The Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team traveled to the Pacific Northwest for round 13 of the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series. Mother Nature wreaked havoc on CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA, with a barrage of rainstorms battering the open-air stadium. That didn’t deter the 55,407 enthusiastic fans, who watched Phil Nicoletti earn his first ever 250 Heat race victory on his Suzuki RM-Z250. Teammate Justin Hill slogged through the mud to score a top-ten finish. The hard-charging efforts of Weston Peick on the all-new Suzuki RM-Z450 resulted in a top-ten.
In what was one of the most challenging and wet Supercross races in history, defending 250 West Champion Hill wasn’t deterred from giving it his all. Hill placed fifth in his heat race, and was in position for a solid result until he was caught up in the melee following the first turn of the main event. The RM-Z250 rider pushed hard to make up time, eventually working his way up to ninth place. Hill is sixth in the point standings with two 250 West rounds remaining.
No matter the conditions, Peick isn’t afraid to hammer the throttle of his RM-Z450 and go for broke. He used consistency in the Seattle mud – his lap times were only a few seconds apart on the treacherous track – to finish tenth. Peick is within striking distance of fifth place in the overall standings with four rounds to go.
Nicoletti, a native of Cochecton, NY, looked extremely comfortable in the mud. The lap chart of the opening 250 Heat race was a telling sign, as Nicoletti moved from 12th on the opening lap to first at the finish. It marked his first ever 250 Heat race win. Nicoletti looked great early in the 250 Main, moving up to fifth place on the second lap. While trying to pass for position, he darted off the track and was temporarily stalled by the quagmire. He recovered to finish 11th on the night, and is 11th in the standings.
Malcolm Stewart looked poised to improve on his career best finish at Indianapolis two weekends ago. It’s obvious that the Haines City, Fla. native is gelling well with the RM-Z450, as he logged the second-fastest 450 qualifying time. Stewart moved from 20th on the opening lap of the main event to 11th, positioning himself for another top-10 finish. Unfortunately, several mistakes dropped him back to 17th. Stewart sits 10th in the overall standings.
Justin Hill [250 Class, 9th Place] – “I had press day on Thursday, which was a lot of fun. I did everything from live television to radio, Skype and every interview in between. I even had the chance to catch a fish at the world-famous Pike Market. I also played an open mic night, which was a cool experience.”
“As for the race, it was a complete mess. I haven’t ridden anything that difficult in years. In hindsight, I should have flown home to Oregon before the race and ridden in the mud to brush up on my mud skills. I’ll do that next year if they’re predicting rain in Seattle. The hardest part of the track was the whoops, but then they cut them down. The switchback section before the finish line was gnarly. Everyone had to race the track, but I’m rusty in the mud.”
Weston Peick [450 Class, 10th Place] – “It was a rainy day schedule, which is always difficult. I went into the heat race with 10 minutes of practice. It wasn’t enough track time, but given the situation I didn’t need a whole lot of time in the mud. I felt off in the heat race and did the best that I could. The track was a complete mess by the time the main event came around. It was one big rut. I made sure I didn’t crash and get hurt, with the goal of moving on to the next weekend. Being from California, I don’t have a whole lot of experience in the mud, so getting a top 10 was fair given the situation.”
Phil Nicoletti [250 Class, 11th Place] – “Practice went okay for me. The unseeded 250 session was faster, because the track hadn’t broken down by that point. I had a decent start in my heat race, but crashed in the first turn. Then I tipped over again, but told myself to ride normally and not rush anything. I picked off a bunch of guys and won my first 250 Supercross heat race, which was cool.”
“I had the second gate pick for the main event and the same mentality that I did in my heat race. I had a good start and put myself in position for the best result of my 2018 season. While pressuring for fourth place I pushed too hard, went off the track, and ended up getting stuck in the mud off the side of the track. I used a lot of energy. It was like I was bench pressing 550 pounds of weight, and doing it 50 times. I was spent. It wasn’t what I wanted to happen, considering I knew what I was capable in those difficult conditions.”
Malcolm Stewart [450 Class, 17th Place] – “It was good to be the second fastest qualifier in the practice session. I struggled in my heat race a bit, because I haven’t used goggle roll-offs since 2012. Still, I rode well and knew what I was capable of. Then, in the main event I went down in the second corner. I pretty much came from last place to eighth, made a mistake, and remained inside the top ten until the last lap. I lost my clutch, due to the difficult conditions, but that was the case for most riders. We’ll move on to Minneapolis and the final Triple Crown event of the series. Overall, I had fun at Seattle. I sure am sore from racing in the mud! I used every single muscle in my body. Even though the race was shortened up it felt like I was out there forever.”
Jeremy Albrecht [Team Manager] – “Nicoletti’s last to first effort, where he won his first 250 Heat victory, was the highlight of the day. Everyone qualified well, despite the conditions. The guys made a lot of little mistakes in the main events that held them back in the final standings. Hill stalled his bike, and Stewart got stuck with some people. Peick rose to the occasion in the mud, which was great to see.”
“In terms of races that I’ve been to over the years, Seattle was up there with being one of the most difficult I’ve been to. The Hangtown National in the 1990s was worse, but it was harder than Daytona in 2008. Even though there wasn’t as much standing water, the dirt was extremely sticky and rutted.”