Ryan Villopoto announced last month he's coming out of retirement and returning to Supercross. Well, not exactly, but kind of, sort of. He's not returning to Supercross the way many of his fans surely want but he's definitely racing this year. In Australia.
Villopoto, who won four straight Supercross Championships (2011-14) and retired last year after an injury ended his run in the MXGPs, has agreed to line up behind the gates in November at the 2016 AUS-X Open in Sydney, Australia and face former rival Chad Reed, the up-and-coming Cooper Webb and the rest of the best from Down Under.
We tracked Villopoto, who also won two Motocross 450 class titles, earlier this week and he was gracious enough to talk and take time out from the gorgeous Seattle weather. So, we asked him about returning to racing, if this is maybe a precursor to perhaps a jump out of retirement and a couple of other things as well. This is what he said:
1. How's retirement?
It's not so bad, it's pretty good right now. The weather is good out here.
2. You're bike testing for Kawasaki right?
I haven't done a whole lot of testing for them at all really. I rode a couple of times at the test track. If they ever need anything I'm obviously here if they need that type of thing. I actually have my Bob Cat from Supercross, just using that for some side work. I learned how to run that. Just a little side work here and there and helping out a buddy with an asphalt business.
3. So now you're coming out of retirement. How'd that get set up?
I wouldn't say I'm coming out of retirement. It's just a two night race down in Australia. For me, they threw it out there and I thought about it and it would be a good thing to do. I've never been down there. I get to race a little bit but it's more for me going there and having fun. I don't expect to battle with those top guys.
I'll be having two boys right around then so I don't know how much time I'll have on the bike. It's going to be crazy right before the race, they're due the month before. For me to go down there, enjoy it and line up behind the gate with no pressure should be a good time. The promoters are really cool guys and the Australian fans have never seen me race or ride for that matter, it's going to be cool all the way around.
4. Are you truly coming out of retirement to race or is it more of a fun run?
I'd call it an exhibition. Sure I'm lining up behind the gate. It is a race for me. Yes I am racing but I'm not coming out of retirement.
5. OK, it's still a race and you've got some stiff competition in Chad Reed and Cooper Webb. Does something like this require you to train in the months prior?
I'll be pretty damn busy before then with two newborns. I'm going to ride and try to do as much as I can and fly to California and do a little bit of testing but I haven't had a lot of time on the 2016 450. Maybe I'll fly down for two days and fly home, type of thing. Am I going to start training full-on months before? No, that's not going to happen. I'm going to ride and be somewhat prepared but nothing crazy.
6. So, is this a precursor to Ryan Villopoto coming out of retirement and perhaps taking up some Supercross rounds in 2017?
No, just a one race deal for this year.
7. Have you thought about returning but on your own terms, your own schedule, your own training regime?
No, if I'm going to race I'm going to try and win and everyone knows what the program looks like and that it works.
8. The rumors said you were burnt out from racing and you didn't even want to race the MXGPs. What's true, what's not true? Were you sick of it like anyone gets sick of their job?
People are always going to start rumors. I made it clear how everything was and how I was feeling already. I needed a change and was looking for something different and we decided to go there and we saw some benefit in certain areas and with our sponsors. We gave it a try but it didn't turn out the way we wanted and there were things that could have turned out better, but it is what it is.
9. Do you miss it?
To be honest, not really. I went to Hangtown, it was good being there, but it didn't spark my interest.
10. Is there anything that would bring you back to part time or even full time racing?
I don't think so. The sport's evolved a lot. You just can't jump in to a series and run with those guys and make it worthwhile. You might be able to do that for one year and make money off the deal, but as soon as you don't perform that door is shut. I've always said before, having kids, it would be cool to have them see me race, it didn't work out that way, but they'll still see me ride and race like at events in Australia.
11. Is there any one aspect to racing that if it didn't exist, you'd still be racing today?
That's beating a dead horse, every rider has their own opinion. You're beating your head against the wall. But I'll say, the riders are under too much, they race too much, and under too much stress for too long. And those guys at Feld and AMA - one runs in winter and the other only Outdoors. They get off-seasons and everyone else is stuck inside this deal. They are not preserving their riders.
Ricky (Carmichael) retired sooner than everyone wanted him to, same thing with me. It wasn't that my skills weren't there, I could keep up, I was just burnt out. They are not preserving the riders that are making them all this money. Sure we make money but without the riders there is no racing.
12. What happens if the racing bug bites in Australia - no way were getting a big announcement in December that you're coming back?
No, I don't think so. I'm going to be in and out of Australia sooner than I would want to be as I'd like to stay there a little while but the boys will only be a month or so old so I'll be heading home.