Since he arrived here after competing in the 2002 125cc World Championship, Australian-born Brett Metcalfe has methodically chipped away at his craft, finally earning his big break last year by lining up a plum position on Mitch Payton’s mighty Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. However, and as it has done throughout his tenure here in the U.S., bad luck and bad breaks have haunted the 23-year-old Metcalfe. Knocked out of the 2007 AMA Toyota Motocross Lites Championship with a broken thumb suffered during practice at Mount Morris, Metcalfe was forced onto the injured reserve list before returning to action at Lakewood, CO, in late July. Six rounds later, he had scored three top-five finishes as well as earning a spot on the podium on three separate occasions. The late-season surge was confidence-inspiring for Metcalfe and the Kawasaki rider entered the off-season with his fangs showing. Cast from the Jeff Stanton/Ryan Hughes mold of racing, Brett is a fiercely determined competitor with a gritty, sandpaper-like work ethic. All winter long he has tested and trained incessantly knowing that the 2008 AMA West Region Lites Supercross Series will be his finest shot at an AMA #1 plate. It’s been said that nothing worth having comes easy and Brett Metcalfe has been putting in the overtime for a championship he wants dearly.
We caught Brett this weekend as he was leaving the Kawasaki test track in Corona. Confident and upbeat, one could hear both the optimism and excitement in the rider’s voice.
Racer X: Brett, what are you up to this evening?
Brett Metcalfe: I just left the Kawasaki test track. I was out there riding. We just finished up another little test. We were working on our braking set-up and tried out a couple of little things. After testing, I put in a moto and that was it.
Yeah, you’re right. I had shoulder surgery done. I had torn both rotator cuffs at the 2006 Motocross des Nations and it took me a long time to come back from the injuries. I rode supercross for a month to get up to speed, but didn’t make it to the races.
Then you showed up for the first national at Hangtown and placed fifth overall. A week later, during practice for the High Point National, you broke your thumb. Yet another major setback, huh?
Yeah. I was definitely anticipating a good season. But at the end of the day, it was a good season. The best of my career. I felt that at the start of the year I was pretty close to Ben [Townley] and Ryan [Villopoto]. Maybe I was a little under the two of them, but definitely within striking distance. Then I got hurt at Mount Morris and I was done. And when I did come back to racing, it felt like I was five steps behind those two guys. They had really picked it up; they were definitely caught up in a battle for the championship. But I put in a number of good races and was happy. I ended up with the most podiums I had ever gotten in a season and came back and showed I was a solid contender.
After the Glen Helen National you went right into the off-season. Did you take some time off or stay busy?
Yeah, I kept busy and was always doing something. I didn’t take any time off since I had so much time off during the season! I got the 450 out and did some motos on it, that way I kept on the bike. All year, I’d get healthy and have a setback and have to try and get back into shape. It was like chasing my tail. During this off-season I wanted to keep what I had built up. I had a plan over three months where I started training hard and pushing. For me, I started in October and went through November and December. It was a three-month plan to be ready for Anaheim.
No, but Mitch mentioned to me to be prepared for the West. Who knew? You never know what’s going to happen with guys getting hurt and stuff. Basically, Mitch takes the approach of “get your ass ready” no matter what.
How is your relationship with Mitch? You’re both certainly hard workers who have a predisposition to let your actions do the talking…
Yeah, we definitely do not have any problems. I love Mitch. He is everything I need in a team manager and a leader right now. I could not see anyone else in my life right now who could be helping more than he is.
With Ben Townley moving onto Honda, as well as a few other changes, has the atmosphere inside the team changed much?
Well, Austin Stroupe and I will be on the West Coast, but I feel the same way about the team. Nothing has really changed at all. Everyone is putting in 100 percent and we still have Ryan around. He’s still around and we’re all happy about that. The team has definitely not changed.
Speaking of Villopoto, what did you think of his riding in 2007?
[Laughs] He was phenomenal! I think Ryan’s cool. He added a lot of maturity this year. He’s awesome from what I saw right from the start. He’s super-grounded and super-cool. And his riding abilities? He’s an up-and-coming champion, for sure. It’s exciting to be on the team with him.
So you’re 100 percent and ready to go for 2008?
For sure. Yeah, I’m healthy and my confidence is great. Man, I honestly feel the best I can and I’m fully prepared coming into Anaheim. My preperation has been excellent and I have an unbelievable bike. I have the best bike out there. It’s the best bike I have ever ridden.
You know, I sat down with Mitch the other day and we talked about a few guys, but I’ve always maintained that until you get to that first race, there is no use in even thinking about it. All I know is that I am bringing my A Game. My plan is to win the championship. That is my goal. Whether that means winning or finishing fifth, the championship will always be in my mind. You hear everyone say that to win a championship you have to take it one race at a time, but I’m saying I’m going to Anaheim to try and win.
Brett, I’ve known you for quite a while now and you’ve certainly had your fair share of bad luck and injuries. Having said that, you’ve always been able to pull it together and come fighting back. Can you turn it all around in 2008?
I better. That’s my ultimate goal. You know I never give up. I hear a lot of people tell me, “You have bad luck.” I never see it that way. That’s life. You do what you can do. I feel like I’m lionhearted and have a lot of inner strength and know I can always pull through. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, I have a lot of determination in my life and I’ll pull through.
Okay my friend, best of luck Saturday night and we’ll see you at the press conference on Thursday…
Sounds good, Eric. Thanks for the call. I can’t wait to get going. I’ll see everyone at Anaheim.