MXA INTERVIEW: MARVIN MUSQUIN ON REPLACING DUNGEY, COLLIDING WITH TOMAC AND BEING BOOED
By Jim Kimball
MARVIN, HOW DID YOU END UP AT KTM IN THE FIRST PLACE? Back in 2009, I was racing for a privateer Honda team that was having financial problems. KTM picked me up during the very difficult time I was having with that team. Since then KTM has done so much for me. It is like a family for me. I don’t go to the factory in Austria very often, but every time I go, it is so awesome to see everybody working so hard for us. When I was moving up to the 450 class I wanted to stay on the team that I know. Moving to the 450 class is hard, switching brands would make it especially difficult.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DIFFICULTIES OF MOVING TO THE 450 CLASS IN 2016. In the beginning it was very, very tough to adapt to the bike, but also to deal with my left hand, which I had a tendon repair on. At that time it was really hard to even ride. So, building my confidence took time. I got a podium at Oakland, but then had some small injuries throughout the year. The minor injuries did not help me, but I ended up having some good results. To be honest, when I first I started in the 450 class, I was basically dreaming of one day getting a podium!
RYAN DUNGEY WAS THE MAIN MAN AT KTM BACK THEN, WHAT WAS IT LIKE RACING AGAINST HIM? Ryan was number one. He had won many championships in the 450 class, and at that time he was a role model for me. I learned a lot from him. It would have been tough at the beginning for me to beat him, but even when I was improving, he was always so positive with me. When he saw me struggling or being unhappy, he would talk to me about it. He always treated me as an equal. Even now that he is retired, we talk often and if there was anything I need, he is there for me.
WHEN YOU BECAME A 450 CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER IN 2017 DID THAT CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RYAN? In 2016, I almost beat him in Atlanta, but he passed me on the last lap. Then in 2017, I finally passed him a couple of times, and beat him straight up. My goal was to beat Ryan one day. He is a clean rider, so it was always fun to race him. He knew that the competition is difficult, and he would tell me, “You beat me because you were better than me.” That is Ryan Dungey.
AFTER RYAN RETIRED, YOU BECAME NUMBER ONE AT KTM IN 2018. WAS THERE A LOT OF PRESSURE? Yes. It is weird for me to be number one on the team, because Broc Tickle was my teammate. He had exactly the same ride, the same equipment, and the same support. I prefer to say that we were the number one team, because we were always equals on the team. It was because I was getting better result that people said I was the team leader.
BUT WITH DUNGEY GONE AND TICKLE SUSPENDED BY WADA, YOU WERE THE ONLY GUY ON THE TEAM. Motocross is a tough sport. We have seen a lot of injured riders lately, but over the last few years, I have been able to race the whole series, and this is important to me. You want to get good results for the team, but just being there racing every weekend is critical.
YOU FINISHED SECOND TO ELI TOMAC IN 2017 AND SECOND AGAIN IN 2018? Yes, unfortunately. But it was still a good year, I earned more points this year than last—although I got less wins. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on the top step of the Championship podium. But I fought well!
YOU TRAIN AT THE BAKER FACTORY WITH THE OTHER KTM AND HUSQVARNA RIDERS, WHILE ELI TOMAC TRAINS ALONE. Tomac always has guys riding with him. Zach Osborne in the past and Jeremy Martin this year. Everybody is different. I have been with Aldon Baker since 2015, and he has helped me a lot with the training, cardio and riding. It is good to ride with other guys and while Eli and I have different programs—they aren’t night and day different.
JASON ANDERSON LEFT BAKER FACTORY FOR CALIFORNIA BECAUSE HE REPORTEDLY DIDN’T WANT TO TRAIN WITH HIS COMPETITION. TRUE? After last year’s Monster Cup I went back to Florida and started training. That is when I found out that Jason did not want to ride with me. It was not in my hands what happened.
YOU USED TO SHAKE HANDS WITH ELI TOMAC AFTER A RACE, BUT YOU STOPPED. WHY? Not anymore. I was always the one saying, “good job.” Whether he beat me or I beat him, I would go to him and say “congratulations” and shake his hand. But it always came from me. I just wanted to show respect, that is what I learned growing up. In the GP’s, we always congratulated the other guys. There is not much of that here in America. But Ken Roczen still does it, I guess because he is German. It doesn’t change anything. We are competitors, we go racing and we have had some controversy, but that is racing.
“SOME CONTROVERSY” SEEMS LIKE A GIANT UNDERSTATEMENT. It has been a big story ever since the Boston Supercross. Eli and I were in the number one and number two places at that time. All eyes were on us. No one seemed to notice that there were guys almost killing each other back in the pack. There were times when Eli rode very hard against me, incidents that were extremely rough, where I could have been injured really bad. What I did was also aggressive, but I did not expect it to be that hard of an impact. But that is the way it was, and I was able to get the win. I understand that people have their favorites. Some fans do not like me, while others don’t like Tomac. It is always like that.
AFTER THE BOSTON SUPERCROSS COLLISION WITH TOMAC YOU GOT BOOED. The weekend after Boston was Salt Lake City, and the people were really booing me. The booing in the stadium seemed to be louder than the people cheering, so it felt really bad. That gave me some motivation and I was able to win the Salt Lake Supercross. I was happy about that.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BOOING? People booed James Stewart when he was one of the biggest names in the sport. Chad Reed was booed in the past, and now a few years later, the fans love Chad Reed. Ricky Carmichael was booed relentlessly in the stadiums. It is crazy how it works but you have to do your thing whether they boo or cheer.
YOU NOT BEING SELECTED FOR THE FRENCH MXDN TEAM SEEMS ODD. WHAT’S THE BACK STORY? I was looking forward to Motocross of Nations this year. I was super motivated and ready, but it didn’t happen. To be honest, I was 90% sure of being on the French team. I had a good meeting with the French team manager at the Red Bud National, where I went 2-1 for first overall win at the same track that the 2018 des Nations will be held at—it was great. I have a good relationship with the French Federation, and I was excited to be with them for the Motocross des Nations. I respect Gautier Paulin and Romain Febvre. I won 2015 Motocross des Nations with them. But, the President of the Federation made the decision to leave me off the team. Gauter Paulin has been on the team for ten years now—and they have won for the last four years. He has not won motos or anything for the last few years, but they call him the Captain, so they did not want to get rid of him. I don’t like it, but I understand.
YOU ARE 28 YEARS OLD AND HAVE ONE YEAR LEFT ON YOUR KTM CONTRACT. WHAT THEN? There are times of the year when you feel great. Especially after a win that you want to keep racing for the next ten years. On the other side, after you get a little injury, and you are not 100%, you don’t know if you can do it anymore. You never know how long you will race, you have to go by your feelings. I have been doing okay. I have great sponsors, a great family, and good people around me.
YOUR WIFE IS YOUR BIGGEST FAN. Mathilde is an amazing wife and provides so much support. We have been together since we were 15 years old. All we know is traveling, training and racing. She puts 100% of her effort into my racing—and she is what got me here.
YOU ARE A TWO-TIME WORLD CHAMPION, WOULD YOU EVER RETURN TO RACE MXGP? No. The GPs are only Motocross, and I would definitely miss racing Supercross. I love racing Supercross and Motocross. This question pops all the time, but to be honest, it would be too much of a change for us now. We see each other living in the United States and raising a child one day. It would be awesome to have a little Marvin that spoke both French and English really well. I like the way Americans live, but I will always go back to France and spend a month or two every year.
Photos: MXA, Brian Converse, Ray Archer and KTM