So congratulations to Dean Wilson for winning the 250 title last weekend at Steel City, he thoroughly deserves the award after what has been a terrifically consistent season. And having wrapped it up with a 1-1, no one can argue he didn't have the speed either. Tyla Rattray is nine points ahead of Blake Baggett is second place so that position is still very much up for grabs but Baggett's results have really dropped in recent weeks so it should go to the South African, barring any major setback.
But the 450 class is where the real excitement is - can Ryan Dungey overturn the 14pt lead that Ryan Villopoto has over him? Logic would suggest that no, he can't, but stranger things have most definitely happened in the final round of the series, and they've even happened at Pala in the one previous year that it's hosted an AMA National. Last year Trey Canard went into the final round, seven points down on Christophe Pourcel who then proceeded to crash out, handing the title to surprised American.
Villopoto has a few more points to play with than Pourcel did, and can in fact go 4-4 to Dungey's 1-1 and still walk away with the trophy but we highly doubt he'll want to play it like that, especially as those two seem to be so much faster than the rest of the field now. Unfortunately Chad Reed's pace has dropped considerably, and even the injection of Barcia on a 450 hasn't been able to stay with them when conditions are favorable, like they were at Steel City. In race one, Dungey (2nd) was over 80 seconds clear of Brett Metcalfe in third, while race two wasn't much better as the gap was still over 60 seconds. These two are putting on a clinic that the rest of the field just can't match, and we don't foresee anything different happening at Pala.
In the GPs things are even simpler because both titles were wrapped up last week at Gaildorf. Ken Roczen won the MX2 in front of his adoring home crowd for his first World title, while in the MX1, Antonio Cairoli made it three straight titles and five in total as KTM continued their dominance of the World Championships.
So what does that leave to look forward to in Fermo, Italy? Well actually, quite a bit. Apparently the rumor is that both of these two champions will be riding 2-strokes, with Roczen on a 125cc and Cairoli on a 250. Whether this actually happens or not largely depends on if the riders can actually get the bikes up to speed, and they feel safe doing it. As KTM are one of the few manufacturers who still make 2-strokes, we personally believe it's a master stroke as not only do they get even more press, if the riders do well, they prove that their 2-stroke bikes are better than the other manufacturers 4-strokes. Something we are sure the bigwigs of Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki don't want to happen.
But there is also the serious business of MXoN places up for grabs because while most teams are settled, the home nation of France has some serious questions to answer ahead of next weekend's showdown. So far the French Federation have picked Steven Frossard (MX1), Marvin Musquin (MX2) and Gautier Paulin (MX3). Sounds simple right? Wrong. Gautier Paulin has been riding a 250F all year, Marvin Musquin is still working himself back from injury and will have to travel back from America and now, at Gaildorf, Steven Frossard injured himself, ruling him out of the last GP and possibly the MXoN. Add into the mix a very motivated but also hard-to-predict Christophe Pourcel and Team Manager Olivier Robert has got some extremely tough decisions to make.
So without Frossard this weekend, Gautier Paulin has stepped up into the MX1 class in what could be a risky move as he is essentially challenging Christophe Pourcel to a 1v1 duel. Whoever wins, gets picked. That may not be the case but it would strange for Robert to pick Paulin over Pourcel on a 450, if Pourcel beats him twice. Strangely Musquin seems to be the solid bet right now, but he'll need to continue his Steel City form at Pala. A podium finish there and that should guarantee him a spot in front of his home fans. A bad result may seem him replaced by Paulin though, with Pourcel slotting into MX3 as long as Frossard recovers. It really could be a mess, and with it being on home turf and with them having such a good chance of victory, the pressure is on.