At the ripe young age of 20, Ryan Dungey moves into the position of American Suzuki’s lead rider in the 2010 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series—and he deserves it. Last year, Dungey handed Suzuki not one, but two championships—in the Supercross Lites series as well as the AMA outdoor motocross championship, aboard a Suzuki RM-Z250 motorcycle. This year, the affable Minnesotan mixes it up with the big boys (James Stewart, Chad Reed and Ryan Villopoto) in the premier 450 class aboard the updated 2010 Suzuki RM-Z450 motorcycle. We caught up with him today, prior to this weekend’s commencement of the Supercross racing season, at Angel’s Stadium in Anaheim, California. Below are his thoughts on the following questions.
REPLACING CHAD REED AS SUZUKI’S 450 A-RIDER:
It feels good; more importantly to be on a great team; one that I’ve been with for four years, since I was 16. It’s amazing. It’s been quite an experience to be that main guy in the 450 class with testing and getting ready for the season. It’s something different, which is always good—keeps it fresh.
MOVING UP FULL-TIME TO THE 450 RANKS:
It’s definitely a big step. I’ve always looked forward to it. Since I was little I wanted to be in this spot and it’s finally here. Making this transition into the 450s is a big step. To be able to make that transition a little bit easier with Suzuki is nice. I think we have a great package.
HIS PREPERATION FOR THE SUPERCROSS SERIES:
I think we’re ready to go. We’ve done everything we’ve possibly could as far as testing. Its gone great and we’ve got some great settings. But you know with anything, I believe there is always room for improvement. We’ll see how the first race goes and from there we can see where we can improve.
RACING WITH THE BIG BOYS:
I believe I have the speed. With anything it takes time and experience to get there. It might happen right away or it might happen with time. The plan is to be the guy on top in the end. It might take a little bit of time. But in the end I’m not going to stop pushing until we’re there… and even when we get there I’m going to keep going. That’s where I want to be—on the top of the box. We’ll see how things pan out. It might come easy… it might come hard… you never know.
HIS PERSONAL RIDING PREFERENCE—SUPERCROSS OR MOTOCROSS:
Supercross is something new to me. Throughout amateurs I never got to ride it. So when I turned 16 it was like ‘wow there it is—Supercross’—so it is relatively new. It’s something that keeps me fresh. I like them both. It keeps things fresh switching it up half-way through the year like we do.
HOW PROFESSIONAL RACERS LIKE HIMSELF AVOID CAREER BURN-OUT:
You got to find that balance. If you make racing everything and you put all of your time and effort into it, it’s easy to get worn out, you know? I think your body needs a break at times. And you’ve got to keep that balance between family, friends, and of course fun [smiles]. You’ve got to do all the things you enjoyed doing before. Because when you’re here [racing Supercross] you have to work a lot harder, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your life away from racing. I just believe having a good balance is the key.
HIS THOUGHTS ON RACING WITH ELECTRONIC FUEL-INJECTION (EFI) AND HIS NEW MECHANIC:
Going to the 450s EFI is definitely better. It gets rid of the bog and you know that instant throttle control is always there. It’s a bit safer too. Mike Gosselaar (Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed’s championship-winning handy man) is my new mechanic. It’s been great working with him. He’s a good guy and knows his stuff. It’s good to have a guy like that on your side.
HIS NEW NIKE MOTOCROSS BOOTS:
We’re going to be wearing the boots this weekend. Nike’s done a great job. The boots are so amazing it feels like I’m floating off the bike because they’re so light [laughs]. Performance is awesome. About 18 months ago we went to Nike and asked them to make the boot and they went to work. Every step of the way—from riding, to telling them every bit how I wanted the boot. They did it… and have done a good job. They’re lightweight and the performance is awesome.