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Supercross News
Penrite Honda riders in the thick of it at AUS-X Open


Posted: Monday, 13th November, 2017 : 11:30 AM - - 8,200 Reads




Billed as the largest action sports extravaganza in the southern hemipshere, the third annual AUS-X Open staged at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney’s Homebush Olympic precinct over the weekend (November 11/12) did not fail to deliver, showcasing rounds four and five of the 2017 Australian Supercross Championship.

Played out before a total at-event crowd of more than 27,000 fans over two days, and with a live national and international pay-TV audience watching on, Penrite CRF Honda Racing riders Joel Wightman and Nick Sutherland immersed themselves in the thick of the action, which featured the presence of American racers Jason Anderson and Dean Wilson, as well US legend Ricky Carmichael and injured US-based Aussie superstar Chad Reed.

Lining up in the premier SX1 category for 450cc machines, Joel Wightman was itching to take to the tight and testing indoor track layout of the AUS-X Open event and produced a mighty Semi race win on Saturday night to qualify for Superpole and the all-important Final.

“I just love racing the AUS-X Open event, it’s a race I look forward to all year long and it lived up to the hype once again,” Wightman enthused.

“With the American imports the SX1 class was seriously stacked, but I had a great Semi on Saturday where I got the holeshot and stayed out front the whole race and took the win. This sent me through to Superpole and gave me sixth gate pick for the Final.

“In the Final I had a decent start but got tangled up when (Justin) Brayton, (Todd) Waters and Anderson hit the deck in the first turn. After regathering I was at the back of the field but I felt like I rode a solid race and posted the seventh quickest time, but finished in 12th place.

“It was a frustrating result, because it was the second round in a row where I have been tangled up with another rider, but that’s racing, especially if you don’t put yourself in a good position off the start.”

Backing up for Sunday’s event, Wightman was hampered by average starts, which makes life tough on the tight indoor track layout.

“I felt great on the bike on Sunday, but my starts let me down and that pretty much summed things up for me,” said Wightman. “I finished fourth in my Semi, one spot off qualifying to the Final.

“In the Last Chance Qualifier I spun up on the mesh on the startline which had become filled with dirt, and that put me back and I had to come through to third, but on the last lap I crashed in the whoops when I was just going for it. Unfortunately that meant my night was over and I didn’t make the Final.

“Still, AUS-X Open was a great event and now I’m looking forward to the final round of the Australian Supercross Championship this weekend at Jimboomba and wrapping up my rookie season on the 450 with a bang!” Wightman concluded.

American riders Dean Wilson (Husqvarna) and Jason Anderson (Husqvarna) split the SX1 class wins over the two nights of racing at Homebush, while Penrite Honda Racing team leader Justin Brayton continues to lead the SX1 championship standings, his weekend highlighted by a third place finish on Sunday. Wightman sits in 13th place in the SX1 standings.

In the SX2 category for 250cc machines, Penrite CRF Honda Racing rider Nick Sutherland continued his guest role with the squad at the AUS-X Open, filling the saddle of the potent Honda CRF250R race bike of the injured Kyle Webster.

With more time to test and practice on the Honda since his debut with the team at the previous Adelaide round of the championship, Sutherland was primed for a big weekend at the AUS-X Open.

“On Saturday I kicked things off with a good start in my Heat race,” Sutherland explained, “but I was riding super-tight and washed the front end in the tunnel on the third lap, which sent me to the Semi.

“In the Semi I got a shocker of a start but just kind of hung in there and worked my way through to finish second, which put me into the Final.

“In the Final I started fourth and was feeing better on the bike, but was shuffled back to sixth and started to get into it, but then I dropped the front in the whoops and had a big one, which ended my night a little prematurely ...”

Regrouping for Sunday’s racing, Sutherland kicked off his Heat race with a boomer start to grab the holeshot.

“I lead the first lap, but then I came together with another rider in a corner and snapped my brake lever,” Sutherland explained.

“That meant I just had to ride around for the rest of the race and try to get an okay gate pick for the Semi.

“In the Semi I started in second place after just getting pipped for the holeshot and I rode safely to finish third and qualify for the Final,” Sutherland continued.

Another strong start in the Final put Sutherland in a strong position, but with indoor racing, fortunes can change in a flash.

“I was running fifth in the Final, but coming into the tunnel a few of us came together and unfortunately I was down on the ground for quite a while,” said Sutherland.

“I came back to finish tenth, which was a little disappointing, but I’m happy to be heading to Queensland for the final round next weekend in one piece and determined to put in a big performance for the team and all my crew.”

The SX2 class racing saw Wilson Todd (Yamaha) and American Chris Blose (Penrite Honda Racing) split the wins over the two nights of racing, while defending champion Jackson Richardson (Yamaha) leads the Australian Supercross Championships with one round remaining. Meantime Sutherland is 13th in the SX2 championship standings.

This Saturday night (November 18) the 2017 Australian Supercross Championship concludes at Jimboomba X-Stadium in south-east Queensland with the Penrite CRF Honda Racing team intent on wrapping up the season with a mighty finale.

Main Photo: Joel Wightman is interviewed by Lee Hogan after his heat race win
Credit: Supplied


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