Reigning AMA Supercross Champion Ryan Villopoto is hoping to close out his career with a historic FIM World title.
Kawasaki announced its 2015 motocross plans today, and they included a huge twist where it pertains to reigning Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion Ryan Villopoto.
What started as a crazy rumor is now confirmed. After hHaving earned nine AMA motocross championships in the United States, Villopoto is hoping to add an FIM Motocross World Championship to his resume in 2015 and become the first American to do so since Bobby Moore won the World 125cc Motocross Championship in 1994.
But there’s an even greater historical significance to Villopoto’s World title bid. If he can pull it off, Villopoto would become the first American National Champion in the premier class to leave America behind in a quest for a World Championship. Granted, he currently holds the number one plate in supercross, but if not for the fact that he was forced to skip out on his Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship title defense in 2-14, he may very well have been the undisputed king of America once more. It would be hard to argue, however, that Villopoto is not at the top of his game, nor is he not recognized as one of the top two or three American riders in the sport today.
That said, if he can accomplish his mission, Villopoto would become the first American to win the World Championship in the sport’s premier class since Brad Lackey did the deed by winning the 500cc World Motocross Championship way back in 1982. The climate has changed tremendously since then, and it is fair comment to suggest that the AMA Series is currently the strongest and most prestigious in the world. However, perhaps Villopoto’s entry into the World Championship will do the sport good on many levels.
First, it could settle what seems to be a growing dispute with the passing of each recent Motocross of Nations that Americans no longer dominate the world in professional motocross. Second, it will draw greater worldwide attention to the FIM Series, both in America and abroad. Two, Villopoto’s presence will undoubtedly raise the level of competition in the FIM MXGP class.
That’s the historic perspective. The business behind it all may have as much to do with fulfilling the wishes of Team Kawasaki’s title sponsor, Monster Energy drink as much or more than giving Villopoto the chance to accomplish a personal goal. Monster Energy has pumped millions into the FIM Series, only to watch as Italy’s Antonio Cairoli, a Red Bull-sponsored athlete, has run away with the MXGP title year after year. There’s no doubt that Monster would like to put a stop to that, and Villopoto could represent their best shot to do it.
After four-consecutive Monster Energy Supercross championships and two Pro Motocross championships in the premier class, Villopoto looks forward to that challenge in 2015. He will join the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team in Europe, beginning in March, and is hopeful that he can give Kawasaki its first MXGP World Championship. Former factory Husqvarna rider Tyla Rattray, the former MX2 World Champion, will be Villopoto’s teammate in the MXGP class, while the Monster Energy Kawasaki MX2 Racing Team will consist of returning Frenchman Dylan Ferrandis, American Thomas Covington and a surprise addition in the form of 2014 MX2 World Champion Jordi Tixier, who has left KTM to join the team.
Villopoto said that he looks forward to the move.
“I am ready for the final chapter of my career, and in my final year of racing I am looking to accomplish something no one else has achieved,” he said. “I’ve never been one to look at the record books, so when an opportunity like this comes around, to race against the best in the world and represent the U.S.A., I have to see it through. It will be a major change of pace, but I am extremely excited about the opportunity and also to be joined by a former champion like Tyla. He knows what is needed to succeed on the World Championship stage, and I know I can learn a lot from him.”
Stateside, the Monster Energy team will be far from depleted in Villpoto’s absence, as two former 250cc supercross champions, Davi Millsaps and Wil Hahn, will take the factory KX450F seats on the Monster Energy Kawasaki team. Millsaps proved himself in 2006 by dominating the Eastern 250 Supercross Championship, and he has continued to be a top competitor including finishing runner-up in both the 2012 and 2013 Monster Energy Supercross Championships. Hahn made his debut in the 450 class after capturing the 2013 Eastern 250 Supercross Championship.
“We are extremely anxious to begin the 2015 season,” said Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Manager Dan Fahie. “We have big shoes to fill after winning four-straight supercross titles but I could not be more excited to have both Davi and Wil on the team. Both riders have proven to be top contenders in the 450 class and they are just as enthusiastic as we are to get back to racing and on top of the box.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki is set to return with a nearly all-new roster for 2015. Adam Cianciarulo will be aboard in his second full year after a rookie season that saw him win the first AMA 250cc East Supercross he ever entered and score two additional wins and five podium finishes in five races. Four-time AMA National Arenacross Champion Tyler Bowers returns to the team for his first full season following special appearances that included a 250cc SX win at Las Vegas in 2013. Rookie rider Chris Alldredge will make his supercross debut following impressive top-10 finishes in the last three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross nationals, and Arnaud Tonus will make his U.S. debut after competing in the MX2 World Championship for Kawasaki where he won the 2014 MXGP of Brazil. Rounding out the roster is Joey Savatgy who scored his first professional podium finish in Indiana with second overall in the 250 Class.
“We have a fresh crop of riders for the new season, all of which have a lot of potential,” said Mitch Payton, Pro Circuit owner. “We expect Adam and Tyler to hit the ground running, while Alldredge and Tonus will be making their supercross debuts, and Savatgy will be looking for a breakthrough year. I expect nothing but the best from each of these guys every weekend.”
The Chad Reed-owned Discount Tire/TwoTwo Motorsports will also continue its partnership with Kawasaki in 2015 as multi-time supercross champion and former Pro Motocross champion Chad Reed is joined by Josh Grant on the KX450F. X Games gold medalist and 250 supercross winner Josh Hansen will also make his return to competition with the team, riding a Team 100 Motosport.com Kawasaki.
“We have put together a tremendous group of riders for the 2015 season,” said Reid Nordin, Senior Manager of Racing. “The championship proven line of KX bikes has allowed us to fill our stable with race winners and champions. Having TwoTwo Motorsports choose Kawasaki is important to us as well. Chad is a proven champion and knows he needs good equipment in order to be competitive and win. We’re also excited to have Hanny return to racing. He came close to winning a championship for us in the past and we believe he has the talent and determination to be competitive.”
The Kawasaki Team Green program is also back for 2015, entering its 34th year of existence. With 13 championships at the 2014 Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s, Team Green continues to build champions such as recent graduates Cianciarulo and Alldredge. For 2015, the team will consist of Jett Reynolds, Ryder DiFrancisco and Nick Romano on the KX65, Stilez Robertson, Carson Mumford, and Lance Kobusch on the KX85, Garrett Marchbanks and Tanner Stack on the K™100, Mitchell Harrison, Tristan Miller, Darian Sanayei, and Mark Worth in the A class, and Austin Forkner, Joey Crown, Jordan Bailey and Brandy Richards in the B class, all aboard the KX250F.
“We have a lot of faith in our riders and do not cut any corners to give them the best chance at success,” said Team Green Supervisor Ryan Holliday. “We give them all the tools and a foundation for these kids to transition through the ranks. We know we have some of the best equipment and all our riders become KX ambassadors at the grass roots level.”
First to debut on their 2015 Kawasaki will be Hansen at Red Bull Straight Rhythm at Pomona Fairplex on October 4, followed by the Monster Energy Cup on October 18 in Las Vegas where Millsaps will also make his return to racing along with Team Green, which has won the Amateur All-Star class and is undefeated in the Super Mini class.