This Year in Photos: Kawasaki SXThursday, November 24, 2011 | 10:00 AM
By: Jason Weigandt and Chase Stallo
[Note: Click on the brand name to view the past entries.]
[Photos: Simon Cudby, Andrew Fredrickson, The Medium Group]
After referring to himself as “Barica’s bitch” after their skirmish at the opening round in Houston, Dean Wilson came out firing on all cylinders when the series returned two weeks later in Atlanta. Barcia’s teammate Blake Wharton went down while leading opening the door for Wilson to knife through and get the win. Wilson looked like the heavy championship favorite after the win—and the subsequent aftermath in which it was reviled that Barcia was suffering from a broken hand.
When the series hit the sunny beaches of Daytona, two Monster Energy Kawasaki riders found themselves in the thick of a heated championship battle. Dean Wilson, who was established himself as a title favorite after his win in Atlanta, and Blake Baggett, who was riding high after his back-to-back podiums to being the year. Baggett shined under the lights of Daytona, taking his first win under the Pro Circuit tent, while Wilson struggled to an eighth place finish after an early crash, causing a snowball effect the next week in Indy, basically taking him out of the title hunt.
After a less than stellar 2010 SX season Matt Lemoine, the former Star Racing Yamaha prodigy, was left trying to resurrect a once promising career. A slow start would once again handicap the Texas native through the first three rounds of the East Lites series. But Indianapolis proved to be the turning point Lemoine had been searching for. Although he would fall short of his first career podium, finishing fourth, Lemoine looked to be back at the forefront of the Lites class. Lemoine would back up his breakout ride in Indy with another top five in his home state of Texas, and cap off a career season with a sixth at Vegas. The Kawasaki privateer would finish the season sixth overall in points, including eight top 10’s in nine races.
Following back-to-back wins in Atlanta and Daytona, Ryan Villopoto was quietly running away with the 2011 championship. After early season fireworks from Stewart, Reed and company, RV was beginning to show his dominance. Indianapolis would prove to be the tipping point in Villopoto’s season, as he once again ran away from the field en route to his third consecutive victory. It was beginning to look like the RV show the rest of the way until…
After capturing his first win with his new team in Daytona—Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki—Blake Baggett entered Jacksonville brimming with confidence and right in the thick of the title chase. Meanwhile, in the Supercross Class Ryan Villopoto has just reeled off three consecutive wins and was in total command of the points lead. Then came Jacksonville.
The right hand first turn would wreck havoc on the Kawasaki duo. First it was Baggett that got caught in a first turn pile up in the LCQ, with Villopoto doing the same moments later—tangling with JGR’s Justin Brayton. Villopoto would escape with minimal damage done, as James Stewart would also succumb to the wrath of the first turn and gained only three points. But it was a different story for Baggett. He lost valuable points to Justin Barcia and Dean Wilson, essentially taking him out of the title hunt.
In the murky waters of AMA Monster Energy Supercross three privateers shined bright out west—and it just so happens they all did it aboard a Kawasaki. Long-time journeyman Ben Evans produced one of his best seasons to date in 2011, finishing inside the top ten in points—helped by two top-ten appearances in San Diego and Salt Lake City.
One of the truly surprising and under-the-radar riders in 2011 was Bruce Rutherford. After back-to-back top ten performances at Oakland and A2 many were left searching their programs wondering just who was #795? Hindered by some missed main events, Rutherford would finish the season fourteenth overall in points, but he opened the eyes of many with some fantastic rides throughout 2011.
Last, but certainly not least, in the privateer carousel out west was Jake Canada. Although he banged on the door of the top ten all season, Canada was never able to breakthrough. But he did finish seventeenth overall and turned a great performance outdoors into a ride with MotoConcepts for the 2012 season.
Coming off a 2010 SX West Lites title Jake Weimer was poised to join the ranks of Reed, Canard, Stewart and the Ryans at the forefront of the Supercross Class. But it never came to fruition as Weimer was sidelined with a broken arm after crashing during testing. After spending almost the entire season on the mend, Weimer would make debut at Salt Lake City. Showing a little rust, he finished seventh. Weimer would back up his impressive debut with a sixth at the season finale in Vegas.
Championship pressure was in the air, as the series embarked on the snowy mountains of Salt Lake City. And no one was feeling that pressure more than Josh Hansen. After getting off to a commanding lead with consecutive wins to open the season, Hansen had been reeling since suffering a devastating hand injury. Things got feisty early between Hansen and fellow title contender Eli Tomac as the two rubbed paint in their heat race. The feisty battle quickly reached a boiling point in the main as Tomac got off to an early lead with Hansen in tow. The wily veteran wasted little time trying to pressure the young rookie into a mistake, running Tomac high early and often. Then Hansen made a desperation move early and went after Tomac hard. Hansen went down, with his championship hopes not far behind, while Tomac ran away with the victory keeping his title hopes alive.
The Lites West finale featured a dramatic championship battle between Tomac and Tickle. The two contenders went back and forth throughout the main event, but Tomac held the advantage late in the race. That was until he got held up battling Cole Seely for position (Seely was recovering from a crash) and later a charging Kyle Cunningham got into the mix. Tickle sliced through the traffic and made clutch passes, grabbing the title in dramatic fashion--but with a touch of controversy.
Things were more clear cut in the big class, where Villopoto only needed a podium to wrap the title. But it got crazy when James Stewart crashed from the lead and took Kevin Windham down with him--Villopoto was barely able to sneak past unharmed. He yielded to Reed and Dungey and clinched his first career AMA Supercross Championship in what many called the greatest season ever. For Kawasaki, it certainly was about as good as it gets.
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