Team Makita Suzuki Press Conference

February 25, 2006 11:35am

Team Makita Suzuki’s Roger DeCoster held a press conference early this afternoon concerning AMA Pro Racing’s decision to penalize Ricky Carmichael 25 points after testing his fuel from San Diego and finding it to be over the lead-content limit. DeCoster held the impromptu press conference outside the Suzuki rig.

“I want you guys to know that we are not a cheater team,” began DeCoster. “If we would try to cheat we would do it in some area where it would make a difference and benefit us. We got docked for being 1.2% of a gram over the lead allowance. And I want to tell you if we were to try to do something, we would run oxygen content a lot closer to the limit than we did. We were at 1.79%, and we can go up to 2.8%.

“Another thing you should know is that Ricky has no control over what happens. He never puts gas in his bike. We do that. Evidently, somebody screwed up or somebody cheated, but it’s not Ricky, because he has no control over that. I would like to ask [the media] not to bother Ricky with too many questions before the race. Let him focus on his racing. That’s what he wants to do and he wants to prove once more—the champion that is he—and he will do everything that he can to come back and put up a fight to try to come back in this championship. And if they [AMA] keep testing the way they are testing, chances are that some of the other racers will have the same problem.

“The same problem happened with Stewart last season in the outdoors, but he was in a situation where the championship was not a factor. Two years ago it happened to Reed and Vuillemin [in supercross] and the AMA was asked to revise their rule and look into things so that this could not happen anymore, and they have not done so yet. Hopefully they will do something soon about it, because there is no reason why this will not happen again.

“At this point we do not think it is the supplier’s fault [the supplier being VP]. We’re not sure, but we are investigating to see what could have gone wrong. We use a heat shield between the engine and the fuel tank. I have called Japan last night to see if there is any possibility that there could be some lead content in there that somehow could have touched when they took the sample out, because we use aluminum containers for our fuel and there is no chance of lead being there, and we have containers that have never been used for leaded fuel. The amount is so minute that if you have leaded fuel in a container and empty it out, down to the last drip, and then put unleaded fuel in, it could possibly show a trace of lead afterwards. We have used new containers, and we are very careful that the same person manipulates it.

“The other thing is that back at San Diego there was a fuel dump and it was not guarded very well—it’s usually never guarded very well. It’s somebody who was doing security and parking lot stuff at the same time.”

When asked if the team tests its fuel itself, DeCoster answered, “Yes, we test it ourselves. It’s ironic that I had asked the AMA for the sample of the vials to send some to the lab the same weekend, and we got tested that weekend. I had not sent in my stuff because I was going to do that the following week or so.”

TFS then asked Roger exactly what the results were and whether or not they were similar the previous two penalty samples from Yamaha and Kawasaki. “Our one sample showed up at 0.017 [grams per liter], and another test was 0.018, and the AMA limit is .005. But with pump gas that you buy on the street, it’s .02, so this could happen to anybody who buys gas from a pump or commercial fuel, and you could be disqualified also.”

Speed Channel’s Ralph Sheheen asked DeCoster what he didn’t like about the AMA’s testing procedure, and he answered, “Well first of all, I think the rule is overly strict. It’s very difficult to… If somewhere in the line there is a part that has a leaded seal or something, theoretically it could get into the fuel and you could be disqualified. If you used a funnel that you had used leaded fuel through last week or so, it could disqualify you. You almost have to go in spacesuits and in a clean room to do the test to avoid any possible mistakes.

“I am trying to appeal it. I gave them the form this morning and they returned it to me later. I posted the $500 required for the appeal, but it was returned to me an hour later. They said they did not want to accept it. So we basically cannot defend ourselves.”

DeCoster took more questions from there. The fuel they have used all season long came from the same batch; Ivan Tedesco was not tested as they only did the podium and then chose random riders; he thinks that the penalty is so steep because of the precedent they set with Yamaha and Kawasaki previously.

“I don’t think the AMA tried to intentionally make us look bad,” he said in conclusion. “But the bad thing is that I found out about this yesterday morning while I was already sitting on an airplane ready to come here, and when I got off the plane I met with Steve, and while I was talking to him the press release was coming out, so we never had a chance to tell our side of the story. I wanted to investigate it together with the AMA, to see what could have happened.”

And finally, what benefit would they have in cheating like this? “On two-strokes lead really helps for detonation, but with four-strokes, at the compression ratio that we run in this sport—in motocross—it would not make any difference, not that minute a difference. One hundredth of one gram would not give you any performance….

“Ricky has chosen not to even run our fastest setting because all of the factories, whether it’s Honda or Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, KTM, they all can make 450s faster than they need to be for supercross—especially on supercross. Even as strong as Ricky is, nobody can use a 450 to its maximum engine potential.”