Ryan Villopoto Wins His First ESX Round Of The Year

Villopoto lays down the law early with some blazing fast practice times, a heat race win and last lap pass on to take the Minneapolis Lites main win

CORONA, Calif., (March 18, 2008) – Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/ Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto had the fastest bike all weekend in Minneapolis, but really waited until the last turn of the last lap to prove that when he passed Josh Grant to take the overall ESX Lites class win at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Round 11 of Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship.

In certainly one of the more exciting AMA Supercross Lites main events of the season, Villopoto and Grant battled bar-to-bar for much of the race with the eventual outcome being decided on the last corner of the 15-lap main.

“Man, this is it!,” said Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s James Stewart, who had joined online race announcers Jason Weigandt and Jim Holley in the booth. “What a great race.”

Villopoto pretty much let it be known early that he was going to be the man to beat. Taking nothing away from ESX points leader Trey Canard (to which Villopoto has admitted he “underestimated” Canard), Villopoto sent a message the rest of the Minnesota field early by putting up the fastest lap time in the first pro seeded practice session by more than a second (47.314 to 48.792) over teammate Branden Jesseman. Villopoto then backed that by winning the second heat race by nine seconds over Canard.

In the main Villopoto got out in 2nd place behind Grant and remained there – albeit for a couple brief lead changes – then set Grant up with a slick outside/inside move on the last turn of the last lap to take the checkers.

“It was crazy – I almost landed on him,” said Villopoto of his effort to get by Grant. “We battled a bit in the middle (of the race) and I waited to the last turn – and made it stick. It was really tough.”

Villopoto and Grant congratulated each other after the race.

With Canard finishing in 4th place Villopoto was able to cut the rookie’s overall points lead to 24 points with three ESX rounds remaining, 93-69. Villopoto, who started the season with limited time training supercross due to an injury, has hit full stride with his win in Minneapolis and is looking forward to the final three chances at victory.

“Twenty four points to make up with three rounds to go…(I) have to hope for a mistake by Trey, a big one – not just a little one,” said Villopoto.

Note: Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jesseman finished 4th in the first heat race, 12th overall.

Next up for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team is the Saturday (March 29th) running of the FIM World SX Championship round at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Round 12 of 2008 Monster Energy Supercross.