MXA INTERVIEW: RYAN VILLOPOTO’S THOUGHTS ON VEGAS, THE SEASON AND HIS PLANS
By Eric Johnson
Wearing a pair of jeans, a blue Yamaha team shirt and a Monster Energy baseball hat, Ryan Villopoto was at the Las Vegas Supercross armed with a wealth of experience and a keen racing mind. Now working as Yamaha’s Brand Ambassador, the four-time AMA Supercross Champion has been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt, RV had quite a bit to say about what happened during the Las Vegas Supercross finals. Check it out.
DO YOU EVER WISH YOU WERE OUT THERE FIGHTING FOR TITLES? No. I don’t miss it. it’s really not that awesome a feeling to go into a championship final like this unless you have a decent points lead like Cooper Webb dId.
IT MUST BE A NERVE WRACKING DAY. Oh yeah, lots of nerves. We all know it’s racing and anything can happen. It can be mistakes from yourself, it can be mechanicals, and it can be so many things. I don’t miss it.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON ELI TOMAC ON HIS YEAR ? As far as his season and some of the races he had this year, I don’t really know. I don’t think anybody knows what the ups and downs with Eli are. You have to look at why the downs happen and how to fix them. I don’t know why he’s so inconsistent. Cooper Webb has been the most consistent and look where he is at now. You don’t always have to be the fastest, but consistency is a big deal.
WERE YOU SHOCKED AT HOW WELL COOPER WEBB MANAGED THE 2019 AMASUPERCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP? Yes, when he was in the 250 East/West class, he managed all of his championships really well. I’ve seen numerous races where he crashed and came back to win. You know, maybe he was in the top three, crashed, then got back up and raced back into the top three or even ended up winning. Realistically, the problem with Eli Tomac’s bad races is that they are horrific. Cooper on the other hand hasn’t had many bad nights. He’s been on the podium 15 times this year and his bad race was a fifth or something. You have to turn bad days into decent races. You can’t have races like Eli had this year and expect to be the champion.
OUT OF CURIOSITY, DO YOU AND ELI EVER SPEAK TO EACH OTHER? No, not really. Eli and his mom and dad run their program differently. That’s their program. I don’t know anything about it.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE PERFORMANCE OF MITCH’S RIDERS IN THE 250 CLASS THIS WINTER? AC did really well. Forkner rode really well too, but I said to Mitch, “One of these times Austin is going to end up getting hurt.” You cannot crash – and it’s not like he’s sliding out or losing the front end — he’s crashing hard at least once a weekend and it ended up getting him at New York. It wasn’t even the crash that got him, it’s when he dabbed his foot on top of a whoop. It was a bummer to see that happen.
ADAM CIANCIARULO LOOKED LIKE IT WAS FINALLY GOING TO HAPPEN FOR HIM. THOUGHTS? I spent lot of time with Adam in Florida for five or six years. He was still on 80s at the point. He was real small on the 80s and then he got bigger as the bikes got bigger. I would have definitely liked to have seen him pull it off tonight—specifically for Mitch Payton. I’m at the Pro Circuit shop every week and I see all the time and effort put in.
DO YOU GO INTO THE PRO CIRCUIT RACE SHOP OFTEN? Yes, I have a work bay and I have my motorcycles there. I’ll go riding and come back to Pro Circuit to wash the bike and do basic prep on it. If I need any major stuff done, I can grab one of the race team to help me. I’m there a lot, so I see the work that gets put in.
YOU’RE MUCH MORE RELAXED AND HAPPY GO LUCKY THAT WHEN YOU WERE RACING. I stepped away for about two years where I pretty much didn’t even watch racing, but now Pro Circuit is like my home. I was here for so long. I started my career on this team and finished on Pro Circuit pipes. These guys are like family to me, so to come to the races and see all the guys at Kawasaki and everybody else. We all raced with one another for 10 years. I don’t care what color the race truck is, I’m going to walk right in there. It’s cool to have all these friends in the sport.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF RACING THIS SUPERCROSS SEASON? The racing was pretty good. Personally, it’s good for fans to see different winners. We had three Triple Crown races this year, which I think are pretty cool events.
ANY RIDERS WHO DIDN’T REALIZE THEIR FULL POTENTIAL THIS SEASON? Justin Hill comes to mind. Super-talented rider and really fast when he wants to be. He might need to go play his guitar, if you know what I mean. It’s pretty shocking how good he is, but you don’t roll around in 20th or 10th or 12th. He should be a top eight guy every weekend, no matter what. Eight should be a bad night for him.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR RYAN VILLOPOTO? The next thing on my list is Hangtown and the 125 race. Once again Mitch is pulling out all the stops for me. I won the Washougal 125 race last year and I got second at Hangtown. It’s a cool race. Yeah, it is only four laps and it means nothing, but I want to go there and win. It’s just been a lot of fun.
Photos: Monster Energy, Brian Converse, MXA