Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart looked solid in his return to competition aboard his Suzuki RM-Z450 for the start of the 2016 Monster Energy AMA/ FIM World Supercross season on Saturday night at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California,
But while battling near the front early in the Main Event he was hit by Ryan Dungey and suffered a hard crash.
The race was red-flagged, but Stewart was shaken-up enough that he was unable to make the restart.
After nearly a year-and-a-half hiatus, many wondered how long it would take for Stewart to shake off the cobwebs.
It didn’t take long for that question to be answered as he was blazingly-fast aboard his powerful and nimble-handling Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450. He turned-in the third best time of the day in qualifying, clocking a 1:01.092 around the challenging Anaheim circuit in America.
“I’m encouraged by how I feel in the comeback,” Stewart said after qualifying. “I’m excited, the whole team is excited and it’s great to be back in the competition.”
Stewart ran a smart race in his Heat to finish third and put himself safely into the Main.
Everything seemed to be lining-up for an excellent final, especially after a rocket-start off the line and battling for the lead in the early going. But then disaster: On the third lap Stewart ran a wide arc through a 180-degree turn and then cut down to try to repass Jason Anderson, when suddenly Stewart’s Suzuki was slammed by Dungey.
Stewart was flung-off the high-side of his Suzuki, landed hard and knocked unconscious. He came to rest in a bad part of the track and officials red-flagged the race for the rider’s safety.
It was a difficult way to end what was, up to that point, a great weekend.
“James came in ready to race,” said Yoshimura Suzuki Team Manager Mike Webb. “Everything was going to plan, maybe even better than we expected. He was strong in timed qualifying, went out and qualified directly into the Main from his Heat race, had a great start in the final and then out of nowhere he ends up on the ground due to no fault of his own.
“It’s a real shame for all the work he put into this comeback, but I’m hopeful he’ll be able to bounce back soon and quickly put this behind him.”
Stewart is being evaluated and his status for next week’s race in San Diego is day-to-day. The team will issue an update when available.
Stewart was the only rider flying the Yoshimura Suzuki colours. His team-mate Blake Baggett continues to recover from injuries suffered in pre-season practice. Baggett is making good progress and is hoping to return to racing at the end of the month when the series visits Oakland, California.