5 Minutes With... Ryan Morais

It’s cool when good things happen to good people. After leading virtually the entire AMA Supercross Lites East Region Championship series, at the final round on April 21, 2007 upon Ford Field in Detroit, the Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy underdog Ryan Morais lost the to Team Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider Ben Townley by a heartbreaking margin of three points. From that point forth, Morais seemed to lose his way a bit, plagued by bad luck, off-song results and ill health, and punctuated by the fact that his entire 2008 AMA National Championship season was dismantled by an obscure virus (we’ll get to that in a minute). Slowly but surely, the native of Turlock, California, regained his health and resolve, and by the end of this summer, was back on the bike and riding himself into shape. And not long after, the big break came. Mitch Payton’s mighty Pro Circuit dynasty was short a rider, and as a result, a sort of line formed at the front door of the big, white Pro Circuit building in Corona, California. As far as the Motocross Lites classification goes, suiting up for Pro Circuit (as well as being on the shop’s A+ equipment) is the equivalent of racing for Ferrari or McLaren in Formula 1, and for that reason, a number of world-class riders came calling upon the man with the golden Dremel tool. Henceforth, when all was said and done, one evening, totally out of the blue, Ryan Morais received a cryptic, one-word text message from Payton reading: “YES.”

And with that...

Racer X: Okay, Ryan, word has it you snagged the fourth seat on the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team and that you can now talk about it. So, enquiring minds want to know: Can you come out and say it’s all true?

Ryan Morais: Yeah, I can finally start talking about it and I’ll be riding there the whole year next year. I’ll be riding supercross and motocross.

Fantastic. Do you know what coast you’ll be riding yet?
I have no idea what coast I’m doing yet. I probably won’t know until December because that’s the way Mitch kind of does it.

Stepping back a bit, you were pretty much Missing In Action throughout the ’08 National season. Did you have anything in the works for 2009?
I honestly had no idea what I was going to do. I mean, I was talking to a couple of teams and wasn’t really 100% sure of what route I was going to take. But mainly, I was at home worrying about my health and just trying to get my health under control and situated.

We had heard that you were sick most of the summer. Is that correct?
Yeah, I got this really bad infection. It’s called MRSA. It’s a staph infection. [Note: MRSA, a heavy-duty strain of staph, stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.] It ended up getting in my blood stream and it just got really, really bad and I was in and out of the hospital a lot getting IV’s and antibiotics and couldn’t really do anything for a good four to six weeks. I was just lying on the couch taking pills and antibiotics and trying to get my health under control. That was my main concern for most of the summer.

That’s probably not the best situation to be in when you’re looking for work for 2009, huh?
Yeah, I was really stressing out. Like I said, I was talking with a couple of people and wasn’t really sure which direction I wanted to go in. I kind of wanted to move up [450] and I was thinking about moving up, but nothing good really came up. Then this opportunity kind of came up with Mitch and I went down there and talked to him quite a few times and put the effort in. I’d show up down there and talk to him and just spend time down there and show him that I wanted the opportunity and was willing to do whatever it took.

For you, intuitively, was showing your face at Pro Circuit tantamount in getting the ride?
Yeah, I mean I talked to him on the phone once, and from what I’ve heard from people is that Mitch likes you to kind of show that you want to be there; that you’ll put that effort in. So that’s kind of what I did. I was doing everything that I thought I needed to do. That way, so say if it didn’t happen, I knew in my heart that I did everything I possible could to get the ride.

When was all this going on?
It was in September.

Was there a certain point where you knew you were making some headway with Mitch?
I honestly didn’t really know what was going on. Mitch would never really say anything. Like, we’d talk and he would never say which way he was leaning. There were a lot of people on the table that he was looking at and I really didn’t know. Finally, I just got the answer. It was kind of just like, “Yeah, you got it.” It was kind of weird.

How did you find out?

The way I found out is actually a funny story. I got a text message at night and all it said was “Yes.” I was like, “Man, does this mean what I think it means? Should I call him?” So I called him and he got me pretty good. He was like, “Oh, hey, I was texting someone and I meant to send that text to someone else.” I didn’t really know what to say. My heart kind of dropped. And then he let it go on for what seemed like forever. Then he said, “Oh, I’m just kidding, you’ve got the job.”

When did you get the okay?
I would say like three weeks ago, maybe. I’ve been riding the bike for about three weeks now.

You had to be pretty stoked when you received that text message…
Oh, I couldn’t sleep that night. I was amped out and jittery. I was just so happy. It was a big relief off my shoulders, that’s for sure.

Rumor had it that a lot of people were lobbying for that seat…
Oh yeah, there was a list. I remember in one of the meetings, Mitch put the list in front of me and asked me what I had that all the other guys didn’t have. It was pretty intense.

Was the list pretty long?
It was a decent amount.

How did you answer Mitch’s question?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I’m not going to say anything about how that meeting went. I don’t want anyone disliking me [laughs].

When Mitch gave you the job, did you guys talk about what he expected for you?
Not really. I think we both know I’m capable of doing really good and if I could come in healthy and on a really good bike, I know what I’m capable of. I think I’ve shown my potential before and I know I can be back up there. I’m really excited for this 2009 series because I have my health under control finally. So with that and just being on a really good team, I think that it’s going to be a really good year.

Have you been on the bike much?
Yeah, the bike is amazing. That whole team over there... It amazes me all the effort and time that they put in. They’re there from 7 in the morning until 8 or 9 o’clock at night. Even the first day on the bike, I was comfortable right from get-go. It’s just amazing how good their stuff is. I’ve actually been riding a lot. I’ve gotten two weeks on the supercross track now and have pretty much been training and riding and just putting 110-percent in right now because I don’t know what coast I’m riding. So I’m just training and getting ready as if I were racing the West Coast series. And I think we’re really going to start testing a lot here in the next couple weeks. We’ll start riding the 2009 bikes and start getting the ball rolling on that.

Do you know any of the other riders on the team well?
I’ve known Austin Stroupe a long time. Last year, we trained together and then this year we’re training together again with the same trainer. We’ll be riding together. So I guess you can say that we’ll be training and riding partners that will push each other. It should be good.

So as far as the 2009 season goes, the stars have lined up and you’ve received that break you’ve been looking for...

Yeah, I got a huge break. I’d just like to thank Mitch for this opportunity and for giving me this chance. But, yeah, I feel that 2009 should be really good. I’m going to be on the best team there is and my bikes are gong to be awesome and I finally got some health and personal stuff situated and I know that this year I can be 100-percent healthy and strong. There is no reason why I shouldn’t be up there. I’m really excited about next year — especially for the outdoors. I’m going to be on a good bike and I know that I can get starts and just be up there and show everyone that I’m not just a supercross rider.

As far as goals and results go, what would make you happy in supercross in 2009?
For 2009, I’m definitely looking to be a threat every weekend. I know that my bike is going to give me what I need and get me good starts and there is no reason why I shouldn’t be up there batting for wins and definitely be on the podium.

How about for the Nationals?
The Nationals? I know that I kind of struggle a little bit more in outdoors than I do in supercross, but I feel like there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to run with the top-five guys.

How did the people around you, your family and friends, react when they found out you landed at Pro Circuit?
My girlfriend at the time — we just got engaged last weekend — and I were really excited. Especially since I didn’t really know where I was going or exactly what I was going to do. Everyone was super-pumped—my family and all my friend and just everyone who just surrounds me.