|Following a dominant performance last week, Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen was confident and poised to deliver another strong result at round five of the AMA Supercross series in Oakland, California, and although he did manage a creditable third-place result, he and his team left with mixed emotions. When the gate dropped on the main event, Roczen continued his streak of strong starts, driving his CRF450R to another holeshot and early lead. The German rode smoothly up front for the first half of the 20-minute-plus-one-lap race but came under fire from Eli Tomac and relinquished the lead on lap 11. Roczen stayed close behind, which paid off when Tomac made a mistake on lap 15 and Roczen regained the lead, but late mistakes cost Roczen the lead to Tomac and then then runner-up position to Cooper Webb in the last turn.
Although teammate Justin Brayton was disappointed in his final result of 13thplace, he left Oakland pleased with his overall speed and bike setup. Following a third-place finish in his heat race, Brayton couldn’t manage the main-event start he needed to secure a good track position. While running ninth on the opening lap, he got tangled with fellow Red Rider Vince Friese, who had stalled his bike in a corner. Brayton was delayed in getting back underway, falling back to 22nd. With 21 laps ahead of him, Brayton put his head down and mounted a strong come-from-behind ride, working his way to 13thby the checkered flag.
- On race day, the schedule was slightly different than normal, with everything taking place an hour earlier. Track walk kicked off the day at 9 a.m. and opening ceremonies got underway at 5 p.m. Although the schedule only differed by an hour, Ken Roczen preferred it. “It was nice finishing the night a little earlier,” he said. “It would be awesome to have this as our regular program.”
- During the morning track walk, riders and teams were pleasantly surprised to find a completely different type of Oakland dirt than what has been used in previous years. “I heard they sifted it quite a bit, so it was really nice,” Justin Brayton said. “There wasn’t all the asphalt and rock debris that normally seems to be in it. When we walked the track, it was soft, and not a rock in sight. It still got pretty rutty in some transitions, but not too bad. I wasn’t a huge fan of the overall layout this week but the first four have been great, so the guys are doing a good job.”
- Both Team Honda HRC riders struggled to find their rhythm during daytime qualifying, with Roczen landing sixth-fastest with a 1’.154” lap, while Brayton was 11thwith a 1’.701” time. Smartop/MotoConcepts/Bullfrog Spas Honda’s Justin Hill, Malcolm Stewart and Vince Friese were seventh, 12thand 14th, respectively.
- Slotted in 450SX heat 1, Roczen continued his run of strong starts, rocketing to the holeshot. He was briefly overtaken on the opening lap but regained control of the front spot prior to the green flag. In what would be a precursor to the night’s main event, Roczen and Eli Tomac battled hard throughout the seven-lap race, with Roczen triumphing and taking his third heat-race win of the season. In heat two, Brayton got off the line to a top-five start, moving into fourth on the opening lap. A few laps later, he made a mistake and stalled, causing him to lose one position. He quickly got underway again, making two passes before the checkered flag to finish third.
- Although not reflected in his main event result, it was a notable night for Smartop/MotoConcepts/Bullfrog Spas Honda’s Justin Hill, as he scored an impressive heat-race win after getting the holeshot and leading unchallenged throughout the six-minute-plus-one-lap race. Hill was running sixth during the main event, but mistakes caused him to lose positions, resulting in an eighth-place finish. “This weekend was much better than the one before, that’s for sure,” Hill said. “I don’t know what it is about Oakland, but I always feel good here. I was stoked to get the heat-race win and felt really good. Tonight I should’ve been top-five, for sure. I had a really good pace right off the get-go and most of the first half, but I struggled behind Zach [Osborne]; I stabbed at him a few times but didn’t set up my passes correctly. I tightened up after that, made some critical mistakes, and [Justin] Barcia and [Dean] Wilson got by me. I’m happy with my progress and I feel like I am a better rider and man than I was a week ago.”
- As has been the case at every round of the season thus far, Honda had more riders in the main event than any other manufacturer, at six. In addition to the Team Honda HRC duo and Smartop/MotoConcepts/Bullfrog Spas Honda’s trio, privateer Cade Autenrieth transferred into the main, via a third-place finish in the LCQ.
- With the GEICO Honda team absent in Oakland, the Australian-based Penrite Honda squad carried the flag for the Red Riders in the 250SX West class. Both Mitchell Oldenburg and Luke Clout started the night off strong, riding impressively in their heat race, where they ran 1-2 for some time before finishing third and fourth, respectively. The duo continued to impress in the main event, as they each notched a season-best result, with Clout finishing fifth and Oldenburg sixth.
- This week, the Honda Red Riders head back to Southern California for round six at Petco Park in downtown San Diego. On Friday from 6 to 7 p.m., the riders will take part in a dealer appearance at Fun Bike Center.
Mandie Fonteyn // Jonnum Media // firstname.lastname@example.org// +1 (951) 537-0454