The captain of the “B Team,” Ryan Dungey won the MX1 overall and was an integral part of the Team USA victory in Italy. It was his first-ever professional 450cc outdoor race to boot. We caught him after the race to get his feelings on it all.
Racer X: You’re the "B Team" captain, so how much different is this race for you? How much different did you expect it to be and how much different did it end up actually being? Ryan Dungey: Being picked for the des Nations, it’s an honor – a big opportunity. I believe you have to step up and rise to the occasion when the time comes, but that’s also hard to do because you don’t know what to expect, let alone it being my first time on the 450. At the end of the day, the experience was just amazing. I’ve never seen so many people at a racetrack in my life. It was just fun – the whole week, the whole team. With Ivan and Jake, we worked together, we did it together. To come out on top, that's what we hoped for, and that's what we did, and it's an amazing feeling. I just can’t... It’s hard to put it into words.
Roger said after the second moto that he told you guys to just ride your best, but be as smart as you can be, too. That’s easier said than done, isn't it? Meanwhile, you go out and just win the thing. The whole game plan from the beginning was to give ourselves a chance and be smart with everything. Going into the last moto, we weren’t down a lot, but we weren’t leading, so I got a good start, was sitting there and kept thinking that I could make the pass and that’s what I went for. Meanwhile, I trusted in Ivan and Jake that they were going to do their thing and rise to the occasion, but the guy in front of me, I felt like I was faster so I went for it and got in the lead and then started checking out, which was amazing. Being my first 450 outdoor race and then coming here to fill that position, and then winning the MX1 class, it was amazing. We had great luck today and that’s part of it, too – you have to be in the right positions at the right time and thankfully we got away from all the bad and had more good than everybody, and we put in our good racing and stuff like that. I’m really proud of the team – of Ivan, and Jake, and Roger, and everybody. It’s been an amazing experience.
What about what you were thinking as a team after Saturday? I knew coming over here that the guys were going to be tough and they showed that they were, but at the same time, we had the 33rd gate pick, which was way on the outside. It was kind of a disadvantage in the start, but Ivan, I couldn’t believe he ripped a start. He did really well. We had our work cut out for us, and at the end of the day all we were really going for was a good gate position and that’s what we got ourselves for today, then we got good starts and had good laps. It was a little iffy yesterday, I’m sure, but we kept our spirits up and hopes high and we shot for that and stuck to the game plan.
Talk a bit about the track. A lot of those jumps were big. The track was pretty cool. It had five or six big jumps, which is kind of unnatural for tracks in the USA. We have a couple big ones, but they had a bunch, which was really fun for racing, but the one thing that was tough was the corners. They didn’t touch them from day one. They let it get rutted, and it got really choppy and bumpy so the track was just kind of gone from the beginning of the day. But I was actually really surprised how it turned up at the end of the day.
When you were out front in the last moto, how long was it before you knew the team had won? I didn’t. I knew that being in my position helps with the score of the team, but I felt like we had it in our hands because they weren’t saying anything on the board, but at the same time it was like, I’m just going to race to the finish. If we’re the champs, we’re the champs. I crossed the line and I didn’t know. They said, "congrats, MX1 champ," and I was like, "does that mean we’re the champions?" I came across and everybody’s like, “You won, you won!” I was like, “Did team USA win?” and they’re like, “Yeah, you won.” And then I was looking for Ivan and waiting for him to come across the finish and everybody was trying to pull me to the podium, but I just wanted to be with the team and celebrate in the moment, and being up on the podium with everybody was a great feeling. Then they’re playing our national anthem, which was an even greater feeling. It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it's amazing.
Maybe not once... Well, yeah, maybe not once, but the opportunity was just amazing with how the day went. It was one of the most stressful, but at the end of the day I think we can all say it was worth it.
To be fair, you’re an MX2 guy. You would have been the pick regardless in the class, but you became the pick in the MX1 class. Stewart bowed out, Villopoto, Alessi and Grant were hurt. Did that add to the pressure? Not only am I coming to the MXoN, but I’m with the top guys of the top nations... To be honest, I really didn’t feel like there was any added pressure. For one, I like riding the 450 – the Suzuki. They have a great bike and I really felt comfortable on it right away. When they came to me and asked me about it, I said, "Yeah, for sure," because I like the 450 – it’s been a while and if that’s what the team needs to take it to the next step, I’ll move up to the 450s and Weimer is the next best guy, and he’s had great finishes. I think there were a lot of people underestimating us – calling us the "B Team" like you said but there are a lot of people who were probably thinking maybe this ain’t our year, but I really believed in us the whole time and if we put our minds to it, we could do it. We deserve it. We believed in it. It’s real. Now we’re the champs and everybody who ever said that we weren’t going to do it, they can put the words back in their mouths. I think the pressure was there, but at the same time we had a job to do and at the end of the day, to have fun and do our racing.
The other thing is, on an individual level, you won your class. And your name is going to be on that trophy forever now. Like I said from the beginning, it was a stressful day, but it was like one of the best racing moments of my career. It’s just amazing because, like you said, that all goes down in the record books – in history. Life goes on. We’ll celebrate this one and keep moving forward and do what we have to do.