Team Monster Energy Kawasaki racer Ryan Villopoto is leading the 2011 AMA Supercross Series, as the series gets ready to make it’s annual stop in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The 2011 Supercross season began as one of the most anticipated racing seasons of all time. Looking back at the 2010 season, we saw Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey make history by becoming only the second person to capture the Supercross title in his rookie season (The other person being the legendary Jeremy McGrath).
In 2010, former Supercross champions Chad Reed and James Stewart got together in a crash, at the Phoenix race, which ended the Supercross season for both riders. However, the battle for the points lead began to heat up when Villopoto began putting together wins and challenging Dungey for the #1 plate.
Coming into Round 14 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dungey was clinging to a slim 12 point lead as Villopoto had won four out of the last five races and seven out of the last ten. Both Dungey and Villopoto finished second in their heat races that night. As the gate dropped for the 450cc Supercross Main Event the two riders jumped out front and began to gap the rest of the field. During lap ten, Villopoto saw his opportunity to get around Dungey and hammered the throttle. There were some lapped riders in the way and the two got together, with both going down.
Villopoto was first up, and ahead of Dungey. Villopoto managed to hold off Dungey until lap 13. It was on that lap that Villopoto realized that he was going to come up short on a triple, was in a dreadful situation, and kicked his bike away. The bike hit the face of the jump and Villopoto landed hard, breaking both bones in his lower leg and ending his season.
Said Ryan Villopoto afterwards, “It ultimately cost the fans being able to see a really good finish to the Supercross series.”
Ryan making fans happy in Atlanta
Fast forward to late December, 2010. Most riders have signed new contracts and the landscape among the teams looks quite a bit different than it did at the conclusion of the 2010 racing season. Even the Monster Energy Kawasaki team looked a little different. Team Manager Mike Fisher chose not to exercise the team option for 2011 on Australian Chad Reed. There was now an opening on the Kawasaki Factory Supercross team. Speculation was rampant that two-time East Coast Supercross Lites champion Christophe Pourcel was set to take Reed’s place. However, the announcement soon came from Kawasaki that they had signed reigning West Coast Supercross Lites champion Jake Weimer.
Ryan says, “It is great being on the same team with Jake. We have been friends for a really long time and ride together a lot, so it is not much different for us personally. But it was a great move for Kawasaki. Jake has a good shot at racing up front with the top guys out there. He should not have any problem moving up to the premiere Supercross class.”
After the disappointing end to his 2010 season, Villopoto was more determined than ever to show the world that he could be a champion in Supercross. World renowned trainer Aldon Baker was available and Villopoto did not hesitate to hire him as his full-time trainer.
Ryan says, “Obviously, Aldon has had a lot of success working with Supercross and Motocross Champions like Ricky Carmichael for eight years and James Stewart for three years. I pretty much do what he tells me to do. He has a proven track record. I had a chance to hire him and I jumped at it. He is a great trainer and is helping to put in the best position to win championships. Last year, I won seven races and came into the season a little unprepared. Working with Aldon and being more prepared in 2011 puts me in a much better position.”
Ryan wasted no time finding the top step by taking the win at the 2011 season opener in Anaheim. Coming in to the 2011 season, there were a lot of riders that had a lot of expectations on them, but none more so than Villopoto. After challenging Dungey in 2010 and coming so close to realizing a premier class championship, everyone was waiting to see what he would do in 2011. That opening round win could not have been a better outcome for him.
Thus far in 2011, Ryan Villopoto has won three races: Anaheim 1, Los Angeles and Atlanta. He’s been consistent as well, finishing second at both Phoenix and Anaheim 2, third in Houston, and fourth in Oakland. In spite of a seventh place finish in muddy San Diego, RV maintains a ten point lead over two-time Supercross champion James Stewart as the series gets ready to hit Daytona Beach.
He is well aware, however, that his job is far from complete. Ryan concludes, “There is a lot of racing left and a lot of things can happen. There are five of us that can very easily grab a hole shot and check out on any given night. All that does is put more pressure on everyone else to try to keep up with them and ride more aggressively and take more chances. A lot of the tracks so far have not done a lot to separate us – they have been more one-lined than I would like. For a 17 race season, it is about consistency and good starts. It is a long season. All I can do is keep working hard and doing what I do. I’m really looking forward to the track at Daytona. It’s one of the toughest, if not the toughest on the circuit.”
Supercross fans around the world are watching and waiting to see if 2011 can be the year that Ryan Villopoto breaks through and holds up the number one plate at the season finale in Las Vegas.
Ryan with Brian M. King
Thanks to Ryan and Ashley at Kawasaki
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Villopoto on top of the podium at the 2011 opening Supercross race in Anaheim, California