5 Minutes With… Ryan VillopotoFriday, February 18, 2011 | 7:30 PM
Courtesy Monster Energy
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto has been a consistent front-runner in the past two years’ Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Championship. This year, he has gone back and forth atop the points leaderboard with former champ James Stewart, and after the Houston round – where he came from outside the top fifteen to finish third – Villopoto holds a nine-point lead in the championship with eleven rounds left to run.
First off, talk us through that first turn.
Ryan Villopoto: Umm... The first turn was definitely not a great design, but I guess it worked in my favor tonight. It was just super-tight and you couldn’t go anywhere.
Well, you didn’t come out of there very well, though...
No, I was like fifteenth or so; I don’t even know. But yeah, I actually had a pretty bad start right out of the gate, which actually helped me because I was able to see what was going to happen. That’s what happened; I just followed them in there. James [Stewart] went down, and Chad [Reed] and everybody, and I kind of went around them.
Until you lapped James, did you have any idea what was going on with him?
Well, I knew he was going to be close behind me, and he was. Then he went down again...
Villopoto overcame a rough start in Houston to grab a third place finish.
Photo: Simon Cudby
What about the dirt, though?
Yeah, it was rough and slippery and not very good. I mean, it started out good, but the Monster trucks were here already. If they wouldn’t have been here, the dirt would have been really good, but it was hard out there.
I know you tend to do better in softer dirt, and we haven’t had any of those soft-dirt races yet, so is this somewhat encouraging to know that you’re still up on top of the points standings?
What do you mean? I won at Dodger Stadium, and that’s pretty hard...
I know. You’re doing well, but my point is that you’re winning even though that maybe isn’t your best dirt...
It’s great. Definitely, I like the softer dirt better. I mean, it’s a little easier to ride, I guess.
You’re the points leader, obviously, so does that even matter to you at this point? Do you pay attention to that?
I mean, I definitely would have liked to win and get the extra five points that went with that, and that would put me at fourteen, but if you actually look at it, it’s pretty good because I was five down coming in, and now I’m out front. I mean, for what happened at Houston and that whole thing, it’s definitely good.
You’ve been through this already. I mean, last year getting close and then crashing and then having dirt in your tailpipe...
Yeah, but it’s different now because everybody’s out there.
Villopoto is the current point's leader.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Yeah, but it’s the same, sort of, because Dungey lost a whole bunch of points last week. This week, Stewart did. It’s just the nature of the sport, you know?
It’s racing, for sure; I mean, anything can happen. Especially when the first turns are like that, it doesn’t make it very easy to get through there with, what, twenty of us?
Yeah, and you had a whole seventy feet before you have to turn...
I don’t even know, but yeah it was one of the shortest starts all year and on top of that the dirt behind the gate was like wet concrete; blue groove.
I was talking earlier to Mike Fisher and he was talking about how you guys are basically on the weight limit on your bike, which is cool. But I asked, “Last year, when Ryan was kind of chubby, did you bother taking a bunch of weight off the bike?”
Oh yeah? What did he say?
Yeah, that’s what I said...
Dude, I was in fighting shape...
Fighting shape? In the heavyweight class, yeah...
[Laughs] No, I was in fighting shape! The 450 IS the heavyweight class! It’s not the Lites...
All right, fair enough. But Fisher did say that they told you they would start making the bike lighter when you started making yourself lighter...
I don’t think I remember hearing that, but that’s all right. He deserved to say that, I guess...
But it’s an amazing transformation for this year. I mean, how much of a difference does that actually make on the bike to be that much thinner?
Man, I felt good back then. You know, I was digging it... The Cheetos.
Villopoto has slimed down in 2011 with the help of Aldon Baker.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Are you jonesing at all? Because you have to stay away from all that stuff now...
Yeah, I get the occasional M&Ms that I can sneak from Aldon [Baker, his trainer].
Do you want me to publish that? He might read it...
Oh, I’ll show him. I’ll eat them right in front of him.
Do you even get a reward? Like, if you win a race, do you get an In-N-Out Burger or anything?
Oh, no... [Tyla] Rattray went there after Anaheim 1...
Did he get in trouble?
Yeah! I mean, he definitely heard it...
Well, from here on out, San Diego looks like it may be a mudder and then we head back east...
Let me confirm that. Yup, it says 30 percent chance, but this is in Menifee.
True. South of there it could be 60 to 70 percent.
For sure. I don’t know, maybe I can get some more points...
Yeah, you’re a northern boy. You can ride mud.
That’s what they say.
One other thing I want to talk to you about is that I heard you tried that quad in the rhythm section at the race last week in Anaheim.
Yeah, nobody decided to write about it. Everybody said just Stewie did it. Nobody decided to write or say anything about me. Nobody decided to write about it or talk about it on TV that I jumped it the second lap. Why is that?
I don’t know. I didn’t see it so that’s why I didn’t.
You could have come and asked me about the quad.
Villopoto looks to increase his points lead in San Diego.
Photo: Simon Cudby
I did it in practice. You saw that, didn’t you? Or heard about it?
I heard about it.
You didn’t write about it.
No, I didn’t write about it.
All right, thank you...
But you cased the shit out of it!
I cased it, yeah. But I think actually Racer X or someone posted that that segment was quicker for me...
You were gaining a ton of time with corner speed at Anaheim 2. Do you feel like that is a place where you can shine if the track is designed in a fashion that allows you to?
I mean, every track is different but you need to be able to jump everything that he’s jumping. No matter what, really. In that situation, I think that the triple/triple was just as good.
And more consistent and maybe less risky?
Yeah, definitely less risky.
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