Racer X: Ben, how did you manage to pull off a fifth-place start in the first Lites moto this past weekend at Steel City?
Ben Ritter: [Laughs] Well, I was just checking out the gate situation and there was an open gate between two guys that was missed, and it was right in the center of the start, so I took it. I didn’t get a very good jump, but I came out and everybody let off, and there was a small hole, so I took the hole and I came out in fifth. That was about it! My Champion Motorsports motor got me off to a great start.
Nice sponsor plug! So, what place did you end up in the timed qualifying? I was twenty-fourth.
That’s not too bad. Yeah, I would’ve still gotten a pretty decent pick.
What the heck was going through your mind when you came around the first lap in fifth? It didn’t really click. I was pumped and happy, and I thought it was about time. I pushed and pushed the first couple laps, and I think I calmed myself down a little too much and I wasn’t being aggressive. Two guys got around me and I ended up getting taken out by a KTM rider when I was in ninth. I felt good, so it was just a bummer.
It was an ideal situation: a good start on your home track…. Yeah, it couldn’t get much better than that!
What did you think about the track? The track was awesome! It wasn’t tilled up quite as deep as we were hoping—we were kind of hoping it was going to be deep and rutted like High Point—but the layout was awesome. I don’t think anybody could’ve done a better job.
Although you didn’t earn any points, you did score one earlier this year, right? Yeah, I scored one at Budds Creek. I got a twentieth there, and that was great. I was happy, but I definitely wanted to get more points throughout the season, and I thought Steel City was going to be it. But it’s motocross, and that stuff happens.
Would you say your 2008 season was a success? I would say. I met some goals, some goals weren’t met, but I came out healthy, so that’s always a success.
Let’s back up a bit. Did you ride any supercross this year? I only did a couple. I made the main in Toronto, and the only other one I did was Detroit. But there, they were doing a random sound check, and I got tested and never got told that I was over the limit; they just kind of assumed that I knew. And then they asked me what did I do to fix it, and we were getting ready to go out for practice, and I said nothing. They then did another sound check on me and they took away a couple of my fastest lap times, which resulted in me missing the night show. So I ended up spending $500 or $600 on nothing!
How about the nationals? Did you do all of them? I did all of them except for Washougal, and I made six out of eleven. The Lites class is tough, and if you’re not on your game in practice, you have to throw it down in the LCQ. And I always had some tough luck in the LCQ, but I made it in a few. It was a good year.
Did you drive to each round by yourself? No, another privateer from Pennsylvania, Chris Lykens, ended up taking my bike to pretty much all the races, and I just met him there.
That’s not a bad deal! Yeah, it was great. He was doing them, so he said not a problem. I think he’s doing them again next year, so if anyone is looking for a ride to the nationals, then he’d be the one to get in touch with. He has a big motor home and trailer.
You mentioned how tough the Lites class is; have you ever thought about riding 450s outdoors? I did, and I got a pretty good sponsor this year, and he wanted me to ride the Lites class. So he was paying for it, so that’s what I did. I think for next year we’re going to do the East Coast supercrosses and 450s outdoors—that’s the plan right now. I actually prefer the 450 more than the 250F, just because it evens the playing field a little bit.
What’s the most important thing you learned this year? Well, probably my last race at Steel City taught me not to settle in; you just have to keep riding aggressive and push the entire moto. I always did that, but I was always pushing from the back to the front. It was a learning experience being up front.
Did you have a lot of friends and family at Steel City? Yeah, I had to get like sixteen pit passes! Everyone was really supportive, though.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2008? I’m heading back to North Carolina. My sponsor built a supercross track down there, and we’re just going to go down and pound some laps to get ready for supercross.
Finally, who do you want to thank for helping you out this year, Ben? I’d like to thank all the guys at Cart Company—they were a huge sponsor this year—Charlie’s Cycle Center, RRP, MSR, Scott, ASV, Dunlop, Fairplay, Vortex, Ergophobia, Twin Air, Boyesen, GPR, and my mom, dad, and girlfriend.
Anyone interested in getting in touch with Ben Ritter for 2009 can email him at email@example.com.