Ryan Dungey owns Washougal. No, not technically; that would be the Huffman family. But he has certainly been impressive on the scenic southern Washington racetrack over the past 5 years. Riders having incredible success on certain racecourses isn't a new concept, though. Their prowess is usually attributable to one or more factors. Whether it is the dirt, the atmosphere, the climate, or the track layout, there is almost always a reason one can point to. Ryan Dungey's success at Washougal is no different.
The most pressing aspect of the Washougal circuit is the soil. Typically, it is very tacky in practice and steadily deteriorates throughout the day. By the time the motos arrive, it is slippery and even treacherous at times. Over the years, I have always pointed to the lack of traction and correlated Dungey's success. Dungey's fluid style is very conducive to this type of soil. He is a master of corner speed. He removes all hesitation and the "hitch" in his turning movement. By doing this, he can be easier on the clutch and reduce wheel spin. That is a perfect recipe for a slippery surface such as Washougal.
The interesting thing, however, was that this year's track had possibly more traction than we had ever seen for this event. Days of rain left the course picture-perfect on Saturday morning, and that moisture remained for much of the race day. Sure, it began to once again diminish late in the day, but by then the damage was done for the thirty-nine other 450 Class racers. That raised a question for me. Is it entirely the slippery surface, or is there more to it? With ideal conditions, his results were just as good, if not better than ever. Looking back over the past five years, his moto scores have been astounding.
- 2010: 1-1
- 2011: 2-1
- 2012: 2-1
- 2013: 1-2
- 2014: 1-1
Those results have now been in both ideal and more slippery conditions. That leads me to think the track layout also plays a factor. The long sweeping corners also fit his momentum-carrying style to a tee. He finds a way to refrain from braking where others feel it necessary. Even when he isn't accelerating, he can avoid decelerating, and that is a huge coup for lowering lap times. The more momentum he can carry, the less throttle he needs to gain speed which plays right back into his cornering/wheel spin prowess. The two strengths play off of each other and make him a force on a course like we saw last weekend.
Much like Ricky Carmichael's aggressive style fitting perfectly for the great traction of Millville, Washougal just fits Ryan Dungey. He reminds me of Kevin Windham in this aspect. Their styles allow them to push the edge when everyone else is simply circulating. They just seem to have more "feeling" than most. When everyone seems to be riding on ice skates, a rider like Dungey is doing triple axels.