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5 Minutes with... Ryan Dungey

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To say that Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey had a breakthrough race at Anaheim I would be a serious understatement. Ryan Dungey took the fight to James Stewart, and although James still came out on top, Dungey served notice that he’s in it to win it. We talked to him after the race to get his take on the event.

Racer X: Let’s start with practice: Obviously, you’ve done a lot of testing and all of that, but you can’t really know how you stack up until you get out to the races like this. Yet in practice you were less than four one-hundredths off of James Stewart’s pace. Did that do anything for your confidence for the race tonight?
Ryan Dungey: Being up there in times in practice, I think that’s always good for the mind. Coming in, that’s where I wanted to be, but going into the night, it was good to know. I knew we had the speed, and I already knew we had the fitness, and the laps I was putting in really felt consistent. I just tried carrying that momentum into the night show, and I ended up benefiting from it. I just came up a little shy.

Yeah, but a little shy is a big deal in your first full-time 450cc race...
Yeah, yeah, don’t get me wrong. I’m really pumped on the night. I’m really thankful. I got some really good laps in tonight, and I had a lot of pressure on me, but I feel like I held up good. I just came up a little shy, like I said. But for my debut, at the first round, a lot of people tell you that you can lose it at the first round, but not win it. He just rode good and won. Second place, I can’t be bummed. I’m happy. It was a fun debut, for sure.

Do you feel like, in some ways, it might be better to start behind him and follow him around for a bit?
No, not on this track, because at the same time, this track is really hard to pass on, so I knew getting a holeshot was going to be key, and to be up there will be a big deal, and it worked out really well.

And you picked the gate just to the inside of James...
Well, yeah, and to be honest, that gate wasn’t really good. I was like, “Man, just let this thing work!” But it ended up just shooting out over this hole that was in front of me, and I got a good, clean drive, so I was able to just keep the front end low, the throttle wide-open, and I was just tracking. I really have to give credit to Dunlop, because they did a great job today with tire choices, and the team made some great changes to the bike, and it ended up working pretty good.

How much did you hear him behind you?
Man, I heard panic revs for the first 10 laps! Just panic revs every single jump, it seemed like. I’m like, “Dude, don’t do that anymore!” All I heard was just “BUBUBUBUBUBU!” [Yes, we acknowledge it’s hard to write out what a four-stroke panic-rev sounds like, but that’s close to how Dungey put it... Editor] I was like, “Dude, what is that?” I mean, it obviously didn’t really bother me, because I was still able to stay on my game, but I did notice it, for sure.

It’s loud because the way the Yamaha sucks the air in on the front of the bike, it projects forward.
Yeah, it’s like a humming sound, especially coming from behind me, it’s just different.

From where I was standing and shooting on the last lap, it looked like James was being really smart in basically using up the whole track to keep you from getting around him on the last lap. Did you notice that?
Yeah, the last lap was sketchy. I ran it up on him in the whoops, and he kind of came over and I got pinched off over the triple, which could’ve been hairball, but then I tried doing it again on the next triple, and he came over again! So, we really kind of got lucky there, and thankfully I didn’t jump into him.

Yeah, the second one, you were on his right, and he came across a bit, and I saw you picking up the front end of the bike to stay off of him...
Yeah, but we were fine. I tried to make one last attempt, but as soon as I went for it, I was like, “Aw, man, I don’t have it.” I ruined myself for the turn. But congrats to them, and I’ve got to give it up to my team. Today was a big day. It was my first race [full-time in the 450cc class], and it wasn’t an easy one, and there was a lot of hype and press. There were a lot of guys coming into the 450cc class tonight, and I’m really thankful with how the night went. I’m really looking forward to the future.

I don’t know if you remember this or not, but I was interviewing Rick Johnson a few nights ago, and he said at the Motocross des Nations, he saw you after the race and gave you some advice. Do you remember what it was?
Underdog stuff?

Yeah. He said that you can no longer go out there and convince people that, “Oh, I’m going to do the best I can, but I don’t really know how I’m going to do...” You won there, and from then on, you’re going to be expected to continue winning. And when you don’t win, people are going to wonder what happened.
Yeah, and he’s right! Going to des Nations, we won, and I won the individual class, and he’s right that it kind of sets the mark. You already did it, so you can’t act like it’s unexpected or whatever! But at the same time, during the entire off-season, the goal was to be up there consistently, race by race. I want to be up there. I want to be that guy. I feel like I belong here, and I work way too hard not to be up there. For how everything happened tonight, I got some great laps in, led some good laps, and I was just a little shy. A little shy...

But you probably learned a lot, right?
Yeah, I did, for sure! Coming out of tonight, everything that happened, I can take from that. I can take the good and leave the bad. I know where I went wrong, I know where I can be better, and I know where we can work on our bike, and things like that. Tonight was really good, not just for where I finished, but to see the areas where we need to work. I think we made some progress even tonight, and coming out of here, we know what we need to do to keep moving forward. I’m just looking for little bits and pieces to be better and better, and James is an amazing rider...

It’s a high standard he sets...
Yeah, he’s a very high standard, but that’s where I want to be. I want to be the guy on top, and I want to take his place one day. I know it’s not going to happen overnight, though. It’s going to take time, steps, hard work and dedication. Little by little...
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