Photo: Ryan Villopoto Facebook page

Now is a good time for Ryan Villopoto to make a statement.

Round 4 of the 2015 Motocross World Championship series is Sunday in Italy. Where Antonio Cairoli was born. Where he swept in 2013. But! He didn't do so well last year finishing fifth. He still went on to win the championship though leading by 17 points after the round despite a (6-7) day for fifth overall. So he's not invincible.

That might be good or bad for the MXGP freshman American trying to improve his position in the standings and catch the Italian trying to win his ninth MXGP Championship. Cairoli probably wants to make up for last year, certainly doesn't want to finish anywhere lower than first and definitely not come in behind Villopoto at home in front of a huge fan base. But a win by Villopoto on the home turf of the rider many, if not most (outside of the United States), favor to win the 2015 MXGP Championship would not only go a long way to the rest of the field that he's figuring out this new-to-him format of Motocross racing but give a boost to his personal confidence.

Villopoto can win, that's already known since he took the overall including a race win in Round 2 on a track that was tight and technical and sounded more Supercross than Motocross. Even Villopoto said it was more his style. Last time out in Argentina he took fourth-place twice for fourth overall on a track that was slick but bigger and wider. He rode well but clearly is still trying to manage the MXGP style and handling the different tracks. In a post on his website, the four-time Supercross Champion said he's on a big learning curve and a lot of strategy is involved since the races stretch out over two days. He wrote:

"The Starting gate is much different too because of FIM rules. You are not allowed to go to the line with your mechanic, so I have to pack my own gate. Do I build a ramp? Kick some dirt around? Wide? Tight? Again, learning."

The crowd in Pietramurata in the province of Trentino is expected to be the largest thus far in the series. MXGP of Trentino is also the first European round of the season so others native to the continent likely have something to say.

By now it's clear Villopoto and Cairoli are not the only ones racing. Neither one sits in first place. That distinction belongs to Clement Desalle of Belgium who won the overall in Trentino last year taking second in Race 1 and first in Race 2. There's also Germany's Max Nagl who is in second-place, tied in points with Cairoli, and has the most race wins so far this year including the overalls in rounds 1 and 3. Villopoto is in fourth-place in the standings, 17 points back from Cairoli and Nagl, and 27 points from DeSalle.

The track in Pietramurata is hard pack and is 1,666 meters or just over a mile long.

Watch MXGP of Trentino live on 1 starts at 5 a.m. (PST) and Race 2 starts at 8 a.m. (PST) on Sunday.

2015 MXGP Season Standings

  1. Clement Desalle - BEL (133)
  2. Maximilian Nagl - GER (123)
  3. Antonio Cairoli - ITA (123)
  4. Ryan Villopoto - USA (106)
  5. Gautier Paulin - FRA (96)
  6. Romain Febvre - FRA (95)
  7. Evgeny Bobryshev - RUS (72)
  8. Todd Waters - AUS (62)
  9. Jeremy Van Horebeek - BEL (60)
  10. Kevin Strijbos - BEL (55)