SITTING DOWN WITH MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI’S RYAN VILLOPOTO
After this past weekend’s Budds Creek MX National, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto has now won eight out of the 10 AMA 450cc National motos run so far this year. The two he has lost, he has lost to defending 450cc National champ Ryan Dungey, who went 2-1 for the overall at Budds Creek in front of the 1-2 performance from Villopoto. However, there’s still a whole lot of racing left, as with five rounds down, there are still seven to go. That’s 14 motos and 350 points up for grabs between them. We caught up with the current points leader Villopoto after the race.
HOW WAS BUDDS CREEK? I felt like it was all right. It seemed like we struggled a little bit in first practice, and also second. We tried to make a few little changes to make it better, but that first moto I felt like I was struggling a little bit. I was missing this rhythm section up here behind the start, and then I was able to get that done and then string some really good laps together after that. And then Ryan Dungey ended up going down, so obviously that was kind of the end of it there. But in second moto, I didn’t get the greatest of starts. Ryan got out front quick and he put a charge in. So, by the time I got into second, the lead was big. You know, I felt like the track was tough today. It was tricky and was hard to really make up time, and with that lead he had, we were trading tenths here and there, so it was tough to make anything happen.
DID YOU GET OUT OF CONTROL OUT OF THE GATE IN THE FIRST MOTO? Yeah, it got a little squirrely there, but Tyla Rattray ended up popping a huge wheelie out of the gate and left the inside open, so I shot over there in front of him and was able to sneak around the inside. Then also around the doubles [before the finish line], I got around the inside and came out in the lead there, right off the bat. So that was good. But I felt like the starts could have been better.
WITH DUNGEY AND YOU AND DUNGEY BEING HEADS ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE, DID YOU THINK ABOUT BACKING IT DOWN A NOTCH TO SECURE SECOND AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT RACE? No, never. You don’t want to hang back. You want to try to keep charging, close that gap and try to make a pass on him. But I felt like we learned kind of a lot at Budds Creek, with our setup, kind of where we’re at, and we’ll go back, we’ll change it. This is kind of the first track that we’ve been to that has the really big hills like this and I feel like we’re a little bit off. But, I won the first moto, so I should have been better the second. So even though our setup was a little bit off, I still should have been better.
YOUR HISTORY AT BUDDS CREEK INCLUDES LEGENDARY RACES LIKE THE 2007 MOTOCROSS OF NATIONS, WHERE YOU WON BOTH MOTOS ON YOUR KX250F IN FRONT OF ALL OF THE 450s, WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT BUDDS? Yeah, I really like Budds Creek. It kind of reminded me of, not Hangtown this year, but Hangtown previously that I’ve raced. There were kind of a lot of awkward bumps and ruts and things like that. That’s actually what it kind of reminded me of and it was probably one of the tougher tracks that we’ve ridden up to this point this year.
PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT HOW AMAZING YOUR LINE CHOICES HAVE BEEN SO FAR THIS YEAR. WAS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO PICK GOOD LINES ON A TRACK LIKE THAT? What I meant by “awkward and tough to ride,” it seemed like no matter where you went, you were hitting some type of bump or coming across them. You can never really get out of them. And that’s what Hangtown is normally like. It seems like you can never get out of the bumps at Hangtown. It’s always just trying to find the smoothest line and if you can’t, just get through the sections as clean as you can.
IN THE FIRST MOTO, YOU TOOK THE LEAD GOING INSIDE IN THOSE ROLLER DOUBLES BEFORE THE FINISH. IS THAT ALSO WHERE YOU SAID YOU WERE STRUGGLING? Yeah, it was. It seemed like the first double was fairly easy to do, but the rest were really soft, and kind of like Play-Doh. They didn’t form really well, so if you ended up, like, slapping the front wheel down on one, it would end up almost trying to suck you up. They were just technical and tough and it took me a while to just get the right rhythm through there. Once I was able to do that, I put in some good laps after that.
HEADING TO SOUTHWICK, YOU’RE IN FOR SOME SAND, AND IT MAY BE THE LAST TIME YOU GET TO RACE THERE. IS SAND SOMETHING THAT PLAYS INTO YOUR STRENGTHS? I like it. I think Southwick is a tough track. You need a good start. So, I need to have two good starts and I’d like to win it. You’ve got to have those two moto wins on the day when you have a guy like Ryan Dungey that is always going to be there. If you make one little mistake, he’s going to be there to capitalize on it and him and I will more than likely swap out on points. So, it makes it tough to really make gains in points like that, when we’re so consistent.
Photos: Monster Energy