In an event that seemed tailor-made for the two-time 450 Class Supercross champion, James Stewart delivered a flawless performance to win the inaugural Red Bull Straight Rhythm.
The event pitted 32 riders (16 in the Open Class, 16 in the 250 Class) head-to-head down a half-mile straightaway of rhythm sections, jumps, whoops and sand sections in a four-round, best-of-three bracket format.
Stewart made it through all four rounds of head-to-head competition, sweeping each matchup along the way.
After disposing of Scott Champion in the opening round and Josh Hansen in the quarterfinals, Stewart faced a much tougher test in the semifinals, where he was matched up with his own brother, Malcolm Stewart. Headed into the matchup, it was Malcolm who held the fastest lap of the day from any rider, but James stepped things up and needed only two runs to get the better of his sibling and advance into the final round.
The other Open Class semifinal featured a heated contest between Dean Wilson and Justin Brayton, both of whom just switched teams this week and have only been on their new bikes for a few days. Red Bull KTM’s Wilson beat BTO Sports KTM’s Brayton in the first run, but Brayton made a hard charge through the final whoops section on his second run to defeat Wilson in a near-photo finish and force a rubber match.
With a win in his third run vs. Wilson, Brayton completed the come-from-behind victory to earn a trip to the final round. He was no match for Stewart though, as the Yoshimura Suzuki rider only needed two runs to eliminate Brayton and lay claim to the first-ever Red Bull Straight Rhythm win in the Open Class.
“I’m more tired now than I am after I do 20 laps [at a supercross race],” Stewart admitted after the event. “I think it’s a great test for us as racers, and for the fans, it’s simple – it’s head to head racing. Win or go home, baby.”
Throughout the day, the make-or-break feature of the track proved to be the whoops section right before the finish line, with the right lane seemingly offering a slight edge. The more powerful bikes also proved to have a distinct advantage in that section.
The most powerful bike in the field may have been the “RM-Zilla” of Travis Pastrana, a 500cc two-stroke Suzuki whose power was clearly on display in the whoops section. In his much-anticipated return to motocross racing today, Pastrana didn’t make it out of the first round though after being eliminated by Josh Hansen, but he clearly had fun at the event. Pastrana beat Hansen in the second of their three runs and then landed a backflip over the final jump in celebration, much to the delight of all the fans in attendance.
In the 250 Class, the inaugural event win went to Marvin Musquin, who like James Stewart, was dominant throughout the day. He defeated his brand-new Red Bull KTM teammate Justin Hill in the final round of competition to secure the victory.
“Everything went perfect,” Musquin said. “Each run, everyone was getting better and faster, so I just had to be really consistent and hit the whoops perfect and the rhythms perfect.”
Open Class Top Four
1. James Stewart
2. Justin Brayton
3. Malcolm Stewart
4. Dean Wilson
250 Class Top Four
1. Marvin Musquin
2. Justin Hill
3. Jessy Nelson
4. Justin Bogle