Occasionally, I like to travel to local motocross races here in Southern California. The smaller races with fewer fans, less traffic, and less hype. This is especially enjoyable when top riders compete (something fairly common here in Southern California). The Western Four-Stroke National Motocross series visited Victorville, California this weekend, with the premier class racing two motos today. In that class, KTM’s Ryan Hughes competed aboard a KTM 450SX, as part of his training and preparation for the AMA 125 Outdoor National Motocross championship series beginning in a few weeks.
Also racing today was young Mike Alessi (Honda). Alessi has just now stepped into the pro class, after an amateur career that has been surpassed by very few riders in the history of this sport.
As expected, the day turned out to be a battle between Alessi and Hughes. Something I did not expect was victory by Alessi . . . in both motos. In the first moto, both riders got off the gate well, with Alessi leading Hughes throughout the moto, and eventually taking the win by a very slim margin (roughly, one bike length).
In the second moto, Alessi got another holeshot, while Hughes was involved in a first corner accident that left him kicking his big four-stroke for half a minute, or so, as the field raced away. When Hughes finally got his bike running, Young Alessi was probably two thirds of the way through his first lap. Hughes took off, and rode like a man possessed.
Yes, Ryan Hughes worked his way into second place in the second moto, despite giving the entire field a huge head start. He also posted significantly quicker lap times than young Alessi (who, to be fair, was not pressed, and could “cruise” out front).
The interesting thing about this day is that I left with a higher opinion of both riders. Alessi, who will make his AMA pro debut in a few months outdoors, is clearly possessed of top-five speed at the AMA National level.
Hughes impressed me with his endurance and tenacity. He was so far behind after that first corner crash in the second moto that many riders would have given up. Hughes dug deep and finished second in the moto. He did it aboard a bike that did not appear to be set up as well as Alessi’s Honda. Hughes was there to train and practice, nothing more, but he showed great speed aboard a very different machine than he normally races.
How good will Alessi get? This is always hard to say. There have been many young riders who have been fast at the age of 16, but have never developed as far as expected. My guess is that Mike Alessi will be a top level AMA pro for many years to come, however, because his style is smooth (although, he does hang it out when he needs to), and he appears to be well trained and mature for his age (as a rider, at least). He will certainly be a rider to watch.