Between the Motos: Kurt Nicoll

At this time last year, Kurt Nicoll was helping KTM riders like Justin Brayton, Martin Davalos, and Tommy Searle get ready for the 2009 AMA season. Yesterday, he was on his way to a meeting in downtown Los Angeles, working on the global release of the latest Nitro Circus DVD in his new role as the COO of Godfrey Entertainment. It’s a far cry from his days as KTM’s director of racing in America, let alone his career as a Grand Prix motocross racer in his native England more than a decade ago. We caught up with him to find out what life is like in the flying circus that is Travis & Co.

  • Kurt Nicoll
Racer X: Kurt, what a big career change, going from the overlord of KTM’s racing here in the U.S. to, well, herding cats with the Nitro Circus.
Kurt Nicoll: [Laughs] Yes, a little bit, you could say. It’s definitely different, no question about that, but since I quit racing full-time, I did basically the same thing for eleven years, and I just really felt like I needed a change. The opportunity was there with Godfrey Entertainment because I’ve known Jeremy [Rawles] and Greg [Godfrey] since the first time they came over to Austria to do the Erzberg Enduro, which was seven or eight years ago. They’ve grown a great thing here with the Nitro Circus and the whole Godfrey Entertainment thing, and it just looked like a great opportunity for me to do something else—something different. It’s really growing, and hopefully, I can help take it to the next level.

What is your role with Godfrey Entertainment?
I am basically running all of the day-to-day operations of the company. We just finished producing the new movie, and we’re also putting together new live shows next year in Australia, and there will be more live shows after that, more TV series, plus all of the licensing deals, all of the merchandising…. Nitro Circus is a big, big commodity. It’s a huge brand, and it’s very hot right now, so we need to maximize the profits on it.

It’s become a force of nature, and the guys behind it—specifically, of course, Travis himself—are quite the characters. Do you find yourself sometimes being like the den mother who has to calm everyone down, or do you often find yourself right in the thick of things?
[Laughs] Well, there’s a beautiful balance there. Travis, well, he is a freak of nature. He’s just such an incredibly talented person at everything he does. He’s also very adept at knowing if something is going to work, which I’ve only just begun to realize. For instance, in the opening scene of the new movie, where they are in a big bucket of chicken with five people in it, going down an Olympic ski-testing ramp into a 40-degree pool, when I was standing at the top of it, I would have happily called it off. I thought there was definitely a danger of people dying. But Travis looked at it and said, “I think it’s going to work.” He was right—it worked, in one way, shape, or form.

What is the craziest thing he’s been successful at talking you in doing?
Nothing yet! The day that Chad [Reed] did his backflip, Greg got me to the point of trying a backflip, which I have never even done in a foam pit, just because Chad was insisting that he would not try it until I did. I was unlucky enough to have my gear on at the time, and I thought about it until I realized I was probably going to die trying, so I just took my gear back off again and gave it to Jeremy.

  • Part of Nicoll's new job is wrangling Travis Pastrana.
I still see you pop up in Cycle News from time to time doing Supermoto stuff, and you’re always on a KTM. Is that relationship a lifetime one?
I would hope it is. I’ve been KTM now forever, and I am definitely very happy to carry on riding the bikes, because without question they make the best motorbikes, and my bike was great all year. They’ve also got some real exciting things coming up in the next year, which I think will really help KTM to move forward.

Speaking of KTM, how can we get Marvin Musquin over here sooner?
[Laughs] Well, you have to remember they are an Austrian company, and they like to look after the sales in Europe as well, so they are sometimes battling to keep people in Europe. But I do think it’s starting to even itself out, because the riders could earn an awful lot more money in America a few years ago, and now with the economic crisis we’ve had here, it’s evened itself up a little bit. So they can probably afford to keep guys like that in Europe for a little bit longer—they definitely won’t want to let him go.

I mention him because Marvin was very impressive at the Motocross of Nations.
Yes, and he was impressive at Bercy as well. Eventually, he will come here. There’s obviously a lot different nations in Europe, and they all have a different approach to it. I lived in France for five or six years, and all French kids growing up want to come to America and race supercross, whereas not all English kids want to do that—they seem to want to world championships. But Marvin will be here one day for sure.

  • Nitro Circus: Country Fried hit stores yesterday. Pick up a copy!
Back to the Nitro Circus and the shows in Australia. When will those shows take place?
They will take place in May and June, which is basically in the fall and coming into winter down there. They will take place in arenas. Right now we have five venues, all of them arenas.

One of the funniest things I ever saw at a race was when the Nitro Circus did that halftime race at the MiniMoto SX at The Orleans in Las Vegas.
Yeah, I was there.

I think your wife, Laurette, was the announcer!
Yes, she was.

I just remember sitting there laughing my ass off, thinking this should be the halftime show for all races. Do you have a plan to bring those live shows here to the U.S. in conjunction with something like SX or arenacross, or even as a standalone show?
Well, that’s a possibility. Obviously, Australia is booked and ready to go. Five venues, probably nine dates, and then the next stage will be Europe, and then after that there’s a possibility to tour the States—we just don’t know yet. It depends on a lot of factors, but that is part of the plan.

Last question: Five years ago—let alone fifteen years ago—would you have ever pictured yourself driving around L.A., talking on a headpiece, rushing to a meeting as the COO of the Nitro Circus?
[Laughs] No, probably not, but I have learned that life throws up different things all of the time, and we should never make too many plans, because we never know.

To pick up the Nitro Circus movie, visit your local DVD retailer or order online at