The Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing Team entered the 2018 AMA Supercross series with high expectations. There were several positive takeaways from the opening round at Anaheim, Calif. with Weston Peick racing to a top five finish and Justin Hill setting the fastest 250 class qualifying time.
There’s no denying the work ethic of 450 sensation Weston Peick. The SoCal native logged a fifth-place finish in his heat race, and rocketed out of the gate on his Suzuki RM-Z450 in the main. Crossing the first turn in fourth, Peick was running top-three speed for most of the race. A series of minor mistakes resulted in a fifth-place finish. That’s a great start to the new season for Weston and provides momentum to build on.
Defending 250 West Supercross Champion, Justin Hill, masterfully locked down the fastest qualifying time on his Suzuki RM-Z250. Tightness and nerves halted Justin’s advance in the 250 main event. The Oregon native finished seventh on the evening. Now that the Anaheim 1 jitters are out of the way Justin expects more.
Phil Nicoletti worked hard to make major gains during the offseason. Unfortunately, Phil tangled with another rider on the opening lap of the main event while in great position, which sent him to the ground. While collecting himself, Nicoletti was center-punched by an unsuspecting rider. As a result, “Filthy” failed to finish the race. Nicoletti is banged up, but should be ready will for Houston this weekend.
Weston Peick [450 Class, Fifth Place] – “The day went pretty well. Obviously, I had the Anaheim 1 jitters, since it was the first race of the new year. There was a lot going on with all of the team changes. I felt pretty comfortable in practice. The qualifying times weren’t a true reflection of how I was feeling on the track, because everyone was so close in speed. I’m the type of rider who does better in race situations, anyway. I had a decent start in my heat race and ended up fifth. I killed it off the start in the main event and came through the first turn in fourth. I passed up to third and was feeling good, but then I made some rookie mistakes and let a couple of guys by me.”
“My Suzuki RM-Z450 worked awesome all day. We made a few small changes on the bike throughout the day and had the bike dialed for the main event. With how the track was laid out there were quite a few tight corners, and the rear end of my bike was sitting too low. We stiffened up the rear so that it would hold up better. That was a game changer. I’m looking forward to Houston this weekend and improving on my fifth-place finish.”
Justin Hill [250 Class, Seventh Place] – “Being the fastest qualifier was a good start to the season. Unfortunately, I tightened up in the main event and rode like a dummy. You can’t win races when gripping the bike like a gorilla. I was trying to push too hard on the track and making uncharacteristic mistakes. I was trying to make up time in spots where you really couldn’t make up time. I needed to chill out, and I think that’s a result of rustiness from being away from racing for a while. I’m excited to work hard this week and fix those mistakes.”
“As far as the RM-Z250, we didn’t make any drastic changes to it. We made a difference with the gearing, and the engine tuners did some mapping adjustments to the engine. Those changes were helpful. We also changed the position of the starting device. I noticed an improvement, although my gate for the main event wasn’t that great. There were a couple of inside gates available, but they looked like I would get squeezed off, so I elected for an outside gate. That was a bad call on my part.”
Phil Nicoletti [250 Class, 22nd place] – “I was feeling confident heading into the Supercross opener, but I’m dissatisfied with the outcome. With solid pre-season preparation, I felt ready on the bike. Unfortunately, I started out on the wrong foot. The good thing about racing is that there’s always next weekend. I’ll do everything in my power to be ready for Houston.”
Jeremy Albrecht [Team Manager] – “This race attracted the most people I’ve ever seen at a Supercross opener. That was great to see for the health of the sport. We would have liked to win the mains. Aside from that, we had a good start to the season. Weston [Peick] did his best riding in the main event and came away with a fifth. Justin Hill rode well, but got arm pump and made a lot of mistakes. I think if Justin would have gotten a good start then it would have been a completely different main event for him. Justin was doing some very technical things around the track, but he was trying too hard. I’m bummed how Phil Nicoletti’s day went. He had a couple of crashes, and the big one in the main event resulted in a DNF. Phil is a tough guy, though, and he will be back.”
“This week the team is staying in California to test and have meetings with the Suzuki staff from Japan. We have been planning for the future and are already talking about next year. The goal is to continually make things better. Our partnership with Suzuki is working out well. Now we have to win for them.”