By John Basher
PHOTOS OF THE WEEK
Last week I spent a few hours with Josh Grant at the Jeff Ward Racing Supercross test track. We talked shop, did an interview, and shot photos for an upcoming issue. I learned a few valuable things about Grant. For starters, you probably won’t see him in NASCAR (he said, “With age comes a cage, but I don’t like to only turn left.”). I also offended him, which turned out to be pretty funny.
After getting upside-down over the finish line jump and shooting some cool photos, I wanted Josh to ride up the side a jump and tip the bike flat in the air, Jeremy McGrath style. Josh did what I asked, but wasn’t happy about it. He said, “I feel like a novice doing this. Were the whip photos not good enough?” I replied, “Josh, whips are a dime a dozen.” I thought his head was going to spin around in a circle like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. He retorted with, “So you’re saying that my whips aren’t anything special?” I had to eat my words. Josh, your ability to whip a dirt bike is pretty extraordinary. Now shut up and hit that hit jump again.
IS KYLE REGAL THE NEXT JAMES STEWART? NOPE, BUT HE WILL RELACE BUBBA AT JGR…READ THE COY GIBBS INTERVIEW BELOW
Press release: The JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha Team is pleased to announce the addition of 20 year old Kyle Regal to race the 2012 AMA Pro Motocross Championship Series. Regal will join Davi Millsaps, who finished second in the recently concluded AMA Supercross Championship in contesting the series.
“We are coming off a great supercross season with Davi Millsaps and both Davi and Kyle are turning some very fast laps at our test track. We are excited about the upcoming outdoor national season,” said team manager, Jeremy Albrecht.
“I am excited about this opportunity, the bike is awesome and the team has been great getting me comfortable with the set-up. I am looking forward to Hangtown and the 2012 outdoor season,” commented Kyle Regal.
MINI-VIEW: ROGER DeCOSTER
Meeting of the minds?Roger (left) and KTM North America President Jon-Erik Burleson.
MXA: Roger, would you agree that it has been a pretty good Supercross series for the Red Bull KTM team?
Roger: Yes, although I feel bad that Ryan got hurt. I feel that he would have been in the championship run until the end if not for his injury. Overall, I feel that we did okay. We got four wins in the 450 class with a complete new bike. It’s also the first year for Ryan on our team. The 250 guys have showed a lot of potential, but unfortunately we weren’t in the running for the titles. They had a little too many ups and downs. The downs were too far down. However, we have an outdoor season coming that we are looking forward to. Hopefully everyone will stay healthy and they will go into the series without any problems. I’m looking forward to the Nationals. We should be competitive in both classes.
Has the team been able to complete a significant amount of outdoor preparation?
We have done a little bit. We were a little handicapped because Ryan was coming back from his injury, so he could not ride that much. We also wanted him to ride some Supercross races. We had to do a little bit of Supercross and also outdoor testing at the same time. We did some outdoor stuff with Marvin and Ken, and that has been going pretty well.
Before the Supercross series started you had mentioned that Ken Roczen would challenge for the title. He won races, but he also had several issues. Were you surprised by how things went for him indoors?
Well, he was sick for a while during the 250 East series. Before the season even started he broke his arm and had to move to the other coast. He has been a little bit up and down. There were times when he should have won that he didn’t win. He made mistakes and crashed. It’s proof that it’s not so easy to come and win in the U.S.
After finishing second in the 450 class at Seattle on the 350, why did Roczen opt out of racing Salt Lake City?
The original plan was for Ken to stay away from racing any West events on the big bike. But with Ryan out I wanted to have someone in the 450 class. Then, at the last minute, Ryan raced Seattle. It turned out well. There wasn’t any pressure on Ken, and that helped him. He didn’t ride Salt Lake because he wanted to focus on being rested and 100 percent for the opening of the Nationals.
“We haven’t switched to any major new parts [on the KTM 450SXF-FE].”
How far have you advanced in the development of the KTM 450SXF-FE since the beginning of Supercross?
We have not changed much on the bike. Of course we always work on suspension settings, but we haven’t switched to any major new parts. We have been working with settings on the suspension and engine. We have focused a lot on working on the controllability of the engine.
How has your relationship changed with Ryan since working with him two years ago at Suzuki?
Ryan is too critical of himself many times. I think his opinion of himself is less than what he is. I think he needs to believe that he is as good as he is. Deep inside I wonder if he really realizes what he can do. In St. Louis he raced with a broken collarbone, and he was going faster than [Ryan] Villopoto. He almost caught Villopoto at the end of the race. Villopoto may say that he was backing it off, but he wasn’t backing it off that much. I have all the respect in the world for Villopoto. He’s a tough kid and he had a fantastic season and I congratulate him. Yet Ryan [Dungey] was riding exceptionally well in St. Louis. Also, if you look at Salt Lake City, Ryan was riding okay, but he wasn’t exceptionally fast until Jake Weimer basically took him out. Ryan got back up and it was like he was another rider. He was riding more freely. When he caught Weimer he went right by him like Weimer wasn’t there.
“I feel that he [Ryan] would have been in the championship run until the end if not for his injury.”
How do you make Ryan believe that he’s as fast as he is?
I’m trying all the time to make him realize that! It takes time. Many times you have to repeat and repeat and point out things. You have to prove it to some riders. It’s like if Ryan doesn’t ride for three days then it’s almost like he thinks he will forget how to ride. He is so focused on his program, with his training, running, riding and bicycling, that if he gets off that program he thinks he’s going to fall apart or something.
Can you explain the slew of Supercross injuries this year?
It’s more than a fluke. I don’t really understand it, and I cannot pretend that I have the solution. I have been thinking a lot about it, though. If we can find a way to keep our guys healthy then it’s going to be a big advantage. You’re not going to win if you can’t race. I think one of the reasons for the injuries is because these guys have to be ready to race year round. There’s no real break. I follow tennis, because I have a son who is involved with it. Tennis has never had more injuries before than in recent years. You would think that it’s not a sport where there would be a lot of injuries, but there are. Tennis and motocross have two things in common. First, the season is pretty much all year long. There aren’t any breaks. They play a lot and there is a lot of travel involved. I think there’s something about every human body that needs a break, and if the body doesn’t get a break then it will take one by injury. It’s important to take one month out of the year away from racing. Second, we need to do a better job with studying the tracks. It’s not easy to build a track. Sometimes tracks are made that are really difficult. They might be safer, but then only three guys can get around the track. There’s a big difference in ability between the top five guys and the guys from 20th and after. You need more than 20 people to start the race program.
You gave Ryan Dungey the factory Suzuki ride when he was still an Intermediate in amateur racing. You gave Ken Roczen a shot at racing in the U.S. and that has panned out well. What do you look for when signing a rider?
I look at the personality of the rider. What kind of a person they are is very important to me. I want to work with someone who is willing to listen to my input and then try to do something with it. My input isn’t always correct, but I would like them to at least listen and see if it works for them. The same thing doesn’t work for everybody. With regard to Ryan, I don’t have to tell him to train. I have to tell him not to train as much! With other guys it’s just the opposite.
The Nationals are less than two weeks away. Who is on your list of contenders for the 450 class?
It’s going to most likely be between Dungey and James Stewart. James just had a big break from racing, so he should be healthy and ready to go race the Nationals. We’ll see what happens.
SUPERCROSS FUN FACTS
It has been an odd Supercross series, to say the least. Davi Millsaps (right) stayed the course, scored points in every race, and finished second overall.
Here are some interesting notes from this year’s Supercross series that you can share with your moto brethren around the water cooler:
* Davi Millsaps, Mike Alessi and Brett Metcalfe are the only riders in the 450 class to race every 450 Supercross round (17 of 17).
* 43 riders scored points in the 450 class.
* Who was the best 250 rider to fill-in for a 450 spot? Marvin Musquin (21st overall, 59 points) earned that distinction. Oddly enough, the next four out of five spots in the point standings belonged to stand-ins: Nico Izzi (22nd), Gavin Faith (23rd), Cole Seely (24th) and Wil Hahn (26th).
* Despite missing 10 rounds, Chad Reed still finished 12th overall in the point standings.
* Andrew Short is the only first-time 450 Supercross race winner in 2012. Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, James Stewart and Chad Reed were the other winners.
* Ryan Villopoto won the most main events, at nine. Ryan Dungey was second, at four. James Stewart finished third, with two wins. Chad Reed and Andrew Short each had one win.
MINI-VIEW: COY GIBBS
The Joe Gibbs Racing Yamaha team and James Stewart broke up on Sunday morning after what was the worst kept secret of 2012 (if you’re keeping track, the Ryan Dungey to KTM deal was the worst kept secret of 2011). I wanted to find out direct from the horse’s mouth what has gone on with the team in recent weeks, and to dispel some of the rumors that have been floating around the industry.
Houston (where this photo was taken) will be remembered as the last place that anyone saw James Stewart race for JGR Yamaha.
MXA: How long had the team and James Stewart discussed splitting up before the news was announced on Sunday?
Coy: It wasn’t months, but instead a couple of weeks prior to when it was announced. Those things contractually take a long time. There were so many intricacies that we had to work out. There are things that we couldn’t do, because we had to rely on others. There’s a legal side of things, and I tried to stay out of that area.
Despite the split and all of the rumors surrounding James Stewart and JGR throughout the Supercross series, the team still had a very fruitful indoor season.
For us as a team, it’s the best that we’ve ever done. Second overall is huge. I feel that Davi [Millsaps] stepped up and made it happen. I’m definitely excited about that. That’s what I tried to focus on. Obviously going into the season we had great expectations, but just like everyone in the pit area, we didn’t show up thinking that we would have trouble all season long. The reality of it is that we had a great Supercross series.
The press release from both sides state that the split was mutual, but everyone knows that press releases can be fabricated. Was the separation really mutual?
Yes, it was. For us it was a huge financial investment in James. Unfortunately things didn’t go the way either one of us wanted it to go. We both wanted to win races. When it wasn’t happening both sides became frustrated, and we wanted to see the dividends of our investment. When we decided to split the feeling was mutual.
Davi Millsaps has been the anchor for JGR.
Where do you go from here? Davi Millsaps is healthy and riding a wave of confidence into the outdoors, but will you fill the vacancy left by James Stewart? Perhaps with Kyle Regal?
We’re definitely leaning in that direction. Kyle has been out to North Carolina testing, but we haven’t officially signed him.
Message boards have been lighting up about the possibility that Jason Lawrence is going to ride for JGR. Any truth to that?
[Laughter] J-Law calls me out of the blue about once every three months and says that he’s coming down [to North Carolina from his place in New Jersey] to ride. The last time he called me I laughed it off and told him to call me back a few days later, but I never heard from him. I like Jason a lot as a person. I think he’s incredibly fast and when he really really really wants to commit to racing then he will give me a call. He’s a bad dude on a dirt bike. I still remember watching him at Glen Helen years ago when he was leading the first moto. He went by the mechanic’s area and was pumping his arm in the middle of the race. It was classic Jason.
So he hasn’t ridden the bike at all?
No! I love those rumors. It’s like people think that we have Jason under wraps, like it’s a secret. If there’s one guy you can’t keep under wraps, it’s probably him. If he was testing at our track then I’m sure everyone would hear about it. He always wants to come ride the outdoor track during Supercross, but the track is never prepared.
I can imagine that you’re probably sleeping easier at night now that the whole Stewart deal is behind you.
It’s the nature of sports. No matter how things are going there’s a lot of stress. Although it seems that when things aren’t going good or bad that I stress out a lot. I seem to stress about stupid small things. It comes along with the job. I don’t make money racing. I spend money. It becomes a huge pain, because I end up doing ten times the work load that I would otherwise be doing. I question why I’m even doing this, but I’m looking long-term. JGR is going to be in the sport for a long time. Hopefully someday financially we’ll make up our losses.
What have you thought of all the speculation the last few months about James Stewart and his bike issues?
I focused on Davi and how well he was doing. I had never stopped focusing on Davi, and you can ask him the same thing. He was the first one that I talked to after practice sessions and races. We’ve had a pretty long relationship, and I feel like I can be honest with him, since I’ve known him quite a while. Obviously having James on the team didn’t work out. The deal didn’t work out for either of us. I like James. It was good getting to know him. At the end of the day, I sleep well at night knowing that we gave it 110 percent. We did all that we could do. We drove down to Stewart’s house multiple times, and that’s a long drive. We did that week in and week out. My guys were grinding through it. And I know that James rode as hard as he could ride. Things just didn’t work out. There are no hard feelings. I enjoyed the whole Stewart family, and we had some fun times.
THIS WEEKEND: RED BULL X-FIGHTERS!
You won’t want to miss all of the insane action that’s going to take place on Saturday on Glen Helen’s overhauled REM track. Dane Herron and his crew moved tons of dirt in order to create a huge course, complete with freestyle terrain jumps. Click here to see a digital layout of the course, as well as buy tickets and read more about the historic event. The gates open at 10:00 a.m., and the show starts at 2:00 p.m. I’ll be there. Will you?
IT’S OFFICIAL: RATTRAY TO RACE RV’S KX450F
Tyla is trading black backgrounds for white.
Monster Energy Kawasaki enters the 2012 AMA Pro Motocross Championship as the reigning championship team. In defending champion Ryan Villopoto’s absence, Tyla Rattray will compete along side Jake Weimer in the 450cc class aboard a Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F. Rattray, a former World Champion, finished second overall in the 250cc Motocross Championship last summer and finished second overall in the MX1 classification at the 2011 FIM Motocross of Nations.
“We are excited to welcome Tyla to the team,” said Reid Nordin, Monster Energy Kawasaki Senior Manager. “He has proven to be a contender for a national championship each and every year, and we are confident he can put Kawasaki up front this summer.”
Rattray has spent the last two weeks preparing for the outdoor season and is excited about the opportunity to race for Monster Energy Kawasaki on the championship proven KX450F.
“I’m pumped to race the 450cc class with Monster Energy Kawasaki,” said Rattray. “I know both the team, and the bike can win championships. I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone allowing me to have this opportunity.” The 2012 AMA Pro Motocross Championship kicks off with the Hangtown Motocross Classic in Sacramento, Calif., May 19th, 2012.
WORCS PRO PURSE GROWS FOR ROUND 6 AT RACETOWN
WORCS announces $7000 pro purse for round 6 at Racetown 395, on May 18-20. $5000 of the $7000 will be paid per your finish position. The additional $2000 will go to the top 3 overall privateers for the weekend and added to their finish position purse. The top 3 privateers will be paid $1000, $600, $400 no matter what position they finish, plus the purse that comes with their finish position. To be considered a privateer a manufacture can not provide bikes to the racer.
Win the Racetown WORCS round and earn $1500. Win the Racetown WORCS rnd as a privateer and earn $2500! Plus any manufacture contingency. For more information, visit www.worcsracing.com.
REST IN PEACE, ADAM “MCA” YAUCH