Monday Conversation: Tommy Searle

November 3, 2008 9:43am | by:
Outside, it was 80 degrees and impossibly bright and sunny: Halloween Day in California. Inside the Wasserman Media Group offices in Carlsbad (a northern suburb of San Diego) and standing outside a clean, well-lit conference room were company men: 1994 125cc World Champion Bob Moore and 2001 125cc World Champion James Dobb. Inside a room with walls covered with countless items of action-sports paraphernalia, sat 2008 MX2 Vice-Champion and five-time Grand Prix winner Tommy Searle. Having just arrived in the United States 48 hours earlier, the 19-year-old Englishman was in the Golden State to, literally and figuratively, get his house in order. Now a member of the MDK KTM factory team, come the month of May, Searle will compete in the 2009 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship and focus on his dream of earning an AMA #1 plate. Enthusiastic to be in sunny California and proud of the jet-black Toyota Tundra pickup truck he had purchased that very morning, Searle talked about coming oh so close to winning the MX2 world title as well as his master plan of preparing for his first year on the sprawling, rough-and-tumble outdoor tracks of this nation.

Racer X: Tommy, do they celebrate Halloween in England?
Tommy Searle: Yeah, they do, but they don’t celebrate it like they do out here. It’s a lot bigger here. Nobody dresses up there. We might have some Halloween parties, but not like here. We just went to the shop and people were walking around in costumes. It’s not like that in England.

  • Tommy Searle at the 2008 Red Bull Motocross of Nations
When did you arrive here in California?
We arrived here on Wednesday night.

How’s the weather been back in England?
It’s been okay, not too bad, but the day before we left it was snowing. It doesn’t normally happen this early, but yeah, it was snowing.

So, I’ll make a wild assumption and say you like the weather in California...
Yeah, I like it. It’s really nice.

If I have it right, you’re here in California for good now, correct?
Yeah, at the moment I’m at my friend’s house in Riverside, so I’m staying there until we get everything sorted. Then, I’m here until December 16, so hopefully we can find a place and start renting there.

Do you know where you want to live yet?
We like the area of Riverside where my friend’s house is. It’s a bit far out just because I’m going to have a trainer and he lives in Murrieta. If I can be pretty close to Murrieta — the team is also there — it’ll be good and that’ll mean less driving all the time. Hopefully, we can live around there.

Now that you’re here in the U.S., will you start training and riding right away?
No, not too much because the first race isn’t until late May, so I don’t want to start getting ready now where I’m going to be done by, like, May. Like I said, the main reason for coming here now is to get everything sorted and to get a home sorted so when we come out just after Christmas we’ll have a house and we can make it our home. Then, maybe come January, we’ll start getting on it. Like, I just ride a little bit of outdoors now and am getting a good bike going that’s ready to ride. Then I’ll go ride some supercross tracks for some fun.

As your teammates begin getting prepared for supercross in the next few months, do you see yourself riding on the KTM supercross track with them?
Yeah, I’ll be out there. I’ll have a few weeks off now as a holiday. I just did a small supercross race in Sheffield last Saturday and that went okay. I won one race [British Open class] and got second in the other race (SX2) so that was good and was just a bit of fun. Now, I’ll ride outdoors and get used to the bike and get a bit of momentum going and then go ride some supercross tracks.

I don’t really remember the last time a rider came to America and skipped over the Supercross series to begin their career here in the nationals. Is that a plan you and KTM came up with collectively?
Yeah, because Kurt Nicoll said he thought it was best, and most people he talked to thought it would be best, because I can go ride supercross now and have fun and there’s no big stress. There’s no pressure. It’s not like I have to be doing the same lap times that the other guys are. I can go out and ride by myself and have some fun and get my timing down. So, yeah, that’s the plan. Then I can go straight into the outdoors. I should be going well then and maybe I can get a good first outdoor season under my belt rather than doing supercross and maybe getting injured and not making the outdoors. I believe I can do well in outdoors, so I’ll get that done first.
While watching your teammates prepare for supercross in the next few months, do you think you may get the urge and decide that you do, in fact, want to do a few supercross races in 2009?
[Laughs] Maybe! Like, I know I can ride a bike so I think I’ll get into it as long as I don’t be stupid. I mean, like I said, there’s no pressure. Like, if I go ride by myself at some track and some guy is going triple-triple or something like that, if I’m by myself, there is no reason for me to do that if I don’t want to. I just want to go have fun and I’m sure I’ll pick it up.

While you were here in California last winter, did you get to ride on any of the local tracks?
Last January I came here before the GPs and that was good. We just rode Perris and Cahuilla and Glen Helen. I know all those tracks. They’re really fun for me so I’m just going to have some fun on them now. I enjoy all these tracks.

Okay, the big question: Were you sad to leave Europe behind or are you pleased with what you accomplished there?
No, I’m okay. I’ve been there three years doing GPs and I believe they have been three good years. I’m happy I stayed in the GPs because I was going to come to America this year. I would have liked to have won it, but it didn’t happen. I had a bit of bad luck and Tyla [Rattray] was really strong, so that didn’t end up happening. I was pretty close. I was in it all the way to the end. I think I learned a lot this year.

{LINKS}Any regrets about not staying in Europe and trying to win the world championship in 2009?
No, I would still like to win a world championship. I think if I want to come out here and get good at supercross, I need to be out here now. If it’s another year in Europe, it’s another year I don’t race supercross. I don’t want to be 21 before I race supercross, I want to start doing it now. If I want to go back and I feel that I need to go back, there’s always time to go back and win the MX2 Championship.

Up until the tenth round in South Africa, where Antonio Cairoli destroyed his knee, you, Antonio and Tyla had a full-on war going to try and win the MX2 World Championship. Before the season started, did you know it was going to become as competitive as it did?
I knew it was going to be a tough year. Cairoli is always going to be fast. Like last year he came off winning pretty much every race, so everyone knew Cairoli was going to be fast. And Tyla is always strong and I think he had a really good trainer behind him this year and I think that’s the big reason to why he won it. He was strong the whole way through. He’s a strong, solid rider and I think that’s how he ended up winning the championship.

After round 12 in Czechoslovakia, you were only 20 points behind Rattray. Then came Ireland and things appeared to go sideways for you...
I was 20 points behind. We were kind of neck and neck. Then in Ireland, something caught on fire with the back brake and I had to go to the Last Chance. I believe that Ireland would have been a really good Grand Prix for me and I could have got some points back, but it didn’t happen and that’s where it began looking like I was going to be a longshot for the title.

However, you were able to win both motos at the final Grand Prix of the season at Faenza in Italy.
Yeah, in the end I just rode my own race and won the race and was really upset after the race because I knew that was it. All the time there was the hope he would have fifth in the first race and then the pressure would have been on in the second race, but that didn’t happen. So in the second race, I didn’t have the best of starts, but I came through and passed some guys and I won the race pretty easily. It was one of my best races of the year. I was happy to end it like that. I wasn’t really happy how the championship ended, but there was nothing I could do.

You’ve ran with Ryan Villopoto and placed runner-up to him at the last two Motocross of Nations races, but other than him, have you ridden with any of the other young American guys?
No, not so many. A couple times in January I’d be at a track and a couple of guys would come and ride, but that’s it really.

What did you think of Villopoto’s riding at Budds Creek and Donington?
He’s really fast, obviously. He’s a really good rider.

Do you have any kind of feel for the young American riders such as Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard, Austin Stroupe, Nico Izzi, Jason Lawrence and others?
I don’t really know. I’ve seen them on TV. When we watch the nationals in England on TV, everyone looks so, so fast…. I’m not sure why. You know I think the tracks out here allow you to go faster, but when we watch, everyone looks really fast on TV. I mean with Austin Stroupe, I came over here a few years back on my 80 and he was there then and he was really fast then. So I’m sure he’s going to be fast.

I know you have only seen them on television, but how do the American motocross tracks look to you?
I’ve just seen them on TV, but when I watch, everyone always look like they’re having fun. A lot of the European tracks are not the best of fun… Some of them are good fun, but some of them are hard to race around. There were a couple of tracks where there was just one kind of line and if something were to happen, you spent the whole race racing behind someone. You knew you were faster, but you couldn’t get by and you’d finish the race and you’d be like, “What am I doing out there?” So I’m looking forward to racing these tracks.

What’s the plan for the 2009 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship? To just go for it right from the onset?
Yeah, I’m sure I’m going to be ready unless something happens. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready to give it my best. I’m sure I’ll be really nervous before the first race. I can’t say I’m going to win or I’m going to beat him or finish tenth or what. I don’t know. I just have to go out there and make sure I’ve done everything I can and just give it my best.