New Zealand’s Ben Townley had another tough day at the office on Saturday, this time racing at the 10th round of 12 in this year’s national motocross championships in the United States.
The Honda rider from the Bay of Plenty qualified fastest in the 450cc class at Southwick, Massachusetts, and looked set for a blistering attack on the points table.
However, a glitch in moto one in which he collided with Australian Brett Metcalfe and went down, saw him finish out of the points and, despite storming back to finish runner-up to Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey in the second outing, that pair of results would give him no better than seventh overall for the day.
Rolling onto the start line for moto one, Townley was determined to get his first moto win under his belt. As the gate dropped, Townley grabbed a good jump and hung tight in the first turn, narrowly missing out on the hole-shot from fellow Honda racer Metcalfe.
Townley was all over the back of Metcalfe in the opening lap and anxious to make a pass on the Australian. On a fast downhill section, Townley tried to run up the inside of Metcalfe but touched his back wheel coming into the turn and went down. He quickly remounted but collided with Andrew Short minutes later and had to re-start again from the back of the pack. Townley put his head down and clawed his way through the field. With 5 minutes remaining he rocketed into 7th spot and was gaining on Kyle Chisholm and Kyle Regal when a technical problem forced the Kiwi to the sidelines.
Eager to make up for the disastrous outcome of the first moto, Townley once again grabbed a solid start and this time he quickly made his way to the front of the pack. With newly-crowned champion Dungey hot on his heels, Townley settled into a race rhythm and tried to gap Dungey but could not shake off the American. Dungey made his move on lap six while Townley latched on trying to keep up the pressure. The two riders left the rest of the field behind, however Dungey would also shake Townley to take a convincing win with Townley coming home in a well-deserved second place.
“I had a shot of winning that first moto and blew it,” said Townley “I was the fastest guy out there today but was just too eager and paid the price for it. I put my heart into fighting back after Short hit me and then we had a problem with the water pump which shattered any chances of an overall podium but that’s racing I guess. Ryan was really strong in the second moto and I didn’t have an answer for him which is frustrating but I also have to be realistic and focus on improving my strength.”
Meanwhile, it was a championship-clinching performance from Dungey, who had also won the first moto of the day, and he now has the title with two rounds up his sleeve.
Townley also had a tough outing at round eight at Washougal in July – he scored no points that day after he crashed in moto one and didn’t line up for moto two – but bounced back to finish sixth on the day at Unadilla last weekend.
That result allowed him to close in on Yamaha’s Josh Grant, who was fourth in the standings. After his result on Saturday Townley remains in fifth spot overall, but now it’s KTM’s Mike Alessi who is just ahead of him and Grant has dropped back to sixth place.
Townley hadn’t competed at this Southwick venue since 2007, when he raced the 250 class. While he won that day in 2007, the Kiwi hero was unlucky not to be able to translate that into success in the 450cc this time around.
Leading 450cc class standings after 10 of 12 rounds:
1. Ryan Dungey (Suzuki) 486 points;
2. Andrew Short (Honda) 317;
3. Brett Metcalfe (Honda) 314;
4. Mike Alessi (KTM) 273;
5. Ben Townley (Honda) 271;
6. Josh Grant (Yamaha) 260;
7. Kyle Chisholm (Yamaha) 216;
8. Chad Reed (Kawasaki) 204;
9. Kyle Regal (Honda) 201;
10. Ryan Sipes (Yamaha) 194.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com