Sunday’s victory was the sixth of the year for Villopoto, the 18-year-old from Poulsbo, Wash., who rides for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.
Villopoto earned the championship after a season-long battle with Red Bull KTM rider Mike Alessi. The title was not decided until the final round of the year. Villopoto admitted he had high expectations for himself at the start of the 2006 AMA Motocross season:
“I came in expecting to win the championship,” he said. “I guess everyone comes in thinking that way. It just happened to work out for me.”
Villopoto said he enjoyed his rivalry with Alessi this season. He thinks that one of the best runs between them was at the last round.
“At Glen Helen we had the best race going on,” Villopoto said. “Everything was clean between both of us and it made for good racing.”
Winning the championship at such a young age has some pundits already comparing Villopoto to AMA Toyota Motocross Champion Ricky Carmichael. Villopoto loves to hear that kind of talk.
“I think it would be cool if I do some of the things Ricky has done over his career,” Villopoto admits. “I mean I’m sure anyone who races would love to follow in his footsteps.”
It was a rollercoaster ride for Villopoto during 2006. He trailed, then led and later trailed again in the standings, but he said he’s grateful that he ended up on top.
“I got off to a pretty decent start with a fifth at Hangtown and the win at Mt. Morris,” Villopoto said. “Then I had some bike problems at two of the rounds that set us back. Then Mike had some bike problems at Binghamton that helped me out. The back and forth in the championship didn’t bother me. I thought it was good for the fans.”
Villopoto will now turn his attention to the Motocross of Nations where he’s set to be partnered with Carmichael and James Stewart representing Team USA. However, Carmichael injured his shoulder at Glen Helen on Sunday and is currently questionable for the MXoN. If Carmichael is unable to ride an alternate will be named.
Villopoto is also planning to return with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki in the Motocross Lites class again next year to defend his championship.
Villopoto’s championship marked the 10th AMA Motocross Lites (formerly 125) title for Kawasaki. The manufacturer has won a remarkable eight of the last ten AMA Motocross Lites Championships.