July 09, 2015

Farewell to a GREAT champion: Ryan Villopoto retires!

Okay, so it's been a LONG time since I lasted posted here, and that's not because there hasn't been a lot going on in the motocross world since 2012 (!); truth is, plenty of things have happened and changes have been made, and riders have come and gone... but none of that is as big as the news that dropped today: absolute motocross hero Ryan Villopoto announced this morning that he will retire from professional racing immediately.

Now, many writers and wordsmiths will weigh in on this momentous announcement, and frankly do a far better job than I (for example, check out what the Racer X brain trust have to say), but I'm not here to flap my gums, er, typing fingers. I just want to take this moment to share a few other moments... some of my favorite photos of RV, as shot by some of the world's best photographers... and myself. Because to really "get" Villopoto, you had to see him ride. You had to see him handle his bike, because that's what it really boiled down to: he was a maestro on a motorcycle, an MX matador, facing down the nastiest tracks, the gnarliest conditions and the toughest competition. And he came out on top: 5 outdoor motocross titles, 5 supercross championships (yes, I included the 250F title).
Glen Helen, 2005.  The end of the season, and only his 3rd pro race, the kid looked too skinny to handle that 250F.  While all eyes were on Mike Alessi molesting Ivan Tedesco in the first lap of the final moto, Villopoto raced to 2-2 scores to finish 3rd overall. Photo by author

Okay, so that first photo was him just standing there, but I had to include it because I took it! Here comes the good stuff...
Glen Helen, 2007.   Ryan killed with this massive, macho holeshot, trading moto wins with arch rival Ben Townley to take the overall and retain the title.  Photo by Brown Dog Wilson
Also 2007 and looking a lot like Glen Helen, this shot is a prime example of classic RV cornering style.  Just smash and gas.  Think this is a Simon Cudby shot.
Glen Helen, 2008.  Did I say the last show was classic?  THIS is RV style!  Sand surfing at its finest.  Great shot by Michael "FTE" Stusiak.
Glen Helen, 2008.  Photo by Michael Stusiak
Glen Helen, 2008.  Lest you think Ryan was only about the cornering, he could also air it out with the best of them.  This is a crazy leap down an absolutely treacherous downhill.  Photo by Michael Stusiak
Unadilla, 2008.  If you're a motocross fan, you automatically say "Braaaap!" when you see this awesome photo by Carl Stone
San Francisco, 2010.  Gotta show the man slicing up some Supercross.  Photo by Guy B
Phoenix, 2011.  Photo by Guy B
Salt Lake City, 2001.  Photo by Guy B
Pala, 2011.  Looking patriotic.  Photo by Guy B
Dallas, 2012.  Once again, textbook stilo. Photo by Steve Cox
Anaheim 2012.  Even riding through the pits, Villopoto demonstrated the steely focus that resulted in so many championships.  Photo by author
Well, that's all I got, and it's by no means exhaustive. Look for the glossy mags and websites to put out the good stuff in the coming days and months. In the meantime, don't let this news get you down. Just be grateful that the sport we love was graced by such an immensely talented and driven individual. Ryan Villopoto is truly one of the greatest men to ever race a dirt bike on this planet, and I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

May 20, 2012

... and we're in here talking about practice: Hangtown 2012

Wow.  Another spectacular shot by Guy B at Vital MX.
James Stewart was literally flying yesterday at Hangtown, setting fastest qualifying laps and winning both motos outright.  The Yoshimura Suzuki team is looking pretty good this season, and Stewart is definitely a franchise player. 

James has always taken qualifying very seriously, though many of his detractors tend to down play "practice." This video ain't moto, but it cleverly addresses that issue.

May 13, 2012

Stewart Scrub: more proof that Red Bull gives you wings

James Stewart threw down some extreme scrubs at his Red Bull-sponsored ride day before the Red Bull X-Fighters at Glen Helen.  Looking into the camera pushes this one off the charts.

And now from the other side.  Be honest, do you ride like this?

Photos by Guy B/Vital MX

May 09, 2012

The "Ki" to winning the National Motocross Championship

The U.S. outdoor motocross championships have always been won by racebikes made in Japan.  And lately, starting in 2008 with James Stewart's undefeated season, they have been won by Japanese bikes with brand names that end in "i":  Kawasaki and Suzuki.

Photo by Michael "FTE" Stusiak
 2008:  James Stewart on Kawasaki

Photo by Guy B/Vital MX
 2009:  Chad Reed on Suzuki

Photo by Guy B/Vital MX

2010:  Ryan Dungey on Suzuki

Photo by Guy B/Vital MX
 2011:  Ryan Villopoto on Kawasaki

Now, with the 2012 championship series starting in less than 10 days, we have James Stewart suddenly Suzuki-mounted.  He may be the "ki" teams best hope to extend the streak, considering that Kawasaki's Villopoto will miss the series while he recovers from his supercross injury, and since Dungey is now mounted on an Austrian-made KTM.

This could be the year that the Japanese stranglehold on American motocross finally comes to an end. Or not.

May 06, 2012

2012 Supercross: Unpredictable or utterly predictable?

Phoenix was Trey Canard's comeback-from-injury race.  Unfortunately, the next round in Los Angeles would be his go-out-again-with-injury race.  Photo by Guy B/Vital MX
Two champions with two Supercross Championships:  To the disappointment of MX fans worldwide, Chad's (22) chase after RV (1) came to an abrupt halt in Cowboy Stadium.  Photo by Guy B/Vital MX

Which one of these guys has the broken collarbone?   Ryan Dungey (right) somehow raced to a second place finish at St. Louis with a fracture that caused him to sit out the next two rounds.  Photo by Guy B/Vital MX
It took four races for the Stewart/Gibbs collabo to win their first race of 2012 (Oakland), then another 6 before they managed to win their second (Daytona).  It all went downhill after that.  Photo by Guy B/Vital MX

When the gate dropped on the 2012 Seattle supercross main, no on suspected it would be the last race of 2012 for the newly crowned 2013 champion Ryan Villopoto (1).  Neither did anyone expect perennial nice guy Andrew Short (29) to come away with the win, his first ever  But there you go.  Photo by Guy B/Vital MX

Some, if not many, fans of Supercross racing are disappointed with this recently concluded 2012 season, mostly because all 5 of the pre-season championship favorites... Trey Canard, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey, James Stewart and Ryan Villopoto... suffered serious injuries at some point.   None of these guys were able to contest every round of the 17-race series.

  • Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Canard was only able to complete 1 race before he injured his back at the third round in Dodger Stadium.  Trey sat out the rest of the season, and will sit out the outdoor nationals as well.
  • Team Two Two Motorsports' Reed, probably the most consistent supercross racer of all time, raced only 6 rounds before he injured his leg at Cowboy Stadium.  Chad is also out for the rest of the year.
  • Team Red Bull KTM rider Dungey made it 8 races before he fractured his collarbone while practicing for the 9th round in St. Louis.   RD was somehow able to race... and finish second!... at the Edward Jones Dome, but would sit out the next three rounds to recuperate from surgery.
  • Team Yamaha/JGR's James Stewart survived 10 races before he crashed out of his heat race at Indianapolis.  James suffered a serious blow to the head, and ended up sitting out the next race in Toronto as well.  He returned to action at the 13th round in Houston, only to crash out of the race and the rest of the supercross season with an injured hand.  
  • Stewart's untimely demise in Texas allowed Team Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto to clinch the championship in Reliant Stadium with four races left in the series.   Good thing, too, because only two rounds latter... at his "home" track in Seattle's Qwest Field no less!... RV crashed and injured his knee, effectively ending his entire year of racing.

Despite all of this, arguably because of all of this, the racing was as exciting as ever, mainly because it was so unpredictable.  Okay, strike that.  Many, MANY people predicted that Ryan Villopoto would win the title this year.  The racing was exciting because supercross IS exciting.  I went to three rounds this year and enjoyed it thoroughly. Even my normal gripes about the realities of attending stadium events are mostly forgotten, while memories of the racing linger on.  Sure, it helped that I went to the early races when all 5 of the aforementioned were still able to race, but even the latter rounds featured excellent dicing and great performances.

A huge round of applause and hearty congratulations should go to Ryan Villopoto for simply surviving what has apparently become the most brutal form of motocross racing on the planet.

March 16, 2012

Electric motocross is getting closer

Photo by Todd Tankersley

It should be clear by the photo above that the good people at BRD really get that form is as important as function for people seriously considering the purchase of battery-powered dirtbikes.  The RedShift looks the part; see the rest at Vital MX.

March 10, 2012

James Stewart wins the Daytona Supercross

Photo by GuyB/Vital MX

What a day for James Stewart:  first in qualifying, first place in his heat, and first in the main event.  And what a day for his Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota/Yamaha team mate Davi Millsaps, who rode strongly to second place, his best finish of the season.

The photo above was taken during practice; the track was even sloppier during the race.