After dominating one week earlier in Lille, France, Eli Tomac arrived in Italy for the next stop on his European Supercross tour as the main challenger for the reigning king of Genova, Justin Barcia, who would defend his title on the new JGR-MX Yamaha.
Before the event, Tomac spent a couple of days in Venice, while Barcia was in Rome with eight-time FIM MX1 World Champion Tony Cairoli. Did Barcia speak with Cairoli about Ryan Villopoto?
“Just a little,” Barcia said. “We had a nice, relaxing dinner. Tony is definitely ready for the battle; he is very fast and very strong. Tony is a legend. He knows the tracks, so it will be tough for Ryan, but it’s a good decision. Ryan has won a lot, so racing MX overseas next season is a new challenge.”
For Cairoli, the arrival of the king of AMA Supercross, with four consecutive titles under his belt, is a great opportunity. “It’s difficult to always maintain high motivation,” Cairoli said. “This ultimate challenge gives me an extra boost.”
Barcia may also consider racing in Europe. “I want to win my championships in America first,” he said, “and then, if I had the opportunity and could make my living in Europe, I would love to race here. Maybe one day I will do it.”
Zach Osborne agreed. “I have raced five seasons in Europe [in the MX2 championship],” he said, “and the arrival of Ryan is great for the sport. Tony is hard to beat in the world title, but if anyone can do it, it’s Ryan.”
“Hopefully, Ryan will have a good showing,” Tomac said. “He will need to use his experience and learn the new tracks, as the sand in Europe is different.” Asked if he sees himself racing in Europe, Tomac said, “If I won everything in America, I may consider it later on in my career.”
To come from Europe and race at the highest level in the US is more difficult. Christophe Pourcel has made it, but the Frenchman will cheer for Cairoli next year. “I admire both,” he said, “but I will support Tony. I see my future in America, where everything is bigger, starting from the arena.”
Genova began with nearly 5,000 cubic yards of clay and sand to create a 500-plus-yard-long, seven-yard-wide track. This is one of the biggest indoor arenas in Europe, but for the Americans, it’s small and tight. “The atmosphere in Genova is really nice,” Barcia said. “The fans welcome you, and the track is challenging. For us, it’s the off-season, so it’s good to stay in the racing mood.”
Aggressive on track and “fun and wild” off track, Barcia, or “Bam Bam” as he is known, is the man to beat. Tomac is more conservative and consistent. “In Paris, I was very fast and made good starts,” he said. “These are my strong points. I try to be aggressive but in control all the time.”
At 8:30 p.m., with the arena sold out, engines roared for the first SX1 Final. Pourcel took the lead, but Barcia passed him with Tomac third. In the whoops, Barcia was smooth, while Tomac moved up to second. Behind the trio, there was a huge gap, with only Christophe Martin and the Matteo Bonini between them and the rest of the field. Tomac and Barcia fought hard for the lead, with the Honda rider claiming the win. Barcia was second by a hair, with Pourcel third. Osborne and Bonini completed the top five.
The second SX1 Final didn’t go as expected for Barcua, who crashed trying to pass Pourcel.Tomac, landing from a jump, hit Barcia, and the race was red flagged. Hospital scans excluded fractures, but Barcia remained in intensive care overnight for further checks of his chest and neck. At the restart, Tomac took the lead and dominated, finishing 40 seconds ahead of Osborne and Mickael Musquin.
Tomac repeated his strong performance in the Superfinal. After just a few minutes of racing, he had a 10-second advantage on Osborne with Pourcel third. “This was a good start,” Tomac said. “I’d like to come back. I love Italy. I like the food and the cappuccino and the short distance from the sea to the mountains. Now I’m ready for the next challenge: to win in America.”