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Between the Motos: Eric Sorby

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Eric Sorby is almost more infamous than famous, but in his new role at Joe Gibbs Racing Yamaha, he is expected to be the glue that holds the team together, not a dividing force. And so far, he has been successful. Recently, we had a chance to talk to him about his new role and some recent overseas adventures.

  • Eric Sorby has a unique job at with JGR
  • Sorby at Bercy
Racer X: You’ve made some drastic changes in your career over the last year or so. You’re mostly a test rider now who races occasionally, and you work full-time for JGR Yamaha. What has that been like for you?
Eric Sorby: So far, I’ve been doing some testing, and I’ve been training and riding, and also taking care of Josh Grant and Cody Cooper during the week. I take the bike to the track and make sure the bike is at the track on time, and also get the track ready for both guys, and then when they’re done riding, I take their bikes back to the shop and wash it and change the air filter and all of those little things. It’s been really good. Josh Grant and Cooper – the two riders we signed for 2009 – it’s been good. They train hard and they already ride good, so I just can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next year.

Was it hard to take a step back from being a racer to being a test guy and things like that?
Yeah, you know, I’ve been a racer my whole life, and I’ve never done anything different since I was like five years old, but I like the opportunity to be at JGR and they gave me the opportunity to have a full-time job, and at the same time, I’m in a routine every day – I train, I ride, I take care of the tracks... It’s really good. But it’s definitely going to be different for me next year. I’m not going to race every weekend, but I’ll be riding during the week, and I’m going to race A1 on a JGR bike, and then I’m going to race out of the Wonder Warthog rig with JGR support because I’m going to be racing with suspension and engine components that JGR is marketing this year for sale to amateur racers and other pro racers. So I’m going to be racing with the stuff JGR is selling to show how good it is.

What about doing the Best Whip contest at the X Games?
Yeah! Actually, they’re going to have the X Games in Dubai, and they’re going to have Freestyle and Best Whip, so I don’t know. I would like to try and go and see what I can do. My teammate Grant, I need to learn from him, and when I’m almost as good as him, I’m going to try to do the X Games, but not before that.

Oh, c’mon, don’t be modest. You throw some pretty fat whips.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Actually, you’re right [laughs]. I’ll just continue to practice a little bit.

This off-season, you raced at Bercy. Talk us through that a little bit.
I went to Bercy. I just started riding like two weeks before Bercy because I bruised my spleen and my kidney, but yeah, I went to Bercy, and I did pretty good. I was pretty fast and I won a few match races and had some good laptimes. I had a good weekend. I didn’t get in trouble with anyone, which was a really big surprise, actually, because usually when I go overseas, I always get in trouble. It was just awesome. Me and Grant went over there and rode and it was great racing. It was cool.

What is it about you that trouble seems to follow you around?
You know, everyone knows that when I’m on the track... You know, I’m a dirty rider sometimes, and when I have to take someone out, I do it. Overseas, the European people, they’re not used to it. It’s always big drama at the races. I didn’t want to get in trouble at the races, and I went over there and had so much fun. It was a great weekend.

  • Sorby wasn't just dreaming that his plane was on fire...
  • Eric finished third on night 1 in Germany
What about the German SX race you raced after that?
Oh, I have a great story about that race. So, I left to go to Germany for the first time over there, and when I got to Frankfurt on Thursday morning and was waiting for my next flight, and when I flew from Washington to Frankfurt, I took sleeping pills because I don’t really like long flights with nothing to do. So, anyway, I was in my plane, and I could hear them getting ready to take off, and for some reason, I was dreaming about people screaming on the plane and I could see the oxygen masks dropping down, and it was a crazy dream. It was so real. But actually, I wasn’t dreaming. When we were about to take off, the plane caught on fire, and we stopped and had to evacuate, but I was still passed out from my sleeping pills and I couldn’t get up. The people were walking by me and saying, “Hey, you have to get out!” Finally, I came to, and I realized it wasn’t a dream, and there was a fireman inside the plane, and a firetruck outside, and it was just crazy.

So I had to wait four hours to get another plane, and then I got on the flight and landed where I was supposed to land, so this guy could pick me up at the airport – a guy from the team I was riding for over there. Anyway, I thought for some reason from the airport to the track would be like five minutes. Usually, when you go somewhere, that’s the way it is. But the guy says, “Hey, we’re going to go get a camper and we’re going to go to the track. Do you want to sleep?” I said, “No, I’m fine.” But then we had like a seven-hour drive! I was like, “Whoa! You’ve got to be kidding me!”

And it was raining and snowing and stuff, and this guy was driving so fast, and we couldn’t see what was going on out on the road, and he’s just wide-open going back and forth, passing people on the right, on the left... I was so scared. On top of that, he smokes, so every 20 minutes, he would put the window down and smoke a cigarette, and I was just freezing! So, I’m slipping back and forth [between sleep and being awake], and after about three hours of this, I can see this guy is drinking beer while he’s driving! I’m like, “What the hell is going on?!”

We made it safe, so it’s just another story, but then we got to the race, and I got sick, and the toilet paper in Germany is like sandpaper, so after like 24 hours of going to the restroom every 20 minutes, you can imagine what was happening. It was just a crazy weekend.

But then I went to the race and did pretty good. Heath Voss won, Mike Brown got second, and I got third the first night. The second night, I was in fourth, and I jumped off the track and crashed, and it took me two laps to start the bike. I’m getting in shape, though, and I want to thank trainer Tim for taking care of Grand and Cooper and me during the week. It’s starting to pay off.

It seems like a lot of effort just to go race a race. Is it always like that?
No! Just this time. But you know how it is when you travel. Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it to. For some reason, that weekend was problem after problem. But besides that, I felt like I rode good, so it was all right. It was just one of those weekends.

Okay, then we’ll expect to see you at Anaheim I.
Yeah, I’ll be at Anaheim I, and thanks for calling. I really appreciate it.

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