Monday Conversation I: Ryan Villopoto

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto is having the type of rookie 450cc season that most people assumed he would have. He’s fast all the time, but his results have been a little all over the map despite his speed, including a DNF (or DNQ, more accurately) at Anaheim III after taking a header into a jump face. Still, RV is constantly improving, and this week he was all over the battle for second with Chad Reed. He’s closing the gap on the top couple guys.

Racer X: You said earlier in the year that you wanted to be a part of that battle up front, and this time you definitely were...
Ryan Villopoto: I think we were the battle, so let’s re-phrase that. We were the battle. (Laughs)

Sorry, you’re right. You were the battle. So, does that feel more like where you should’ve been the whole time?
I don’t know. The class is tough. It’s going to take me a while to figure it out, and I think James is a step above the whole field, so... You know, everybody’s riding pretty good, and with my good start, I was able to run in second for a while and battle with Chad [Reed]. I made a little mistake, and he got around me, and then a lapper got in his way and I was able to get back around him, but he ended up getting me. Each week, I’m getting closer and closer, so it’s just about taking steps.

When you hurt yourself, or whatever, at Anaheim III, how bad did that actually effect you?
[It was a] concussion... It was just that week a little bit, and I rode good at San Diego. I just hit my head and was sore, but I’m fine now.

So it wasn’t that big of a deal...
No. I mean, I couldn’t ride all week. I rode Friday. A concussion, you’re supposed to take seven days off, I guess, and I took about five, so...

What about your neck and stuff?
Yeah, I mean, it was definitely sore, but by the weekend, I was fine.

I promised I would ask you about your beard, so what’s the story with your bright-red beard?
You like it... I’m just growing it out. Should I shave it and just do a moustache?

No! If anything, you should shave the moustache and leave the Fightin’ Irish beard by itself...
No, I like the moustache, like Rob on Fantasy Factory. He talks about a moustache.

Is that where they got the idea for the color way for your gear? Orange and white, to match your face and beard?
(Laughs) No, I had the gear before the beard, at Anaheim II, remember?

What about your starts?
You saw it tonight. It was a good start, right?

Yeah, that’s what I’m saying, but they haven’t always been that good this year. What have you been doing?
Practicing. Practice makes perfect, so they say. I have a gate that I bring to the track, and I’ve been practicing starts. They’re a little on and off sometimes, but tonight they were on, and hopefully we can keep them rolling.

Now that you’ve battled with Chad a couple times, what is your impression of racing him? Can you trust him as a fellow racer?
I think so. You can’t leave the door open or he’ll come in on you, but tonight it was a good race. He’s kind of in the championship hunt, so I’m not expecting him to just let me ride around in second, so you’ve got to be a little cautious, just like with anybody else.

{LINKS}With this being your first season on a 450, do points matter to you at all?
They do. I mean, I’m not going to say that they don’t, but I did DNF a race. I’ll just keep working to try to get up to that third spot.