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5 Minutes with... Tommy Searle

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On Sunday, July 11, 1993, James Dobb won the Unadilla National. It was the last time a rider from the United Kingdom did so. From there, Dobb would race in the U.S. for a few more years before returning to Europe to win the 2001 125cc World Championship for KTM (also the last Englishman to win a world title). As fate would have it, this Saturday at the opening round of the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocros Championship at Glen Helen Raceway in California, Dobb’s understudy and protégé Tommy Searle will, just as Dobb did, try and win his first AMA race. (Tommy Searle: “Yeah, I didn’t know he was the last one to win a National, but don’t know anyone else who has won one since, so I guess he is.”) Last year, Searle placed a very fighting second to then KTM teammate Tyla Rattray in the MX2 World Championship Series, and just like Rattray (now on the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team), Searle will make his U.S. debut. Yesterday, while in a shopping mall in the Inland Empire, Racer X spoke with him.

  • Tommy Searle
Racer X: Tommy, what are you up to today?
Tommy Searle: Well, right now I just got my hair cut.

Want to look your best and got a new haircut for the race this Saturday, huh?
Yeah, well I’m not going to have time to do it after this weekend and they said it’s going to be hot at the races, so I thought, “Let’s trim it up a little.”

So you’re just relaxing today?
Yeah, I’ll clean some helmets, I guess, and get ready for the weekend.

If I have it right, you rode yesterday for the final time before Saturday’s race...
Yeah, yesterday I rode my test bike in the evening. I didn’t do much, though. I think I’m going to ride Friday a little bit, just to do some starts and stuff and that’ll be it.

How did your race bike feel?
My bike felt really good. The motor is so fast that I’m not even used to it. Even the practice bikes we had had fast engines, but then I got on the race bike yesterday and that bike was fast again, so it’s good. I’m happy with it.

Would you say your 2009 KTM National bike is a big leap from the Grand Prix bike you rode in Europe last year?
I think that definitely this bike is better than that bike. The motors, we develop over here. We kind of get them where they need to be. Next year in the GPs they’ll kind of have the motors that we’ve got now here. I think that’s how it works. Back home, I’m pretty sure they were saying they work on the 450s, and our engine guy here, KTM helps him to put the money into getting the 250s good.  So over here, the motors on the 250s are like a little bit above the ones back there. Toward the end of the year, I think they’ll have the motors that we have here.

I was able to sit down with you last Halloween after you had just arrived in the United States to live on a full-time basis. When did you begin to ride and test the bike pretty seriously?
It was like March, I guess. I was riding in February because I was planning to go race a few GPs, so we started testing some stuff to get ready for that. So we started testing like in February and March to get stuff going straight away. I started riding with the suspension on the bikes that you guys were using last year for the Nationals so it was good right away. I was happy with the bike, straight off.

  • Tommy has been in America for a few months now, electing not to race supercross
Did you attend any supercrosses or watch any them on TV, and if so, did you learn anything from them?
Yeah, I went and watched like four, I think. I went to Anaheim I, II and III and San Diego, so I watched like five. Yeah, I learned a lot. You kind of have to be a little bit patient with supercross, but you know I don’t think supercross is going to be a big thing for me. I’m looking forward to it. Like when the guys were out at the supercross races on Saturdays, I’d go ride the test track myself and I enjoyed that. I was having fun.

While watching the supercross races, did you pick up anything on some of the riders you’ll be competing against this Saturday?
No, not too much. It’s kind of a little different outdoors. Some guys ride supercross good and some guys ride outdoors good and there’s a few that are pretty good at both. I don’t really know much about the riders. I only know a bit about a couple I’ve raced against before, but that’s it.

Here’s something I really want to ask you: Last December, what did you think when you found out Tyla Rattray was coming to race in America?
He told me a couple weeks before. He said, “So I might be coming out to America.” I was like, “Oh, you won’t. You’ve been saying that for like 10 years now.” And then the next thing here he was. It was like I didn’t even believe him. It’s good. I’m kind of happy he’s out here.

And his deal, like yours, was put together to only include the Nationals in 2009. What did you think about that?
Oh, I don’t know why he chose that. I think it was kind of last minute. With my deal, I could have raced supercross if I wanted to, but I think his deal was just too late to do it because he didn’t get his deal sorted until January, but I’m not sure what the deal is with that there.

I recently asked Tyla about this... Do you feel that you and Tyla and Tony Cairoli pushed each other to a higher level during the 2008 MX2 World Championship Series? I mean, between the three of you, virtually every Grand Prix was quite competitive...
We were definitely a step above everyone else last year in the GPs. We were always racing the whole time. It wasn’t like one of us had it down. Each weekend we traded wins. I think Tyla had like, five GP wins [Note: Rattay won four GPs], I had five wins and Tony had five wins [Note: Cairoli won four GPs]. It was pretty even all year. It was like one race on, one race off. It was just more about who had the best bad races, really.

  • Tommy's very pleased with his AMA spec bike
With you, Tyla and Christophe Pourcel now here for the 2009 Nationals, do you think the “Americans versus Europeans” dynamic will stir up a lot of interest around the world this summer?
Yeah, I hope so. There’s always that thing, “Oh, who is fastest?” but I think it’s definitely a lot different. The GPs are the GPs and they are what they are and I think it’s the same with the AMA Nationals. The riders are different, the tracks are different, you have to ride different. It is what it is. Like back home they’re fast and over here these guys are fast. It goes to and fro to come from one to another and I think you have to adapt that. Maybe it’s going to take some tome to get used to it, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I’ve been kind of ranting and raving that between all the Americans, the Grand Prix guys and a few rookies, this just might be the single most competitive motocross series I’ve ever known of. It’s like Formula 1. What do you think about that?
That’s what everybody has been saying. You have a lot of riders who can win races, so I’m real excited to go race. It is going to be really competitive, I know that much. I think it would have been a lot easier for me to stay back and race at home this year, but now I’m here, so I’m looking forward to it. I’d definitely going to be some good racing this year.

Are there any riders in particular that you’re gong to be paying more attention to or do you see it more as a free-for-all?
I don’t know, really. There are some good guys. I know the PC [Pro Circuit] guys are all going to be strong; their bikes are good. You have the Factory Connection guys. There’s a bunch of good riders out there, but I’m sure we’ll see after the first four rounds who is going to be there for the rest of the year. I’m sure at Glen Helen everyone is going to be gunning for it and be all excited about the first ride. But then I’m sure things will settle down and you’ll see who will be there for the rest of the year. I don’t expect to go out and win at Glen Helen. I just want to go out and get some good results in there because I know everyone is going to be excited and going for it and coming out all guns blazing. Then you’ll see things start to settle down and you’ll see who will be there each week.

{LINKS}After your two motos on Saturday, what sort of results will please you?
If I can come away with two top-fives this weekend, I’m going to be happy. I think that will be a good start, but anything more, I’ll probably be really happy. There are a lot of fast guys out there, but if I can get two consistent, points-scoring rides in and get out of there with one race down and out of the way, I’ll start looking ahead to the rest of the year.

Do you feel confident that you have a shot at the title?
Yeah, I feel like I’ve worked hard and I’ve put as much work in as anyone else. I know I have a good bike, a good team, a good mechanic and a good trainer, so I have everything in place to make it happen. It’s down to me now. I’ve worked hard, so now I just want to go have fun and, yeah, at the end of the year I’d like to be there looking at a shot for the title.

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