A Season of Firsts in the U.S. Motorcycle Racing

Checkers

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Tom Hnatiw, Andrea Wilson, Simon Cudby

Talk about too much news to report... The five-week period from April 17th through May 22nd saw no fewer than four "firsts" in U.S. motorcycle racing. It all started when Ryan Dungey clinched the 2010 AMA Supercross Championship-the first premier-class rookie to do so since Jeremy McGrath 17 years ago and, at age 20, the youngest ever. The season started off with fireworks when former champions James Stewart and Chad Reed tangled and got hurt, forcing them to sit out the remainder. The title chase then became a battle between two Ryans: Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Dungey and Monster Energy Kawasaki's Villopoto. RV came out of the gate slow, but went on a tear mid-season, winning seven races. Both Ryans suffered some serious crashes, none more so than in St. Louis, where after taking out Dungey and himself early on, Villopoto remounted only to come up spectacularly short on a double, breaking his lower leg. That handed the crown to his rival with three rounds remaining. Dungey's championship, in which he won six races, validated the decision of one Roger DeCoster, the five-time world champion and current Suzuki race boss who plucked the Minnesotan from the amateur ranks on the strength of his polite manners, dogged work ethic and blazing corner speed. It didn't hurt to have the "GOAT," Ricky Carmichael, in his corner either.

Next, on May 1st, Joe Kopp gave Ducati its first win in an AMA Grand National dirt-track race, winning the inaugural mile at Arizona's Yavapai Downs. Brothers David and Michael Lloyd (collectively Lloyd Brothers Racing) have been trying to put an Italian bike in winner's circle since 2005, first with Aprilias and lately with Ducatis. Larry Pegram made the show on a stock-framed Ducati GT1000 last year at Springfield, and just missed out on making the main at Indy. But this year former champ Kopp agreed to ride the bike on the miles, and after an off-season spent developing the machine, he took home the gold in his first attempt. This marked the first loss for Harley-Davidson on a mile since the late Ricky Graham won on a Honda at Springfield 17 years ago. Are you sensing a theme here? And the team's reward: The AMA promptly mandated smaller restrictor plates!

Two weeks later came another milestone, when Elena Myers became the first-ever female to win an AMA roadrace national, taking the Supersport victory on day one of the West Coast Moto Jam at Northern California's Infineon Raceway. Granted, the finish was anti-climactic, as leader Joey Pascarella crashed to bring out a race-ending red flag. Thus Myers didn't even realize she had won until officials told her! But she had taken her turn at the front on her Roadracing World Suzuki GSX-R600, and came home a very respectable fourth on day two.

Last, just as this issue was going to press, came another first: Eli Tomac won the Lites race at the opening round of the AMA Motocross Championship at Hangtown near Sacramento, becoming the first MX racer in U.S. history to win in his professional debut. The 17-year-old GEICO Powersports Honda Factory Connection rider-and son of mountain bike legend John Tomac-has had a stellar amateur career, winning the 2009 FIM Junior World Championship and the AMA Sportsman of the Year award. But no one expected this-least of all him.

We can't wait to see what happens next...

By Brian Catterson
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