Last summer, Ryan Morais came down with a badass strain of staph infection called Methicillin–Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. So gnarly was the infection that ended up in his bloodstream that it parked the Californian on the coach for months. Up on jack stands, Morais began worrying about his career. As professional riders are all too aware of in this sport, out of sight means being out of mind. Thus, as the powerful race teams of the United States began looking to 2009 and filling out their starting lineups, the name “Morais” wasn’t exactly on many team managers’ wish list. However, in October, Mitch Payton and his omnipotent Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki outfit found themselves one rider short for the 2009 season and Payton decided to take a gamble on Morais. Morais is the rider who lost the 2007 AMA East Region Championship to Payton’s team by only three points. However, despite a number of ups and downs in the past two years, Ryan Morais has earned his big break and is now doing everything within his power to make the most of it.
Ryan, what do you have going today?
I just got home from riding a little bit ago, so I’m a little tired today.
Yeah, we’ve been hounding you for a few days and know you’ve been punching the clock with some long days of riding and testing…
Yeah, I’ve been pretty busy just riding and training and trying to make sure I’m prepared.
Will you be riding the West Region Series?
I honestly do not know. We will not find out until the week of Christmas.
Any idea of who on the team would ride the West Region? As far as who goes where, is the whole team up in the air right now?
I think it’s between me, [Austin] Stroupe and [Jake] Weimer.
So Austin Stroupe is healed up now?
Yeah, he’s going to start riding soon. Actually, I think today was his first day of riding.
And the 2008 MX2 World Champion Tyla Rattray has just joined them team, huh?
I’m never really down at the race shop and no one never really says anything, so that I don’t know.
But you’ve heard abut it?
Not from anyone down there. I’ve just been seeing it all over the Internet.
Due to injuries and team changes, I’d assume you’ve been doing a lot of the testing for the 2009 Monster Energy Supercross Series…
Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of the testing with Bones [Bacon] and Zach [White] and definitely been putting in a lot of time on the bike and just been riding every day. I’m putting in the long days right now, for sure. I’ve been riding pretty much every day during the week and whenever we’re testing at the Kawasaki track, I’m there from 9 to 5. It’s been good. It’s nice being on a team that is like this; a team that wants to win and puts in as much effort as you do, for sure.
Do you like testing? Do you like going through the bike and riding it and downloading the “seat of the pants” information you collect to the mechanics?
Yeah, I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff. It’s fun to me. It kind of switches up the schedule from just pounding out laps everyday and doing motos. I enjoy doing testing and trying to notice what they changed or just trying to figure everything out and just get the bike the way I want it. I really enjoy testing. I used to do all testing for Yamaha of Troy when I was over there. I would do all the motor stuff for me and Jason [Lawrence]. It’s something I enjoy and hopefully, not any time soon, I think it would be cool when I’m done racing to be a test rider for a factory or a manufacturer. It would be cool to keep riding and test the race team stuff.
I know you may not be able to say too much, but what types of things are you going through on the bike when you are testing?
Pretty much anything you can think of. Anything from clamps to linkage to brakes to sprockets to pipes — pretty much everything you can think of, we test. All of our bikes are all fitted for us, pretty much.
And you can feel and notice all this stuff when it’s changed on the bike?
Yeah, for sure.
Has all this riding and testing helped your confidence and just what do you think of your 2009 race bike?
Yeah, definitely riding as much as I’ve been riding and doing all the testing and just getting the bike dialed-in has definitely helped out my confidence a lot. I’m a lot more confident just from riding every day in general. The bikes are just amazing. Mitch and everybody down there is so great and I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. They’ve been giving everything I need right now. Just being over here at this team has definitely brought my confidence level up a lot.
How is your relationship with the team?
My relationship down there is great. Everyone is super cool and jokes around. I know it’s the off-season and I’m sure it’ll be different once we go to Anaheim I or once the season starts. I expect that. I probably wont be as laid back as I am right now either once it starts.
Which Coast do you want to do? Do you have a preference?
Well, I haven’t rode the West Coast for two years now. I’ve ridden the East Coast the last two years. I really like the East Coast. It’s weird saying this, but I really like soft, rutted tracks over hardpack, blue groove stuff, which is weird with me being out in California my whole life. It just seems to suit me better. I like the East Coast also to be away. Anyone that’s in the industry knows how the East Coast races are like a circus and there’s a lot going on. The East Cast is a lot more laid back and it’s easier for me to stay focused and not have to worry about anything.
Does it feel a bit strange to you to not know what Coast you’ll be riding with the 2009 season starting in three weeks?
Yeah, for sure. It’s hard to manage my training as far as what I can do. It’s just hard to train and figure out what schedule I can do right now because I don’t know if I should be backing down a little bit now and getting read for Anaheim or if I could still be training hard and getting ready for the East. It’s difficult, but I’ve been able to manage it really good. Either way I’m excited. Either way, whatever Coast I’m racing, I’ll be ready and I’m excited to go to that first round.
Hypothetically, if you end up racing Anaheim I, what’s your plan for the start of your season?
My plan is to go out and be on the board in every practice and just set the tone right off the gate as far as showing everybody that I want to be a contender this year. You know, I’ll be really disappointed if I don’t come out of the first round on the podium. That’s what I’m shooting for — to be on the box at the first round.
Do you have some wins in you?
Yeah, I definitely think I can win now. Especially with the equipment that I’m on. I should be able to get some starts. I think that’s always been my weakness as far as being able to be up there to win a race these last couple of years. I’ve always kind of struggled with them. I think with the equipment and get good starts and be up front and be a threat for a win every weekend.
Although it’s a little ways away, are you excited about the 2009 Nationals?
Yeah, I’m excited for the outdoors this year, for sure. Just being on Mitch’s team and I’m sure the outdoor bike is just ridiculous. I’m really, really looking forward to outdoors this year. Once supercross is over I’m really going to set focus into that. Unfortunately, I’ve never made it to every round. That is my main goal: To be at the race every weekend. I feel I can be a top five guy outdoors, so that’s my goal for the outdoors.