PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The United States is gearing up for a full-blown assault on the 2011 FIM Motocross of Nations, Sept. 17-18, at Saint D’Angely, France, with the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) finalizing the team structure and partners coming on board to support a first-class world championship effort.
The team, announced on Aug. 13, includes Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett. Dungey will race the MX1 class, which features 450cc four-stroke machinery. Villopoto will race the open class. Baggett will compete in the MX2 class, which features 250cc four-stroke motorcycles.
Roger DeCoster, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team manager and Motorcycle Hall of Famer, will manage the team in its hunt for a record 22nd Motocross of Nations Championship.
“This is an awesome team,” DeCoster said. “The two Ryans are quite dominant. What else can you say about them?
“As for Baggett, he is putting in a lot of strong rides in the 250cc class, and he’s getting stronger as the season comes to an end,” said DeCoster. “What’s really important is that he is a guy who can come from behind. It’s tough to get a good start in the Motocross of Nations on a 250cc bike, because they race on the track with the 450cc bikes, and you have to be able to come through the pack a lot. We need a rider who can do that, and Blake can.”
AMA Director of Supercross and AMA Pro Racing Relations Kevin Crowther said that it’s nice to return to the Motocross of Nations with another superb team.
“We couldn’t be happier with the U.S. national team this year,” Crowther said. “Villopoto is leading an extremely tight 450cc points race in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Dungey is the returning overall champion from the 2010 Motocross of Nations, where he led the U.S. National team to its record 21st victory. And Baggett is lighting up the 250cc outdoors class, where he is the top-ranked U.S. rider. We are bringing a lot of talent to France this September, and not just on the track, but off it as well.”
Crowther said that the off-track talent includes several companies that have stepped up to support the U.S. Motocross of Nations program this year.
“As in previous years, Feld Motor Sports, which promotes the Monster Energy AMA Supercross and FIM World Championship, Fox Racing and the Asterisk Mobile Medical Center continue to support the Motocross of Nations effort in a big way,” Crowther said. “In addition, we owe a big measure of gratitude to MX Sports Pro Racing, which promotes the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, for their help and support as well. Of course, we also have to recognize the contributions of the riders’ teams — Monster Energy Kawasaki, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki and Rockstar Makita Suzuki.”
Dungey has competed most recently at the Motocross of Nations, racing for the winning U.S. team in Italy in 2009 and Lakewood, Colo., in 2010. He said that teamwork will be key to success in France.
“This is a really good team with Ryan Villopoto and Blake Baggett,” Dungey said. “To go with that, we have a great group of people behind us. We all know how to work together, and we’re building a great partnership — that’s what it takes to do well at this event.
“It’s not about winning individual honor here,” he added. “It’s about winning as a team, and we’re all going to help each other out, whether it’s advice we can give or whatever. One man can’t win it. All three of us have to do our job. With this being Blake’s first time, if I can help him in any way, I will, and I know Villopoto will as well.”
Villopoto, who last competed on the U.S. team in 2008 when he won with James Stewart and Tim Ferry, said that he’s thrilled to be back and part of a particularly talented U.S. national team. Villopoto also was a member of the 2006 and 2007 winning teams.
“I’m really happy to be back on the team after being injured the past two years,” Villopoto said. “It was hard to watch and not be able to have the chance to race the event. As long as we all go out there and ride how we’ve been riding this season, I think we have a great shot at winning.”
Baggett says that he’s looking forward to the new experience of competing at the Motocross of Nations.
“For sure, I think this will be a cool experience against a bunch of guys I’ve never raced against before,” Baggett said. “The GPs are a little unfamiliar to me, and well as who is fast over there, so it will be exciting as a new experience. Also, racing the 250s on the track with the 450s should be fun. Hopefully we can impress quite a few people and bring the trophy home to the USA.”
As for the track, which also hosted the Motocross of Nations in 2000 when the United States won with Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Hughes and Travis Pastrana, DeCoster described it as a “typical” Grand Prix track.
“There are some elevation changes,” he said. “It’s pretty wide. It’s a bit on the side of a hill. The club there does a good job. It’s a well-organized track. The club puts a lot into it, so it should be a great time.”
The Motocross of Nations is one of the most high-profile motorsport events in the world. It features national teams competing for a combined score to determine the overall championship-winning country. The event emerged in post-war Europe in 1947 and has run uninterrupted since that time.
The United States is the all-time leader in Motocross of Nations overall victories with 21. Great Britain is second with 16.