My favorite trait of Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s star Ryan Dungey is that he’s still that same sincere, humble, and friendly kid that I met at Millville 2006. That was Ryan’s first AMA Pro race, and despite any nerves that he may have had debuting in his home state of Minnesota, he finished an impressive seventh overall. Later, Dungey would go on to gather the 2007 AMA Rookie of the Year, as he began his upward climb to the podium. Although he narrowly lost a 2008 AMA Supercross Lites Championship, he more than made up for it when he made his debut in the Supercross (450) class – taking a second-place finish at the Minneapolis round in front of his hometown fans. Earlier this year, the nineteen-year-old captured his first AMA Championship with the 2009 Monster Energy Supercross Lites title. Now he’s in a thick battle for the 2009 AMA Motocross 250 Championship.
Ryan, you’re right in the mix battling for supremacy in the 250 class – tell us your thoughts on the season so far.
I think its good; each and every race I feel like we’re steadily improving, and getting things better and better with the bike. Right from the beginning we were solid with everything, but as the season gets on its way, things have started falling into place more. I’m sitting a few points back right now, but it’s a long season, and there are many more races left. I’m just going to do my deal and take it one race at a time - I think that’s all we really can do. At the end of the day, as long as I know what I’ve got to do, and make an effort to accomplish that I’m happy - I’m just trying to carry the momentum week to week.
Has the series developed enough to where Christophe Pourcel is your primary competition?
Ryan Dungey clinched the overall win in the opening round of the 2009 AMA Pro Motocross 250 Championship.
Yeah, I think as the points situation goes, it’s against me and him; but really as each race takes off the gate, there’s so many guys that can get into the mix - you know what I mean? There can be five or six different people that can finish in between me and Pourcel, so that’s the tough part. If he wins, then I’ve got to make sure that I’m right there; if I win, then he’s got to do the same. As far as the championship goes, I’m just trying to see how it plays out. There are a lot of different guys out there that make it tough, so you have to be on top of your game even more. You must get good starts and really put in smart, consistent laps. It’s been a tough series thus far; but it’s also been interesting - to be honest, I have to say that it’s fun having it like this (close and competitive).
In this class right now; with this level of competition it must be critical to start up front.
Well, it’s definitely crucial; if I get a start, and you get a tenth-place start you’ve got to make all the passes. I think in any situation the start is key; no matter how deep the class is or anything, it’s always going to come down to getting a good start – if not you have to really make something happen [laughs]. Getting a good start, and leading your own race just makes it that much easier on yourself; when you don’t get a good start, you’re just making it that much harder on yourself.
Ryan, this may be a dumb question for you, but does winning your Supercross Championship earlier this year decrease, or increase your drive to win the outdoor championship?
Ryan Dungey riding in Las Vegas with his new West Coast Lites Supercross champion plate.
No, that’s not dumb at all, Jim. By winning the supercross championship, it was my first championship ever. Coming into outdoors I believe that no matter how many things I do; no matter how many championships I win, that it’s never going to be enough. There’s always going to be another race, another championship, and more. I think with that attitude, it keeps you motivated; to keep striving and pushing for more. Coming into this outdoor championship, I was really looking forward to it; the field is deep, and it would mean a lot to leave at the end of the series with the title.
I want to hear a little bit about the Rockstar Makita Suzuki Team. All you guys have been riding really well; Alessi was the point’s leader, and now Chad Reed is – Michael Byrne is also doing pretty well. What’s the environment like right now; is it a pretty good place to be?
Yeah, Suzuki’s an awesome team. There’s Chad, Byrne, Alessi, and Nico Izzi too - it’s a solid team. Aside from that; having a Team Manager like Roger DeCoster, along with the different technicians; is just a great group of people surrounding you. That’s one thing in my career that I’ve always tried to do; surround myself with good people - that are going to be there in the long run. Suzuki has always been there for me since the beginning. They gave me a shot, and every year it’s been every bit as fun. As I said, it’s definitely important to have a good group of people around you, and we’ve definitely got a solid team.
I know that you are moving up to the 450 class next year; have you heard much talk about the factory teams cutting back in 2010?
Ryan Dungey would like to stay on with Team Rockstar Makita Suzuki
Factory Racing to join the ranks of Chad Reed and Michael Byrne in Motocross 450 next year.
A little bit. I’ve heard talk about people folding, and teams going under. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of stuff next year where what you see now might not be here. But at the same time I think there’s always going to be a base of teams. So as far as next year; I want to be on 450s full time, and that’s the plan. I would love to stay with Suzuki; they’ve been nothing but good to me, and it’d be an honor to go back and ride for them. Everything is just kind of in process, and I’m just trying to do my best at this point to get to where I’ve got to be.
Before finishing up Ryan; we’ve seen some announcements from other countries about their Motocross of Nations teams, and a lot of the message boards are coming up with their lists as to who should be on the team. Many, including myself, would say that Ryan Dungey is a very logical choice – have there been any talks about team selection?
I haven’t really heard too much discussion about anything, or who’s going to go - but to be able to go over there and race for your country would be an honor. That’s been a childhood dream of mine to do since I was small. I would love to go over there and race, but it’s a little ways out. As far as right now, I’ve just got to deal with racing one race at a time! But as I said, Jim, it would be an unbelievable experience, and a huge position to fill. It would definitely be an honor.