Defending AMA and World Supercross Champion Ryan Dungey admits that the 2011 season will be the biggest challenge he’s ever faced in his career.
As 2011 approaches, Dungey knows the target will be squarely on his back as the fastest riders on the planet look to bounce back from a season of disappointment and unseat the reigning champion.
“I knew 2010 was going to be a challenging year, but I know for a fact that 2011 will be the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my career,” said Dungey, who has won the last four championships he’s entered.
“They say that how a rider defends his title is what proves his strength and solidifies his legacy and I’m ready for the challenge.”
Dungey’s program remains relatively unchanged for 2011 at Rockstar Makita Suzuki, but the loss of team manager Roger DeCoster to KTM will be an intriguing storyline to the championship.
“It’s tough to see Roger go,” he said. “He gave me my first opportunity and he’s been there every step of the way in my career, but I’m happy for him. More than anything Roger has become a close friend and I want only the best for him.”
Taking over the helm of the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team for 2011 is longtime Suzuki off-road manager Mike Webb and joining Dungey under the tent as a teammate will be premier-class rookie Brett Metcalfe, a longtime front-runner in AMA Supercross Lites.
”I’m excited for Mike and Brett to come on board,” said Dungey. “Mike has a lot of experience and brings a lot of knowledge of the Suzuki bikes. Brett is a proven 450 rider and will be a great teammate. No matter what, it’s going to be a memorable season.”
Entering the 2010 season as the most touted rookie in Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship, Dungey walked away from the 17-race championship as a bonafide star.
Bursting onto the premier class scene with an impressive showdown with San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart, the reigning Monster Energy Supercross Champion, Dungey went on to win six races en route to becoming just the second rookie to win the AMA Supercross title.
As the 2009 AMA Supercross Lites Western Regional Champion, Dungey came into 2010 with a desire to win and challenge the world’s biggest stars in Stewart, Chad Reed, Kevin Windham and Ryan Villopoto.
After a breakthrough season the year before, Dungey had reached his true potential as a rider and knew what it takes to win a championship.
“Before 2009, I seemed to have the speed to put me in contention for championships, but I was never able to put it all together with consistency,” said Dungey. “I entered that season with a renewed focus and a better understanding of what I needed to do and fortunately it all worked out.”
A strong outing in the 2009 AMA Motocross championship the following summer helped Dungey capture his first AMA national title.
This victory gave him considerable momentum during a time when many of his rivals in the premier class were dealing with moving to a new team or coming off a hiatus from competition heading into the 2010 Monster Energy Supercross season.
“I came into the 2010 season prepared and I felt ready to size myself up against the best of the best,” he added. “I knew I put in the time and the entire team was ready to win. I wouldn’t be out there if I didn’t think I could.
“I’ve always wanted to compete at the highest level and I was going to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Fast forward to five months from the start of the 2010 championship and Dungey stood atop the rest as the youngest champion in history and in the elite company of only Jeremy McGrath as a rookie champion.
Along the way, Dungey endured several challenges and was forced to overcome his own adversity in a season in which every title contender encountered some form of misfortune. As his competitors fell by the wayside, Dungey stayed steady.
Despite being tied atop the standings on a pair of occasions and giving up a large amount of points more often than he’d like, the Minnesota native never gave up and matured a lot as a rider in the process.
“There were some times last season where I really needed to dig deep,” said Dungey.
“I made some big mistakes and left the door open too many times. In years past, overcoming those mistakes proved to be my biggest obstacle, but after going through the pressure of winning a title, I knew that all I could to was bounce back the following weekend and let things play out.”
With the spotlight of the motocross world directly on him, Dungey continued his dominance once again in the AMA Motocross championship where he captured the title as well to become the first rookie in history to sweep the premier class championships.