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Between the Motos: Ricky Dietrich

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In the motocross world, Ricky Dietrich wasn’t a big name until about three weeks ago, but in the off-road world, he’s well-known. He is a winner off-road, in both Endurocross and the WORCS championship, racing for Kawasaki Team Green. After a top finish at Glen Helen, and the subsequent injuries of Timmy Ferry and Ryan Villopoto, though, Dietrich got the dream shot – a factory motocross ride. We talked to him about that for this week’s Between the Motos.

Racer X: You have a background of racing motocross, don’t you?
Ricky Dietrich: Yeah, but I’ve really developed into more of an off-road racer later in my career. Growing up, I’ve done moto and off-road, and pretty much everything. I’m not really a specialist, I guess. I kind of just grew up doing it all, and that’s kind of why I came into doing WORCS racing, because it’s basically a motocross track with an extended off-road section on it, so I think it just kind of fit me pretty well.

So how much did you race moto as an amateur?
Just like local stuff in the northwest, but I just knew I wasn’t good enough to go to World Minis or Loretta’s or anything like that and do good. I had local kids at home that were beating me that were getting like 15th and stuff, so I was like, “Shoot, if that guy’s doing that, I would be doing worse,” so we ended up not going.

That’s really kind of hilarious because circumstances have now put you on a factory motocross team...
Yeah, right?

What was your reason for going out and racing Glen Helen?
It was just a personal goal of mine to go out there and do good. I’ve always wanted to race motocross and show those guys that I’ve got motocross skills, too, and I just wanted to go out there and get a top 10. I knew I could do it, and I knew where my speed was at with me riding and training with Ryan Hughes, so I thought I had a good shot at getting a top 10 and doing good. I just wanted to go out and show up and see how it went!

Did all of this motocross speed come on recently?
I think that my recent speed that’s taken me to where I am is just my training with Ryan Hughes. It was a year ago – January at the start of the ’08 season – when I started training with Ryan Hughes, and at that time, I was a top-three WORCS racer, but I wasn’t like the dominant guy out there. I was just one of the top guys. It’s been almost a year and a half now, and it seems like he’s taken me from being just a top WORCS guy to, I think, being the best WORCS guy, and possibly America’s best off-road racer that there is right now, and that helps my speed on the moto track, too. Almost all of our training is done on a motocross track. I train the same way that all the motocross riders do, so it all works good for me in WORCS racing, and it gets me wins in off-road, and it’s doing really good in the moto, too, you know?

Did you get to ride the bike much prior to Texas?
I got to ride the bike twice. We went out to Perris on Wednesday, and then Thursday at that new Pala track. So I had a little bit of time on the bike, and it was a little different from the setup that I run, and I changed a couple things to make it more like I like my bike to be – I like it a little choppered out and stuff – so we just changed some basic setup stuff. I probably had three hours on the bike and then I just showed up for Texas and went for it.

And then in the first moto, you were leading around Chad Reed for a while! That’s just kind of funny, isn’t it? I’m laughing because it’s just not something that happens. But with the hot weather and the rough tracks, it should suit you really well in some ways, doesn’t it?
Yeah, I’d say that my conditioning did help me quite a bit at Texas. The track was a little different. I don’t know if it was the style of track that I really like, but it did get rough, and I’m used to riding super-gnarly rough stuff, and I train pretty hard, so when it gets hot, I think I’m prepared for stuff like that. That, and then just my late-race speed and conditioning, it seems like the last couple laps, those guys really drop off and no one’s really making any passes or going anywhere, and I’m still hauling ass. My last couple laps sometimes are my best laps out there. It’s been a little bit of a learning curve to wick it up straight out of the gate, but it works really good at the end of the moto because I’m always coming on really strong, and I’m putting four to six seconds a lap on the dudes in front of me, and they’re on the pitboard screaming, “Go, you can get the next guy! Go!” So that’s kind of cool.

I hate to sound stupid or belittle your off-road career, but are you looking at this as something just for this season for fun, or are you thinking that this may end up being a change in your career path to racing moto?
It could quite possibly be a change in my career. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – race moto – and if the opportunity is there for me, I’m sure I’d take it just to give it a shot. It seems like, in off-road right now, I’ve got such a good home with Kawasaki, and everything’s going really well, and I’m looking at winning my second WORCS championship and I’m going to Endurocross and I’ll hopefully win that again... I’ve got a lot of really good things going for me in off-road, so it would be kind of tough to move, but at the same time, I’m doing really good in moto and I’m getting a lot of attention out of it, so it’s something that I’d like to do. It’d be cool to do it, too, because everyone usually starts in moto and ends up in off-road later in their career, and I think I’d be like the first guy ever to start in off-road and go to moto, you know?

Yeah, and that’s what’s so peculiar about this whole situation when you break it down. If you look over the years, you find moto guys that are successful in the off-road world, like Rodney Smith and Ty Davis, and obviously Ryan Hughes, but it’s never actually worked the other way. So what you’re saying is that you’ll leave the door open if that opportunity arises, right?
Yeah, I’m basically open to any opportunity at the moment. I think the obvious attraction to moto is that those guys have the bigger budgets for salaries and stuff, so that would be really cool [laughs], but I’m open to anything. I think that right now I’m establishing myself as probably the most versatile rider that can race and do good at anything you’d really throw at me on two wheels, so that’s kind of cool for myself. Further down the road, I’d like to do moto and supercross and off-road and just bounce around and hit all these races. I enjoy doing all of it.

And that’s where I was going with this: If you’re going to come race motocross, you’ll have to do supercross. Have you ever done that before?
Actually, I have. In ’06, believe it or not, I raced the Seattle Supercross, and I made the main in the Lites. I qualified straight out of the heat, but in the main I choked and I finished way back. It was a mud race, but I was the first practice out on the track, so I didn get to practice on it when it was dry, and my times were right up there pretty good when it was dry. I do have experience on a supercross track, and actually before the final round of Endurocross this past season, I practiced on a supercross track for like three weeks, just practicing timing and stuff like that. I think that practicing on a supercross track actually helped me quite a bit for my Endurocross stuff, just with breathing and timing and stuff like that.

Also, the tight SX track would help, too...
Yeah, it is, and it’s hard to breathe on a supercross track because everything’s so tight, so you can’t just hop right on one and be good to go if you haven’t been doing it in a while, but it actually helped me quite a bit for that last race.

What tracks as we head east have you been to before?
I’ve been to a couple – RedBud, and basically all the west-coast tracks. But besides RedBud, all those east-coast tracks, I haven’t even seen any of them.

But, hey, you get two 15-minute sessions, so you should be fine...
[Laughs] It ain’t much, but I seemed to figure it out in Texas. That was the first time I’d ever been to that track, too, so...

We had an interview with Tyla Rattray yesterday, and he said he’s so used to the GPs and the two-day schedule that it’s been quite an adjustment for him...
Yeah, there is no easing into it at all. You’ve got to show up to a track that you’ve never ridden before, take one look at it, and basically just go out and jump all the jumps on the first lap and pin it so you have a good time for your gate pick, you know?

What are the biggest differences between this factory bike and the bike you rode at Glen Helen?
I’d say the biggest thing is the factory bike’s got a whole lot of power. That thing is a powerhouse. We practiced starts, and I think the first start I practiced, I wheelied gnarly straight out of the gate and wasn’t expecting that at all, you know? But we can’t really set up our off-road bikes like that, because if we set it up for a powerhouse, there’s no way that we could hang onto that thing for two hours. We tend to leave them a little more stock, for durability as well as for rideability. So I think the biggest thing for me is riding a bike with that much power. I haven’t ever experienced anything like that, and shoot, halfway through the second moto at Texas, I was still getting used to the power of that bike. It’s cool, though. I like it. The bike is good. It’s tight. It feels like a brand-new bike every time you get on it, so it’s good.

Good luck at Mt. Morris this weekend...
Thank you!
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