Bench Racing Ammo: The Third Coming

July 25, 2006 2:03pm

As the 250F points leader, Ryan Villopoto chooses his gate first.

photo: Simon Cudby

If you look back through the history of motocross, it’s obvious that both Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart are two of the best riders the sport has ever seen. They both were incredible amateur racers with countless championships, and it was really no surprise that they continued their success in the professional ranks. A rider coming out of Loretta Lynn’s with 23 consecutive moto wins is probably going to do some damage as a pro, right? That’s what James Stewart did! And before him, it was Ricky who had the record for most career wins.

But since Stewart’s debut as a pro in 2002, the sport really hasn’t seen a rider enter the professional leagues who has the talent to possibly match or break their records.

At least not until now. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto is quickly making a name for himself, as it appears that he may be the most talented rookie to enter AMA motocross since Carmichael or even Stewart. Ping may have misspoken when he said on OLN that RV is having the best rookie year since RC, because the best rookie year ever currently belongs to Stewart, but Villopoto is having a Bubba-like summer to get things started for himself.
Taking nothing away from any other rider—especially Mike Alessi, who had a good rookie season in 2005—it appears that Villopoto could match the rookie record set by Stewart in ’02 (10 wins) and might even do better than RC’s ’97 summer (eight). So for this installment of Motosport Outlet’s Bench Racing Ammo, we’re comparing Villopoto’s first seven races of this season to the rookie MX seasons of both Carmichael and Stewart.

James Stewart on his way to winning his first AMA National at Glen Helen in 2002

photo: Racer X Archives

In 1997, coming off a third overall in the East Region 125cc Supercross Series (with three wins), Carmichael won his first AMA National at the season-opening Gatorback National, wearing #70 on a KX125. Throughout the next six races, he would win four, finish second once, and finish 13th once (in the High Point mud). So in his first seven races, RC was five for seven and went on to win the championship.

In 2002, coming off a second overall in the West Region Supercross Series (also with three wins), \Stewart won his first AMA National at the season-opening Glen Helen National, wearing #259 on a KX125. Throughout the next six races, he would win four of them and finish 12th at High Point after his radiator was damaged in the first turn, then sixth at Southwick after blowing an engine in the first moto. He was five for seven and would go on to win the championship by dominating the last five races of the series.

In 2006, coming off a third overall in the West Region SX Series (with one win), Ryan Villopoto won his first AMA National at the second round of the series at High Point, wearing #51 on a KX250F. Through the next five races he would win four, and take fifth overall at the opening round at Hangtown, and finish a disappointing 12th overall at Southwick (where he blew his engine).

Carmichael won eight races in his rookie season

photo: Racer X Archives

Just like Carmichael and Stewart did in their rookie seasons, Ryan Villopoto is five for seven in his first seven nationals. He would have to win the remaining five races of the series to have a shot at matching the best rookie season ever, but that’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility. And here’s betting he chalks up one more victory this weekend, since the series is heading to Washougal MX Park, a track where “Area 51” has ridden since he was on a minicycle!