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Monday Conversation: Ryan Villopoto

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Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto had an impressive 450cc outdoor debut, to say the least, chasing down his rivals to win both motos last Saturday. If it continues like this, his competition is going to have a long season.

Racer X: In some ways, is it almost worse to come into your first-ever 450cc national with this kind of hype on your shoulders, being expected to win right away?
Ryan Villopoto: It’s tough because you never know until you get there and you see where everybody’s at and how fast they are. I’m glad I didn’t let anybody down [laughs].

So you’re going to go 24 and 0, right? Go ahead and predict it...
Yeah, oh yeah, of course... [Laughs] No, that’s not my goal. It’s about points and a championship, that’s it.

You’ve always gone fast here, and this is actually the second time that you methodically chased Mike Alessi down from a huge lead to win a moto. You did it here two years ago, too.
Yeah, I like Glen Helen. The track was rough, and it was good, but the shadows were bad that second moto. I like the track, though, and I like rough tracks, but I don’t necessarily like how it was run backward, but...

It seems like, with the shadows, if it were run forward, that hill would’ve been steeper going up Mount St. Helens and you would’ve only had the sun in your eyes at the very end...
Yeah, but I don’t know, I think it’s a better racetrack the other way regardless.

Talk about battling with Chad Reed. Nobody’s really had to race with him outdoors the last couple of years, and then in the second moto, you actually had to pass him...
Chad was in front of me, and I passed him and caught up to Josh [Grant], and then actually Chad caught back up and started putting pressure on. I was able to get around Josh and pull away, but he rode good, and I’m sure he’ll be better as time goes on here.

What are you going to have to do about your starts?
There’s some stuff that I can do, for sure. Mike’s really good at the starts, but as long as I’m there in the top three or whatever, I’m sure I’m okay. I can work on some starts and maybe work on some engine stuff, but other than that, I should be all right.

Now that you’ve obviously got a win in your column, coming up to the next few races, are there any that you’re particularly looking forward to?
No, just getting out there and getting points is it. There are three rounds and then a break, so I want to finish those out strong and get some wins and get some points and see where we end up.

What is the difference physically between racing a national on a 450 and on a 250?
The 450 is way gnarlier to ride out there.

But you were still able to ride like you’re known to ride, with a lightswitch throttle...
Yeah, the track was tough because they really over-watered it, and I think it made for not the greatest racetrack because it was a little one-lined. It could’ve been a way better racetrack if they didn’t flood it and make it muddy. They need to work on that, I guess.

Taking the hills out of the equation, would you say you’re faster as far as laptimes are concerned on your 450 or on your 250?
I don’t know, because you can push a 250F so much harder. I’ve talked about that with Mitch [Payton] quite a bit, and I don’t know, man, it’s tough to say. On Mitch’s bike with that light weight, but still with all that power, it’s a night-and-day difference to ride. It’s so much easier.

What about racing?
It’s easier to race, too, for sure. That’s why they say the 450cc class is the man’s class.

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