Washougal is a fast, hard-packed track with a slippery surface, but Watanabe was able to ride in the press event on Friday, which helped him become familiar with the track prior to Saturday morning’s practice sessions.
He was quick in timed qualifying and landed in 23rd position in the first Group A session—his best position so far in a timed practice. In the second practice session, he improved his time but was pushed back by another rider and ended up 24th. With one rider from Group B hitting a faster time, the Japanese rider would go to the gate in 25th for the first moto.
In the first moto, the starting area was very slippery and caused Watanabe’s rear wheel to spin excessively, resulting in a slower run up to the first turn. He made some good choices on the first lap, passing several riders and moving up to 22nd by the end of the first lap. He then managed to pass a few more rivals and got inside the top 20. He battled with one rider for most of the last ten minutes, constantly trading positions. He was then passed at the very end by another rider and ended up in 20th place, scoring 1 AMA point.
To prepare for the second moto, Watanabe was given some advice for starting from a slippery gate by his rider coach, Doug Dubach. But the Fukushima native was a little too easy on the throttle out of the gate, which put him near the back of the pack around the first turn. He made some quick passes and was running around 25th by the third lap, but then fell in a corner, dropping him back to around 31st. After remounting, he was fighting to catch up and passed a rider for 24th before having a big crash that threw him over the handlebars coming down a hill. This second crash put him back to about 31st. Visibly hurt and his pace slower, he continued pushing until the end and recovered to 29th by the checkers.
“I had good feeling from first time attack and I was very excited for the first moto. I had a bad start from spinning at the start gate, but I made some good passes early and was able to get one AMA point. My second start was slow and I was not in a good position. I had a small crash and I had to fight hard to come back through positions. Then I had a big crash passing a rider downhill and I got small injury which slowed my race at the end. I have one weekend off, so I hope to get back in good physical shape for the next race in Unadilla.”
“Overall, Yusuke had a good day. He still needs to show more composure while racing because at times he is trying too hard and making mistakes. In the first moto his riding was good, not great. Being unfamiliar with these tracks, he still struggles with line selection and that hurts his results. For the second moto we talked a lot about how to start on a slippery gate, because you can’t be too aggressive or you’ll break traction. His starts hurt him today and his big crash towards the end of the second moto was frustrating for everyone. His neck was also stiff this morning when traveling to the airport, so we will get him some therapy this week.”
|1||Dylan Ferrandis||Yamaha||15 Laps|
|1||Dylan Ferrandis||Yamaha||16 Laps|
|29||Yusuke Watanabe||Yamaha||15 Laps|