Friday Feature:
Who in the Heck is Ryan Dungey?

Unless you happen to be a close disciple of amateur MX racing, there’s a good chance that you have never even heard the name Ryan Dungey before. If you’re not familiar with Dungey, don’t worry; you’ll hear plenty about him in the coming months, as the 16-year-old from Minnesota recently joined Ricky Carmichael and Ivan Tedesco in the Team Makita Suzuki semi.

Though Dungey was not as dominant or hyped up during his amateur career as recent graduates Mike Alessi or Ryan Villopoto were, he does have plenty of titles, and even more importantly speed, to back up his impressive sponsorship opportunity.

Going straight to a manufacturer’s factory squad before spending time proving oneself on a smaller satellite team is pretty rare in this day and age, but in Dungey’s case he earned the right by trying out during a Suzuki testing day. Ryan’s Cinderella story, in a nutshell, goes something like this: Team Manager Roger DeCoster, along with RC and the rest of the crew, watched as Dungey set blazing lap time after blazing lap time on a beat-down Glen Helen course. After a day of dropping their jaws at Ryan’s speed, the team was ultimately satisfied that he had the potential to deserve such a distinguished ride. Though there were obviously several more details involved in signing him, that tryout day, for the most part, was how Dungey got his lucky break.

While most of his amateur competition is spending this week demonstrating their talents to potential sponsors at the 2006 Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National Championships, since Dungey has already landed the support ride of his dreams, Ryan’s instead been busy preparing for his Millville, Minnesota National debut. We caught up with Dungey in between test sessions with Suzuki at Competitive Edge to get our readers the scoop on the freshest face in the pro paddocks...

For people that don’t know much about you or your amateur career yet, give us a little insight on who Ryan Dungey is...

I started racing when I was five years old, and I have been doing it ever since. I’m 16 now, so that’s a fairly long amateur career, but I was under the radar a little more than some others because I wasn’t really the fastest amateur, especially through the 60s and 80s classes. I wasn’t very dominant, you could say, and towards the end of my career on 80s I was getting a little too big for the bike. Then I got on the 125s and 250Fs, and those were bikes that fit me a little bit better. Everything seemed to go a lot better on the big bikes, and I started figuring things out more. I went through several of the Shannon Niday motocross schools, got everything ready, and everything just started to fall into place. At first, I was trying to go fast and keep up with the fast guys that were in the 125cc B class, but I ended up on the ground quite a bit! I won my first amateur national at Lake Whitney in 2005, then went on to win Loretta’s that same year, which was a great experience. I think I have a total of like 15 amateur championships, but I don’t know exactly, I never sat down and counted them (laughs). It’s been a great amateur career, but I am glad that I now get the chance to do this, my dream.

What do you think the transition to the pro class will be like?

It’s definitely going to be a whole different ball game; the guys are so much faster, and there are tons of guys that can run the top pace. I just hope to get in there and do well, and show my speed by the end of this year; basically, show everybody what I’ve got!

Your first AMA National is right around the corner, and it takes place at your hometown track of Millville. What is your goal for the weekend?

My goal for Millville is just to be myself. I want to ride hard and smooth, try to get some holeshots, and just put together two solid motos. It’s my first National, but I hope to be someewhere in the top-15 or maybe in the top-10--that would be very nice.

Describe what was it like to get the phone call from Team Suzuki saying that you were going straight to the semi?

No, it wasn’t anything like that! (Laughs) I didn’t just get a phone call out of the blue, it was actually a little bit longer of a process. It was definitely cool, though. I had a tryout day, and thankfully everything went really well that day. I then talked to Rog (Team Suzuki Manager Roger DeCoster), and he said that they wanted to give me a shot. I kept thinking to myself, man, if this really goes through, I’m going to be the happiest kid in the world. And eventually it did, but during the process, everybody kept coming up to me and telling me congratulations. The whole time, I didn’t know what to say because it wasn’t officially a “done deal quite yet, and I didn’t want to jinx it. Now that it’s official, I just couldn’t be any happier. I finished my amateur career off strong with a couple of championships, and now I’m ready for new beginnings; Let’s do it!

Now that you’re out here officially testing for the team, what’s it like to ride on factory equipment?

It’s way better equipment, that’s for sure. It’s factory, so the whole entire bike just does everything better. It handles better, the suspension is incredible, even the Bridgestone works tires... All of it adds up to just make the bike awesome. Fast motors, a great overall bike,; now I just can’t wait to race it.

What are the details of your contract with Suzuki? Which classes will you race, and how long are you signed with the team?

I’ll be on the 250F, racing the Lites classes through the year 2008. I’m not quite sure when I’ll step up to the big bikes, but hopefully I will have a great Lites-class career, and when the time comes, great.

Make sure to check out the race report from Millville to see how Dungey’s first National goes!