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Between the Motos: JC Waterhouse

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JC Waterhouse is the team manager on the GEICO Powersports Honda team, and he knows the sport as well as anyone. He actually wrenched at Honda for a short time for Bob Hannah, so he’s been around. As the team manager for one of the most technically proficient teams in the pits, he knows what’s up in the sport today as well as yesterday. That sort of experience is invaluable, and he gave us a few minutes to update us on his team and what’s going on for this week’s Between the Motos.

  • JC Waterhouse
Racer X: The AMA Supercross Series didn’t start out that outstanding for you guys. Actually, it was downright bad. As a team, what is it like to work through the off-season and do all that you can, then have things go so pear-shaped like that so quickly? And what do you do to work your way back out of it again?
JC Waterhouse: It’s really hard because you go into every season with a plan, and you look at what your assets are between equipment strong points, personnel strong points, and rider strong points, and you base your decisions on that. The problem is that this is such an athletic endeavor that there are factors that are just outside of your control immediately. We had a factor right away in the west coast with Trey [Canard] having a couple of crashes, and his big one at Phoenix which put him out for another race after that. Then, to recover from that, it’s almost impossible. You just have to put your head down and do the work and know that you’re doing the right thing, then just wait for the injuries to heal up. Then, on the east coast, Brett [Metcalfe] was our main man, and he was a solid second at the first race chasing down [Christophe] Pourcel, and then three laps of practice into the second race in Atlanta, boom! He’s on the mat. He’s also injured. It’s pretty hard. For the teams that might go into the series not really having the faith that they can win, it’s maybe a little bit easier to get through that kind of stuff. I mean, it doesn’t make you any happier as an individual, but in our case, we’re on the verge of winning a lot, I think, so when you have those setbacks, it hurts a lot.

  • Justin Barcia
So it seems like a situation where you can make the bikes strong, you can sign riders and sponsors, you can book travel for everyone, get testing done, etc., but ultimately you end up lining your riders up and then it’s up to them, so it’s sort of out of your hands.
Yeah, but there are some things that you can do. We’ve been fairly pro-active this year in trying to get the riders in a situation where they understand not only what’s expected or what they’re capable of, but relative to the rest of their teammates, where they stack up. I think that going into the outdoors especially, we were in much better shape mentally with the riders than we were in supercross, and a lot of it had to do with the undexpected things that happened in supercross. We all sat down after the first couple races and re-evaluated what we were doing. I think going into the outdoor series, we were a little bit better prepared. So yes, you can’t have control over what actually might happen on the racetrack, but you can still have your riders in a situation where they’re fairly well-prepared for the things they’ll encounter there with the help of the team, not relying on them to do it on their own.

You have a new rider in your semi in Justin Barcia. He’s been impressive this year. Did you guys realize how much raw speed he had before the first round?
He’s been around the Factory Connection parent company for a long time riding for Honda [as an amateur], so Rick [Zielfelder, of Factory Connection] has seen him grow up into what he has become. For me, personally, yeah it was a little bit of a surprise. I knew that the potential was there, because I’d seen him run as an amateur, and I knew his history, but of course it’s different when you see it happen for real and a guy jumps into the pros and does what he did. It’s pretty incredible, and more power to him, and more power to Rick for being able to see that as it was happening. Hopefully it’ll pay off for everybody.

  • Trey Canard got his win on in Salt Lake.
Then there’s Trey Canard. Last year, he struggled at the beginning of the Nationals, and right when he got to the point where he was battling for podium spots and battling up front, he broke his femur. But this year it seems like he picked up right about where he left off last year, then moved up to battling for wins, and then broke his wrist. That’s a real bummer, but in some ways you’ve got to be pretty impressed with his ability to move forward through adversity like that.
I actually think that going into the motocross series, even though he was potentially a podium guy at Washougal last year, he was much better prepared going into it this year than last year with his speed and his confidence in what he was able to do. You could see it coming at the tail end of the supercross series, so even though the beginning of the supercross series was really rough, you could see he was really in control of what he was doing by the time he got to Salt Lake City, which he won, and he probably could’ve, should’ve, would’ve won Las Vegas also, except for one small mistake. I knew going into the outdoors that he would be a real threat, and he proved that he definitely was a threat. What’s even more impressive, if you really think about it, is if you look at the amount of professional races that he’s raced over the season and a half that he’s been involved, and the number of race wins and podiums, and the east-coast championship last year, it’s a pretty impressive record. Even though he’s had the unfortunate problem of getting knocked out of these series because of injuries, it’s still pretty impressive. I talked to him on Monday, and we talked a little bit about what happens next, and I have no doubt that when he comes back after this injury, he won’t have missed a step. It’s unfortunate that he’s out of this championship, but I have no doubt that on the racetrack he’ll immediately be completely legitimate again.

He strikes me as the kind of rider who takes adversity and it makes him stronger and faster and more aggressive, and it makes him work harder, rather than giving up. I don’t think he knows what giving up is. He takes problems as motivation rather than setbacks.
Yeah, he doesn’t dwell on any of that stuff very much. You’re exactly right in your assessment, but one more thing that’s evident to the team members who are closer to him than the public is that even though he’s still fairly young, I personally can see the maturity in the way he thinks through his processes. From a year ago, when he won the supercross title, to today, he’s a completely different guy. He has all those capabilities that you’re talking about, but then you throw on top of that the maturity that he’s gained over time, and it’s even more impressive.

  • On top of the world, Canard (39) was soon in the pits both literally and figuratively.
With Trey now out, and with Dan Reardon out for at least a while after getting shoulder surgery this week, how do you see the rest of the Nationals playing out for your team?
Well, we’re trying really hard to patch it up. We have an idea [laughs] of what we’d like to do in the 450 class, so we may replace Dan with another rider, and tomorrow or the next day, we may have the answer to that, but on the 250 side, with a couple of exceptions the entire team has been in the top 10 in every moto, and the three that are still standing, if you want to put it that way, with Justin and Blake and Brett, it’s still a pretty formidable team. I’m not sure if anybody is really going to be able to break the grip that Pourcel and Dungey have on the championship at the moment, but Justin had a couple of falls which has slowed him down a bit over the last couple of races, but I don’t suspect that will continue. I think you’ll see Justin back on the podium pretty darned quick, and with a little more experience under his belt, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls off a moto win, and Blake and Brett, same thing. Blake’s already been on the podium, and Brett has been pretty banged up for the whole series. He’s not really himself. But his finishes are pretty impressive considering what he’s been going to on the physical side of it. It’s tough because Trey was obviously the most consistent, and the guy that looked like he could put a real threat toward the championship, and he’s out, but I really think the other three guys will be able to do some damage as we go into the series. And like I said, on the 450, our goal is to put somebody back on that bike.

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