Team Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey is the youngest and first-ever Rookie to win the AMA and FIM World Supercross Championship:
Supercross and Motocross legend Jeremy McGrath was the only other rider to take the title in his first season in the Supercross class, but that was when the series didn’t have World Championship status.
We caught up with 20-year-old Dungey, from Belle Plaine, Minnesota, before the gate dropped at the season’s finale at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas at the weekend – where he piloted the RM-Z450 to a start-to-finish victory – to pose a few questions to Team Suzuki’s first World Champion of 2010.
When did it sink in that you had won the title?
“It really didn’t hit me until I was back home in Florida after the St. Louis round, but even then it didn’t really sink in I guess until after the Championship Celebration on the podium in Seattle. Having that No.1 plate handed to me was something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Your family has been important to your success. How have they reacted to your Supercross Championship?
“They have been there with me at every single race in my career. They’ve obviously been huge in getting me to where I am today, but seeing the looks of enjoyment on their faces while I was up there getting my No.1 plate was something pretty cool.”
How important is the bike in Supercross? Was the RM-Z450 a big part of the equation?
“I’ve only ridden a Suzuki since I turned Pro – I came up through the Suzuki Amateur program – and I truly believe Suzukis are the best bikes out there today. I was able to ride Ricky’s RM-Z450 before making the jump up to the 450 class, so when the time came to ride the big bike, it felt really, really comfortable. It is an easy bike to ride; both indoors and outdoors.”
How about the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team: Roger, Ian, Goose, all the guys… How important is it to have a team like that behind you?
“What more needs to be said about the Rockstar Makita Suzuki guys? The championships tell the story. I mean Roger is “The Man” for a reason. He brings so much experience to the team; he has done it all in our sport. And Mike Gosselaar is such a good mechanic, and a good man to have on the line, too. Ian on the motors, Adam on the suspension, Ray and Shane…all of them…what a great team!”
You’ve been riding with Suzuki for a long time now, and the relationship you have there seems very strong. As the season wore on, you had a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. At some point does it get to you? How do you deal with the pressure so well?
“Like I said earlier, I feel really comfortable on a Suzuki. It’s my bike. And the responsibility really ramps up once you move to the big bikes. I mean people told me that it would be different but I couldn’t imagine how much different it was. And the fact that I was in the Championship hunt from the start probably added to the pressure build-up. It was ok though; it’s what I’ve wanted since I was a little guy. I mean it’s what all of us want, right? The shot at winning the 450 Supercross title? Absolutely.”
Rockstar and Makita are great sponsors and you seem to have a really good relationship with them (as well as all the team sponsors). Obviously the results are there, but you are thought of as being one of the most “marketable” guys in the sport. What’s your secret?
“It takes a great team to support one rider in our sport. Rockstar has been with me since the early days and so has Makita. It takes consistency to make things work in our sport, and I don’t just mean on the track. I’ve got to do my job aaat home during the week and the team has to do theirs in the shop. It takes both to get results on the track. The sponsors make it all happen.”
The race in St. Louis was described by Ian Harrison as being “high intensity.” When you are in a race like that, where you and Villopoto were turning laps one second faster than the heat races, do you focus more on your lines, the other rider, or a combination of things?
“I try to stick to my game plan in those situations. We prepare for races like that. They’re definitely high intensity and you have to try to remain calm and remember to ride your lines and stay focused on your race, and not what’s happening around you. And when you crash mid-race, you have to really rely on your fitness at that point because your heart goes through the roof.”
You have won quite a few titles now in your young career. How do you keep focused on winning these titles…or do you just concentrate on race to race?
“I definitely try to be prepared for long seasons. It takes consistency to win Championships and to be consistent you have to be prepared. And yes, race-to-race is very key: This is a long season in the 450 class and you have to be prepared for the ups and the downs so that you can handle it all and keep moving forward.”
What is your focus going to be heading into the AMA Motocross Nationals?
“We will take the necessary time to get the bike ready for the Outdoors. We’ll be out in California before the opening round at Hangtown, working hard on getting ready for 12 big races this summer.”