The Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team entered the opening round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship with high expectations. The 50th running of the Hangtown National served as a reminder that Weston Peick is always ready to do battle, regardless of the conditions. Peick rose to the occasion yet again, finishing sixth overall against a stout field. Suzuki RM-Z450 teammate Phil Nicoletti rocketed out to the second moto holeshot and finished ninth overall. In the 250 ranks, sensational rookie Enzo Lopes dazzled in his debut. The Brazilian rode well and finished both motos inside the top 15.
Menifee, Calif. native Peick gated well in both motos, starting inside the top ten and craftily working his way forward. When the first moto concluded Peick found himself in fifth place – nearly matching his best moto score from 2017. Early in the second moto the RM-Z450 rider was as high as fourth, but a lingering hand issue relegated him to seventh in the moto and sixth overall on the day.
Peick’s teammate, Phil Nicoletti, had a few short weeks to acclimate to the all-new Suzuki RM-Z450 after spending the Supercross series on the RM-Z250. Nicoletti looked very comfortable on the RM-Z450, nabbing the second moto holeshot in front of 39 other competitors and leading briefly. The Cochecton, NY native settled into a consistent pace and finished 9-9 for ninth overall. He will line up on the RM-Z450 again this next week at Glen Helen.
News broke several weeks ago that Brazilian amateur star, Enzo Lopes, was joining the Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing Team for the start of the Nationals. The 18-year-old looked like a seasoned veteran at Hangtown, never giving any quarter and racing hard for the duration of both motos. Lopes’ 13-15 moto scores were good enough for 15th overall.
Justin Hill has been tweaking his training regimen in an effort to build endurance. The Yoncalla, Ore. native had bursts of speed at Hangtown and showed promise at various times throughout both motos. Hill finished 16-13 for 16th overall.
Weston Peick [450 Class, 5-7 for 6th Place] – “Hangtown wasn’t ripped as deep as it usually is, but it still got rough. It was hard pack in some areas. I felt really good in the first moto. I got off to a slow start, but found a good flow and passed up to fifth place. I’ve been dealing with a hand issue, and it really bothered me. At one point my hand was going numb. I went into the second moto dealing with a lot of pain, but I stuck it out and did what I could. My hand started bothering me again at about the 15 minute mark, but I fought through it. We made a suspension change after the first moto to get the fork to hold up, but we went a bit too extreme, and that resulted in the forks being too stiff. That was okay, though, because we figured out what works and what doesn’t. I’m looking forward to Glen Helen.”
Phil Nicoletti [450 Class, 9-9 for 9th Place] – “The weekend was okay, given the amount of time I had on the bike. I had stomach issues all day, which played into my performance. Overall, being able to rip a holeshot in the second moto and running up front for a while was nice. I couldn’t hold the pace, due to my stomach problems, but it was a decent start to the Nationals. We made good changes with the suspension and chassis, and it will pay off.”
Enzo Lopes [250 Class, 13-15 for 15th Place] – “My first National was a really cool experience. The way I look at is that we still have plenty of motos to go. I rode pretty tight in the first timed practice, because of nerves. I felt better in the second timed practice and ended up 11th fastest, which was pretty good. I had a decent start in the first moto and battled with some established riders. That moto I ended up 13th, which was good. I had a better start in the second moto and was running in 11th place, but I crashed and fell back to 17th. That crash slowed me up, and I was only able to get back to 15th place. I am happy to get my first National out of the way, and I can’t wait for Glen Helen!”
Justin Hill [250 Class, 16-13 for 16th Place] – “Outdoors is gnarly, and every year it gets more gnarly. I don’t think I’ve ever showed up with the bike being so close to what it needs to be chassis and suspension wise. My Achilles heel was the starts, but the bike performed great. We did some testing the past few weeks, and that paid off. The results were not what I wanted at Hangtown, but I felt like I rode well once I got going. Now I know what I need to change, and that’s to get going off the start and sprint hard. That’s an internal thing that I have to fix. I think I can run with the front guys. I need to be up front and battling with them.”
Jeremy Albrecht [Team Manager] – “There were some highlights for the team coming out of Hangtown. Phil Nicoletti grabbed the holeshot in the second moto and was riding well, but he got landed on, which kept him from having a better result. Still, ninth overall is a good start to the outdoors for him. Peick rode awesome in the first moto, but he began to have troubles with his hand toward the end of the moto. The track was tricky, and Weston soldiered on as best as he could.”
“On the 250 side, Lopes did well for his very first race. He would have done better in the results, but he fell over in a turn and lost valuable positions. Enzo puts in the work and we really like him. He should do better this next weekend. As for Hill, he felt good and rode hard, but starts held him back. He also didn’t move through the pack as quickly as he would have liked. Justin had a better second moto than the first moto. Overall, we’re happy to have a good showing, and we will get better throughout the season.”