Monster Energy Kawasaki announcing that they’ve re-signed their two riders from this year to multi-year deals isn’t that surprising, after all both guys are buddies, they’re both really fast and they’ve both put up some solid results. If Ryan Villopoto can stay healthy, he’s the favorite going into each title chase, there’s no doubt about that. Unfortunately for RV, since 2010 he’s missed three complete series (2009 450MX, 2010 450MX and 2012 450MX) in the last four years. Villopoto when healthy is the number one rider in the sport, he’s yet to lose a championship that he’s fully contested aside from his first 450 SX season.
Weimer’s proven to be a fast study as he’s gotten more than a few podiums and also, as importantly, stayed healthy since missing the 2011 SX series with a broken arm. Jake’s a perfect second guy for the team, he can make the podium (even win if things break his way) and he’s always in the mix and he gets along with the number one rider on the team.
Some people were surprised that Weimer was re-signed over another up and coming green recruit in Dean Wilson but I know that Kawasaki brass of Reid Nordin and Dan Fahie value team chemistry a ton and as well, Weimer probably costs a little less than Wilson. It wasn’t much of a choice for the guys and they scored a coup by getting Wilson to stay on green for next year with the JWR team.
Weimer’s deal was done a while ago and the hold-up on this PR was Villopoto who’s agent Bobby Nichols was shopping the six-time champion around. Ironically enough, Weimer let Nichols go in order to get his deal done sooner with Kawasaki while Villopoto used the same agent to get him what is probably the richest contract in the sports history (every single contract Ryan had was up this year so there’s no doubt he cashed in big. Fox drove the bidding up but Villopoto will be remaining with Thor as well. No word on the other deals yet).
So while there were some other bidders for Villopoto in the end, it made sense for Ryan, for Monster Energy, for Kawasaki and everyone else for Ryan to stay green and remain on the brand and on the team that has brought him so much success. Between him and Weimer (as well as Wilson), Kawasaki’s looking very strong for the next few years.
The one thing that makes team moves hard to understand in this sport is that we never hear the actual asking price or salary numbers. In the big team sports, salaries are batted around and made public, which allows fans to make educated guesses as if they were building their own fantasy team.
RV re-signing is no surprise. What took so long? Well, the last time his deal was up, he was coming off some injury-plagued years and had yet to deliver a 450 championship. Hard to believe now, but heading into 2010, Christophe Pourcel’s old agent was trying to convince Kawasaki that his rider was more championship-proven than RV, and thus the brand should open the check book for CP first, and RV later. Pourcel obviously brought some issues, but at the time, Villopoto had merely crashed out of his 450 title attempts, so he didn’t have a ton of leverage.
Since then, Villopoto picked up Aldon Baker, upped his game and won titles against the deepest field ever. Plus the sport is a little healthier financially, so the timing and leverage were now on RV’s side. Might as well wait and let the offers get higher and higher and higher (Kawi was worried. At one point they made a serious run at Trey Canard). And good for Ryan, because he earned those dollars the right way, by training his ass off and winning races.
As for Weimer, he wants to be there and he doesn’t play hard ball (note Matthes’ info above, where Weimer decided to do this deal on his own). He could have tried to squeeze every last dollar out of it, but instead he played the good citizen, which is the way to be when you’re the number-two guy on the team. Plus, he and RV are buddies, they both work with Baker, etc. Weimer helps Villopoto be that much better by keeping the drama out of there and working as a unit.
This is a case of Villopoto using the leverage he had to make this a hard negotiation process, and make as much money as possible. And it’s a case of Kawasaki and Weimer taking the path of least resistances in regards to each other.
As for Weimer’s deal shutting out future Kawi talent like Blake Baggett (or Dean Wilson), well, when you have Villopoto on lock down, you’re not really desperate for talent. Second, Kawi kept Dean anyway, just on a different team. It’s hard to bet on what future talent can deliver, but it’s easy to go all-in on Ryan Villopoto.
No real surprise here. Although Ryan Villopoto was being shopped around, I don’t think he ever really wanted to leave Kawasaki. And it looks like Kawasaki seemed content on bringing back their superstar instead of a younger rider out of their farm system, ala Dean Wilson, like they have done in the past.
I also think Jake Weimer fits in nicely as a second rider. While he won’t win a championship anytime soon, he will contend for podiums and had a great year, both indoors and out, in 2012. Some will proclaim that Weimer’s success was just a product of the mash unit that was the 450 Class this year. But let us not forget that he did have a podium in Phoenix—when everyone was healthy—and was leading the next week in L.A. before a run in with James Stewart. Also, one must remember that he did win the 2010 Western Region Lites Championship.
At the end of the day, Kawasaki made the best decision with the cards it was dealt. While I think Wilson would have been a better fit, he was probably too far out of their price range after the signing of Villopoto. The only question that I think will loom large next year is where does this leave Blake Baggett when he moves up—considering Weimer signed a multi-year extension?