Following the best year of his career, Ryan Dungey will arrive at Angel Stadium tomorrow with a massive target on his back. Not only is he the defending champ, but he has also achieved a lot away from the track that others would undoubtedly love to emulate. With the pressure mounting and clock ticking down, we caught with the Red Bull KTM rider to get his thoughts on the new season.
MX Vice: Anaheim 1 is almost here and you’ve never actually won it in the 450SX class. Does that wear on you at all coming in?
Ryan Dungey: No, not really. I haven’t won in all the times I’ve raced on a 450 here. I’ve come close, got seconds, but I’d like to win it – that’s definitely the goal. There’s a lot of hype, a lot of pressure and a lot of nerves going on with a lot of guys, so you want to get yourself off in a good position. I think that if you can get out of here on the podium then that’s a win in itself. It’s a long season and we’re looking at the big picture, not just one race individually. I think it’s going to take consistently winning throughout the season to get the job done, as we’ve seen in previous years.
Do you think that is where your outlook benefits you when it comes to the title chase? You’re looking at the bigger picture, whereas other guys are focused more on this race…
Yeah. I mean, you can put all your eggs in one basket on this race, but we don’t get paid to just win a race. The championship is more important and what all the riders are after. You can’t win a championship with bad races though, so you want to start things off right and limit the mistakes. It makes it easier on yourself! You don’t want to find yourself in a points deficit going into the second round. It’s important to do good, but it’s also important not to do anything stupid either.
I guess there will be more emphasis put on that point, if it does end up being a mud race on Saturday night?
Oh yeah, exactly. There’s a lot of guys, a lot of talent – that’s something you can’t underestimate. It’s going to be a fight, going to be a battle, but it’s a challenge we all look forward to I think.
You’re obviously on the Wheaties box, won an ESPY award and are trying to successfully defend a title for the first time. Do you feel like there are more eyeballs on you than normal?
No, there’s no more pressure than normal. Last year we won the championship – that’s done. You can’t take that away. It’s a new season, but do the goals change? Slightly, but the overall goal is to win races and championships. Those things you mentioned, they are great accomplishments. The ESPY and Wheaties box were also accomplishments that gave the sport more recognition. To see that there is a need off the track as well as on it, it’s more motivating. There’s a bigger picture we’re looking at.
From the outside looking in it seems like you haven’t changed much this off-season, but you now have another year with Aldon and on that new KTM. Do you think there’s the potential that you could catch people off guard?
I think that the preparation has been good – that’s the goal working with Aldon. With his plan you’ll hopefully be stronger every year. That goes along with the fact that you have to have a good bike set-up and I like where the bike’s at. The intensity has been there with the training and preparation at Aldon’s down in Florida. If we can catch some people off guard that would be great, but more importantly we’re out there to get our job done and let the rest play out – that starts with a good start and solid laps. Depending on the conditions, you just have to be prepared for anything.
How much better do you think you are now than at this point last year?
I hope I’m better [laughs] – that’s the goal! Another year under our belts, more experience and we can use that. It all goes into the bank of what you’re going to do in the future. Leave the bad, take the good and apply it to the future.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Image: KTM/Simon Cudby
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