Villopoto looking to inflict more pain in Phoenix

After an exciting start to the season in front of a sold-out Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, heads to Phoenix this weekend for the second race of 2012 from Chase Field. Reigning champion, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, dominated last Saturday night, posting a flag-to-flag win and starting his title defense on a high note.

Media Day for this weekend’s action takes place on Thursday, January 12, from 12 noon until 2 p.m. MT, featuring Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX and MotoConcepts Suzuki.

Last weekend, Villopoto made a statement to his rivals with his impressive performance. After grabbing the Nuclear Cowboyz® Holeshot in the 20-lap main event, Villopoto sprinted through the opening laps, setting an exceptionally quick pace and opening up a healthy advantage over the field. Behind him, TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Honda’s Chad Reed, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, and Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX’s James Stewart engaged in a captivating battle for the runner-up spot that kept the capacity crowd on its feet, in an uproar. Ultimately, a crash by Stewart allowed Reed and Dungey to duel for second, with Reed prevailing.

After playing integral roles in the most competitive season in Monster Energy Supercross history in 2011, each of these four riders proved that there is more hotly-contested racing in store for 2012.

“It was a phenomenal night for me,” said Villopoto. “I didn’t have the heat race I wanted, so I didn’t have a great gate pick. Once I was out front, I wanted to lay down fast laps and make no mistakes. I did make one small one, but overall, it was a great race for me.”

The dominant effort by Villopoto not only gives the Washington native the early points lead, but also puts the pressure on his three closest rivals since none were able to contend with the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider once the gate dropped.

Reed added, “Villopoto made us look silly out here tonight. I am just happy to get second place tonight in this (deep) field of riders.”

While Villopoto’s early sprint made it difficult for his competitors to challenge for the win, the “big four” showed their exceptional talent as the only riders in the entire 20-man field to post a lap under 1:02.000 on an extremely technical and challenging track.

Even though Villopoto has delivered the first blow in the championship battle, there is no doubt that Reed, Dungey, and Stewart will be putting in extra hours both on the track and in the gym this week to come back stronger than ever inside Chase Field and respond with their own winning effort.

In the opening race of the Western Regional Supercross Lites Class Championship, Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely took advantage of a top-three start to grab his third professional victory and lead the point standings for the first time in his career.

Seely battled Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Tyla Rattray throughout the opening stages of the 15-lap main event, but took over the lead on Lap 4 and never looked back. Rattray fended off the advances of his teammate Dean Wilson to hold on to the runner-up spot, while GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac fought his way from a 10th-place start to pass Wilson for the third and final spot on the podium.

The Western Regional Supercross Lites Class is exceptionally deep in young talent, and it showed last Saturday. Seely will look to keep the momentum going this weekend in Phoenix, while is counterparts will also look to assert themselves in the short eight-race championship.

Last year in Phoenix, Villopoto was in search of back-to-back victories to start the season, and was on the heels of Stewart for the lead throughout the main event. However, a fall by Villopoto allowed Stewart to pull away and take the win. In the Supercross Lites Class, Josh Hansen captured the win for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki.

SPEED will broadcast the Supercross class race LIVE at 9:30pm EST on January 14, 2012.

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