Going for the  W: Ryan Villopoto

Going for the W Ryan Villopoto

July 19, 2013 1:30pm
The 2007 Washougal, Washington National is memorable for many reasons, but none of those memories seem to feature the Lites class.

In the big bike class that day, James Stewart’s bid to unseat the recently-retired Ricky Carmichael as AMA Motocross Champion went up in smoke when he twisted his knee late in the second moto. His season was over, and the recurring knee injury would also cost him the 2008 AMA Supercross season as well.

With Stewart out, the 450 overall turned into a scramble, and Yamaha’s Grant Langston seemed set to win it with 4-1 scores. But on the last lap, Honda’s Kevin Windham mistook the white flag for a checkered flag (somehow!) and slowed down, allowing Kawasaki’s Tim Ferry to roll past him into second and thus capture the overall win with 2-2 scores. It was the final win of Ferry’s career, and set off a mad dash to the ’07 championship between himself, Langston, Andrew Short and Mike Alessi. It was darned good racing!

So with all of that action, the Lites class on that day at Washougal is mostly forgotten. But now, it looms large.

RV's late charge in 2007 wasn't good enough to secure the overall.
Andrew Fredrickson photo

Somehow Ryan Villopoto, by far the fastest and most successful motocross racer the Pacific Northwest has ever produced, has never won the Washougal National. And 2007 was probably his best chance to do it. In his first try, 2006, the fans were flying “Area 51” banners in honor of RV’s #51, and they were jacked on watching him win. But his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki broke a valve about a lap into the first moto, spoiling his homecoming with a DNF. He finished second in moto two, with Short taking the overall.

But 2007 should have been the one. He had ridiculous speed and won the first moto easily. All was lining up for that overall win, until he crashed in the first turn of moto two. But it wasn’t over! Villopoto then launched a furious charge through the pack, somehow going from 35th to fourth, and then getting the leaders, Ben Townley, Ryan Dungey and Broc Hepler, in his sights. It was set to be an all-time comeback, until Villopoto fell again! Hepler’s bike broke allowing Villopoto to take third in the moto, but Townley’s 2-1 snagged the overall.

The next year was Dungey’s coming out party. Villopoto won moto one but got a bad start in moto two. Trey Canard led most of the race, until Dungey and Villopoto caught him. Thus was set a huge battle to the finish, but Canard tangled with a lapper and went down with a broken femur. Dungey held the lead and Villopoto did everything in his power to get around him, but couldn’t. With 2-1 scores, Dungey had his first career overall win.

The following year, Dungey was able to get the better of RV.
Andrew Fredrickson photo

Since that ’08 race, Villopoto has only raced here once due to a glut of injuries. In 2011 on a 450, he simply wasn’t a match for Dungey, who nearly ran him down in moto one before falling, then ran away from him in moto two. That was Villopoto’s last race on the 2011 KX450F, as he would switch to a 2012 for the next round, and things changed in a hurry.

They’re still waiting for change here at Washougal, though. Could this be the weekend?

“I don’t really look at the whole stats or what races I’ve won or not, but I think I’ve pretty much won an overall at least one time at every track except for there,” said Villopoto a few weeks ago. “So it’d be nice to get an overall win there finally. I’ve won motos, I don’t even have an overall there in the Lites class. Definitely we’ll try to get up there.”