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5 Minutes With... Ryan Villopoto

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Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto wasn’t expected by many to win races in the 2009 Supercross championship with Chad Reed and James Stewart out there, but he was high on the list of riders to win the Lucas Oil AMA National Motocross Championship. Obviously, no one told this to Ryan, who expected to be competitive from the get-go. Even though he was up there, it wasn’t until he returned from illness that he was competitive for race wins, and he definitely was, winning two of the last three supercrosses of the season. We talked to Ryan just after the race in Las Vegas last Saturday night.

Racer X: That’s a heck of a set of three races there, coming back from illness and winning two of them.
Ryan Villopoto: It was awesome. Seattle was good. Salt Lake was okay, but it obviously wasn’t the weekend that I wanted, for sure, but it was a good weekend. I ended up with fourth, then came here and ended up with a pretty good second practice, a pretty good qualifying race, changes some stuff up in the main, and I felt good. It was definitely a clean race for me.

When you passed James a few laps into the race, that hasn’t happened a whole lot, so what was going through your head?
It was tough. He made that little mistake and I was able to get around him, and I was able to pull that little bit of a gap. I just tried to run 20 clean laps. Vegas is normally a very tough track to run 20 clean laps on, and I’d have to say this was the best Vegas track that I’ve ever ridden, but it’s still tough. The whoops were hard-packed and slippery, so it was awesome. I was just trying to break away and get a little bit of a gap. It was tough for a while. I got it to three or four seconds there for a couple laps, and I kept inching away at it and got it up to like eight.

You were ripping through the whoops, and that hasn’t been your strong suit this year. What changed there?
Yeah, even in the qualifier and in practice I was just okay in the whoops. All the guys came back, and I knew what they were doing – they were wheelieing into it, and that was really fast. James is always fastest in the whoops, and I came back, changed my line in the main, and was able to wheelie into it every time.

What was the biggest contributing factor that changed you from a podium contender to a regular contender for the win?
I wouldn’t call it “regular” but it’s definitely awesome. It’s a good change. It’s something where I came into the season expecting myself to be up there, and I’m not going to say that I expected to be winning races the whole time, but I expected to be closer than I was. But I ended up being sick, and then I came back and it seems like these last three races were good for me.

Did you change anything besides just getting healthy? Bike stuff, or attitude, or anything?
We tested and got the bike pretty good. We tested one day at the Kawi track and kind of came up with a Vegas setting, and then we ran our normal setting at Salt Lake – actually, we went to our Vegas setting at Salt Lake – but we knew what we were going to run here, did it, and it was awesome.

How does this change your outlook for the 2010 series?
It’s definitely going to be awesome, but I want to go out there and win the outdoors for sure. That’s my goal right now.

But then what about 2010?
I want to come out and be competitive, for sure.

Have you done a lot of outdoor testing yet?
We have a pretty good base, but it’s good. We’re going to go back with the two weeks off and go back and test, but other than that, we’re good. My goal for outdoors is to come out strong for the first three races and then try to nail down some wins.

Chad Reed said up on the podium that he welcomes you to the party and he expects to see you up front more from now on...
That’s awesome that they think about that. It’s definitely good looking forward to next year.

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