The opening round of the 2009 season marked a new era for supermoto with XTRM Sports Network promoting AMA Pro Supermoto. This year’s pro series will make six stops on the calendar at venues all over the Western states, including a round at the Summer X Games and a grand finale in the majestic mountain community of Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
In addition to the XTRM AMA Pro Series, there will also be five rounds of the XTRM AMA Amateur Supermoto National Championship the day before the big boys hit the track. The amateur series will make three more stand-alone stops on their calendar before heading to Mammoth for the final event of the year.
The start of the season saw the return of 2006 450/Premier champion Jeff Ward to Team Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/Honda/Seaspan/PPG and the 2007 450 number-one plate rider Mark Burkhart made the switch from Graves Factory Yamaha to Monster Energy/HMC/Burkhart Racing/KTM. Two-time 250/Lites champion Brandon Currie made the jump to the 450 class aboard a BC Racing Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha YZ450F.
The opening round took place at Auto Club Speedway during the AMA Superbike weekend in Fontana, Calif. A special track was built for the supermoto race inside the stadium. After dodgy weather kept the track wet during the morning practice sessions and qualifying, the sun broke through and dried the track out just in time for the main events.
It was no surprise to see Burkhart on the pole for the main event but when the light turned green, Jeff Ward, a seasoned veteran and motorcycle legend, took the early lead. Burkhart was right there from the get-go while CHM Exhaust/Honda/Pro Oils rider Sylvain Bidart held down the third position. It didn’t take long for Burkhart to make the pass on Ward and the idea was to check out. Ward held steadfast and wasn’t about to allow Burkhart to spoil his full-time return to the series and was hot on Burkhart’s tail.
Last year’s 450 series champion, Troy Herfoss, landed a Factory Suzuki ride to road race in Australia this season. He will be missed and he was bummed he couldn’t run his well-deserved number-one plate but the opportunity to go road racing aboard a Factory bike was too good to pass up.
Meanwhile, Currie was mounting his attack and made a bold move on Bidart in the dirt through the whoops and made a block pass to take the position and advance into third place. Up front, Burkhart may have been a tad overzealous and that got the best of the former champ and he ended up tucking the front wheel and going down. This mistake opened the door for Wardy to take over where he had started the race but the battle was far from done. Currie was all over Ward’s tire like a three-year-old on his mother’s skirt.
At one point, it looked like Currie had the upper hand and it was only a matter of time before he made his move. But while Currie looked ahead, he had to keep an eye on Bidart who had reeled the leaders back in and was mounting his own charge.
Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, Currie got chopped down at the knees. Hot on Ward’s tail, the young Currie clipped his foot peg on a inner corner marker one turn before the dirt and down he went. He sprung back up in a flash only to go down several more times while trying to make up for lost ground.
The charge to the front was all Burkhart. Recapturing his composure after sliding out, Burkhart piloted his Monster Energy/HMC/KTM through the field and ended up passing his way all the way back to third place at the finish. Ward crossed the line with his first AMA victory in well over a year while the European rider Bidart put himself on the podium in second place and his CHM teammate, Micky Dymond, finished fourth.
With Currie exiting the class, the championship is up for grabs this season. As expected, Matt Burton would be a likely contender after running right with Currie several times in 2008. The class also welcomed the newest member of the TLD/Red Bull/Honda squad, Joey Pascarella. When the Red Bull Rookies Cup was cancelled for 2009 in America, the young phenom was seeking a ride and he found a home at TLD. The boy is fast and he proved that riding the final round of the season in ’08 aboard a 450. Despite several crashes, including one during the main event, Pascarella showed he has what it takes to possibly take the title.
The start of the race saw Mach 1 Motorsports-backed Danny Casey yank the holeshot and take the early lead. Burton was hot on his tail and in no time applied the pressure. The two riders locked bikes exiting the dirt and Casey received the short end of the stick. Casey would recover and end up finishing third.
With Burton out front, the race was on as Pascarella was on the gas and starting to close in slightly. Pascarella pushed just a little too hard and slid out in a low-speed corner. He was able to remount in a flash and retain his position. In the end, Burton claimed his first career Supermoto National win while the rookie Pascarella flew the TLD colors with pride with a solid runner-up position.
In a Cinderella story that fell in Steve Drew’s direction in ’08, he is the only rider back to defend his title from last season. With support from Mach 1 Motorsports and the Rockstar Hart & Huntington team, Drew earned the right to fly the big single digit.
Drew leapt out into the early lead in the main but it was Josh Chisum hot on his tail early. Chiz went down and gave up his prime position to KTM’s Kurt Nicoll. Nicoll pushed and pushed to close the gap on Drew and make a go for the lead. Drew over pushed his limits in the whoops a bit too much and blew through the berm giving up the spot. By the time Drew got back on the track, Nicoll had yarded him. He made a valiant effort to close the gap back up and at one point did make up some real estate but it was too little, too late and the champ had to settle for second.
Monte Frank showed up to the event with one of the unique 2009 Husaberg 570 enduro bikes. With supermoto forks, wheels and a slip-on exhaust, Frank made the ‘Berg look like it was born as a supermoto machine. Frank put in a career-best finish in the class with his first podium.
The next XTRM AMA Pro Supermoto Championship event is set for May 16-17 in Sonoma, Calif., at Infineon Raceway. This is a combined event and will feature round two of the Amateur National Championship as well as the Pro National. For more information about either series visit xtrm.com/supermoto.
1 Jeff Ward HON
2 Sylvain Bidart HON
3 Mark Burkhart KTM
4 Micky Dymond HON
5 Brandon Currie YAM
6 Derek Costella HON
7 Kiyoshi Saai HON
8 Martin Lind HIG
9 Jason Conlon HON
10 Travis Marks HON
1 Matt Burton KTM
2 Joey Pascarella HON
3 Dan Casey HON
4 Jacob Lehmann HON
5 Dustin Hoffman HON
6 Steve Marty KTM
7 Dillon Van Way KTM
8 Sean Butterman YAM
9 Mike Ingle KTM
10 Brandon Ward HON
1 Kurt Nicoll KTM
2 Steve Drew KTM
3 Monte Frank BERG
4 Justin Ross KTM
5 Josh Chisum KTM
6 Craig Peyron KTM
7 Doni Wanat KTM
8 Matt Stewart HUS
9 Dustin Sullivan KTM
10 Chris Kemp KTM
10 Chris Kemp KTM