Ryan Villopoto won his first race and overall round victory in the World MXGP Championship, taking the first moto and finishing third in the second at Thailand’s Nakhonchaisri Raceway for the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team. Villopoto becomes the first American to win a World Motocross Championship round since Zach Osborne won a MX2 race in 2008.
The former AMA Supercross and Motocross champion tasted victory in just his second round since moving to the world championship. The Thai victory followed a solid MXGP debut at the Feb. 27-28 round in Qatar where he earned eighth- and ninth-place finishes.
Riders faced intense heat at Nakhonchaisri raceway, just 35 miles outside of Bangkok. With the temperature topping 100 degrees, team managers gathered together and agreed to reduce the second race for both the MXGP and MX2 series.
Despite the high temperatures Villopoto seemed very comfortable with Nakhonchaisri, easily winning the qualification race by 33 seconds. In the first race, Villopoto passed teammate Tyla Rattray early on the opening lap to take the lead and controlled the rest of the race to win by over 10 seconds.
“I think the track here is not only new for all of us, it is also a little more jumpy than the usual GP track and suited me,” says Villopoto. “For sure there will be weeks when a track suits me best, and other weeks when the track suits the European guys. I didn’t ride this sort of heat for one and a half years, and it even started snowing when we were training in Belgium on Tuesday, so it was a shock change for all of us. I guess I have some things to learn too.”
Villopoto faced a more difficult challenge in Race 2. After getting forced off the track early, Villopoto had to fight his way back into third place. He was unable to make any further headway however, trailing race winner Antonio Cairoli of KTM and Suzuki rider Clement Desalle for most of the race.
With the overall win, Villopoto moves up to fourth in the championship standing with 70 points. Desalle leads all riders with 88 points after finishing second in all four races thus far. Cairoli sits second with 79 points, just ahead of Husqvarna‘s Max Nagl.