More than 20,000 motocross fans watched Ryan Villopoto get the Washougal gorilla off his back Saturday.
The 24-year-old from Poulsbo, Wash., had been trying to win a round on his home state course for as long as he can remember, but injuries, spin outs and flat out bad luck turned his previous homecomings into nightmares.
Villopoto can rest easy for now, knowing he’s the new king of the hill in Washougal.
“Living just three and a half hours up the road from here, I’ve raced Washougal ever since I turned pro,” Villopoto said. “It feels good to be able to check this off the list and get a win for the fans who have supported me all along.”
Standing in Villopoto’s way was defending outdoor national champion Ryan Dungey. The 23-year-old from Belle Plaine, Minn., had won at Washougal five years in a row.
It looked like it might by Dungey’s day again when he captured the holeshot and the victory in the first moto of the 450 class. Villopoto passed longtime nemesis James Stewart for second place, and challenged Dungey for the lead during the final 10 minutes. Dungey maintained his poise to secure the win by less than two seconds over a hard charging Villopoto.
Dungey grabbed the lead again in the opening lap of the final moto. Before he could settle into a groove, Villopoto passed him on the tower above Horsepower Hill and never looked back.
“After I got the lead, I just wanted to ride smooth, clean laps and keep inching away from [Dungey],” Villopoto said.
Once Villopoto made his move and grabbed the lead, the crowd at Washougal went absolutely nuts. They didn’t stop cheering until their hometown hero crossed the finish line first.
“It feels great having the crowd behind you like that,” Villopoto said. “These fans watched me grow up and race. It feels good to finally be able to get a win here for them.”
Dungey tried to hang with Villopoto, but his over aggression led to mistakes down the stretch.
“No excuses,” Dungey said. “[Villopoto] ran very well. He’s been working really hard to get a win here.”
Although Villopoto and Dungey both earned 47 points on the day, the tiebreaker goes to the winner of the final moto.
Stewart took third place in both motos.
Villopoto leads Dungey by 42 points in the 450 class standings with four more rounds to go.
“It’s way too early to be thinking about points,” Villopoto said. “I’ve just got to carry this momentum that I have and keep winning motos.”
“We both want to win the championship, but there is only so much you can do,” Dungey said. “You just have to take it one step at a time and one race at a time.”
Dungey will be the hometown favorite next Saturday, during the Red Bull Spring Creek National in Millville, Minn. Villopoto is determined to crash the party.
Tomac soars in 250 class
Nobody could catch Eli Tomac in the 250 class races Saturday, at Washougal Motocross Park.
“It was a good afternoon, for sure,” said the 20-year-old racer from Cortez, Colo. “I got some good passes in early and hit my marks. After that, I just tried to minimize my mistakes.”
One mistake during the final moto could have turned into disaster. Tomac didn’t pay attention to the shadows creeping in on the track and almost lost control of his bike.
“You can never lose focus out there,” he said. “I thought I had it in the bag, and then with four laps to go, I almost crashed.”
Tomac trails Ken Roczen by one point in the season standings.
“I’m not in the lead yet,” Tomac said. “I got to be there, every start and every moto.”
Roczen settled for second place in both Washougal 250 motos. He is from Apolda, Germany. Marvin Musquin took third. He is from La Reole, France.
“[Tomac] was really feeling it. Today, he was faster, better and stronger at everything,” Roczen said. “I am really motivated. to get it done. Being on the podium is not enough. Getting second or third isn’t always going to get it done. You have to go out there and win some races.