Race2 recap from the 1991 St Petersburg SX courtesy of Cycle News.
Are Honda teammates Jeff Stanton and Jean-Michel Bayle, who have dominated the Came Supercross Series this year, untouchable?
Only time will tell, but there was little disputing that theory at the Suncoast Dome where their fierce battle for the Camel Supercross title continued once again with Bayle emerging the victor of the Tampa Bay Supercross.
Bayle, a two-time World Champion from Manosque, France, came from third in the 20-lap 250cc main event to pass Stanton and teenage sensation Damon Bradshaw before beating Stanton by a 10-second margin. The trio swapped positions three times before Bradshaw was forced back to the pits on lap 10 due to mechanical problems, leaving Bayle and Stanton all to themselves.
But Bayle, who earned his transfer spot into the main after winning the second heat race, was untouchable after Bradshaw dropped out. The Frenchman rode in control the rest of the way and gave the 26,411 fans who witnessed the first-time event in St. Petersburg a near-perfect show.
“The only thing that could’ve been better was my start,” said Bayle, who also leads the 250cc National Championship point standings. “But I knew that I was faster and could win as long as I didn’t get taken out.
Bayle’s 10th career supercross win earned him $5,000 of the $35,000 250cc purse in addition to $5,000 he earned for the Coors Silver Bullet Showdown – an award given to a rider who winds the main event, providing he’s victorious in one of two heat races and does so with the quickest elapsed time.
The prize, which is normally $1,000, rolls over if it’s not earned at an event, like it hadn’t been during the past four rounds.
Team Kawasaki’s Mike Kiedrowski also drew a lot of attention as he charged through the pack and passed teammate Jeff Ward before reeling in Stanton at the conclusion of the event. A last-ditch effort to pass Stanton ended up sending Kiedrowski to the ground before he claimed the final spot on the rostrum.
The win, Bayle’s fifth of the season, comes at an important time as the series reaches the halfway point and increases his points lead over Stanton, 205-195. Kiedrowski took third in the points chase away from Bradshaw, who slipped to fifth in the standings.
If Bayle is able to win the championship he will pocket $100,000 from the Camel point fund in addition to bonus money from Honda and other sponsors rumored to be worth almost double that figure. Bayle would also keep Stanton from earning his third consecutive Supercross crown, but that won’t be easy, considering that nine of the 18 events still remain to be run and Stanton is known for coming on stronger at the end of the season.
“I was just slow tonight,” said Stanton, who has won three Camel Supercross events this season. “Bayle rode a great race and I as off the pace. I had better turn it on or I won’t be able to make it three (Supercross championship titles) in a row.”
The event marked the first time in six weeks the riders have ridden in totally dry conditions. Rain and cold weather have plagued the last five National-caliber races, but the track, made up mostly of hard-packed dirt with a small section of white sand, was in perfect form. The most talked-about obstacle was a series of deep whoops that claimed many a rider throughout the evening.
The riders who led the start of the final came as no surprise considering the top three, Bradshaw, Stanton and Bayle, were the only riders to have won a Supercross this year. Ward was fourth, trailed by Lamson, Kiedrowski, Tichenor and Emig. Matiasevich, who has been on the podium several times this year, crashed on the opening lap and remounted in last place.
“I went into a corner and lost the front end,” said Matiasevich. “I had a problem getting going again, but I finally regained a good pace.:
Bayle slipped past Stanton for second while Kiedrowski broke into the top five, setting up an order that would remain the same for several laps.
Cooper was the only rider in the pack who appeared to be making any headway. After passing Stephenson and DeHoop, the Stillwater, Oklahoma, rider moved into ninth behind Emig.
“I had a really hard time getting around Emig,” said Cooper. “He was using all of the good lines through the whoops that I had, and if I would have gone any faster, I would have jumped right on top of him.”
On the seventh lap, slower traffic became a factor and helped create a lead change. Matson fell in a turn, forcing Bradshaw to take evasive actions, a maneuver that cost him lots of previous time. Bayle darted past the 18-year-old only to have Bradshaw regain the lead in the following turn.
A lap later the same tale unfolded as Boyesen crashed in a left-hand turn, forcing Bradshaw to go high in the banked corner. Bayle managed to square the turn, and get a better drive, and the lead.
“This time the lapped riders worked for me,” said Bayle. “It could’ve gone either way and both of us could’ve been taken out.”
Bayle opened up a five-bike length advantage as Stanton began pressuring Bradshaw. It was only moments later on the 10th lap that Bradshaw pulled off the track with mechanical problems.
“The spark plug broke,” said Steven Butler, a Yamaha factory mechanic. “The porcelain separated from the metal center. It’s the second time this has happened (the other time was during testing).”
It soon became apparent that Bayle was going to run away as he quickly opened up a sizeable cushion over Stanton. Kiedrowski caught and passed Ward, who was fighting arm pump, before trying to set up Stanton at the finish. Kiedrowski tried to get a wheel on Stanton, but lost one of his own, the front. Kiedrowski went down, but got up before fourth-place Ward, who was seven seconds back, became a threat.
Cooper sliced through the pack, having displaced Tichenor and Lamson for fifth. Although Cooper made the most advancements, every move Tichenor made, either forward or backwards, gained recognition from his partisan Florid fans.
“I would’ve really like to have done something here because it’s as close to my backyard as I’ll ever get,” said Tichenor, who claimed sixth. “I still feel I rode well.”
“I knew if I could get a good start I would be up there,” said Lamson, who finished seventh. “I was shooting for a top 10 finish and figured if I could do that, I would race more 250cc events on the East Coast.”
Aside from Cooper, Matiasevich was the only rider who showed good progress. Although his charge was initially slow, the Anaheim, California, rider moved into eighth ahead of Emig and Fisher.
Besides the flu that made Fisher’s body ache and cause the Santee, California, rider to spit up several times in the main event, he sensed something else was out of the norm.
“I miss my dad,” said 24-year-old Fisher, who placed fourth during the previous event in Tempe, Arizona. “He’s just always been here, and he gives me guidance and support. It just feels strange when he’s not here.”
Tuf Racing’s Keith Bowen finished 11th in front of DeHoop, Sommo and Fred Andrews.
“It was a fast track, and it was hard to make up time,” said Bowen, who gated 14th. “After all of those mud races, I wasn’t really ready for some good hardpack and the heat.”