Langston and Villopoto Top Suprising AMA MX Season

Langston scores first Motocross class title, Villopoto defends in Motocross Lites

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (September 12, 2007)Grant Langston and Ryan Villopoto wrapped up national championships Sunday, Sept. 9 in Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, Calif., at the final round of the 2007 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF.

Grant Langston, a 25-year-old originally from South Africa, made a remarkable come-from-behind charge in the championship, winning the final three rounds on his factory Yamaha to edge Mike Alessi, Andrew Short and Tim Ferry for the AMA Motocross Championship, in one of the best battles in series history.

It marked the second American motocross title for Langston. He won the AMA Motocross Lites class (then called 125ccc Motocross) in 2003. Prior to coming to America he won the FIM 125cc World Motocross Championship in 2000.

Langston ran sixth in the point standings as late as round seven in late July. But then made an amazing turnaround and scored two seconds and three firsts in the final five rounds to complete his come-from-behind championship rally.

“I really didn’t think I would be a factor in the championship mid-way through the season,” said Langston, who won his first AMA Motocross class national at Steel City on Aug. 26 and went on to win at Freestone and Glen Helen to sweep the final three events. “My team worked so hard all year. When we got the new 2008 Yamaha I just seemed to gel with it. To come back and win this title is a great feeling. Every week I kept chipping away. The championship was a like a carrot being dangled in front of me. Once I could see the carrot I got on a roll.”

Langston’s title gave Yamaha its sixth AMA Motocross Championship and its first since Doug Henry won the series in 1998. Langston also becomes the first rider to win the title in the post Ricky Carmichael era. Carmichael won a series-leading six rounds this year, but raced just half the events as he moved toward a new career in stock car racing.

A gracious Langston also recognized James Stewart after winning at Glen Helen. Stewart injured his knee at Washougal and was forced to sit out the rest of the season.

“James was going to be the rider to beat this year,” Langston said. “After he was injured there were four or five of us who could have won the championship. I like a challenge. I handle pressure well. Not too many opportunities like this come around. I may never win a championship again. I just left everything out there at the end of this season.”

While Langston won out in a close battle with three other riders, Ryan Villopoto faced the biggest test of his young career this season in a season-long one-on-one battle with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki teammate Ben Townley in AMA Motocross Lites.

Villopoto and Townley separated themselves from the rest of the field early in the summer and traded the series lead several times during the 12-round series. In the end a three-race winning streak starting at Millville, gave Villopoto the cushion he needed to back up his 2006 championship with yet another No. 1 campaign.

“I’m real happy about winning the championship again this year,” Villopoto said after finishing second at Glen Helen. “I want to thank my team and everyone who helped get me up here again. We worked hard and it paid off. Ben and I had great battles all year and it was good for the fans to see that kind of competition.”

In the end the 19-year-old Villopoto won five rounds this year en route to the title. The young rider from Poulsbo, Wash., becomes the first to win the Motocross Lites class back to back since Ricky Carmichael did it in 1998.

Villopoto plans to stay in the Lites class another year, which could make for a long season for the rest of his competitors. His rival Townley is slated to move up to the premier class.

This marked the 11th AMA Motocross Lites Championship for Kawasaki and the fourth in a row. With his five overall victories this year Villopoto now has 11-career AMA Motocross Lites wins. He moved from 22nd into a tie for ninth on the all-time AMA Motocross Lites wins list.