Between the Motos: Roger DeCoster

December 19, 2007 10:29am

Rockstar Makita Suzuki boss Roger DeCoster is starting all over again. The five-time world champion is one of the best known and highly-respected men in the motocross world, but now he has the formidable challenge of replacing the irreplaceable: Ricky Carmichael. We caught up with him yesterday and went over a variety of topics, but for now we’ll focus on Monster Energy Supercross.

Racer X: Roger, we’re less than three weeks away from A1 and a whole new season. How is everything coming together for the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team?
Roger DeCoster: Well, the hardest thing is getting used to not having Ricky, but I think we’re pretty ready with the bikes and they’re running good. So that’s what we have control of. For the riders, Michael Byrne had surgery on his ACL, and [David] Vuillemin is coming back from an injury. [Mike] Alessi, who made the switch to us from KTM, we’ve been working with him and testing and he’s been working on his supercross stuff. In the Lites we have Ryan Dungey coming back; this will be his second year as a pro and he’s going to do the West coast, so he’ll be racing against Ryan Villopoto. It’s not going to be easy, but I think it’s good that he’s going to be racing against the best. And then we have Nico Izzi who is coming up from the amateur program.

Ryan Dungey will be riding the Lites class in the West.

photo: Simon Cudby

Let’s start with Dungey; it seems like the West is loaded this year. Is that because you have an option to drop back if your guy gets hurt in the  next three weeks, or is that because it stretches out the season more?
The reason that the West coast is so stacked is because it does get a little bit more press because it’s the first race and you don’t compete at the end with the main class. At the end of the Eastern series it conflicts with the Supercross class.

Is there a chance we’ll see Ryan on a 450 at the end of the season?
No, he has to get a couple seasons of Lites racing in first, although his riding style fits a 450 well. He is technically ready. He rides very clean and I think he’ll adapt well on the 450.

As far as Vuillemin and Alessi go, Bevo was joking around last year that you once said “No more French and no more parents.”
[Laughs] I did say that! I actually told Vuillemin that I didn’t take any French riders anymore, and then we took him.

Also new for '08, DeCoster is experimenting with a Manfriend.

photo: Simon Cudby

With DV you have a seasoned veteran who is an excellent test rider.
That’s what I was counting on him for—the testing—then he got hurt on one of the first days he rode. The track was wet and he came up short on a triple and over-extended his thumb, so he hasn’t able to do any testing. He’s actually behind everyone else on his test schedule, so that didn’t work out, but hopefully he’ll be good for Anaheim.

How about Mike Alessi? I heard that a lot of people are really impressed on how much Mike has grown up and matured on a supercross track.
It’s a little bit early to tell, but supercross has never been his strong point, so that’s what we have to work on the most. He’s a hard worker and his dad is very dedicated and always wide open trying to make things better for his sons. They’re not afraid to work. You just have to point it all in the right direction. Mike is getting better at supercross and hopefully he’ll do well and get through supercross without an injury.

Mike Alessi jumped over to Suzuki from KTM.

photo: Simon Cudby

You mentioned Michael Byrne. That had to be a blow to the team having him knocked out with a knee injury.
Yeah, I don’t know when he’ll be able to come back, but he’ll probably miss most of supercross. It’s unfortunate, because he actually surprised me. He was riding better than I anticipated and he’s a very nice guy to work with. Hopefully he’ll be back for the outdoors.

Tell me about the top secret plan to bring Ricky Carmichael back on a two-stroke at the Anaheim 2 retro race?
[Laughs] He actually has been riding his two-stroke because I didn’t get a new bike for him yet. From what I hear he’s riding as fast as ever. I am just never surprised by that guy.

Yeah, there’s actually a Fox Racing video up showing him on a two-stroke. That guy never ceases to impress us.
He’s definitely one-of-a-kind!

I know you have a team to work on, so we appreciate the update. Have a Merry Christmas and we’ll see you at Anaheim!
Same to you, Davey!