Suzuki's Ricky Carmichael may be on the verge of retirement, but he proved he hasn't lost any of his speed by winning the opening round of the 2007 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship, presented by FMF, at the Honda Hangtown Classic.
Carmichael, racing a limited six-race schedule this season as he makes the transition into four-wheel stock car racing, and archrival James Stewart renewed their rivalry and turned in another two-man battle for the overall win.
After Stewart narrowly won the first moto, Carmichael showed the determination that has made him the sport's all-time winner, walking away with the second moto win and the overall victory, the 145th of his career and seventh overall at Hangtown.
"I do feel like this sport is in [their] hands,” confessed Carmichael, referring to his exit as the sport's top rider. "I'm glad that I'm here for the first five races to provide the fans with some good racing. Now that I'm a fan, it's not fun to come watch a race when there's no one racing out there."
Stewart took home second (1-4) ahead of his Kawasaki team-mate Timmy Ferry who was third with a 3-3 moto finish.
In the Motocross Lites class, former world champion Ben Townley got the better of Kawasaki team-mate and reigning champion Ryan Villopoto to take his first ever overall victory. The Kiwi was second to Villopoto in race one, but revered the order in the all-important second moto.
"I really didn't know what to expect today," commented Townley. "My season has started well and I got a lot of momentum going after the Supercross although I got caught up in the first moto and didn't ride how I should have. I was frustrated and went back and assessed the race with the guys and we changed a few settings on the bike. The hole-shot helped a lot. I got the lead and rode really consistent, put my laps down and picked some good lines. Once I got into my own rhythm I rode like I know how and it was a whole different Ben Townley out there."
Suzuki's Ryan Dungey was third with 3-3 finishes.
Round two of the 12-race AMA Toyota Motocross Championship takes place in Mt. Morris on May 26-27.