Life as a privateer can present a rider with unique opportunities and memorable experiences. Traveling and racing is the nature of the beast, and sometimes that means getting on an airplane and flying to a country that you’ve never been to before—such as India. Yes, you read that correctly: In-di-a.
450 class privateer Theodore “Bubba” Pauli was recently granted the opportunity to spend two weeks in South Asia racing supercross. So, naturally, we were intrigued to learn more about his unorthodox adventure.
(Note: Pauli was recovering from a stomach illness at the time this interview was conducted.)
Racer X: Hey, Bubba, what’s up?
Bubba Pauli: Hey, I just got done with a Bible study. Now just relaxing at home for the rest of the evening.
Sounds like a pretty solid evening. So, you just got back from a pretty unique trip overseas. Can you tell us a little bit about it? Where did you go?
Yeah, so I got invited to go race two supercross events over in India. It was my first trip overseas to race like that, so it was an unforgettable experience.
Unforgettable for a few different reasons, but we can get into that later. How did this opportunity even come about? When you first told me about this, I wasn’t even aware that supercross existed in India.
Well, I wasn’t aware it existed there either! A buddy of mine raced these events the past few years. He mentioned they were looking for some international riders, so I asked him to throw my name in there. Next thing you know, I’m on a plane flying to the other side of the globe to go race!
That’s pretty gnarly. Where exactly did you go, and how long were you in the country?
We flew into Mumbai first. From there, we took another flight to Indore for the first race. That week we took another flight to the city of Pune for the final race, then flew home. It was about two weeks from the time I left home till I got back.
When you got there, was there a bike and everything you needed ready for you, or how much of your own stuff did you have to bring?
They had everything ready for us; all I needed to bring was a gear bag. Although, after some confusion, I ended up riding a bike I was very unfamiliar with.
Talk about that a little bit.
So I ended up riding a TVS... what is that, right? It’s an Indian-made bike! It was cool because we were actually part of their factory team for the two races. The guys on the race team were super helpful in making sure I was comfortable on the bike. But to be honest, the resources available at the track in India are far from what we are used to here in the States. With that said, we made some changes and made the most of the situation.
The bikes look a bit like off-road bikes. Were they suitable for a supercross-style track? By the way, what were the tracks like? True SX-style?
I believe the bikes do have a big off-road background. They do a lot of racing in rally-type of events like Dakar and all that. But yeah, the bike was definitely not something someone from the States would pick for a supercross event.
The tracks were far from what we’re used to. They mainly build them for the amateur support classes that run in conjunction with the pro class. If you were to build a full-blown supercross track, it wouldn’t end well for amateurs anywhere, not just over there. But just like the bikes, resources aren’t like what we have in the States, so I think they did a great job for what they had available.
Given that the resources weren't what we would be familiar with here, how is the program ran over there? Similar to our supercrosses, with pyros and such, or more like racing at a local county fair or something?
Oh, the program was amazing. Fireworks, music, performers, FMX, they had it all.
So the racing wasn't the only excitement on your trip. Traveling was pretty interesting, huh?
Yeah, it was wild. On the way there, the little boy sitting next to me threw up on the floor and all over my backpack, so [during] the first layover, I had to buy a new one. And on the way home, I got sick pretty bad, right before I got [to] the airport. That only got worse as the travel went on. When I got home, I went to the doctor and they actually sent me to the hospital. So, I spent about six hours in the ER Tuesday night.
That sounds brutal. How many hours was the trip from India back to the States? And to do it with a sickness? You don't have to get too in-depth, but what was that experience like?
It was about 30 hours total from the first takeoff to the last landing. Being sick made It [the] worst travel I’ve ever had to do. I spent so much time in the bathroom. It was no good.
And you're still sick now? You could potentially go on record as the first rider to admittedly do an interview from the bathroom.
Yeah, I’m slowly starting to feel better. They gave me some good medicine and IV fluids at the hospital that really made me feel better, but it’s been a solid four days now without really eating. But like I said, it’s slowly getting better. As for the last part, no comment!
Well, I certainly hope you get better. Back to the racing. What was the crowd like over there? Good fan turnout? How about the riders, how many raced the pro class?
The crowds were huge; everyone was so into it. I think there were 16 guys on the line or so. They had a couple native riders racing with us and the rest were international riders.
Wow. For a country not known for dirt bike racing, that's pretty impressive. Now that you're home, what's 2018 looking like for you? Supercross come January?
(This year) is going to be exciting, that’s for sure. Early in the off-season, I got some fresh Kawasakis from Outlaw Motorsports. It was awesome for me to have bikes lined up early on. Other than that, my good friend and fellow privateer Michael Akaydin and I have put together a team effort for the year. You’ll find our bikes and gear matching from top to bottom, just like any other team at every round of the supercross series. TXS Productions has stepped up and is helping us out big time to get us to the races this year. I couldn’t be happier with the way all of our sponsors have come together.
Sounds like you're pretty much dialed in for next season. We'll let you thank your sponsors and get some much-needed rest.
Privateer life is never easy and very costly, but there are so many people that help us do what we love to do. First off, my family and friends and all my sponsors such as TXS Productions/Outlaw Motorsports, St Louis Tattoo, Top Secret Designs, Motorcycle Closeouts, BSM, Skillz Racing, JH2, Route15 Cycles, Ryno Power, Pirelli MX, JM Racing, Arai, Novik, Sidi, AMSOIL, Ruralube, Tamer, Rekluse, Dirt Tricks, No Toil, Mika Metals, Works Connection, Bolt Hardware, Dove Technologies, Holiday Mowing, PRL, and anyone else I forgot, I’m sorry, but thanks!