JOHN BASHER’S INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: ROGER DECOSTER
Roger DeCoster has been instrumental in the success at KTM, whether bringing Ryan Dungey (left) and Ken Roczen (right) to the fold, or working hard to beat the competition (such as Roczen this year after he fled to RCH Suzuki).
By John Basher
Photos by Scott Mallonee and MXA
Well, Roger, you win some and you lose some. It was a good season overall. Ryan Dungey was really impressive, and I feel like we had our bikes working pretty good. Unfortunately with Marvin we had an electrical issue in the last race. It was a DNF that cost us. At least it was not a mechanic’s mistake. It was something that went wrong with the electronics.
Was this an issue that you had previously discovered while testing? No, not at all. We still have to analyze what exactly caused it. At this point we don’t know. It was something with the fuel delivery–either inside the fuel pump or the injector. All the other parts are good, and we don’t take injectors apart, so it’s very strange. We have one injector that works and so we use it. The strange thing is that the engine runs up to 6000 rpm, and then after that the bike slows down once you accelerate.
What did you say to Marvin after he suffered the mechanical issue? After the first moto I apologized to him, but I said that he needed to go out and try to win the second moto. What happened to him could have happened to anyone else, including Martin. There was still a chance. The start area at Indiana is very uneven from the left to the right side, but he did okay by coming up to third place fairly early. He was not able to close the gap on Plessinger and Mitch Payton’s guy [Joey Savatgy]. The mechanical was the difference.
What were your thoughts on the team tactics that were going on in Utah among the Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha team? Marvin had the opportunity in Utah, even with the team tactics, to do better. I feel that Marvin should have won the second moto in Utah. You can focus on what the other teams do, but there’s no control over what the other teams do. I’m all for if the team can beat you fair and square with two riders, and the second rider can beat you also, then that’s fine. I don’t like when they start blocking and letting their teammate go or play games in timed practice. There’s no reason to slowly ride the good line when another guy is trying to put together a fast lap. However, you can expect that those things will happen, so you have to be tough enough and deal with it.
“I DON’T THINK IN THIS SPORT THERE’S REALLY A BENEFIT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL RIDER TO HAVE A TEAMMATE, EXCEPT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BIKE. IT GIVES THE TEAM SEVERAL RIDERS TO USE FOR TESTING. THEN ONCE THE GATE DROPS I DON’T SEE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A TEAMMATE.”
Motocross is an individual sport. Would you say that having a teammate is good or bad? I do think that having a teammate can work to your advantage, but it can also work against you. A few years ago Marvin was teammates with Ken Roczen, but Ken beat Marvin, so it wasn’t a big deal. Even all the way back to my racing days, there were years when I had a teammate, and other years where I had no teammate. Sometimes racing against a teammate is more difficult than racing against outside teams, because the teammate knows exactly what you’re doing. If it’s a good team then the other rider has the same options on the bike. I don’t think in this sport there’s really a benefit for the individual rider to have a teammate, except for the development of the bike. It gives the team several riders to use for testing. Then once the gate drops I don’t see the benefits of having a teammate.
You’ve said from the very beginning with KTM that your primary objective was to bring the Austrians a 450 Supercross title, and you accomplished that this year with Ryan Dungey. Where do you go from here in terms of goals? I still feel that we can get better. We won three championships out of five. There’s still room to improve.
Did you notice any change in Ryan Dungey this outdoor season? Definitely. He was more assertive. He has more trust in himself. He is much more clear in his mind and had more confidence. Everything is organized in his life. Everything is where he wants it to be. There are a lot of little things that have added up. He is married, and he has a good woman. Things with his parents are good. Things with his bike are also good. Working with Aldon Baker has given him another dose of confidence. He knows that he’s doing everything he needs to do on the fitness side.
“I COULD NOT PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON HIM [RYAN DUNGEY], BECAUSE I FEEL IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN FAIR. HE DESERVES TO TAKE A BREAK. I WAS REALLY BUMMED OUT ABOUT IT, BUT I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT THAT WE GO WITH A TEAM THAT REALLY WANTS TO GO RACING. WE HAVE A GROUP OF FRESH GUYS, AND I THINK THAT OUR TEAM WILL BE GOOD.”
As team manager of Team USA for the Motocross des Nations, you’re placed in a tough position, because Dungey opted out of racing the event this year. He’s obviously the strongest 450 U.S. rider right now, but he’s not going to France. What are your thoughts about Dungey’s absence? Of course I wish he would go, but on the other end, he has gone six years in a row. He had a long season, and there was pressure on him the whole year, especially to step up his game for this year. Together with Aldon, they decided it was important for Ryan to take a break and be ready for next season so that he can defend both titles. I could not put too much pressure on him, because I feel it would not have been fair. He deserves to take a break. I was really bummed out about it, but I think it’s important that we go with a team that really wants to go racing. We have a group of fresh guys, and I think that our team will be good.
What went into your decision to choose Justin Barcia, Jeremy Martin and Cooper Webb? Barcia was the first American in the 450 point standings after Ryan Dungey, so it makes sense that he would be selected. Martin is the 250 Champ, and he won the title two years in a row. With Webb it’s maybe not quite as clear, but we assume that he has the speed. We were thinking about Jason Anderson, but his results have been somewhat up and down. Consistency is really important at the des Nations. We took a chance with Webb, because while he was hurt early in the season, he has motivation to do well in Europe. I also think that the track will suit him. It was not really so clear on who we should pick, so we decided to take a chance with Webb.
Who will be Team USA’s most formidable opponent in France?
For sure the French. They have two really good 450 guys [note: Gautier Paulin and Romain Febvre], and then Marvin Musquin is on the team. Maybe with what happened to Marvin in the outdoor championship will give him some extra motivation to prove a point.
What other teams are on your radar? The Belgians won’t be as strong as last year, because their top guys are hurt. Strijbos is out and Desalle is hurt, so the Belgians are in a difficult position. Italy is without Cairoli at the moment. As for Germany, I’m not sure if Ken Roczen is going to go. Max Nagl just started to race again, so maybe they could be competitive. I’m not 100 percent sure if Ken is going to actually skip the race. I know that he’s having a little surgery, but now that Nagl is riding again, maybe Roczen will reconsider it. He likes that event, and the MXDN could be a way for him to salvage his season. I think we should be able to beat many, if not all, of the teams.
“I LIKE WHAT I DO. I LIKE TO BE AROUND COMPETITIVE PEOPLE, AND RACING GIVES ME SUCH A GOOD FEELING. WHAT I DO IS THE NEXT BEST THING TO ACTUALLY RACING.”
It sounds like you follow the Grand Prix series very closely. What are your thoughts on what has been going on in Europe this season? There have been a large number of injuries this year, and I’m not sure what the cause is. Some people say that it’s because of the 450, but the 250 guys have been getting hurt as much as the 450 riders. I don’t think it’s because of the 450. Also, the lap times between the two classes are often very similar. In some cases I think the 250 class has been even faster. The jumps and the obstacles on the tracks have more to do with the injuries than the 450s.
Is everyone on the Red Bull KTM team still set to race the United States Grand Prix on September 20th? Ryan Dungey won’t be racing anything until the Monster Cup, and then the Red Bull Straight Rhythm. All the other guys will be racing, as well as Jason Anderson and Christophe Pourcel. Marvin is scheduled to race there, but he had a really bad day on Saturday. Of course there was the problem with the bike, but his brother also got hurt very badly. Marvin went to France and he’s with his family and brother right now.
Are you going to take a vacation now that the season is over? Testing for Supercross is coming up quickly. In order to have enough time to get the testing done and then reproduce the parts for the race season we need to start early. Things might slow down a little bit, but we’re certainly not shutting down.
Why do you keep going after all these years? I like what I do. I like to be around competitive people, and racing gives me such a good feeling. What I do is the next best thing to actually racing.