rider for Team Australia and got the locals off to a great start in the first leg against Larsen, then tapped in Simmonds who maintained the lead by holding off Alessi. Brayton and Marmont were up next, with Brayton unable to gain enough ground. Hansen and Jake Moss followed with Moss maintaining the lead. Reardon and Windham finished off the race changing the lead numerous times, but a small slip up from Reardon on the rhythm section allowed Windham to pass and take the win for Team USA by less than a second.
Kevin Windham won the Super X Eliminator Challenge, taking home a $1000 cash prize.
Source: JUST BIKES, December 2010, Issue #258