We're counting down the days to the start of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross opener at Hangtown on May 20 with a look back at some of the most memorable motos in AMA Motocross history. This summer, you can watch all 24 motos on all of your devices on NBC Sports Gold. Day three, the best of the Ryans...
The 2011 season of Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross might be, collectively, the best ever for dynamics, drama, and star power from end to end. Maybe some of those mid-1980s seasons can give it a run or even surpass it, but there’s no denying that 2011 brought the heat from January through August. In supercross, Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed, James Stewart, and Trey Canard waged a 17-round duel that featured everything from battles, crashes, takeouts, and the eventual champ, Villopoto, failing to qualify for a main event. In the end, it was so good that they hung banners saying “The greatest season ever” from the stadium in Las Vegas.
In Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, Reed, Villopoto and Dungey picked up where they left off, trading moto wins, overall wins, and the points lead weekly. It’s as good as 450 motocross has ever had it. Reed held the red plate until his spectacular wreck on the Chadapult at Millville, setting up Ryan vs. Ryan for the title, a battle we’d see much of over the course of nearly a decade.
With each race, one Ryan would gain momentum over the other. Villopoto had a slow start to the season but then behind a mid-season surge, Dungey closed up at Millville and Washougal and looked to grab the points lead at Southwick until his bike failed to start for the second moto, and he charged from nearly a lap behind to seventh. This left Dungey eight points down heading into the final four motos of the season. He really needed to win the penultimate round, at Steel City in Pennsylvania.
Only trouble for Dungey was that Villopoto was on fire that day, with a huge gap in lap times in practice. Villopoto even holeshot the first moto, but the pesky Justin Barcia, a 250 rider handed a Honda 450 for a fill-in ride, snuck past him and held him up. This let Dungey sneak past and into the lead. Villopoto quickly got to second, and the battle was on.
RV shadowed Dungey all the way, but Dungey kept his composure and appeared to be headed for a clutch win. On the last lap, the last turn, Villopoto went wide in a corner, gassed it hard, and pulled even with Dungey. Then Dungey bobbled slightly, allowing Villopoto to pull ahead and take the lead immediately before heading through the finish. Villopoto stole the lead in the last corner, and basically closed the door on the championship.
After the race, Dungey was asked if it was the most intense race of the season. “Yeah, I believe it was,” he said. “I got into the lead and it was intense. There has rarely been a moto with us that it went all the way down to the end. As the race was wearing down to the end, I knew some of my lines weren’t cutting it. I ended up finding some good lines, but that last turn, the inside was good and the outside was good. I knew with the inside you could carry some momentum and the lappers were out there, so I went for it, and it bit me.”
“I would make up some ground and then he would pull away a little,” said Villopoto. “Like he said, it was by far, for me and him racing together, it was the closest race we’ve ever had. When you’re in that situation, you’re always told to guard the inside, and that’s what he did. It didn’t really work out for him and I was able to ride around the outside.”
“It was tough, but if you’re gonna fight, I always say you need to fight for the whole race, and I did,” added Dungey. “It was a good hard race, and it was good for the fans.”
With that, Dungey was out of chances. Villopoto dominated the second Steel City moto and went on to sew up the championship the next weekend at Pala Raceway in California.
Their race-long Steel City battle, and Villopoto’s clutch move, not only made for a thrilling race, but is also symbolic of one of the most enduring rivalries in the sport’s history. Other duos might have produced more hatred or heat, but few faced off as consistently as the Ryans, who dueled indoors and out from 2007 through 2014, and combined to gobble up virtually every championship they entered. In the Nationals, their run started with Villopoto’s 2006 Lites Championship, and you have to look all the way to Ken Roczen’s 450MX Championship in 2014 before finding an outdoor season without one of the Ryans winning a title.
The battles between the Ryans are weaved into the fabric of the sport. Their race-long duel at Steel City, with a championship in the balance, might have been their best.
Visit again tomorrow for another of the 24 Most Memorable Motos in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross history.
|1||Ryan Villopoto||Seattle, WA||1 - 1||Kawasaki KX450F|
|2||Ryan Dungey||Belle Plaine, MN||2 - 2||Suzuki RMZ|
|3||Brett Metcalfe||3 - 4||Suzuki RMZ|
|4||Chad Reed||Kurri Kurri||5 - 3||Honda CRF450R|
|5||Jake Weimer||Rupert, ID||6 - 6||Kawasaki KX450F|
|6||Mike Alessi||Apple Valley, CA||8 - 5||KTM 450|
|7||Justin Brayton||Fort Dodge, IA||7 - 7||Yamaha YZ|
|8||Kyle Regal||Kemp, TX||9 - 8||Suzuki RMZ|
|9||Nicholas Wey||DeWitt, MI||11 - 10||Yamaha YZ|
|10||Michael Byrne||13 - 9||Suzuki RMZ|