5 Minutes with ... Tyla Rattray

South Africa’s Tyla Rattray earned his first Motocross GP points back in 2001 at only 15 years old. But it was in 2004 that Tyla truly made his mark, as he took his Red Bull KTM 125 SX two-stroke to second in the MX2 World Championships – just behind friend and teammate Ben Townley on his new KTM 250 SX/F. Since then, Tyla has always been a frontrunner, although several significant knee injuries, as well as one very fast Italian, have sidetracked him. But this is a new year, and it looks to be starting off well for the 22-year-old longtime KTM rider as he’s now teamed up with a new trainer. I recently reached Tyla at his European home-away-from-home to see what’s in his thoughts.

Racer X: Tyla, before we get into 2008, rewind back to 2007.
Tyla Rattray: Well, the season didn’t exactly start off so well! I had a pretty big crash in my qualifying heat at the very first GP in Valkenswaard, Holland, which destroyed the bike and injured me. But I later managed to get two second-place finishes in the Sunday motos, so it wasn’t too bad. My overall goal was to be consistent the whole year, and that’s what I was doing. I took a lot of podiums, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to be fighting for the World Championship! Then, at the 11th round, I got taken out by another rider. To save myself from falling, I put my leg out, and my knee just gave way. That was the end of my 2007 season.

That injury subsequently caused you to miss the Budds Creek MXoN, the first one that you haven’t raced since 2002.
You know what, Jim, I was really looking forward to traveling to America and racing the MXoN at the end of the season! We would have had a strong team with Grant Langston, Swanie [Gareth Swanepoel], and me. So I was really gutted that I couldn’t go and represent South Africa again!

Fast-forward to today: You’ve already won several big international pre-season races – that must feel good!  
Yes, Jim, it is feeling very good! I have everything right this year, and I’m going in the proper direction with my training. I had a few bad points last year, and have been working on them. Things are going great, so I’m just excited to get this 2008 season on the road.

What’s new with your training program?
Well, I have a new trainer named Russell White, who had been working with a lot of triatheletes in the past, so he has me on a good eating and training regimen. In the past, Russell has trained guys like Sebastien Tortelli and Ezra Lusk, so I have absolute faith in him and his entire program. The guys at KTM really have a great bike, and we have made some good changes for this new season. I think that you are going to see some good, hard racing this season.

How important is it for a professional motocross racer to have a trainer?
I personally like having a trainer because you have a set program to follow, but of course some guys like to do it on their own. I believe that it’s important for me to have a trainer as he is there to ensure that you don’t do too much or too little. Plus, the most important thing is to be strong the whole season.

I am always intrigued by a rider’s thoughts going into a new season. Do you set out win every single moto, or think the bigger championship picture?
To win the war, not every battle is my primary goal! But, for sure, I’ll be fighting for race wins, too. At the moment, I’m just concentrating on one race at a time, and hopefully by the end I’ll be on top!

Who’s your competition this year?
I’m not really sure right now. There are always some young guys coming up. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see who they are.

What about Antonio Cairoli? Can he be beaten?
For sure... 100% yes!

Your teammate Tommy Searle has received quite a bit of American press based on his strong ride at the MXoN, his winter training in California, and the announcement that he’s coming to America for KTM in 2009 – does that have any impact on you?
No, not at all. Tommy is a really cool guy and very down to earth. I get along well with him, so there are no bad vibes between us.

You’ve often been the fastest guy in the MX2 class, only to be derailed by injury. Can this be your season to win?
We’re going to have to wait until the championship is over to decide that, Jim. Like I said before, I’m feeling great on the bike, and my fitness is the best that it has ever been. I’m feeling very, very good coming into this year.

Anything that you want to add?
Just that I cannot wait for the series opener [again, in Valkenswaard, Holland] April 6th and to get this season going!