Photography by Kit Palmer
It’s no longer a rumor, it’s official: Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto will not defend his number-one plate in the 450 class in the upcoming Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
According to a release issued by the team today, “Ryan Villopoto will be unable to defend his 2013 Pro Motocross Championship title after opting to get knee surgery to fix a lingering injury.”
The release went on to say that Villopoto has been battling a knee issue throughout the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Series. Despite the injury, Villopoto rode to a fourth straight Supercross Championship. Apparently Villopoto and his medical team decided it would be best for him to undergo surgery on the knee as soon as possible so he can be 100-percent healthy for the start of the 2015 Supercross season.
However, Villopoto’s bike won’t sit idle this summer, as the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team has recruited 2013 Monster Energy Motocross Canadian National Champion Brett Metcalfe to take Villopoto’s place and join Jake Weimer on the team.
“This is definitely not the news I wanted to hear from the doctors,” said Villopoto in the release. “We have worked hard to be in position to win championships for Monster Energy Kawasaki and to not be able to race this summer is very disappointing. Going from a really great feeling after winning a fourth straight Supercross title, to knowing I am going to spend the summer rehabbing a knee injury is devastating.”
“Obviously this is a big blow for the Monster Energy Kawasaki team,” said Reid Nordin, Kawasaki’s Senior Manager of Racing. “Even with the injury Ryan has shown he is the top rider in our sport, but we are listening to his medical team to make sure he gets his knee fixed properly and he can compete for championships in 2015.”
This leaves the door wide open for a new 450-class Champion. The last rider other than Villopoto to win the 450cc title was Ryan Dungey in 2012 and 2010. Villopoto has been 450 Champion in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Chad Reed won the title in 2009 on a Suzuki. Both Dungey and Reed will return in 2014 and will be going up against many formidable competitors, including James Stewart (who last won the title in 2008), Ken Roczen, Justin Barcia and Trey Canard.