Ryan Villopoto. Past. Present. Future.
Simply put, the world is Ryan Villopoto's. Huh? He's out with injury.
Sure, he's on the sidelines now but let's look at his past and where his options lie moving forward.
Rebounding from that awfully broken leg in St.Louis 2010, Ryan set forth on the most commited and focused training regimen he had in his racing career. In what started out as a quiet series, as the rounds wore on in 2010, he found his stride and started clicking off wins, only to have all that momentum stolen from him by a neglected track surface, despite it being brought to the track crew's attention earlier in that fateful evening. From a title he could taste, to factors out of his control robbing him of the prize he was inching closer to and a summer spent watching his nemesis debilitate the competition. This was gasoline being poured on the flames of RV's fierce focus to win and prove that his 2010 was indeed robbed of him.
As 2011 kicked off, RV had the mental advantage of being the only rider in the elite tier who was both returning on familiar equipment and within an infrastructure he knew to be comfortable and had achieved success within. Ryan Dungey, although on the same bike as he was when he won everything in 2010, was in a wholly new team structure and separated from his trusted mentor, Roger DeCoster. It's no secret how much Roger means to Dungey's program and the moment Ryan knew Roger was out at Suzuki, his faith in the program plummeted. Chad Reed was in his first year as team owner, on new equipment after an utterly forgettable 2010 and yes, many in the sport thought he was now an also-ran and no longer a title concern. James Stewart was embarking on year-two of trying to come to grips with the blue bike which shall remain nameless. Although he saw some successes, the season was marred by crashes, arrest and the disbanding of the team around him. Trey Canard was coming into his rookie year aboard the 450 and although he was considered a contender in pre-season rankings, being a rookie, it was the great unknown.
RV's 2012 started much like his unprecedented 2011.
It was all there for RV, although it was no cake walk, he capitalized when necessary and despite scoring no points in Jacksonville with it's awkward right hand first turn, he secured his first 450 SX title with a 3rd at the Vegas finale.
As 2011 moved outdoors, it was apparent that the dogfight that came all the way down to Vegas had run RV ragged and he came into Hangtown sickly and under-prepared. Dungey and Reed were invigorated by their coming up short in the SX series and came into the outdoors poised for retribution. Much like RV's 2010 SX series, he started behind and by round 8 of the Nationals, seized control of the points and never relinquished it.
Rounding out RV's 2011 "Season de Perfection" was another victorious MXdN trip and an unlikely 3-moto sweep at the inaugural Monster Energy Cup to take home the coveted "Monster Million".
Not bad for a guy returning from catastrophic injury. I was the one with egg on my face having conjectured that RV may be entering 2012 a little too content with that unprecedented 2011 where he conquered all takers. He answered back with more of the same of what we had seen in 2011 and although injury struck terribly and often, including the reigning Champ, he had excelled enough prior to the injury to secure the 2012 SX title. Impressive. To win everything in 2011 and return with that same killer instinct was inspiring.
So here we are, with RV again on the sidelines watching as Ryan Dungey decimates the field, ala 2010. The difference now though is RV has proven his worth. It's no longer little bike pedigree with the promise to deliver in the premier class. Deliver he has and convincingly. As if it was needed, RV has again found himself on the outside looking in, filling that gas can to light the inferno of ginger-determination. What's more? It's contract time and yes, the world is Ryan Villopoto's.
From the moment discussions in the pits and in the industry started, it was just assumed that RV would stick with the team he has seen all his success with. It just makes sense. It's a familiar program and bike. Not only familiar but proven and proven more concretely than any other, with regard to 2011 than any team in history. Ryan Villopoto and Factory Kawasaki are like Mandingo and pickles. One without the other just seems crazy.
Will RV's 2013 bike have more Red than Green?
Unless you consider the details in the situation at hand. Ryan is obviously the hottest commodity in moto currently and as such, is rightfully seeking a stout contract to secure him in a multi-year deal for large coin. Therein lies issue number one. Monster's deal with Factory Kawi ends at the conclusion of 2013 which makes the money and long term deal a little more difficult for Kawasaki to pull the trigger on. This situation coming to light within the bargaining powers in the industry was like throwing chum in shark infested waters. This monkey wrench has made the "RV to red bike" scenarios a bit more plausible. Could Monster be lured away from Factory Kawi by a red team, making RV to red all but a done deal? Stranger things have happened in moto than an unfulfilled contract. Every team in the pits has dealt with a scenario where an elite rider has wanted more than they were willing to offer and let said rider walk but to also relinquish a title sponsor is something new and highly unlikely. There's a strong chance that Monster and Kawasaki come to terms and extend their deal and this will hinge greatly on a meeting of the Kawasaki brass in Japan next week.
Short of Monster and Kawasaki parting ways prior to 2013, it's really a matter of what matters most to RV. The money or the multi-year deal which could possibly be his last in the dirt? Perhaps it's a contingent one-year deal with options depending on where Monster goes following 2013? Can you imagine a Monster backed Factory Honda under either the TwoTwo Motorsports or Chapparal Racing awnings for 2013 and beyond? That would be wild.
Either of those scenarios propose far more hurdles than RV staying put but when you're in the position RV is, you make damn sure you've exhausted all options before signing that dotted line and that's just what he is doing.