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5 Minutes With... Tyla Rattray

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Having accomplished phase one of his dream by winning the 2008 MX2 (250) World Championship, South African’s Tyla Rattray is now entering phase two. Joining the powerful Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team and moving to California was just the beginning. Now, the 23-year-old hopes to get familiar with AMA Motocross and soon be contending for the 2009 Lucas Oil/AMA Pro Motocross Championship number-one plate. While it’s still motocross racing, there are significant differences between the race styles within FIM and AMA Motocross, as Tyla recently explained to us.

Racer X: Tyla, we’re a few races into the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships, so what are you finding is the biggest differences between racing in the World Championships and the AMA?
Tyla Rattray: The biggest thing is that it takes me a little time to learn the track. Coming here, I’ve got two 15-minute practices for timed qualifying, so I’m still getting used to that. In Europe, we have two 40-minute practices before our qualifying races, and it’s a two-day event. Here, it’s just a one-day event, and it’s two 15-minute practices and then straight into the race, so it’s taking me a little time to learn the tracks. Glen Helen, I knew, because I’ve been doing a lot of training there, but all these other tracks are still new for me. If you have not raced them before you don’t have much time to learn the track. You’ve got to learn it as quickly as possible. That’s the hardest thing for me at the moment. Other than that, I’ve been enjoying it.

Also, if I understand correctly, in Europe the riders might pace themselves a little bit more throughout the race and then near the end really put on a charge. Over here it seems like the riders go all out the first couple laps.
Yeah, that’s the thing: When someone here gets into the lead, they quickly put down some really fast laps and get away. To close that gap down, you just have to be a lot fitter; you have to close at least two seconds a lap off at the 20-minute mark if he’s 10 seconds ahead to catch him by the end of the race – then you still need to make the pass! The intensity in the beginning is much faster than what it is in Europe. There, we start to pick it up near the end – as you said. In Europe, it is as if it takes some time to get us going – it’s just a lot different style. Here, as soon as the gate drops, you have to go for it. It is taking me a bit of time to get into that routine. Hopefully soon I will be into it and it will be a lot better.

Still, you have ridden very strong.
Yeah, my ride at Glen Helen was really good. I was solid there. I think at Hangtown I just rode really poorly; I had a really bad day. I was fourth and seventh. At the end of the day, it’s still points, but that was a really bad day for me. I didn’t feel good on the track, and we had to make quite a few suspension changes. Texas was okay, but I needed better starts. I’m looking for better results soon; my fitness is good, so I’m really looking forward to getting up front at the tougher tracks.

Getting back to my initial question: Tell us what else is different with racing in America.
At the GPs, it was like a long weekend: the trucks where there already on Thursday, you got to the track Friday, all day Saturday, and of course all day on Sunday. Here, you fly in on Friday, do the Saturday race and then you fly out Sunday morning - it’s really short. I think in Europe there’s a lot more socializing with the people; the mechanics and everyone hang out. Here it’s just come here, race and go home - that’s how I see it. In Europe, the racing is more laid back; guys hang out more with each other - the riders, the mechanics, and all that. Here, everyone pretty much just sticks to themselves.

Does your comment carry over into your team? All you guys are so competitive, so do you hang out much as a team?
We pretty much just do our own thing, but we get along good. Same with the mechanics. Obviously, if Mitch or someone sees a line out there that they think is really good, he’s is going to come and tell all of us about it - he’s not just going to tell one rider. We often do our own things during the week; we don’t always go riding with each other. I would say that with American racing in general that pretty much everyone just sticks to themselves.

How about your social life? Have you enjoyed California so far?
Yeah, it’s been really cool out in California. I really like it. It’s a little bit like South Africa. Obviously, there are a few things that are a bit different, but it has been a lot of fun. The weather is really awesome. It’s good weather every day and you can go riding whenever you want. You can pretty much plan your week because you know it’s not going to rain. I feel that I’ve adjusted to California well. The biggest change for me coming here compared to Europe is obviously that the racing is a lot different. That’s probably the biggest thing.

Getting back to the racing part: You’ve been a pretty constant top-five rider here so far, and you won the World MX2 Championship last year, so can you win this championship this year?
Yeah, for sure. I certainly don’t think that I cannot win. I definitely am going to go out there and fight for the championship - that’s my goal. But it’s going to take me a few rounds to get into this routine as it’s all new for me. I’ve been racing in Europe for eight years, so it’s really different coming over here. Before Glen Helen, I hadn’t raced for about seven months, so racing to me is still new now. It’s taking me some time to get back into that racing mode, getting accustomed with the new system of two 15-minute practices, and then racing. As I said, other than that, I really enjoy it here, and I am having fun out there. Hopefully, by the halfway point, the leaders won’t be too far ahead and I can start putting my head down and racing for some wins. At the moment, I’ll just be happy with some podium positions, and maybe when we have that break after the fourth round I can come back stronger and start doing some winning.

That’s going to give us fans even more to look forward to in the 250 class. With that said, one last question: what about 2010?
Next year I’m really looking forward to going into the Supercross season, and then also do the outdoors for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. I’ve been in a bit of supercross, and I’ve really had a lot of fun riding it, so I’m really looking forward to starting it in October and having a lot of fun.
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