By Kyoshi Becker
Mastery is the best way to describe Ryan Dungey’s performance last Saturday at Petco Park. First to the corner, Dungey not only took the holeshot but led every lap in the main event. He hit every jump perfectly exhibiting a level of precision that resulted in having lap times under a minute up until the 19th lap. Ken Roczen and Jason Anderson were the only other two riders to do so, but unlike Dungey, poor positioning in the start and minor mistakes kept them from being a threat to the reigning champion.
Ryan wasn’t always a dominant rider in the sport. He took 32ond overall on a stock 85cc Honda in the 12-13 class making for a lackluster result. In the same class Mike Alessi swept with moto wins and Ryan Villopoto took second overall, while Will Hahn took 13th and Phil Nicoletti a 20th. It wasn’t until 2002 that Dungey would cross the finish line first at Loretta Lynn’s , beating out Zach Osbourne on a modified Suzuki in the 125cc twelve to fifteen class. Dungey would leave Loretta’s with only one win before advancing his career. Meeting Roger DeCoster led to an opportunity to audition on a Suzuki RM-Z250. Impressed by his corner speed, Decoster offered Dungey a contract on a per-race basis. Dungey’s introduction into Pro racing earned him a 7th at Millville in the 2006 outdoor Nationals. It wasn’t until August 17, 2008, that Dungey displayed an improved level of speed earning his first overall.
His first taste of Supercross came in round 8 of the 2007 season where Dungey was able to win his heat race in that 250 East class. In 2008, Ryan Dungey claimed the second fastest lap time and the win at Anaheim 1 in the 250 class passing Jason Lawrence on the 8th lap. Dungey walked away with a second in points for his first season.
In 2010 Dungey entered the 450 class aboard a Factory Suzuki RM-Z450. He was in the points mix right off the bat with Ryan Villopoto. Dungey caught a break at the St. Louis Supercross where Villopoto crashed on the 9th lap fracturing his tibia and fibia along with collapsing a lung. Already a dominating force, Dungey had been riding in Villopoto’s shadow in his rookie 450 season— Chad Reed and James Stewart had dropped out by the third round. After Villopoto got injured, Dungey breezed through the rest of the season winning the 450 Supercross Championship with a 70-point lead. It hadn’t been since 2003 where a rookie clinched a AMA Supercross title. That rider being Jeremy McGrath.
It was a huge year for Dungey, but the victory didn’t last long. Villopoto came back with a vengeance and dominated Supercross for the next four years (up until his retirement in late 2014). It was during these years that Dungey would move from Team Suzuki to KTM under the guidance of Roger DeCoster. During the opening main event in 2015 there was one rider that stood out—Ken Roczen. Excluding Dungey, the playing field had been stripped of past champions and contenders as legitimate threats. The ones to watch were the young and hungry athletes. And Roczen, a German native who had initially been Dungey’s teammate on the Redbull KTM team, had moved to Suzuki in pursuit of more money and a team in which he would be the lead ridert.
Roczen’s 2015 win streak ended in Oakland. After passing Chad Reed in the third lap, Roczen came up short on a jump, and crashed face first into his handlebars. Although he was able salvage a 15th place in Oakland, he seemed to have lost his luster. Roczen’s season took a dive in Atlanta where a huge crash put him in the 18th position. Starting the 2015 season at 4th place, Ryan Dungey wasn’t the dominant he is today, but he was amazingly consistent. He had the experience to stay in the top five, and he was willing to finish second if that what the cards dealt him. Dungey would win the 2015 Supercross titles, but he knew that something was missing from his program.
Dungey had always been self trained. He didn’t have a full-time trainer. He developed his own plan—depending on his natural DNA, advice from his team and the rising performance of the KTM 450SXF. Having spent time with James Stewart, Roger DeCoster, Ivan Tedesco and Ricky Carmichael, Ryan had great role models. In 2014 Dungey connected with coach Robb Beams to further his fitness and overall performance. While Beam was a vast improvement over not having a trainer, when Ryan moved to Trainer of the Stars Aldon Baker he became a force to be reckoned with. Focusing on the mental as well as physical aspects of the sport, Dungey moved from the top five to the top three and clinched the overall in 2015. His success didn’t stop there as he claimed the AMA 450 National outdoor title as well.
Now, six races into the 2016 season, Ryan Dungey has not missed a podium. He had scored firsts in four of the six races and seconds in the other two. His starts have shown a major improvement over last season and his lap times are among the fastest each time out. One of the more subtle differences in Ryan is his focus. He hits every jump with complete precision and now has a commanding 26-point lead over old rival Ken Roczen. Ready to win a consecutive championships, the Dungey of 2005 couldn’t possibly have believed his career would turn out like this, but then maybe it was belief that drove him to become the racer he is today.