Ryan Villopoto’s knee injury boosts field’s title hopes for 2014 Motocross Nationals

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When the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship fires up in May, one key name will be missing from the starting gate.

Ryan Villopoto – the defending champion in the premier 450 Class and the most dominant rider active – will miss the entire 2014 outdoor season as he goes under the knife to fix a lingering knee issue.

On Saturday, Villopoto wrapped up the AMA Supercross season with his seventh win of the 17-race season. It capped off his fourth consecutive Supercross title, matching the record held by Jeremy McGrath.

With each title, Villopoto has inched closer to carving out a spot on the Mount Rushmore of motocross alongside legends like McGrath and Ricky Carmichael – the only thing holding him back has been his health. This will be the fourth time in the last six years that Villopoto has withdrawn from the outdoor Nationals due to injury.

“Going from a really great feeling after winning a fourth straight Supercross title, to knowing I am going to spend the summer rehabbing a knee injury is devastating,” Villopoto said in a press release issued by the Monster Energy Kawasaki team.

With the defending champion on the sidelines, the 450 Class looks wide open this summer.

The only other rider to win a 450MX championship in the last four years, Ryan Dungey now steps in as the early title favorite. The path to a championship this time around won’t be as easy for him as it was in 2010 or 2012 though – he was faced with a shallow field of challengers both of those years.

A pair of former champions may prove to be the most daunting competition this summer. 2008 champion James Stewart caught fire midway through the Supercross season, and 2009 champion Chad Reed was enjoying a career renaissance before injuries ended his Supercross season early.

Dungey will also have to contend with his own Red Bull KTM teammate Ken Roczen, a rookie in the 450 Class, as well as the likes of Justin Barcia and Trey Canard.

No one ever wants to see a champion relegated to being a spectator, but with such an open field, the stage is set for some incredible battles this summer – starting with the opening round May 24th at Glen Helen Raceway.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.