ALEX MARTIN INTERVIEW: RACING IN A CLASS DOMINATED BY HORSEPOWER
Alex Martin has worked his way from the bottom of the Pro ranks going to the races as a privateer to full-factory teams like Star Racing Yamaha, Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM and now JGR Suzuki. The 2020 season was full of highs and lows for Alex. Not only did he deal with two separate injuries to start and finish the season, but he was also the lone factory Suzuki rider in the 250 class. Although he said it was a challenge, Alex did commend JGR MX for working tirelessly to make their Suzuki RM-Z 250 as competitive as they could against the rest of the fire breathing bikes. Alex had a great year and was on track to finish third in the 250 National Championship but unfortunately he had some trouble at the final two rounds of the season. MXA tracked down the 2016 and 2018 250 National Championship runner-up after the 2020 season concluded. Currently at his home in Florida, the soon to be 31-year-old opened about his past 2020 season, and his future.
By Jim Kimball
YOU FINISHED SIXTH OVERALL IN BOTH SUPERCROSS AND MOTOCROSS. TWO VERY INCREDIBLE FINISHES BUT PROBABLY NOT WHAT YOU WANTED. Yes, there is definitely feelings of a lot of disappointment this year in general. Obviously, we had some highs. We won a moto at Loretta’s and not only did we win, but won by a minute—that was pretty cool. We got on the podium several times. We qualified fastest in practice, and I haven’t done that in a few years. So, there was a lot of positives in the year. In Supercross, it felt like we were really close to the podium, in at least three of the races. I just missed out on the podium there, so Supercross was kind of a bummer.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW YOU WERE INJURED AT THE END OF SUPERCROSS. Yeah, I fractured my sacrum out in Utah at the second to last Supercross, so I had to take three weeks off the bike before the outdoor series, and that affected my preparation a little bit. Ultimately, I felt like the first half of outdoors, we were riding really well and getting some good results and yet, the last two races of outdoors really hurt us.
SO WHAT HAPPENED IN THE LAST TWO NATIONAL ROUNDS? I was really shooting for the top three in points and it sucked because we were pretty much in third most of the outdoor championship. We had some tough luck in Colorado, and it was a bummer. I was really looking to finish the outdoors on a strong point at Pala, but obviously never even got a chance to do that as I ended up sidelined.
HOW DID YOU END UP BREAKING YOUR LEG? I did not even crash. I just dabbed my foot in a corner, ran it over, twisted it and ended up breaking my fibula. So, definitely not the way we had anticipated ending the season, but it is motocross.
IT LOOKED LIKE YOU COULD’VE FINISHED THIRD OVERALL IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. Yes, but you can’t take anything for granted and that is part of why when you do win, it feels so good. There is a lot of downs and disappointment but that makes the highs when you do win all that much better.
WAS YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT DUE TO ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR? Colorado was a tough one for us these last few years. It was on me basically in the first moto. I tangled together with another rider, I did not get the greatest start, and had my work cut out for me. I caught up to around seventh at one point and then swapped out going down a downhill and came off the track. I came back on and had to climb and pass a bunch of guys over again. Then I tipped over and was not able to get the bike started right away. I don’t know what happened in the second moto, but it wasn’t good. Colorado was definitely a disappointment, but I am happy that we had some podiums and that I won a moto at Loretta’s. That was pretty cool, especially for Suzuki and the JGR guys. Those guys work so hard and it is nice to have the better races and show that all the hard work is paying off.
“With the series pushed back later on the calendar, fitness is not as much of a benefit or a help. A lot of it just comes down to raw speed, having the raw speed and a good place to show that speed.”
WHEN HEAT AND HUMIDITY ARE AT THEIR WORST, YOU REALLY SHINE. BUT THAT WASN’T THE CASE WITH RACING IN THE FALL WAS IT? It was a little weird this year because there were so many cold races. Obviously other than W.W. Ranch in Jacksonville—it was pretty hot over there. Florida does not really see winter until Christmas time. Regardless if they have Nationals in June or September, it is still going to be hot in Florida. For the most part the weather was cooler. At Millville, I remember during the first qualifying session it was about 38 degrees. With the series pushed back later on the calendar, fitness is not as much of a benefit or a help. A lot of it just comes down to raw speed, having the raw speed and a good place to show that speed.
YOU SEEMED TO BE SO STRONG IN THE LAST TEN MINUTES OF THE MOTOS. That is my strong suit. I always come on strong at the end of the motos. But I am going to be honest, you hate to rely on your strength like that. My trainer John Wessling and I have been designing a training program for me the last couple of years. It has been more or less working on my weakness, which has been that raw speed at the beginning of a moto. So, we haven’t really been working on the endurance stuff, we’re trying to work on the fast twitch muscles and get some more raw speed out of me. I am not getting any younger, especially going up against guys like Jett Lawrence and you see these kids that have a bunch of raw speed. So that has been a priority for me, not necessarily doing 35-minute motos every day.
“When I am doing it on my own, sometimes you kind of get the feeling of, “am I crazy, like am I really feeling this or maybe I am crazy.”
YOU HAD A COUPLE OF TEAMMATES ON 450S BUT NONE ON 250S, DID YOU SEE THAT AS A HINDRANCE? I honestly think having a teammate is a benefit. In my situation, where Suzuki has a 250 that honestly does not have a lot of data on it, in terms of how to make the bike better. I feel like I have been steering the ship for the last year or two. We made a lot of progress, making the bike good—especially this year. The testament to the engine was that we were able to jump LaRocco’s Leap at Red Bud. We jumped it at both Red Bud Rounds, when very few other manufacturers were jumping it, other than the Star Yamahas. Last year, it was nice having Kyle Peters, my teammate outdoors. It was nice to talk to him about the similarities that he was feeling with the bike and the chassis. You can relate, and also work together to make the bike better. When I am doing it on my own, sometimes you kind of get the feeling of, “Am I really feeling this or maybe I am crazy.”
“The class is dominated by horsepower and it is nice to know that he has someone that is working around the clock trying to bridge that gap. “
OFTEN YOU HEAR PEOPLE BASHING SUZUKI, BUT YOUR BIKE BOTH SOUNDED GREAT, AND LOOKED FAST ENOUGH. Dean Baker has done a phenomenal job with the engine. Even halfway through the season, he is still coming up with stuff to try to find the advantage. It is nice to know that JGR has someone working pretty much around the clock. The class is dominated by horsepower and it is nice to know that there is someone working around the clock trying to bridge that gap.
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH YOU AS FAR AS 2021? Obviously, I put my feelers out there for different teams, but this year is tough with COVID and everything. There are a lot of amateurs that are still coming up through some of these programs. Being so late in the season, there are a lot of people that have already signed, and it is hard to be going anywhere else. Having said that, I am very happy with JGR Suzuki. I feel like in two years we have made a lot of progress. My personal feeling is that I could be in a really good spot for next year and I would definitely like to stay and keep building on the program and the bike we have. JGR Suzuki is an awesome group of people. I would like to stick around.
THIS OFF-SEASON WILL BE COMPRESSED, WHAT WILL YOURS LOOK LIKE? Right now, I am dealing with my leg injury, and I just had some meetings this week with doctors. It’s looking like I might have to have surgery on it. So, my off-season might be very low key, just resting, recovering and trying to heal up.