The fifth round of the AMA Supercross West Lites Series marked the first round for FMF/KTM rider PJ Larsen after earning a replacement ride on the Factory KTM Team just days prior to the race. Larsen’s eventual 8th place finish at Qualcomm Stadium satisfied his new team and presents a mark to improve from going into the next week’s race.
With only a few days to prepare for the Supercross round, (Larsen has been focusing on motocross for his ride with the JDR Motorsports/Moterex/KTM Team in Australia) Larsen came to San Diego excited for his new challenge and ready to place his KTM bike in the top of the pack. “Despite the fact that I didn’t have much time to practice for Supercross, I felt confident going into this round,” remarked Larsen. “My KTM motor and suspension are great, and when you have confidence in your bike, everything else comes naturally.”
The early morning rain storm caused the track officials to delay practice until 5:30pm that evening, allowing only one timed practice session for each group. Larsen was in the first practice group and put in a good run earning the fastest lap time in his practice session and the tenth fastest qualifying lap time overall. After practice, he and fellow KTM rider, Phil Nicoletti, began to prep for heat #1.
When the gate dropped for the first Lites heat, Nicoletti (pictured) got off to a great start putting his St. Lawrence Radiology/Alessi Racing/KTM in 2nd position around the first turn. Larsen didn’t have as great of a jump and came around mid-pack. Halfway around the first lap Nicoletti was able to pass the current leader, Max Anstie, to take over 1st place. Meanwhile, Larsen had started his climb through the pack and sat in 5th as they crossed over the finish line on lap number one. Nicoletti continued to hold the front position for the next three laps, successfully holding off a hard charging Wil Hahn, followed by Max Anstie, Travis Baker and PJ Larsen. On the fourth lap, in an aggressive pass, Hahn snatched the lead from Nicoletti. With two laps to go, Nicoletti remained close and finished 2nd in the heat, Larsen crossed the line in 6th overall.
In the Last Chance Qualifier, the KTM Factory Service/One Industry rider Sean Borkenhagen, KTM privateer rider Hugo Dagod and Jake Canada battled for the final qualifying position in the quick four lap sprint. On the last lap and final turn, Dagod came on strong and put a block pass on Canada for the final transfer position.
With the rain still holding off, the main event was set to start right on schedule. The riders lined the gate ready to put in a solid fifteen laps. As the riders rounded the first turn, Nicoletti squeezed his KTM up into a top five position with Larsen a few spots back around 9th. With one lap down, Nicoletti held 4th position with Larsen back in 9th. On lap two, Nicoletti slipped to 5th position when Cole Seely was able to get by while Larsen moved up one spot passing Antonio Balbi for 8th. The two riders remained consistent and held their positions for the majority of the race. Larsen climbed as high as 7th position and held that place from lap 4 to lap 13 until he was passed by Trey Canard with two laps to go. Larsen eventually crossed the finish line in 8th place with Nicoletti a few seconds ahead in 7th.
“Overall I am happy with my result tonight,” remarked Larsen. “I tightened up around lap ten because I haven’t been riding Supercross lately. But I feel good. I am happy with a top ten finish in my first race this season and I hope to improve upon that finish at Anaheim 3 next week.”
Larsen will race the Anaheim 3 Supercross for the FMF/KTM Team at Anaheim 3 and hopes to be joined by Tommy Searle who has been on the sidelines since Anaheim 2, recovering from a shoulder injury.
POS. RIDER MANUFACT. NAT.
1 12 Jake Weimer Kawasaki
2 200 Cole Seely Honda
3 49 Wil Hahn Honda
4 48 Max Anstie Yamaha
5 20 Broc Tickle Yamaha
6 38 Trey Canard Honda
7 175 Phillip Nicoletti KTM
8 44 PJ Larsen KTM
9 21 Blake Wharton Honda
10 102 Christopher Gosselaar Honda
POS. RIDER MANUFACT. NAT. POINTS
1 12 Jake Weimer Kawasaki 122
2 38 Trey Canard Honda 96
3 49 Wil Hahn Honda 94
4 20 Broc Tickle Yamaha 78
5 200 Cole Seely Honda 76
15 19 Tommy Searle KTM 27