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Monday Conversation I: Ryan Villopoto

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto has hit his stride in 2008, and now he’s putting the hurt on his competition pretty regularly. In sweeping both motos at Hangtown – a race he had never won before – he now has a three-moto win streak in hand, along with a decent points gap, and there are still 10 round (20 motos) left to run.

Racer X: You’ve now strung together three moto wins, and it seems more and more like the first moto of the year, where you finished fifth, was a bit of a fluke. What happened in that moto?
Ryan Villopoto: It was only like 65 degrees out, and the track was smooth. I’m not saying that did everything, but it did make it easier on everybody else to race the track. I got a decent start, but in the second turn, someone fell in front of me, and I think I came out like 11th. With the track being smooth, it was hard to pass. Everybody was going fast.

You had Ben Townley as your main competition last year, and obviously Mike Alessi has been a main competitor for a couple of years, and now both of them are racing 450s. Relatively speaking, has this made it easier for you to be so dominant?
Not really... [pause]

It seems like you’re beating them pretty badly, is my point...
I mean, I have won the title the last two years, so there’s not much more that I can do than that – I guess maybe win motos and overalls...

The crux of my point is that the last two years, you won maybe six or seven Nationals per year, but this year it seems like you may be setting yourself up to win many more than that...

I’m not going to say that Ryan [Dungey] and them aren’t as good as Ben [Townley] was last year, but it was tougher then in a lot of ways: Me and Ben were on the same team, and it was a tough year racing against your competitor that is also your teammate. But, in some ways, it was also kind of nice, because you could sort of trust him.

With the next few races coming up, do you feel like you have anything to work on? Or are you just planning on continuing what you’re doing?
We do so much already, there’s no sense in switching it up. I like Texas... I mean, what’s really going to play into it is the way the schedules are set up, and we have four races and then two weekends off, and then five – and that’s going to be gnarly – and then three after that, so that’s definitely going to be gnarly – trying to get through those weekends.

And they’re longer weekends than supercross, too, since you have all of the stuff on Saturday, and then Sunday too...
It’s definitely going to be a lot tougher than last year, I do have to say that.

Do you think it will be better or worse?

For me, I hope it will obviously play to my favor. Hopefully, anyway. That’s all I can really hope for. I just want to try to get a decent points gap. Last year, I had 20, and then all of a sudden, I was five down, so I definitely want to try to get some points.

Knowing that you have to race a 450 next year, do you go watch the 450s after your second moto is done?
Not really. I kind of know the 450 guys. James is obviously one of the top guys, and it kind of doesn’t change weekend to weekend as often. It seems like the guys who are fast are pretty consistently up there, so it’s hard for someone to make up points, so it’s a lot different.

There’s also the reliability issue where the 450s aren’t tuned to the extent that 250Fs are, so you tend not to have the one moto a year where your 450 broke as often.
Yeah, you definitely don’t need it.

If you do win the third title in a row, I know that’s counting your chickens before they hatch, but that would put you in a league with Broc Glover, Mark Barnett and Ricky Carmichael. Those are the only other guys that have done it...
That would be cool.

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