The Red Bull KTM team held a press conference at Angel Stadium in Southern California earlier today. The event was used to announce that Ryan Dungey, a four-time champion in the 450SX class, has retired from professional supercross and motocross with immediate effect.
An event as extravagant as this was fitting for a man who has accomplished so much on and off of the bike. The nine titles that Dungey has claimed in Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross sit alongside an ESPY, as well as a Wheaties box. Those are impressive, of course, but his defeats are just as noteworthy. Rarely did he finish off of the podium and, had it not been for some rare issues, he may have achieved even more.
Dungey lost the 450SX title in 2011 by just ten points, for instance, and missed out on a 450MX championship by fourteen points in 2014. When you consider the fact that he stood on the podium in either second or third on one hundred and sixty-seven occasions (counting each individual outdoor moto), you begin to realise why such a hole will be left in the sport now that he has stepped away.
The fact that Dungey was not expected to reach these levels is often overlooked. Roger DeCoster took a huge gamble when he handpicked Dungey from the amateur ranks, despite the fact that he had won just a single title at Loretta Lynn’s. The confines of the Makita Suzuki awning really became home at that point, as he was comfortable working beneath DeCoster and Ian Harrison. Comfort turned out to be a major factor throughout his career. Even now, the colours may be different but those two are still at the helm.
A win at the first Monster Energy Supercross, then named Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross, round of his career ensured that fans and insiders alike sat up and took notice. The races that he completed at the end of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series the year before that were not even spectacular, as a pair of eighths were a highlight. Consistency was there, evidently, and that was never eliminated from his programme.
That win at Atlanta in 2007 was followed by some stereotypical rookie mistakes, then the year that followed that included the infamous Jason Lawrence incident. Dungey had dug himself into a hole mentally at that point but, unlike many others, he emerged a better rider. Countless riders have faced similar adversity, but failed to appear at the other side. Dungey was simply faultless from that point on.
Although you could point to minor errors that were made at points, when you look at what he achieved as a whole it is simply incredible. It may even take this retirement to enable one to look at the bigger picture and appreciate the work that he did. In many ways his story was that of an underdog, hence why it really is not surprising that so many fans chose to back and relate to the multi-time champion.
Dungey will be missed. Not just by those fans and industry insiders, but by the mainstream media who opted to tell his story to a wider audience. ‘5’ opened up many avenues that had not been explored by his predecessors and, whilst Ken Roczen looks to continue to take the sport down that path, we will thank Dungey for opening that door.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images