New Zealand Motocross star Ben Townley successfully made his return to professional racing at the opening round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship held in Sacramento California at the weekend.
The former world MX2 champ powered his Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda to two strong results posting a 6-7 score in the open class front of sell-out crowd at the demanding Hangtown circuit.
Townley qualified in 6th in the early morning timed sessions which gave him a good gate pic going into the first of two motos.
A good start saw the Kiwi come out 4th on the first lap as he was fending off a charging Josh Grant in the opening minutes.
Grant managed to pass Townley for 4th however he hung onto the American and set some blistering lap times as the leading bunch of riders including Chad Reed (Kawasaki), Mike Alessi (KTM), Davi Millsaps (Honda), Grant and Townley were putting on a great show for the thousands of enthusiastic spectators.
Townley was looking to set up Grant when he accidently stalled his machine and lost a place to Aussie Brett Metcalf. Sixth place at the chequered flag was a decent finish for his first outing.
Making some setting changes for the second moto, Townley once again grabbed a good start and quickly made a great pass on Ryan Sipes as he moved into a podium position.
With KTM’s Mike Alessi getting the holeshot and out front, Townley set his sights on fellow Honda racer Davi Millsaps. ‘BT’ made his move before the halfway point and immediately started to pull away from Millsaps as he rocketed into second behind Alessi.
As he tried to reel in the American, Townley made a mistake and went down before the whoop section and lost vital positions and points. He quickly remounted and salvaged 7th spot to end up 6th overall for the day.
“It was a really exciting day for me” admitted the 26-year-old. “I came into the race today not knowing if my speed was going to be good enough but I am confident that I still have it and feel that the result doesn’t really show what I was capable of today.
“My fitness still needs some work but that’s to be expected and we still have some work to do on the setup of the bike. The team are doing a great job and I can only see the results getting better from here. We have come away from round one with two solid rides and decent points – I made some mistakes which is normal for not having been on the bike for so long but I’m looking forward to the next races and to mixing it with the guys.”
Townley will also compete in round six of the FIM Motocross World Championship to be held in San Bernardino, California next weekend.
“I am really excited about racing the GP in Glen Helen. I really enjoy that circuit and need the extra time on the bike. It will be a good opportunity for us to find some good settings going into round two of the AMA Nationals in Texas the week after. It will also be great to race against old rivals and to see lots of my European friends.”
Round 1 of 12
450 Class (Moto Finish)
1. Chad Reed, Australia, Kawasaki (1-3)
2. Mike Alessi, Victorville, Calif., KTM (4-1)
3. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Honda (3-2)
4. Brett Metcalfe, Australia, Honda (5-4)
5. Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Yamaha (2-10)
6. Ben Townley, New Zealand, Honda (6-7)
7. Ryan Sipes, Flaherty, Ky., Yamaha (7-8)
8. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., Suzuki (10-6)
9. Ken DeDycker, Belgium, Yamaha (8-11)
10. Andrew Short, Smithville, Tex., Honda (15-5)
450 Class Championship Standings
1. Chad Reed, Australia, Kawasaki, 45
2. Mike Alessi, Victorville, Calif., KTM, 43
3. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 42
4. Brett Metcalfe, Australia, Honda, 34
5. Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Yamaha, 33
6. Ben Townley, New Zealand, Honda, 29
7. Ryan Sipes, Flaherty, Ky., Yamaha, 27
8. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., Suzuki, 26
9. Ken DeDycker, Belgium, Yamaha, 23
10. Andrew Short, Smithville, Tex., Honda, 22
© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com