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5 Minutes With... Ryan Villopoto

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Numerous motorcycles. Suspension pieces. Engine parts. Sub-frames. Gas tanks. Computers. Stopwatches. Mechanics. Technicians. Trainers. And Ryan Villopoto. It was a scene much more akin to car racing than to motocross, but no, this was Team Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s young franchise player and his crew putting in an amazingly comprehensive day of testing on a cool, sunny November afternoon. On the Kawasaki test track – cars darting down the 15 South and flashing by the green highway sign next to the track, “Elsinore 15 Miles. Temecula 31 Miles. San Diego 88 Miles” - the race winning 450 rookie in 2009 was putting in one practice stint after another – leaping over the heads of trainer Jeff Spencer and myself as we stood atop a large jump – working with all gathered to get his race machinery sorted out for the fast approaching 2010 supercross season. Later that afternoon, and while sitting at a picnic table between sessions, Racer X caught up with the redhead who, after a summer of being left out of the MX fray due to a knee injury, was quite positive and optimistic about the new season and what he believed it held for him.

  • Ryan Villopoto wants to pick up where he left off last season.
Racer X: Ryan, you looked like a million bucks out there. Are you just sort of stringing stuff together right now and messing with the motorcycle?
Ryan Villopoto: Yeah, like right now, obviously everybody knows it’s like a month away from Anaheim and everybody is doing their testing and trying to get everything done. Then have to do last-minute testing. Yeah, it’s just working on the bike and getting motor stuff done and suspension stuff done. We have a new track out here now so we’re riding on that. We’re just trying to get everything set up for A1.

There’s certainly a number of mechanics and technicians out here today working with you. How far into the testing process are you? Do you have a baseline on the bike yet?
Yeah, I’m definitely way more comfortable than I was last year on the bike. I kind of know exactly what I want now and this last week we’ve really kind of found what I’ve been looking for, motor-wise and suspension-wise. We still have a little more work on the suspension, but it’s coming along good. I think everything with the bike is good. Like I said, it’s way better than last year just for myself alone because I know what I want and what to expect.

You have your rookie year in the 450 class behind you and even pulled off two wins in 2009. Coming into 2010, mentally, do you feel a lot more confident?
Yeah, for sure. That’s one of the deals for this year. I know what I want out of my bike. I know how the racing is and how the full season is and racing with all the guys. So, yeah, I definitely have the confidence and I’m just more relaxed just knowing everything is going to be fine.

  • Villopoto was the second fastest man on the track at the U.S. Open.
How are you physically? Your trainer Jeff Spencer is here with you today and showed me the training program he has laid out for you leading right into Anaheim I. It appears you guys are right on target…
Yeah, like I said, there is still a month till Anaheim, so you know you really don’t want to be peaking right now. It’s just riding, testing and just kind of doing our regular routine with training right now. I would say two or three weeks before Anaheim we’ll probably step it up and start hitting it pretty hard.

Do you already have twenty laps in you on this track?
Riding-wise for twenty laps?

Yeah.
Yeah, we’ve been doing at least one a week if not two. Riding-wise for the 20-lappers, yeah, those are there because you know I really wouldn’t call that training. That’s something that you just have to do. That’s just part of racing and riding. You have to do that.

The ACL you damaged last summer after Glen Helen, is it all good?
Yeah, the knee is good. I had one pretty good get-off where I had to step over the bars and land on my feet a while ago, so I guess I tested it out then. Everything is good with it. It feels good. I have no problems with it. It’s better than it was before.

You won three 250 championships and went 1-1 in the opening round of the 450 Nationals at the 2009 season opener at Glen Helen. After you hurt your knee and it was announced you were out for the season, was it hard to sit out and watch the Nationals? Did you watch them on TV or attend any of the races?
I didn’t watch them. I went to Colorado and Steel City. I didn’t even watch them online. Just watching it, it’s lame. After Glen Helen, you know, I was just going to get better. You know, catching up from twenty seconds behind or whatever it was in both motos was good for me and I was pumped. Not to say it was going to be easy, but I knew it was going to be a fun year for me. I knew where I was and I knew where everybody else was. It was a bummer.

Your new teammate is Chad Reed. Do you feel good about that?
He hasn’t been here, so I haven’t seen him. I think he rode here three days before he went to Australia. He was here for a very short amount of time and that’s really it. He’s been in Australia and other than the Kawasaki guys talking to him, I haven’t seen him or heard anything about him.

  • Villopoto bangs bars with the champ in Vegas.
Do you foresee you guys working together in 2010 and going to work on James Stewart? Maybe trying to rub on him and get in his head?
Yeah, I mean that would definitely be the goal, for one of us or for both of us to be up there racing with him and throw some wheels in on him. Yeah, that would be nice. I think it has its advantages, for sure.

Going into the first round at Anaheim, how are you going to approach the first phase of the season? Are you just going to warm into it? Are you looking to the podium or do you think you might have some wins in you right away?
It depends basically how the gate drops for the first main at Anaheim. It depends on how it’s going. If we’re in a position to win, then for sure I want to win. Worst-case scenario is that I just want to leave on the box and just put points up there. You know you don’t want to forfeit twenty points. The best-case scenario would be to win and the worst would be on the box and third.

Can you win it? Can you win the championship?
Yeah, for sure. My goal last year was to be racing with James and Chad. If I did that I knew I’d be able to win races and be up there. As long as I’m doing that this year, I think I’ll have a shot at winning races, and hopefully in the end, win the championship. Now my goal is just to race with James and Chad. Mainly James.
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