Business as usual for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto as he gets ready to defend his 2013 supercross title. He’s down in Florida working with a new training buddy (Ken Roczen) and prepping for the long and tough year ahead. The last time we saw Villopoto on the track he had an ugly crash at the Monster Cup and we hadn’t touched base with him (officially anyways, there’s always plenty of crap talk texts flying back and forth) since the crash. So here you folks go, Ryan Villopoto as his usual rascally self.
Racer X: First off, how many texts do you think it took me to get you to finally call me back?
Ryan Villopoto: Probably only about ten, you didn’t go through the right channels. You needed to go through my PR guy Mikey (Williamson, his mechanic)
Yeah, I tried that.
What did he say?
He said that it couldn’t happen.
Ok, well that’s my PR guy and what he says goes.
Okay, whatever. We’re a month out, how’s it going?
Everything’s going good. I feel like everything’s going decent. We’re still preparing and getting ready. It should only get better from here.
When are you going to California to post up?
I’m actually going back there for just one day to do some poster stuff. But probably not full-time until late, late December probably.
RV knows the competition will be fierce this year--but it always is.
Simon Cudby photo
So you’re really going to do everything you can in Florida?
Yeah bro, pretty much normal like last year.
I thought you went to Cali sooner. What have you been working on with your bike set-up?
Typical. Suspension, this, that, settings, engine….
But is there anything new? Is it going through all your older stuff?
We always… you were a mechanic and you should know. We always have some new things. But it all comes back to just settings. It’s a new setting. You’re just trying this, trying that.
I’m interested in knowing the thought process behind agreeing to let Ken Roczen train with Aldon (Baker). This is a guy that’s probably going to be close to you at some point.
Yeah. Basically there was a spot open so we talked about it. I feel like where I’m at in my career I kind of need to get a guy that’s going to really push me and try to make me better.
You’re not scared of that? You’re showing him the keys, giving him the keys to the kingdom.
It can backfire, for sure. But the work’s still being all put in and things like that. We’re friends and I could say if I don’t win he’d be the guy that I’d want to see win. It’s his first year moving up to the 450 class so obviously it’s going to be a learning year for him and it’s a lot more racing than he’s used to. I’m showing him a whole lot of things but I think it’s just going to hopefully make me better in the end. I think he’s going to be racing longer than I am, at this point. It’s his first year in 450.
So how’s that working out so far?
He fits in good. It’s fun to have him around. He’s young. I thought he was a little older than he is. We don’t have a huge age difference but he is 19. He’s fun. He’s all over the place. He’s fun to have around. Where I’m at in my career its kind of straight business. I do my work and go home. The last thing I want to do is sit my ass on the seat longer than I really have to. And he’s out there doing whips and playing around. So it’s good to have him around and try to bring some of that back.
Him and Adam (Cianciarulo) seem like they’re buddies. Like maybe they should take their comedy show on the road?
Kind of, yeah. It’s kind of weird, a little strange.
Have you been busting on him like you would normally do? Has he started crying yet?
No, Kenny’s way tougher than Adam.
I admire it because it’s a risky move, I saw it with Reed and Ferry back in the Yamaha days. Lots of times two very fast riders being riding buddies doesn’t always work out so good.
The champ doesn't appear to have many weaknesses, but he says he's working on whatever they are.
Simon Cudby photo
There won’t be a problem if things… And I don’t foresee it coming from me, not on purpose anyway, or him. I don’t see it happening, anything purposely. It’s racing; stuff happens. But if everything’s normal and clean and nothing is intentional then I don’t see anything happening. I’m going to try to use him to my advantage and he can also get better too. The class is going to be tough. He’s using me and… not that we’re using each other, but he’s gaining something off of me and I’m gaining something off of him.
Do you envision yourself racing for two more years and then when your contract is up, you retire?
I don’t know yet.
We had Jake Weimer on the Pulp Show, he had nothing but good things to say about leaving Baker and your camp. He just wanted to switch it up. Did you understand why Jake wanted to switch things up and get back to having a little bit more fun as he told us?
I don’t deal with that side of it with him and Aldon and things like that. As for Jake and me everything’s good on our side. If that what he thinks will help, then great. That works for some people, changing it up, switching it up. Who knows? But on the side of him and I, everything’s good.
We haven’t talked to you since the Monster Cup. Looking back on it, two years in a row you haven’t finished it. Do you feel a bit cursed by this race?
No, I think the race has its own place. It makes it tough to have a good race. That’s what they want. They want things to happen. That’s what they want. That’s why the Joker Lane’s there, that’s why the track’s set up the way it is, and that’s why it’s only 10 laps. A lot of that stuff is going to happen or that’s just going to be there. Other than that, it was a mistake that I made. My foot ended up slipping off and it just caused me to go left. It was merely just a mistake that I made. It wasn’t because I thought I missed the Joker Lane. I actually thought I had one more lap still.
When you’re in an actual close battle like James [Stewart] and me were, the last thing you’re thinking of is taking that Joker Lane when that’s something that you never ever race except for once a year. And it’s in a really weird spot. It’s not like you’re coming up on the straightaway and you have to get in the left side. There was a lot of stuff leading into it. And as far as missing it, I thought I had one more lap.
Are you in favor of doing any of that stuff in regular supercrosses? Having three 10-lappers, having a Joker Lane, anything like that?
No, you might as well just have a couple triples, something to get some big air, and all flat turns, barrel racing type of deal, if they want to get racing closer. I think it adds a danger factor to it when your brain has to switch over and remember to do something like that, especially in a race or in a battle. Or if they were into that scenario, that would make it even worse. And that’s not a full supercross. Monster Cup is supposed to be motocross/supercross. So then add the element to a full supercross race, then all that is going to add a whole different danger aspect to it, I think, of somebody making a mistake.
It’s interesting. I talked to a ton of riders and different industry people. It’s really up in the air. Some people love it, some people don’t. There’s no consensus.
Will it all look like this again in May?
Well it’s fine to do it that way if they want to do that, but they need to change the whole sport into that and then change the whole tracks and everything, make it to where it is so easy to where it doesn’t really matter what you’re racing, what bikes you’re on. Have a couple of triple jumps that everybody can do and that’s it—then you have the Joker Lane. You’re not going to be able to add all that into normal circumstances.
Are you doing the exact same preparation in 2013 that you did last year and the year before and the year before? Do you switch anything up?
Things always change. You work on weak areas and points.
You’re weak in an area?
You’re always a little weak.
All of us talk about in the media that now we got Roczen and Tomac coming in, James won the Monster Cup. Chad’s on a Kawi. Do you ever think of this stuff? Do you think this year is going to be tougher?
You have to treat every year the same. I think it will be, I wouldn’t say tougher, because you’re never going to get those guys you just named plus the guys that are already there ever to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, whoever you named off. So it’s not like you’re going to be racing eight guys. You’re always going to be probably racing one or two, whoever those people are and whatever order they’re in. So I wouldn’t say that adds up to be tougher that way, but for sure it’s going to be…. It’s always tough, but it’s getting tougher because there’s younger guys coming in, guys that are good.
So it is tougher?
I don’t know if it’s going to be tougher, but you can only expect it to be tougher.
So you do indeed think about how big the challenge will be?
I think you’re an idiot if you don’t think of it.