Kawasaki held its annual employee meet and greet with its off-road and Supercross teams today at its U.S. headquarters in Irvine, California, and took the opportunity to present AMA Supercross Champion, National Motocross Champion and Motocross des Nations Champion Ryan Villopoto with his championship ring and a brand-new 2012 Ryan Villopoto Edition Kawasaki Teryx Four.
"He's a two-wheel guy, but we decided we needed to add a couple of wheels to the stable," said senior race team manager Reid Nordin as he made the presentation of the keys to Villopoto.
When asked by event emcee Rob Buydos how he could top his 2011 racing season in which he won every title he contested, Villopoto said: "I'm going to try and repeat. I think the thing to do is go every weekend and try to be there. I think we do the first 15 rounds right in a row so it's 15 weekends of basically travelling non-stop. It's a demanding schedule for us. I just have to stay healthy, stay fit and minimize the mistakes."
As for the pressure of having a number-one plate every time he lines up at a starting gate in 2012, Villopoto doesn't seem to be bothered by it all.
"I've been told that sort of stuff rolls of my shoulders really easy, but there will definitely be pressure to try and repeat," Villopoto said. "I think with everybody here at Kawasaki, at Monster... I think we have the best team supporting us and the best group of people around here. It's up to me. These guys have done their job and I think I've done mine so far so we'll see Saturday night and after that."
In addition to the Team Green off-road squad of Destry Abbott, Justin Soule, Taylor Robert and Bobby Garrison and the factory Supercross team of Villopoto and Jake Weimer, Kawasaki also had its Monster Energy/Pro Circuit team on hand - including team owner Mitch Payton. Payton confirmed his West Lites Supercross lineup at Anaheim this weekend will be Tyler Rattray and Dean Wilson. New recruit Daryn Durham will join Blake Baggett when the series heads back east.
"We've added Daryn Durham to the team, we've brought Blake Baggett back to the team and he won a lot of Nationals and he'll be in East Coast [Supercross] and hopefully contending for the championship. On West we've got Tyler [Rattray] and Dean [Wilson]."
For the first-time ever, Payton will also field a rider in the Supercross class on a KX450F - Broc Tickle.
"I'm really happy that I got the opportunity to stay here and be a part of such a good operation... Mitch and Kawasaki, Monster and everybody work so hard. I'm really looking forward to it," Tickle said. "The bike is awesome. It's going to be exciting. It's a step I need to take anyways. That's where I want to be is up front in that class. I know it's going to take some steps to get there, but I've got a good team behind me to get me there."