The opening round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross has come and gone, and now, the true grind of the 17-date series begins.
Last weekend in Anaheim, Calif., the bar-to-bar action in the 450cc class was enthralling. Old rivalries showed their teeth on the track, unexpected contenders made waves with undeniable performances and other riders were met with heartbreak at the first corner.
When all was said and done, Star Racing Yamaha’s Eli Tomac collected the victory inside Angel Stadium, finally earning his first career win at the California opener after 10 years of trying. Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb came in second, while Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton rounded out the podium.
Is Tomac’s New YZ450F A Game Changer?
There’s been considerable buzz around the Yamaha YZ450F’s debut, but it’s hard to measure exactly where a bike stacks up without taking it into a race environment — even if the bike is five pounds lighter and the advantage seems like a no brainer.
Not even Tomac anticipated starting with such a strong performance.
“I honestly was surprised at how good we were for round one, and it being a new bike. It’s not easy, setting up a new motorcycle, no matter what anyone says,” Tomac said. “Somehow, we did start off in the right spot.”
Tomac had near-perfect starts in both his heat race and the main event, putting the No. 1 Yamaha in optimal position ahead of the field. Despite washing out on the tunnel jump midway through the race, he returned with a vengeance, tracking down Ken Roczen, Malcom Stewart and finally Sexton to reclaim the lead.
The main takeaway from Anaheim: Tomac is comfortable with his bike setup and confident with its potential moving forward. Now armed with an opening round victory, the defending Supercross champion is feeling like all the puzzle pieces are in place for another solid season.
“It took me 10 times to figure it out, how to get everything to go the right way for round one, from preseason to the race itself,” Tomac said. “Overall, such a good start for us with this new platform.”
His triumph also granted him sole possession of fourth on the all-time wins list.
He was previously tied with Chad Reed with 44 wins.
Webb Isn’t ‘Washed Up’
On the Friday before the Anaheim round, Webb joked with the media during the pre-race press conference and said, “I’m washed up.”
By Sunday morning, there was little doubt he was on his way back to the top.
In a typical Webb performance, the KTM rider waited until late in Saturday night’s race to make a charge to the front. With two minutes to go, Webb was tucked away in fifth. Following a crash by third-place Stewart, Webb passed Dylan Ferrandis and Sexton to finish second.
“It’s tough because, A1, everyone’s feisty and wanting to T-bone and we’re all excited,” Webb said. “I was really hoping just to get a top five or a podium probably about halfway, but I just started clicking away, guys made mistakes and it worked out.”
Leading up to Anaheim, Webb had been vocal about his difficult offseason and the relentless way that he pushed his Red Bull KTM team to get back to a championship level. During the post-race press conference, he elaborated on just how much work that process entailed.
“Engine, chassis, suspension, triple clamps, pretty much everything in the engine, transmission, foot pegs — pretty much every piece on that motorcycle,” Webb said, listing the parts on his KTM 450 SX-F that the team has tinkered with.
With his second-place finish, the progress was obvious.
“You’re going to have good tracks and bad tracks, but overall, I’m pretty happy. I think I changed one click today, which is unbelievable for me,” Webb said. “I’ll take that.”
Roczen And The Rest Of It
In his debut on the H.E.P. Motorsports Suzuki, Roczen logged a respectable fifth-place finish. In the early stages of the race, he remained in the mix, battling with past rivals Tomac and Webb for lead positions.
Roczen was initially cautious when stating his expectations for A1, but openly shared his feedback on the race with his fans over Instagram.
“I can’t even explain how happy I am to come out of there in one piece,” Roczen wrote on Monday. “I am totally OK to get away with a fifth place for the first round … We are working hard to keep building and we are taking it one race at a time.”
Unfortunately for H.E.P. Motorsports, Roczen’s teammate Shane McElrath flipped over his handlebars on the start stretch during the 450’s last chance qualifier. While uninjured, McElrath failed to qualify for the main.
Oakland Supercross Postponed, Forkner Out For Season
The rainy weather forecast for Oakland, Calif., during round two was severe enough that Supercross officials made the call to postpone the event — previously scheduled for January 14.
Racing will resume in San Diego, Calif., on January 21 and the series will make their return to Northern California on February 18.
Along with the cancellation announcement on Wednesday afternoon, Austin Forkner released the news that he would miss the remaining Supercross season with a knee injury sustained in Anaheim. This is the third year that Forkner has made an early exit from the series due to injury.