Roger DeCoster has to be the most successful person in Motocross des Nations history. He now has ten 250cc wins at the event, six 500cc wins, and he has been the team manager for eighteen of Team USA's twenty wins. We talked to him after Team USA's latest win yesterday in Italy.
Racer X: Roger, is it more or less pressure to bring a team like this that everyone had doubts about, instead of bringing a team of James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Villopoto or something like that? Roger DeCoster: No, it’s definitely not easier. It would be easier if you did not care about winning as much as we do. I only want to come here thinking of winning and doing everything possible to win. I think Mitch [Payton] is of the same thinking as me, and we talked about what we were going to do with all these guys – the injuries and so on - and we looked, and with Ryan [Dungey] it was a pretty easy decision, but it wasn’t as easy with the other guys. [Ivan] Tedesco didn’t have a fantastic year... It wasn't a bad year, but not the greatest. It was not so clear on who to pick between him and Short. Then we thought about [Jake] Weimer and a lot of people were surprised we picked Weimer, but he did win a lot of races and he was good in supercross and he was good in outdoors. And with Mitch here, you know you’re always going to have 100-percent support behind him, also, and this event requires a lot of support with equipment – especially with the 250s. I’m just happy it worked out. The guys put in 100-percent effort and they listened, and all three manufacturers worked hard for this event. I also have to say thanks to the Europeans that have helped us so much. You can see how set-up it is. We even have an American semi with a Kenworth. It made them feel at home.
With the way things were happening with Jake having a bad second moto, I did the math, and I'm sure you guys did, too, and the U.S. was three points back after you drop out the worst score. What was the gameplan going into the final moto? Just do as good as we can without being stupid. We told them not to ride over their head and just try not to think about winning or position, just think about riding as good as you can – take it as a normal race.
That's kind of hard to do sometimes... I know. When all these people are going crazy and all that, it's tough.
What did you guys talk about in your meeting after yesterday in qualifying when you qualified sixth? Well, some of the guys were bummed out after their results, but really if you had put anybody from the top teams – France, Belgium, Australia – any of the other teams starting from 33rd, I don’t think they would have done better. Maybe one spot better, maybe one spot worse. All the good guys were on the inside – all the good teams – we started from way outside and got sixth and we did it in a fairly safe way, I thought.
The rules state that you draw from a hat and the qualifying times don’t matter. It might be better to have the teams all draw three times so it would even out. That’s a good point. That would be maybe a good way of doing things. I think they want to add a little bit of a gambling factor in it because they’re obviously trying to find a way... They would love to find a way to beat us and keep us away from winning – that’s natural. If you are the promoter of a series, you always try to do things to balance things. We have won 20 now since 1981, so we have a pretty good percentage going. Mitch and myself, we thought it’s not desperate, the situation. It’s not a bad result coming with those start positions. I knew that all three of our guys would not fade out in the third moto. The goal was to stay focused, and no matter what happened, there would be no stopping, no excuses, no complaining. Just keep your head down. That was the plan, and it worked out.
It's a testament to your leadership, and probably Mitch's too, but you’ve been around so long at these races, first as a racer, then as a team manager for most of the 20 wins Team USA has. How much did that play into it? Two of those guys didn’t know this race at all... I don’t want to pat myself on the back, but I think in general our riders have confidence in me and they know that I treat everybody fair and the same and give everybody support, and that’s what we need to do. Sometimes you’re gonna get beaten. You’re not going to win them all, but we need to do our best to win them all. Ultimately, it's okay as long as we keep more than anybody else.
With the economy the way it is, how close was Team USA to not coming at all? I’m sure it went through some people's minds and I started thinking and worrying about it and actually Giuseppe [Luongo, of Youthstream] and I talked to him about it – that I was worried about that factor - and he gave me some contacts to help us with freight and this company, Arcese, they picked up the big part of freight, so that helped a lot. And we always have a lot of help here in Europe from Sylvain [Geboers] and the Belgian Suzuki team. Look at the truck he gave us. I think we have the best setup of any of the teams. Rinaldi helped us, too. The guys from Kawasaki helping Mitch. One thing you have to give to the Europeans, they treat us really good when we come here. And Alpinestars, they feed us, you, all the American contingent, and there are about 100 of us here. They feed us breakfast, lunch and dinner all weekend. They’re really awesome and are really supportive of the sport.
It seems like they could not be as supportive, especially since we keep winning. They'd love to beat us, and find a way to beat us, but at the same time I think they’re more than fair to us as far as support.