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Monday Conversation: Ryan Villopoto

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Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto came into 2009 full of potential and promise, but the season didn’t go quite as he’d hoped. While he was battling for top three in the championship, which is pretty much where most pundits figured he would fit in, he had yet to show the kind of speed most expected. It turned out, he was ill. After sitting out a few races to recover from a mystery illness, he headed to his home supercross in Seattle, Washington, and came away a winner in his first race back. We talked to him after the race.

Racer X: So, you take three weeks off, and then you win! That’s pretty amazing, actually...
Ryan Villopoto: Definitely, I was sick, and I had to take some time off, but it was definitely time that was spent well in recovery and getting ready for this... Well, actually, I couldn’t really do anything, so I was kind of just semi-retired.

Semi-retired for three weeks?
Yeah, I mean, it was nice to get away from all of the traveling and stuff, so I did that, then I came back and rode the Thursday before Jacksonville, flew to Jacksonville and hung out there, then came back and got back into it. I started doing my normal program and tried to get as ready as I could for this.

Was there any added motivation coming to what is the closest for you to a hometown race?
Obviously, it would be nice to win in front of the hometown, and you always think that, but I guess I was doubting myself a little bit just with the way the year’s gone and that kind of stuff. I had a good heat race, got a good start in the main and was able to capitalize on Mike’s mistake when I got close and pressured him, and...

Early in the main, it was like Loretta Lynn’s from five years ago or something, with you, Mike Alessi and Davi Millsaps all out front...
Yeah, definitely, and obviously I’ve raced with those to a lot. When Mike went down, actually Davi caught up pretty close and I had to put in some good laps after that. I can’t thank the team enough for sticking behind me and putting in the hard work.

Late in the race, what was going through your head, knowing you’re winning in front of your home fans and James Stewart was in second?
You know, I kind of could see where James was even when I was in the lead, so I was just trying to finish out the laps strong, not making any mistakes, and not trying to slow down at all. I did that, so it ended up being a good night, for sure.

But the track seemed like it made it almost impossible to not make mistakes, though...
Yeah, there were loamy parts of the track, there were nice berms, there were ruts, and there was hard and slippery spots, so it was a tough track to figure out how to ride.

But you did, so that’s got to be a testament to your 450cc skills coming around. Have you changed your style up much?
No, I mean, we definitely got to work on the bike when I started riding again, and we changed some stuff on the bike, and that made it a lot better. Also, being healthy... I don’t know how long that I wasn’t 100 percent, it was just something that was lingering in my body, I guess, and I couldn’t get rid of it. I was sick, on and off, and it was just something from traveling and flying with the dirty air.

You had to be able to hear the crowd all the way around this place, right?
Oh, yeah, even during opening ceremonies, I think they were definitely the loudest for me, obviously because of the hometown thing, but they were loud.

They were spinning towels and just going nuts all the way around every lap for you.
Yeah, they were definitely noisy, and that was a cool thing for me.

Did it help keep you from getting tired?
Yeah, but there were no whoops, so on one hand it was hard to get separation from the other riders, and on the other hand the race was a little easier with no whoops. I think I rode good, and I felt good, so regardless if there were whoops or not, I would’ve done well.

Early in the season, you were riding your 450 like a 250F – always wide-open or off the gas altogether. Has that changed at all?
I think, on this type of track, in the berms, you can ride more like that. It was definitely good, but there were slippery spots, so you had to pick and choose where you wanted to get on it.

When is it going to sink in that you actually won a 450cc main?
I think it has, but we’ve got to go back and ride Monday and get ready for the next round...

When does your bonus check come?
I don’t know, but it’s nice!

What gun are you going to buy? Is that still going on?
I mean, I didn’t buy any guns last year during that outdoor period, so I’ve kind of bought some guns for that, but with this little bonus, I’ll buy one more gun that I want.

What is it? Can you tell us?
It’s a .338 Lapua, Barrett.

So it’s like a sniper rifle...
Yeah, and I have a Barrett .50 cal. on order. I don’t have it yet.

Congratulations, Ryan.
Thanks.

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