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5 Minutes with... Kyle Keast

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Kyle Keast has finally earned his first Canadian factory ride. The working-class hero from Lindsay, Ontario (an hour north of Toronto) signed on with Suzuki/OTSFF/Rockstar Energy Drink for the 2009 CMRC Canadian Nationals after finishing fifth overall in this year’s MX1 series. It’s a big move for Keast in many ways; he’s never experienced the “all expenses paid” lifestyle of factory racers, has never ridden anything but a Honda (except for 2003 when he jumped onto a YZ250F for one season), and hasn’t ridden for anyone but Machine Racing and John Nelson. Tim Horton’s #1 customer is excited, though, and he’s already falling in love with the power and handling on a basically stock RM-Z450. We caught up with Keast during his drive home from work to talk about his new deal.

  • Kyle Keast has signed on with Suzuki/OTSFF/Rockstar for the 2009 Canadian Nationals.
Racer X: Kyle, how was work today?
Kyle Keast: It was wonderful. Nice and cold and windy.

What exactly is it that you do during the week for work?
I get up around five o’clock in the morning, meet Steve, and drive an hour to Aurora. At the job site, we spread sheets of steel deck around, weld and cut it in, place steel plates, and then shoot it in.

That sounds lovely. I’m very jealous that I’m stuck inside the heated office, while you’re standing 10 stories high in inclement weather conditions.
[Laughs] Yeah, I’m jealous too.

Some big news, actually, really the only news so far in the Canadian silly season is that you’ve signed on with Andre Laurin’s Suzuki OTSFF team. Tell us about that deal and how it came together.
Andre and I had talked last year, but things didn’t really come together because he had his team picked out. After putting together a good season this year, we started talking this fall, and he basically offered the whole deal. Andre is a super good guy, and he respects John [Nelson] at Machine Racing, and he wanted Honda to respond first to see if they could match his offer. Obviously, Honda has been backing me for a while. He was patient and waited for them to come back with something, but they couldn’t match Andre’s deal. Nelson agreed that it was a good deal and there was no way I could pass it up.

You’ve been riding Hondas for pretty much your entire career, and you’ve been supported by Nelson forever. How are you going to cope without your “magic” Honda and Nelson at your side?
I’ve adapted to the Suzuki really well; I can’t believe how fast the bike is. The practice bike that they gave me to ride during the week only has a high-compression piston in it, but it’s faster than my Honda race bike from this year. Right now, we only have stock suspension because the bikes are getting sold. I raced at Gopher Dunes last weekend, and it was a little tough here and there, but I can’t believe how well it worked. As for John, he’s still my buddy and we talk every week. I’m sure he will be over hanging out under the Suzuki tent.

  • A 2-2 for second overall at Gopher Dunes was Keast’s result in 2009.
Did you have any competition at the final regional event at Gopher Dunes?
No, there really wasn’t anybody there. Most of the pros don’t come out in the fall for some reason. It’s too cold for everyone or else they’re in drinking mode [laughs]. No, I like riding in the fall. I was on my own but I was pushing hard to see what I can do.

Last winter you raced some AMA Arenacross rounds. Do you plan to do that again? Or are you going to head down south to Georgia?
Well, I would like to, but I have to ask Andre about that because I’d need a 250F to race inside. If he’s able to get me a 250F—I would start in January—I’ll do some of them. I’m pretty busy with work right now and training at night. I’d like to race the Toronto supercross again, if we’re able to do so. Tyler [Medaglia] is going to go down with the Suzuki guys in January for three months. Andre understands my situation with work, paying bills and owning a house, so he just said if I can get down there for two to three weeks in March for some testing, that’s cool.

You’re just coming off of your best season yet, earning national number 5, and you showed enough speed and fitness to win motos at Gopher Dunes and Sand Del Lee. What’s it going to take for you to be in the championship hunt with Facciotti, Klatt, Medaglia, and Carpenter next year?
Good starts is the key thing. I know I don’t have super fast lap times in practice, but it comes down to the race where I shine because I get mad and determined. Starts are definitely key, and there is no doubt in my mind that I can pull holeshots on my Suzuki. I think that’s it. I know my stamina is there; I didn’t get tired last year. Other than that, stay smooth and stay up.

  • Look for the Canadian kid to race some AMA Arenacross this winter.
As it stands right now, your only teammate is Tyler Medaglia. How do you guys get along?
Oh, yeah, we get along. I’ve never had a problem with Tyler. It’s not like we hang out or anything, but I think he takes it really serious and sticks to himself, which I respect, because I’m the same way. I’m excited because he’s a hard working kid, and I’m the same.

It’s not often that you race or ride during the winter, so what do you do to stay in touch with racing? Do you watch supercross? Check the internet often?
I like watching supercross when it’s on TV, but I don’t like the internet; it’s just not my thing. I have plenty to do when I get home and I just try to have my own life other than motocross so it keeps me sane when I get to the races. I don’t want to know what everyone else is doing, as long as I know that I’m prepared, that’s all I care about.

Okay, before I let you go, what are you dressing up as for Halloween?
[Laughs] Nothing! I don’t go out for Halloween.

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