ALEX MARTIN ON HANGTOWN, THE RM-Z250 AND WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO BE THE CHAMP
By Jim Kimball
At the 2019 Hangtown 250 National opener JGR Suzuki’s Alex Martin struggle with a first turn crash, and subsequent crash, to finish 23rd in moto one.But, he bounced back to get second in the second moto. As one of the older riders in the 250 class, Alex still gets it done with experience, and grittiness. We caught up with Alex to talk about the season ahead.
ALEX, HANGTOWN WAS CERTAINLY AND UP AND DOWN DAY WASN’T IT? Yes, I think a lot of people definitely had a rollercoaster day with track conditions in the morning, and then mud in the afternoon. For me personally, it was somewhat a disaster day. I struggled in qualifying, bike set-up was not where we needed it to be. It was hard for me to really hang it out for one lap. Then we made changes throughout the day, with suspension, gearing and everything. It all culminated to a good setting for me to really put it down in moto two. I was super happy that we were able to come through with second place.
THE BIKE IS ALL NEW, SO IT REALLY HAS NOT BEEN RACED OUTDOORS, RIGHT? That’s very true. I think that the biggest problem was I did not get as much testing as I would have liked to with JGR, just in the break between Las Vegas and Hangtown. It is a little bit harder when they are based in Charlotte. I think we are at a disadvantage there at times, and also just the fact that it was really just me testing and getting the bike ready. We don’t have a lot of other Suzuki riders, and no one to really draw off of. So, yes, it is hard when you do not have a lot of teammates to rely on for stuff, but, ultimately we made changes throughout the day at Hangtown, and there is no better place to really feel a dirt bike out to see what it is doing on than race day I guess. You hate to rely on race day for testing, but we had no choice. We were able to come up with a good setting throughout the day and it translated into a good second moto finish.
TALK ABOUT THE FIRST MOTO FOR A MINUTE. WHAT HELD YOU UP? It was just dumb luck, really, like the wrong place at the wrong time. I was behind Garrett Marchbanks, and he just crashed out in the outside corner on the first lap and I had nowhere to go and I T-boned him. Then, I went down, and Jordan Smith got into my rear wheel, and basically our bikes were stuck together. It took 25 seconds to get the bikes apart. That was unfortunate and set me back a long way. I actually crashed again, like on lap six and lost probably another 15-20 seconds, so definitely the worst-case scenario for the first moto of the year.
ALEX, DID YOU EVER THINK OF JUST PULLING OUT OF THAT MOTO? No, I am definitely never going to quit, or pull off the track, unless there is something wrong with the bike or if I am hurt. Obviously, I was not hurt, and nothing was wrong with the bike. It was just a case of two dumb mistakes in the moto and being so far back. The track was pretty hard to make up time, so it was one of those things where it was embarrassing really to be that far back. I would like to consider myself to be in the title hunt, but I did not even score points the first moto. I was like “oh my gosh.”. I was very fortunate that I was able to have a better second moto and salvage as many points as I could. Now I am basically starting a series with a pretty decent point deficit, but I would consider myself down, but not out. I definitely think I have what it takes to be on the podium, get some wins, and try to pull back the points that Adam (Cianciarulo) and the guys gained on me this weekend.
YOU REDEEMED YOURSELF IN MOTO TWO. HOW TREACHEROUS WERE THOSE FIRST FEW LAPS? Oh, for sure. I think I hit the first turn around sixth, and had to pass a few people, like Martin Davalos, Chase Sexton and Michael Mosiman. A few tipped over, so I had a few easy passes. Colt Nichols got stuck with a lapper, and then I had a lot of pressure from Ferrandis too. For a long portion of that moto I definitely had my work cut out for me and it was not easy. Unfortunately, Adam slipped away right off the bat for the win and he never really came under pressure the whole moto, but I definitely had my fair share of challenges along the way.
YOUR SECOND MOTO HAD TO BE A SHOT IN THE ARM FOR THE JGR GUYS. I think so, it has been a bit of an up and down year for JGR. I felt really good to just pay everyone back with at least one good finish and start off the year decent. With the second moto, second place, there was only one position we could go, and that was up to first, so that is definitely a lot of positives to feed off of for the rest of the series. Having said that, all of the 250 guys, whether it is Jimmy Decotis, Kyle Peters or Enzo Lopes, we have all been really happy with the Suzuki RM-Z250 this year, handling wise and motor wise, we came up with a lot better package. It is nice to be able to repay them, and all that effort with finishes.
IS MUD TOUGHER FROM A FITNESS POINT OF VIEW? Fitness is definitely involved. I was pretty much near my max for 35 minutes in that second moto, so even though it was muddy, we were still riding on the edge. A lot of long straight-a-ways with ruts felt like the ruts were a quarter-mile long. You had to plan ahead because you did not want a rut that had a lapper in it. That is kind of how I got around Colt Nichols. There was a lapper down, he took a line that a lapper was in, he got held up for a split second and I was able to get around him. The track was pretty tricky. I think the 450 guys had it a lot worse for their motos than our 250 moto. We had rain the whole time. I had to remove my goggles with probably five minutes to go, so that was unfortunate. I am definitely feeling it in my eyes, a couple days later.
YOU ARE FROM MINNESOTA, RESIDING IN FLORIDA, BUT HAVE YOU BEEN STAYING IN CALIFORNIA DOING OUTDOOR TESTING? Yes, I am on the West Coast until Colorado and then we will head back to Florida. It is nice to get used to the time zone, and the hard-packed tracks. I think it does kind of make sense for the first three races. Fox Raceway is coming up this weekend and I like that place. I really like the dirt there. We have gotten to ride it quite a bit in the last two weeks and, hopefully the weather is nice. I think it is only going to be in the 60’s. I was looking at the weather forecast, it should be good.
WAS HANGTOWN AN INDICATION OF WHO WILL BE CONTENDING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? Yes, I think that all the guys we expected to be up there are going to be up there. My first moto was terrible, and that was just a one-off deal for me, or let’s hope so anyway. Dylan Ferrandis, Justin Cooper, Chase Sexton, and Adam Cianciarulo are going to be some pretty tough guys this summer. No one in the class has won an AMA National outdoor championships, so I think it is anyone’s game. To get the title it will come down to winning races. For myself, I have been like a second- and third-place guy on a lot of weekends, but I know that you can make up the most points on a weekend by winning. Three extra points are big when you are winning each moto. It is going to be a tough summer.
Photos by Josh Mosiman