Muscle Milk/MDK KTM’s Tommy Searle celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday at High Point Raceway by grabbing his first podium of the season, although it was not without controversy, as he was nearly penalized for the second time this season for jumping on the no-jump flag. It was later determined that there couldn’t be a reasonable expectation for him to see the flag from where he was, so the penalty was rescinded. We broke the news to him Saturday afternoon after the race...
Tommy Searle: I’m 20 years old today...
What better way to celebrate your birthday than by you landing your first AMA outdoor podium?
Yeah, it is. Last year, I went 1-1 on my birthday, so it wasn’t quite a birthday celebration like last year, but it was good. I’ve had my first podium now. I don’t know what the deal is with this whole points situation, so maybe I didn’t get my first podium, but in my heart, I know I got my first podium. I beat Tyla [Rattray] in both motos, so whatever the outcome, he knows I beat him, and I know I beat him, so whatever the AMA wants to do, it’s up to them.
Well, I’ll go ahead and break the news to you that you’re keeping your spot. That’s why I’m over here talking to you.
That’s good, because when I did take off, I was in mid-air and I just saw something out of the corner of my eye, and I’m just like, “Is that a white flag?” So rolled down the downside and hit the brakes and didn’t pin it, and then I came around the next lap and everything was gone, so I was just like, “Should I just roll this to make it even?” But I genuinely didn’t know, and I genuinely didn’t see it [before he was already in the air]. It wasn’t even like I needed to do it, because I’d gapped him [Rattray] by then anyway.
I heard the flag was just poorly placed...
Yeah, it was on my right-hand side, I’m sure, unless there was one on the left, and if so I didn’t see that one at all, either. When I came over the jump, I had seen it on the right, but they were kind of up on a ledge, and we were looking to the left because it’s off-camber and stuff, so it was tricky. But yeah, if you say I got third, then yeah, I’m pumped. Tyla benefited two places last time from me and [Jake] Weimer, and if he was going to benefit again, it’s just like, these points keep adding up. I can’t afford to keep giving away points like that.
Talk a little about the track. You’ve never been here before, so what did you think?
Yeah, I like this track. I’ve never been to any of the tracks apart from Glen Helen, and I like that. This one comes close to that. I’m pumped to ride this one. As soon as I rode this morning, I’m looking at it, and I’m like, “Ah, this looks awesome.” The first practice, it was a bit skatey, and second practice it wasn’t amazing, but it kind of got better all day, to be fair. It’s kind of one of those tracks where you have to flow, and if you try too hard, like at the first race I think I tried hard and got tight, but then I watched the 450 race, and those are flowing. And I knew Pourcel was just going to be flowing out front, like he always is, so I kind of guessed that’s what I needed to do.
These last few weeks, I know you’ve been disappointed with your results. What have you done to turn that around? Is it a situation of slowing down to go faster, or have you been trying too hard, or what?
I know my problem: I don’t change gears enough. I just rev the bike up. The KTM’s so strong, and the power just keeps going and doesn’t fall off like the other bikes, so I’m always doing that, and the other thing is my corner speed – I was going down and hitting the brakes and stopping and stuff into the corners, so I just need to ease off the brakes into the corners and just let it flow like that. But we’ve been working on that, so hopefully from here on out, I can get that.
I know I didn’t have much confidence because I haven’t been getting the results that I’m used to, and last year I’d win a race and my confidence would be up, while this year I’m just like, “What’s up with me?” I’m just not there where I need to be. It’s disappointing to be there, and even this week I went out with the top guys, and I’m still off the pace. But it’s coming. I’m happy to get a podium, and I have confidence, and I know that I can do it, so I’ll be there.
What do you think about the pace here in America overall?
There are a bunch of us that are kind of similar in pace, but I think right now Pourcel and Dungey are a step ahead. I can see that those guys, right now, are a step ahead of us. And yes, I want to get there, but like I said, I kind of know what I’m doing wrong, and my attitude is better at the races now. Before, I was so serious, and now I’m just trying to have more fun and enjoy my riding instead of being so tense. Still, the first moto, I tensed up and got arm-pump, and then in the second moto, those guys were behind me, but I spun out there. I know I’m strong, but sometimes I get arm-pump and I fade at the end, and that just annoys me because it’s not my fitness, it’s just my arms.
Do you think maybe you were putting too much pressure on yourself? You came across an ocean and changed scenery completely, and that can be a lot to handle for anyone, much less a 19-year-old (now 20).
Yeah, it was. It was hard for me to come over here. No one in my family is here, and at times it’s hard – especially when I’m having these bad weekends and stuff. It’s hard being over here, and it is real different. The first round was a good start, and I had a lot of confidence that I could be there, and then in the second round it was bad, and then the third round wasn’t really good, so I’m kind of getting down and stuff. Once you start beating yourself up, you’re putting pressure on yourself, and it just makes everything worse. Now, I’m just trying to go out and have fun again.
And it works...
Yeah, today it worked. It helps to get good starts, too. I didn’t get amazing starts, but I got some great starts and then pushed the first few laps, but even then, the leaders were gone. I didn’t even know Pourcel was in that race! I could see some Pro Circuit bikes behind me, and I’m like, “Is that Pourcel?” Then I see him on the podium, and I’m like, “Dude, he must’ve been gone!” I didn’t even see him from the first lap, so he must have taken off straight away – which is definitely where these guys are fast. I’m picking it up, though, so it should be good.