Kawasaki’s Villopoto Returns to Racing at the U.S. Open

October 16, 2009

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto had a very successful return to racing after having knee surgery in June.

The 21-year-old rider won two head-to-head battles, two heat races and finished second in Saturday night’s main event to finish fourth overall. In the 85cc Invitational, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s™ Adam Cianciarulo and Thomas Covington finished second and third respectively.

Villopoto and the team didn’t originally plan on racing the U.S. Open. After two good weeks of riding at the Kawasaki practice track, a last minute decision was made to enter the event. Despite the short notice, Villopoto showed he would be a contender winning his one-on-one and heat race on Friday night. In the main event, he was running fifth and moving up through the field when he hit a tuff block and bent his shift lever back to the foot peg forcing him to retire early. Most of Saturday was a repeat of Friday as Villopoto once again swept his head-to-head battle and heat race. In the main event, he narrowly missed the holeshot, but took the lead in the next corner and led the first half of the race. By the checkered flag he was second place and despite Friday’s DNF, he just missed an overall podium position.

“Saturday night was a lot better for me,” said Villopoto. “I got a good start in the main event and built up a bit of a lead. With only two weeks of riding I’m still not in race shape. I was only really able to charge for the first half of the race.”

Villopoto’s return to racing could not have come at a more difficult event. The small, tight track forces riders to be perfect because every little mistake adds up.

“A track like this makes it difficult to come right in and race,” said Villopoto. “The track was so tight; I was working every second of every lap. This track had everything a supercross track has only in a smaller stadium. It was a good second night for me and I’m glad I got a race in before Anaheim 1.”

Cianciarulo came into the 85cc invitational as the favorite and after Friday’s race he looked to be in position to bring home the gold boot awarded to the winner. On Saturday he rode a strong race, but contact all the way down the start straight kept him from getting a good start. In the short race, Cianciarulo was able to catch the leader on the final lap, but he couldn’t get by and had to settle for second.

“I got hit right at the start and came out of the first corner in the back,” said Cianciarulo. “I moved into second pretty quick and started catching the leader. It was a pretty short race and I just ran out of time at the end. I had a lot of fun at the U.S. Open. Winning the race on Friday night gave me confidence heading into Saturday. Getting a good start was important and we just got tangled right out of the gate. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t go 1-1.”

After battling for a fifth place result on Friday night, Covington raced to the podium on Saturday to finish third in both the 85cc invitational race and overall.

“The U.S. Open is so much fun,” said Covington. “The tracks both nights were very different. On Friday it was more difficult and on Saturday it was high speed. I need to work on my starts, but I’m happy with a podium finish.”