RACE REPORT: World Supercross Round Two: Abu Dhabi
The second round of World Supercross, after many delays and a change of ownership for the series, finally went ahead at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on what many are describing as an Arenacross-type circuit.
Words: Ben Rumbold, Images: WSX
With a single whoop pad, three tight s-bends, and a section constructed between two Loading Bay doors which led outside the stadium briefly, one attendant of the race told Dirt Hub beforehand that “Passing will be at a premium”, and while the soil held up despite early concerns about how soft it would be, the passing would prove to be difficult, but as a result it was a thoroughly entertaining night of action for the two main classes which got broadcast on a Saturday lunchtime in the UK – and in the old “Big Daddy” wrestling flavour of that classic sports TV slot, there were goodies and baddies to cheer and boo throughout the show!
The format, which gives two quick-fire motos for each class before a break to prepare for the longer final ones, was less influential on the results as the “Super Pole” qualifying system, which saw both #1 plate holders given second-row starts. Each 20-rider grid was split into two rows of ten, with dog-house in the middle of it all. One strange side effect is that those gate positions are then set – so even when a couple of riders were out injured, their spaces were not filled – not a good look and something I think the organisers will have to look at.
It left both Ken Roczen in the 450cc WSX class and Shane McElrath in the 250cc SX2 class with tough nights ahead of them, and both would lose their series lead, although Kenny’s red-plate loss was more due to racing incidents. McElrath simply never got going, and 9th overall leaves him a distance behind Max Anstie, who took a stunning 3-1-1 card for Firepower Honda to the GP win and a strong 32-point lead over the defending champ!
Roczen, like Anstie, was the class of the field in terms of speed and especially through that whoop pad, and apart from a final-corner crash in the first Main he would have been on for the win again. As it was, he finally nailed it to the chequered flag in race three, remarkably so when it looked like he would be out with a leg injury after limping back to his bike after that crash. Kenny said “My foot got squished between frame and dirt, and that was the painful one, but I’m glad we got out of here somewhat healthy.”
Joey Savatgy picked up the overall win for Rick Ware Racing with a 2-3-2 card, ahead of Dean Wilson’s 6-1-3 and Vince Friese’s 3-2-8, although Friese was most definitely the “baddie” of the night after cannoning Wilson out of the first race win, then cutting the track after Savatgy knocked him off it, able to rejoin the other side of a pillar on the outdoor section of track – it would have been a bit wise if the ability to do that would have been blocked beforehand, but Vince took advantage of that, and amazingly all protests against his finishes did not result in any penalties.
SX2 Race 1 – Chris Blose holeshot on the Nils Honda and pulled clear, with all the action going on behind him. Wilson Todd held 2nd for Firepower Honda but then fell back as Luke Clout and Anstie moved forward from average starts. Anstie with a great round-the-outside move on Todd to take 3rd as Maxime Desprey nipped through to 2nd in the final couple of laps.
SX2 R2 – Anstie with no mistake, holeshot this time and checked out! Clout was originally 2nd but Cole Thompson knocked his handlebar into turn two and the Aussie went down! Justin Bogle went down also & McElrath again got caught in a tangle from his 2nd row startpad.
Max pulled away and cleared off, although there was a timing glitch that had all the TV producers and cameramen thinking that Maxime Desprey was winning! He even took the chequered and set off the fireworks! Either way, Max did his title chances the world of good with a clear win as McElrath could only manage 8th. Blose & Anstie were tied on points for the overall going into the final moto!
WSX R1 – Friese holeshot on his MotoConcepts Honda, everyone’s worst nightmare! Kenny’s Pipes Motorsports Suzuki was second-last through the first corner due to his second-row start slot. Wilson was 2nd for most of the race but unable to nip past despite his superior whoops speed. Justin Brayton & Aaron Tanti went down hard on the first lap after the outdoor section, and neither would race again all night.
Wilson was faster through the whoops on his Firepower Honda but unable to pass. Friese held up Wilson as Matt Moss briefly got past Deano, before stalling after two further corners! Soubeyras, Aranda, and Savatgy chased as Roczen carved thru to 6th, then passed both Cedric and Joey as they tangled in a corner! Wilson was constantly frustrated by Friese, “he was brake-checking me through the tunnel and we were doing like 2 miles an hour”, allowing Aranda and Roczen to close, before Aranda came up short and went over the bars on lap 8!
Wilson finally nailed the pass, but Friese retaliated with typical savagery to put him on the floor after the triple! This gave Kenny two laps to work on Vince and again Friese was able to make his Honda the widest ever made. Trying to make a move on the final corner, Kenny skated round on the hard-pack final turn and looked in real pain! Friese took the win as Savatgy inherited 2nd, while Kenny limped back onto his bike and crossed the line eventually as the final finisher in 14th.
WSX R2 – Savatgy this time grabbed the holeshot, but the menace of Friese barged past and Wilson followed him in the second corner. The rematch was on! Wilson able to blitz past on the inside line through the whoops to take the lead cleanly this time! Kenny worked through the pack again despite the pain from his foot, into 4th past Mitch Oldenburg on lap 5. On lap 8 the Suzuki man blasted past Joey through the whoops for 3rd! Wilson held on to win from Friese, Roczen, and Savatgy.
SX2 Race 3:
Blose again holeshot from Anstie, but Max passed after whoops on lap 3 to set up an easy cruise to victory. Desprey, crucially for Max’s GP win, moved up to 2nd on lap 6 and stayed there with Blose in 3rd at the flag. McElrath was unable to make his way into the top 10 this time, with Max pulling away for the GP win and a 32-point championship lead!
WSX Race 3:
Friese again holeshot but this time it was Savatgy’s turn to grab the lead immediately! Phil Nicoletti for FXR Club MX Yamaha was 2nd briefly ahead of Oldenburg before Mitch fell! Friese then barged into the lead on lap 3, as Savatgy in his enforced bobble allowed a flying Kenny into 2nd. On lap 5, the German’s speed through the whoops got him around the #3 before he could do a thing about it!
On lap 7, Joey pushed Vince off the track for 2nd but then he rejoined – still in 2nd! A frustrated Savatgy was then backed up into Aranda & Wilson. On lap 9, Joey had to push Greg out, allowing Deano into 4th! Kenny checked out, and on lap 11 Friese slid out of 2nd in the same place as wehere Ken crashed in race one! Joey held off Deano back for 2nd place, which was enough to secure the overall win for the GP and leave the desert with the Championship lead!
Tempers were running high as the podium men got interviewed, Savatgy trying to stay calm by saying “some of us are respectful when we race, but the brake-checking and cross-jumping is not what I’m about.” Deano took a solid 2nd overall and acknowledge that Friese’s tactics were “toughening me up!”. Friese acknowledged that with the “Arenacross-style track you’ve gotta be aggressive. Dean whines a little bit, he’s a bit of a whiner but we’re toughening him up, and we’ll race him again in a couple weeks.”
It’s actually three weeks, as the series concludes in Australia on the 25th of November.
World Championship Standings:
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