For many American motocross fans, the 2007 FIM Motocross of Nations at Budds Creek was this nation’s finest moment in the sport so far. On the eve of the 2018 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations at RedBud, we talked to the key men who played roles in making the 60th anniversary of the Olympics of Motocross so very memorable: Team USA’s Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto, and Tim Ferry; Team USA manager Roger DeCoster; assistant team manager Mitch Payton; and Youthstream’s Giuseppe Luongo.
The People Involved
By 2007, Motocross of Nations had become a big deal in the U.S., and everybody was excited about it coming back to America. The fans and the riders were excited about it, and everybody wanted to be on the team. And it was going to be Ricky’s last outdoor race as well.
Not a lot of people know this, but my last race was actually going to be the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, which was going to be held shortly after the 2007 Motocross of Nations, but I was so sick with Epstein-Barr and couldn’t continue. In fact, I honestly don’t know how I even finished that MX of Nations. I was in really, really bad shape, and it was just something that I had to do—it was my duty. To race for the country on basically the biggest stage on earth for motocross—man, that was a tough one for me. It was bittersweet, too. I was bummed I was sick, and I was sad it was my last professional race and I couldn’t enjoy it like I wanted to just because I was just so beat and run down. It was just a ball of emotions for me from all different angles.
At first, I wasn’t really even up for the Motocross of Nations at Budds Creek. I had a really bad experience in 2003 when I went to Belgium for the Motocross des Nations. It was held at Zolder, and it was really disorganized. People were trying to steal my gearbag. It was really weird. It wasn’t like it is now with security and all that. I tore my thumb in practice that day too. So I was kind of on the fence about the 2007 race. I was like, Man, I don’t know if I really want to get myself involved in this again. Mitch Payton was the guy who kind of talked me into it. He said, “Everything is organized and it’s like a real team again. We have a lot of backing.” Like I said, I wasn’t jumping on the idea at first, but from talking to Mitch, I had a feeling it was going to be good.
Ryan wanted to go to the 2007 Motocross of Nations, so if he wanted to do it, we wanted to go. Ben Townley, Ryan’s teammate during the ’07 season, was going to go for New Zealand at the same time, so it made sense for us to go.
Any time you get asked to race the Motocross des Nations, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s probably the biggest deal in the industry. You also get nervous because you’re always worried about losing. I was never on that losing team. We always won when I went, but to have it in the States again was a big deal. It had been a long time since it had been back in the States—20 years. It was coming to Budds Creek, and I always really liked that track. I knew that it was going to be a really awesome time. I also knew that if we were going to win another time, it was going to be one of the easiest times to win the event on our soil.
We knew that Ryan wanted to be on the team, and he had done good the year before in England. Tim was always easy to work with, and he was happy to be on the team.
Villopoto was still with Mitch, while me and RC and had raced forever together. We had a good team, and I was definitely honored to be in that position. Ricky knew I was going to be solid and was real cool with me being on the team, and it was going to be really cool that it was at Budds Creek.
I had probably never been more nervous in my life as I was on Saturday. It was a big deal to race for your country and to have everybody in the U.S. rooting for you.Tim Ferry
I was sick for probably two months up to the race. I started to feel the effects before the X Games that summer when we did the supercross. Basically, what it boiled down to, without going into too much detail, was that I was doing the same workload that I had done for the last seven years on and off the bike. That was right when my kids were born, and I continued to keep training and do that workload, and I just ran low on sleep and ran myself into the ground.
Even though we have such a lot of experience, we always feel a bit stressed before a Motocross of Nations event. It is such a big and unique event, so the tension is always there—it's the most important off-road event of the year, so it's normal to feel the pressure. For Budds Creek, we had all these emotions, but as we got closer to the event, we could feel it was going to be successful. All the elements were there to make something great.
After so many years of racing the MXoN, I felt like it was my duty to show up and try. Not to take anything away from my teammates, but I was the guy that everyone wanted to beat, and I was the fastest guy the majority of the time. I felt like it was my duty to do anything we could to win, and I made up my mind, like, I’m the guy that’s I’m going to start from the outside, and I’m going to come from behind and I’m going to kick these guys’ asses. It was fun motivation for me. It was like a big challenge that I enjoyed.
I knew Timmy fairly well, and I knew Ricky also. I just knew going in that Timmy would fight to the end. And then we had Ricky, who was almost a sure bet that he was going to win and that he was going to pull through no matter what. I think our team was pretty damn strong.
I thought we had a really strong team with Villopoto and Red Dog. With us being on our home turf, I felt like we had a little bit of an advantage, and I knew that, as far as an all-around team goes, we had the best chance to win. All we had to do was to just stay off the ground, just like any year with Team USA. That’s half the battle. You’d be amazed at what a team can do when they just eliminate mistakes. I knew that we had three solid guys that were going to be able to get the job done.
I was nervous, and I just wanted to get out there and get it over with. I just wanted to get the first moto out of the way. I wanted to see where the cards would fall.Ryan Villopoto
I got to Budds Creek and it just kind of . . . the vibe and everything was feeling good. It was a short flight—we didn’t have to go to Europe, so it was easy for us. Just the stress level and everything about it is just easier in the U.S. because the event is a just-around-the-corner type thing. There was no language barrier or anything. We were at home.
I had probably never been more nervous in my life as I was on Saturday. It was a big deal to race for your country and to have everybody in the U.S. rooting for you. In supercross or outdoors, everybody has their favorites, but our whole team was the favorite and I was very, very anxious, and I was definitely nervous. However, once we got on the track and I saw the lap times and stuff, I kind of relaxed a little bit. Then we all did really well in our individual qualifying races.
We all did good on Saturday. No one had to sacrifice a starting position. We were all comfortable, and we could start where we wanted to, and it made for a somewhat easy day. We all rode great, and we lined ourselves up perfectly for the main race on Sunday. There were no real issues that day. It was smooth sailing, and for me, I was just trying to save as much energy as possible for the next day. I just did my thing, and I didn’t overly do it, because I knew Sunday was going to be much harder with racing everyone. I also knew I was going to sacrifice my starting position and was going to give my teammates the inside. I felt like I was going to be the guy to do the dirty work, if you will. I felt like it would be best to give them the best opportunity, and I would try and fill in the gap.
I kind of anticipated those guys being a little bit tougher. The Europeans were really good outdoors, so I kind of expected them to be a little bit tougher and little bit stronger, but they were worn down a little more than I expected. I felt like they kind of crumbled mentally a little bit as well. I don’t know if it was the crowd or being in the U.S., but they weren’t quite as solid as I anticipated going into the racing.
We had known the promoter Jonathan Beasley for a very long time, and we knew of his passion and desire and how he dreamed all his life to hold this event. We had already organized a Grand Prix event together, so we knew all the strong points and all the weak points in the organization. Jonathan was very cooperative, and he had an excellent staff around him, which integrated very well with our own staff.
On Sunday morning I was nervous, just like always. I knew it was all going to come down to three races and just not making any big mistakes. I was nervous, and I just wanted to get out there and get it over with. I just wanted to get the first moto out of the way. I wanted to see where the cards would fall.
It wasn’t a tough decision to put the 250 guy on the inside for the start, but you have to see if the 450 guy is okay with it, you know? Ricky was really cool with putting Ryan on the inside, but sometimes the 450 guy is the guy who is not so happy about doing that. And the way the start was at Budds Creek, it was a huge advantage to be on the inside, and Ricky was a good sport and he had no problem with giving up the spot to Ryan. I have to say, most of the years at the MXoN, the Americans are really good at working as a team. Many times with other teams, there would be situations on teams where one rider doesn’t want to give up anything to try and get a better overall team result, but it wasn’t that way at Budds Creek.
I ended up with a holeshot in Moto 1. Ricky also rode the first moto, and he went down off the start, so he really had to fight to get back up there.
I got knocked down off the start in the first moto, and I burned so much energy to try and get to the front, and I knew that I had really ruined myself. I knew I had to beat all the guys in my class, and Ryan did his job beating all the 250 guys. I ended up third, and coming from where I came from, I did all right. I was cooked, but I knew I had enough to get the job done in my next moto. I knew what I had to do.
The race Ryan made will remain in the history of our sport forever, just like Johnny O’Mara at Maggiora [Italy] in 1986.Giuseppe Luongo
After that first moto, we were just stoked. Ryan killed those guys. After that it was, Okay, settle down and be calm and go back to the truck and cool off and get ready for the next moto. . . . But Ryan was just flawless. He didn’t put a foot wrong. And he was never really stressed out, either. He was in a good mood all day and was joking around and stuff.
Between motos, you don’t say anything other than “Let’s do it again!” Yeah, the two of us did really well, but then I was back up in 35 minutes, and then it would be Timmy’s first [MX3] race. There was a lot riding, one race right after the other, the way that was all set up. We also knew we had only one throwaway moto, so there was a lot of shit that could hit the fan. Until it’s over, it’s not over, you know?
In my first moto, I lined up 21st on the gate, and I remember crashing coming out of the first turn and thinking, Oh my gosh, you’ve got to be kidding me! This is not happening. I have to pass all these people now. Okay, how many can I pass? I knew it was just trying to get the lowest score that I could at that point. It really wasn’t about anything else, so I just kind of put my head down. Surprisingly, I caught a lot of guys. I thought the guys were going to be harder to race, and I’m just kind of going right by them, and I got all the way up to fourth in the moto at the finish. I stayed cool and I stayed calm. I was the locomotive, and I just kind of chugged along to get that good finish.
My second moto was the same thing. Timmy gave me the inside gate and I pulled another holeshot, and again, I could do no wrong. I can’t explain it. I don’t think if you put me out there again or another day or another time with the same riders, I wouldn’t have been that much quicker or whatever else. I mean, it’s kind of hard to figure out, even now.
Watching Ryan race that day was pretty amazing because we didn’t know some of the other guys, and when you’re racing 450 guys, they’re supposedly real fast too. It was just him being at the peak of his deal in the 250 class. He was on another level.
I didn’t really expect Ryan to go that fast. I wasn’t really expecting that, but he was solid. As good as I felt like I rode—and Ricky said that he kind of struggled with arm pump that day—Villopoto just dominated for us, and that was cool for him. He surprised me.
I knew that it would be my last moto. Where it really hit me was when I was taking the sight lap. That’s where it sank in and hit me hard and I thought, Damn, dude, this is it.Ricky Carmichael
Ryan was unbelievable. The race Ryan made will remain in the history of our sport forever, just like Johnny O’Mara at Maggiora [Italy] in 1986. It was really a perfect day for him. Everything he did was simply perfect.
I have no idea why I was so good that day. It was one of those days where you actually go back and try and explain it. You don’t know how to explain it. Things were happening slow and you could predict what was going to happen and where to go. Everything was—and I don’t want to use the word perfect—but it seemed like I could do no wrong. Even when that lapper fell in front of me, and even though that was an issue, I ended up getting off of his bike and getting going with no problems. It was a bit of a scare, but I still had a big lead and was able to pull it out even more. I almost couldn’t do anything wrong.
I kind of had a feeling Ryan was going to be as good as he was. You could see the determination, and he was always putting himself in the right positions, especially outdoors.
Before the last moto, Ricky came over and grabbed me and Roger and Timmy, and he wanted to talk to us, and he said, “Look, I can win this last moto, but I have to get the start. I have to get away from those guys. I can’t get a bad start and fight the whole moto. I won’t have it in me. I need to get the start, and I need to lay down some laps and build up a lead and I’ll be fine.” We said, “What do you mean? What’s the matter?” Then Ricky told us he’d had Epstein-Barr for months. Timmy was about it and said, “If that’s what it takes to help the team, I don’t mind giving the inside gate up to Ricky.” It was kind of awesome, because Ricky came out of the first turn first and Timmy was right there with him. That was a perfect situation.
I have a 125 Supercross Championship , but nobody wants to talk about that. Bring up Budds Creek and 2007, though—nobody forgets about things like that. The Motocross of Nations lives on forever.Tim Ferry
I knew that it would be my last moto. Where it really hit me was when I was taking the sight lap. That’s where it sank in and hit me hard and I thought, Damn, dude, this is it. It’s been a long run. This whole thing has felt like a blink of an eye. . . . It was definitely emotional for me.
We decided Carmichael would go first gate pick and I’d go 21st gate pick. At that point, we were sitting in a really good place. I was thinking, Carmichael will hopefully get the holeshot and will probably win. At that point, everything really kind of eased up. I didn’t really have a lot of pressure other than being there, unless something kind of went south.
I was winning, but I was feeling the fatigue too. It was definitely hell to pay, and it was a brutal race for me, for sure. I wanted to shock the world there and really go out there and dominate, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t my best performance, but for the country, it was enough to get the job done.
Watching Ricky and Timmy in the last moto was really cool. We pretty much knew that we had it won. I watched with Mitch, and we kind of knew where things were going to fall. It was just crazy to see the amount of fans on our home soil that day.
I was right behind Steve Ramon the whole time, and the dirt was kind of soft and I was just getting blasted. I finally wore him out, and there were a few other guys there at the end that were pretty tough to pass. It still wasn’t easy; it was still a fight. We just outlasted them physically at the end of that last moto.
My favorite memory was the finish and the podium when I saw all the American fans so proud, so delighted, and so enthusiastic, and to see their unconditional support towards their U.S. team on the podium. I still have goosebumps when I think about it. For me, the best prize in my job is to see happy fans, because they are the heart and soul of our sport.
After that last moto was a weird situation because I was like, Holy crap, Ricky rode for us his rookie year in 1997. I was at that first race with him at Gainesville in ’97, and here we are at his very last race at the Motocross of Nations. I was like, “Dude, it’s over.” Ricky had just knocked it out in ten years straight and he said to me, “Dude, I’m done.” I was like, “Are you sure? You don’t want to think about it?”
You know something isn’t right when it’s the last race of your professional career and you’ve just won the Motocross of Nations and you fall asleep. It was a brutal day, to say the least.Ricky Carmichael
I really kind of think that if me and Carmichael had not fallen in the first turn in our first motos, we could have gotten a perfect score that day. The thing that got me the most that day was that I looked up to Rick Johnson and David Bailey and all those guys from that era, and winning the Motocross of Nations was something I always wanted to win because I was an outdoor guy. Right after the last moto, the crowd stormed the track. It was a really cool feeling to win and to see that many people going so nuts and going so crazy. Winning the MXoN is by far at the top of my list of accomplishments. I have a 125 Supercross Championship , but nobody wants to talk about that. Bring up Budds Creek and 2007, though—nobody forgets about things like that. The Motocross of Nations lives on forever.
After the races, we were ecstatic; we were on cloud nine. When you win like that and have a big gap and there was good weather, the crowd is all happy and excited. We have won a lot of Motocross of Nations events and had a lot of good ones, but Budds Creek was definitely one of the best.
It’s really a great memory, and I think it was an enormous success. There were a lot of fans—a lot of happy fans. I think it was a dream come true for Jonathan [Beasley], and he really deserved it, because this man has dedicated his life to Budds Creek and motocross. He is one of the few organizers in America to have done everything: the AMA Nationals, the FIM Motocross World Championships’ U.S. Grand Prix, and the FIM Motocross of Nations.
It would have to be one of my favorite racing memories. It was des Nations, and obviously any time our guys win is always really exciting, but for Ryan to win the overall on a small bike, that was pretty awesome. He led every single lap in his two motos.
I felt like shit in the post-race press conference. I felt like shit on the podium. I almost had to exit early from the press conference because I couldn’t enjoy it because I was so sick and depleted. Afterwards, I went back to my RV and laid down and fell asleep for two hours. You know something isn’t right when it’s the last race of your professional career and you’ve just won the Motocross of Nations and you fall asleep. It was a brutal day, to say the least, but at the end of the day, we were able to pull it together as a country and everybody did their job.
Afterwards, it was kind of funny because they had a big party under the Parts Unlimited truck, and we went over there and RV had a Ben Townley shirt on and Townley had a Villopoto shirt on, and then it was my birthday so they had a birthday cake for me, and they brought it out and it was Ben and Ryan carrying it, and they were singing “Happy Birthday,” and those dudes just took the whole cake and slammed my head in it, just face-down in the cake. Then that started a cake fight. It was prewesome. It would be hard to top the 2007 Motocross of Nations.
Back then, we were better than them on all levels. You’d have these guys ripping out there back in ‘07, but you didn’t necessarily know who they were. I don’t think one particular racer heading into the Motocross of Nations worried any of us, but we knew that they would be fast. Now, a little over ten years or so later, the GP guys are on the same level of training and everything as us. Now, like heading into RedBud this year, I would definitely be worried about certain guys. But the cool thing about the race is that it doesn’t come down to one guy. You don’t have to win; it’s a team effort. Three consistent motos and doing well and not having any big mistakes is how the team thing works there.
What I remember the most about Budds Creek was how good Villopoto was. He was unbelievable. Ricky was good, but Ryan was better than Ricky that day. He was exceptional. I think that was probably his best outdoor race ever. I think he was on one of those days where it just clicks and you’re in the zone. I think he probably could have come from last and won that day with how good he was.
I was joking with Steve Whitelock of the AMA after the race. He was really happy, and he came over and I said, “Hey, we might have a little bit of a problem.” He looked at me and said, “What?” I said, “They’re going to tech the bikes, right?” He told me they were, and then I asked, “Are they going to pull the top end of them?” He said, “Maybe, why?” Then I said, “I don’t think they’ll catch it, but the bore is slightly bit bigger. Just a little bit.” He said, “Are you serious?!?” I laughed, “No, I’m just joking with you. They can pull that thing down to the frame bolts and everything, it’s as legal as it gets!”
Looking back on that day, I was still so young. The older you get, the more you look back on how big things potentially were, but when you’re young and in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to sit there and be cocky about it. None of the three of us on the team were loudmouths like that. Afterwards, and looking back now, yeah, it was a big deal. It was a real big deal that the day went like that at the 2007 Motocross of Nations—yeah, a really big deal.
When I think back to the 2007 Motocross of Nations, I now know we need another one like that. It would mean a lot to me for us to win again. I really hope that things go our way and that everybody puts in 100 percent and end up winning again. It still means a lot to me. It would be so good to win that race again.