PICKERINGTON, Ohio (July 26, 2006) -- Ryan Villopoto will return home to Washington this weekend to a hero’s welcome. The 17-year-old Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider from Poulsbo, Wash., leads the AMA Motocross Lites Championship as Washougal Motocross Park hosts round eight of the 12 round AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF on July 30.
Villopoto is the first rider from Washington State to lead the series this late in the season. He could also become the first home state rider to win at Washougal since Larry Ward was victorious in the Motocross Lites class (then called 125 class) in 1991.
“I haven’t ridden at Washougal in five years,” said Villopoto, who is a former AMA Horizon Award winner and is in his first full year as a pro. “I just did local amateur races before so it will be interesting to race on the track at a national.”
Villopoto is on a four race winning streak coming into Washougal. In all he’s won five of the seven nationals this year. He took over the points lead with a victory in New Berlin, N.Y., on July 16. He comes home sporting a 13-point lead over rival Mike Alessi. After the last round Alessi acknowledged how well Villopoto has been riding.
“Ryan’s going so fast right now,” Alessi admitted. “He’s going to his home track so he’s going to be good there. He’s just carrying more speed around the outside of the turns and straight-aways; he just seems to be going faster everywhere. That’s all I can say; he’s going fast right now and he has the momentum. I just have to do my work at home, and figure out where his weakness is; everyone has a weakness – I just need to figure it out.”
Honda’s Andrew Short was solidly in the hunt for the Motocross Lites title as well, but bike problems cost him a poor finish last week in Colorado. As a result, Short is now a full 60 points down to Villopoto in the standings and will need an outstanding result in Washougal to get back in the championship picture.
While Villopoto is coming to the Washougal National for the first time, this may be the last opportunity fans of the Pacific Northwest have to watch Ricky Carmichael, the rider many consider to be the greatest motocross racer of all time. Carmichael announced earlier this season that he will return to race a limited schedule in 2007. While Carmichael’s career may be winding down, that by no stretch of the imagination means that the defending and six-time AMA Motocross Champion is slowing down. Carmichael is riding his Makita Suzuki as fast as ever and he holds a commanding 69-point lead in the AMA Motocross Championship.
“I’m savoring every win right now like it’s my last one,” said Carmichael, a four-time Washougal Motocross winner. “Overall I have to say I’ve had a great year with Makita Suzuki, actually a great two years. I’m looking forward to racing at Washougal. It’s a scenic track with the surrounding mountains and the fans there are awesome.”
Carmichael’s nearest competitor is Yamaha’s Chad Reed. Reed is riding with a sore knee he suffered in a hard crash in New York a few weeks ago.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can, standing up a lot and trying not to dab my foot,” Reed said of riding injured. “I’m actually pretty happy with my results considering my injury. I’ll just have to ride carefully and wait for a break in the schedule to heal up.”
Honda’s Davi Millsaps scored his best result ever in the premier class last weekend in Lakewood, Colo. Millsaps, a first-year rider in the AMA Motocross class, said he’s finally getting over being star struck by the riders he’s racing against. “I have been watching these guys for the past ten years – and I was getting really nervous,” he said. “Ricky’s never lost an outdoors! At first I hit my head so many times; basically I just calmed down and got over it.”
Washougal is considered by many in the motocross community to be the most beautiful circuit in the series. The track climbs and descends out of beautiful pine forests and it annually attracts some of the biggest crowds of the year.
Both Motocross and Motocross Lites will be televised nationally on OLN. The Motocross class will be shown on Aug. 5 at 6:00 p.m. eastern while the Motocross Lites class airs on Aug. 7 at 5:00 p.m. eastern.
WHAT: Unbound Energy National at Washougal presented by Snap-On, Scott USA and Yamaha, round eight of the 12-round AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF.
WHERE: Take I-5 to 205 to Hwy. 14, go east to Washougal, 15th St., turn left, go 8 miles, turn left on Alder Rd/412th, left on Borin Rd.
WHEN: July 29-30, 2006
COURSE: 1.4 miles (approx), hard pack and soft loam.
2005 WINNERS: AMA Motocross: Ricky Carmichael (Suzuki). AMA Motocross Lites: Ivan Tedesco (Kawasaki).
SCHEDULE: Saturday (July 29) - Pro practice, 1:00-3:25 p.m.., Pre-qualifiers 4:05 p.m.; Sunday (July 30) - Practice, 9:00-10:30 a.m. Qualifying, 10:45 a.m. Opening Ceremonies, 12:30 p.m. Final events start at 1:00 p.m. with two 30-minute, plus two lap motos for each class.
TICKETS: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday Ticket -$45.00; Friday, Saturday, Sunday Ticket -$40.00; Saturday, Sunday Ticket - $40.00; Sunday only Ticket - $30.00. Six & under free all days. Parking: $5.00; Paddock passes - $15.