By Jason Weigandt, Steve Matthes, and Chase Stallo
Christophe Pourcel, Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna, 2-3 for Second in 450MX
Racer X: Congratulations on the day. Give us the brief overview of the two motos.
Christophe Pourcel: I started the day fastest qualifying, so that’s always good. I think it’s good for me because it’s a new team and I felt more comfortable with the bike and stuff. I feel like we’re going in the right direction with the setting of the bike, suspension, and the chassis. That is good news. Then, during the moto, just two decent starts first of all. I think we got a good setup for the start now, so it’s good news. Last year I had a lot of holeshots, and it’s always nice to be up front and just get the rhythm with the top guys. Made a few mistakes in the first moto and just ended up second. In the second moto, I was just riding behind Justin [Barcia] and I just crashed. I never do that kind of crash. I just lost it in a corner. It was just so slippery. I just crashed. I knew that it was going to cost me in the overall. It was just so close for me. I felt good. Justin was riding amazing too. I think we could have had a good battle because first moto we had a good one, too, and we could have had another one in the second.
Are you where you hoped you would be this time of the season in terms of results?
Yeah. The goal is to be in the top five. Top ten at the beginning and now top five, so we got podium today. We almost got a podium last week, so I think it’s pretty amazing. The team is good; the bike is good. I got I think twice now the fastest lap in practice. You can see that the speed is coming back. If I can do that in two motos, then I can be the top-five guy and we can have some podiums.
It sounded like you and Blake Baggett had a good battle in the second moto. Talk about that a little bit.
Me and Blake, it was a good moto. I was right behind Justin, and I was like, all right, let’s follow Justin for a little bit. If he makes a mistake you can get the overall, because it’s right there. You don’t want to let it go. Actually, Justin made the mistake. He almost crashed in that moto, and I went there. I saw him and I just went for it and I crashed. So then Blake was right behind me. I was like, “Oh, come on. I’m trying to pass this guy and then Blake is going fast and now he’s trying to pass me—that’s not good!” And then he crashed, and then I made a mistake and he passed me again. So it was a good battle, and I think we had the same speed, me and Blake. I think we respect each other on the track. It was a pretty good battle for second place the last two laps. It was good.
Did he pass you again?
Yeah. I crashed and he was right behind me, and then I made a mistake. I jumped off the track on one side and he passed me. Then he crashed and I passed him back. Then last two laps he passed me again over there. [Laughs] It was fun.
So you’re getting better, and then you passed Ken Roczen in the first moto—you battled him last week. So do you think you can get to the point where you can contend for one of these wins? Not just even in the mud, but run with anyone as you continue to progress?
I think what I got to take from today is that I got two moto top-five…well, actually in the top three. I can only improve from today. Just get in shape, get that speed where those guy are… because it’s been ten or twelve months since I have been in front. So I feel like I’m in better shape. I can ride with those guys. Last weekend I did a good first moto. The second moto I had to give up a little bit because it’s been so long. So I think we’re getting better. The bike is pretty good. We can see Jason [Anderson] was in front also. I feel comfortable. I think when you feel comfortable you can only get better. –Jason Weigandt
Blake Baggett, Yoshimura Suzuki, 4-2 for Third in 450MX
Racer X: Why don’t you paint us the overall picture of both motos, how the day went for you, including the downtime and how you spent the downtime?
Blake Baggett: Coming into this there was a weekend off, so we got a little bit of a fresh start. Went back to my place in Florida. We’re still building the track there, but it’s rideable. It was just good to get a completely fresh start. The track had never been ridden. We’re still building it, changing it. New scenery to me. It was a bummer that at High Point I had some mechanical difficulties and had to pull off the first moto.
I love coming here. I had one of my worst crashes and was out for six weeks back in 2010, but since then I’ve won it a few times. I won it in 2012, ’13, and ’14. So this place is awesome, rain or shine. It kind of revived me coming back here. Of course, it’s not ideal when you’re from Southern California and it’s pouring down rain. The only time we see that is when we left the sprinklers on too long. But other than that this place is awesome. On the day definitely would have liked to be in the top three the first moto, but they were right there. I was in the roost of those guys. Just got to the back of some of the lappers. I didn’t make the smartest decisions, and stuff just happens out there, it’s motocross. So definitely wanted to come out the second moto and be on the box.
What was going on in between the downtime during the storm?
My dad was playing mister-forecast man. He’s not very good at it. He said the rain was going to miss us all day today and was just going to blow right past. He’s a California weather man, though, so it fits in pretty good. From California, if you’ve ever seen them there, they say it’s going to rain and it pretty much never does. So my dad really fits in pretty good, but other than that we were just waiting for that. I definitely wanted to run it. It was nowhere near as bad as it was in 2009, and we raced it then. So just waiting to go out there and see what I could do.
How was that battle with you and Pourcel in the second moto? He made it sound like it was pretty good.
It brought back old times for sure. He’s crafty and that’s why he’s got the nickname the Crafty Frenchman. It’s pretty fun racing him. I try to take the most oddball lines I can to make him work, but he’s always in them for some reason. I’ll be thirty feet out of the normal line, and like, nobody’s over here. They don’t even know this line exists over here. And then I get behind him and he’s already over there. So it definitely makes it fun for both of us. We respect each other. We kept it clean. He made a mistake, and I got right to him and got around him, and then I went down and he got back by me. And then I was able to do a last-ditch effort down the off-camber after the finish line and came back. But definitely it’s fun racing Christophe. When you get behind him you can see his wheels are turning. He’s trying to find new lines as well as so am I trying to get around him. So it’s definitely good racing when you get behind him.
Are you able to learn anything or pick up anything that you can use next race?
To be honest, we were in the same lines. Watching him, I was like, “This is my line. Oh, it’s your line too?” Everybody else is thirty feet to the left or thirty feet to the right. When I got hurt here in 2010 I kind of studied him while I was out, and then tried to ride outsides or way insides or just off-the-wall line like he did. It seems that we end up in the same spot no matter what track.
So this Florida deal, you’re going to stay there even though the track’s only kind of done? Is this a thing you’re going to work on now? It seems to be working?
Definitely going to keep going back there. Invited a bunch of people to come down and ride. Aldon Baker’s place is only six minutes down the road and The Nest with all the GEICO guys is only six minutes from there. So I definitely want it to just become a place where everybody wants to ride and you kind of hop around from track to track. Just get a whole group of all of us down there and just ride everybody’s track. And then they’ll get rough like the Nationals. I think it’s a good place. I think it’s something that will slowly catch on. It will probably be done in a week or two, the track.
How important is that to make that investment in yourself?
I pretty much took what I won from my championship and the races my whole life, my career, and dumped it into this place. The best thing to do is invest in yourself. Instead of putting it other places I’m dumping it all back into myself and trying to make myself better and make my career last longer.
I see posts of some of the equipment that you have there. You’re not going small.
I’m trying to do it right. Trying to just set it up so that if we want to change it or if there’s four or five of us there. The biggest thing is changing the outdoor track. You got to have the manpower and machines to do it. That’s why most of the Nationals tracks stay the same. We got enough equipment there that we can move some dirt. We can change it almost overnight. –Weigandt
Ken Roczen, Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s RCH Suzuki, 5-4 for Fourth in 450MX
Ken Roczen: I had a really good week before the off weekend. I felt really strong, getting a lot better. I got really sick the week after, and I’m still fighting it, got a virus. So the first moto, I tried the best I can. I was good for the first half of the moto, then I slowly started to fade. Struggled with my lungs, just felt congested and stuff. Second moto, we had a really bad storm and lightning and rain. I got a good start, I was in fourth the whole race. Not the ideal weekend, but I think [Ryan] Dungey crashed in that second one. I don’t really know where we’re at in points or if we gained anything, but I’m just glad the weekend is over and I have time to heal up. –Weigandt
Broc Tickle, RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki, 6-9 for Seventh in 450MX
Racer X: As your goggle guy today, I was saddened to see you pull in for goggles in the second moto. I apologize. But it was kind of gnarly.
Broc Tickle: Yeah, the track was really, really gnarly. The start kind of ruined me. I kind of got pushed wide again and then a whole bunch of guys pushed me out in the deep and some guy fell in front of me and I ran in the back of him and then got going and I’m frustrated. I’m really frustrated. I felt like I could have made up some points that moto a little bit on Anderson maybe. I felt like I could have been up front.
Your first moto was pretty strong considering where you were coming from.
The first moto I was stoked with, but I still felt like I could have been better. Today I was kind of disappointed all in all with my riding.
This is kind of your track, too.
For sure. But my starts, I would say, were better today. I was in the front going in the first corner and I haven’t been, so making progress there. Just need to keep doing it and put myself there where I’m up front on the first lap. –Steve Matthes
Phil Nicoletti, Autotrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha, 11-5 for Eighth in 450MX
Racer X: Nice second moto. You were filthy, but you were in fifth. Second moto was strong.
Phil Nicoletti: Yeah, second moto was strong. I had to redeem myself from the first moto. I saw it pouring and lightning, and, man, I was going to be really pissed if they didn’t run the second moto because I needed to redeem myself. I can run in this slop.
Yeah, you’re from New York.
I’ve ridden it my whole life. First moto, we just had a malfunction with the goggles. Everybody was having issues. I had to pull in, put on new tear-offs. I went back out and got eleventh, which was okay, but I had to come out swinging second moto. I went 11-5. I think it’s seventh or eighth—I’m not sure. But it was slimy out there.
Second moto not a lot of passing going on. The start was everything with a lot of you guys. I guess it’s because there was kind of one line.
Honestly, it was just you were getting sprayed with mud. It was just slop. I didn’t have the greatest start. [Ryan] Dungey went down over that step-up and just caused chaos. There were people everywhere. I was able to wiggle my way through to the rollers before the finish line and put myself in good position. Then latched onto Baggett and Roczen. Pulled with them for about fifteen minutes, and then I made a really big bobble and I had like plus-sixteen on Anderson because he was right behind me for a while. I was just like, screw this, I’m just going to ride her in. Last four laps, my bike started sounding pretty hollow. I was hard on the clutch and stuff. The mechanics and Johnny Ohler gave me a few “slow it down” signs, so I got the hint that something wasn’t right, so I just rode it in. –Matthes
Wil Hahn, Monster Energy Kawasaki, 8-14 for tenth in 450MX
Racer X: Let’s just take that first-moto eighth. You crushed it, you killed it, and we’ll just move on from there.
Wil Hahn: Can we just leave it at that, really? I just sucked the second moto. It’s all good. I just fell over in the first turn and then fell over about ten or fifteen more times. So it was just survival. It’s tough out there, but not as bad as you would think if you watched the storm come through.
True, I thought it was going to be worse.
Absolutely. I did too. All things considered, it was actually pretty decent.
I had a team manager tell me they never should have started the race again because these guys are getting ready for a race, and they’re all mentally ready, then they got to sit around. I know you guys are delicate little flowers, but did that bother you at all?
No, not really. It was the tornado warnings and stuff. Obviously, once that cleared I understand that we can go racing. It’s just more when you’re talking about going racing during basically a tornado. Once that was over, no, not really [not a problem]. We’re racers. At the end of the day you’ve got to go race under all conditions. –Matthes
Marvin Musquin, Red Bull KTM, 7-1 for first in 250MX
Racer X: When you made contact, or when you got hit by Adam Cianciarulo as he said, it was his fault in moto one. Did you think that this was possible at all for you?
Marvin Musquin: No, it was actually really bad for myself, also, because I didn’t ride the way I wanted to. My technique was no good. The bike was not working good. My lines were not good. I was not happy. Actually, before AC [Adam Cianciarulo] and I crashed together, I was actually very patient and tried to stay calm. Then, when I went down, it was a tough moto. Before the second moto, to be honest, I was like, man, that’s going to be a bad day, a tough second moto, but I got to try my best. If I want to win a championship I got to be strong and try hard. So I got a decent start and then, actually, I was second and I got the lead because AC went down and then I was in front by myself. I was having fun and hitting the lines really nice. It was hard with the lappers, but I made it happen.
What were conditions like in the second moto?
It started raining, but obviously it wasn’t too bad. But we were just soaked a little bit. My goggles were good—100% goggles. It wasn’t too bad. It was a decent day for how the weather was going to be.
You train with Ryan Dungey and you’re both leading in points at the moment. What’s that mean for you and KTM?
It’s awesome. To me we have the best team right now. I’m really happy [that we are] riding together. We train together. I’m really happy with having him on the team. To be leading the championship now like we did in supercross, it’s awesome. We’re going to keep working and get it done. There are still a lot of races left, but it’s nice right now. –Chase Stallo
Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, 4-3 for third in 250MX
Racer X: From your perspective, just take us through the entire day and how it went for you.
Joey Savatgy: I’d say overall it was a good day. We’re on the box. Nothing wrong with those days. But it’d be a lot cooler to be farther up on the box. Mitch [Payton] always tells me the middle of the box you get the biggest trophy and the biggest paycheck. So it would be cool to be in the middle or on top of the box, but we’re getting there. We’ve been struggling a little bit with starts. I think over the last two or three rounds we’ve been progressively getting better. Two good starts today, just kind of didn’t make it happen on the first two laps. A few guys got around me, and with it raining and being muddy as it is, it was kind of follow the leader in a lot of spots. I’m happy with the day. Two good starts. Qualified pretty good and landed up on the box. Not a lot more that you can ask for besides a win.
You spent a lot of time in Georgia as an amateur. Did you do a lot of riding in the mud? Did have any play on confidence with today’s race?
Originally, I’m from California, so when I moved to the East Coast I didn’t ride when it rained. I hate it. I hate the rain. But being back here since 2005 or ’06, it rains at least once a week if not three times a week. So you get used to riding in the rain.
It’s slick, too, when that mud gets wet.
It’s slippery. But it’s one of my strong points. I know when it gets muddy it takes a lot of proper technique to stay up. So I know my technique’s there. I somewhat know how to ride dirt bikes. Just waiting to put it all together, and we’re there every weekend at qualifying. And our speed’s there; it’s just a matter of putting it all together when it comes time to race.
Going back to the mud riding, last year in Indiana you had a breakout ride for second overall. Is there a certain technique you use? What do you do differently compared to when it’s dry?
No, not really anything different. It’s just I think you can get away with a lot more when it’s not muddy. When it’s muddy you start riding a little out of your comfort zone or on the edge. You start making mistakes and you get off into the mud. That’s when mistakes happen. It’s just the proper technique weight on the outside of the foot pegs and staying on the balls of your feet, not letting your feet get ripped off. Obviously, when it’s muddy the ruts get deep and it just starts to get slippery. Nothing crazy, no secrets; just knowing how to ride and being taught the proper way to ride. It’s a little different when it’s wet. It’s a little bit slowed down in technique, but when it’s fast and dry, that’s when I need to learn to be up here as well.
Did you do anything different in regards to bike setup today?
I don’t think we changed anything at all today. Maybe something in the forks—just a minor change. But the bike’s good. The guys over there, Bones and Adam, work hard. There’s not a lot to adjust. The bike’s pretty good. It’s really all up to me.
First moto, I struggled with vision. Nothing against the goggles, just I chose roll-offs, and I think we could have got away with tear-offs. Like you said, it started good. It started developing lines that actually develop when the track is dry. So overall today, it’s not as bad as it was last year in Indiana. Last year in Indiana was a totally different thing. But overall the track today wasn’t horrible. I’ve definitely ridden a lot worse. But it’s not dry. –Chase Stallo
Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki, 8-2 for Sixth in 250MX
Racer X: Right now we’re underneath the Kawi truck, tornado warnings are going, it’s pouring rain. I think they might call this 450 moto.
Adam Cianciarulo: I was actually saying to Wil just a couple minutes ago that, coming into the day when they said it’s 100 percent chance of rain, I wanted it to be so wet. I wanted it to be like ’09. I wanted to race in one of those races where you come in and get goggles and gloves and you’re still in it, one of those. But it wasn’t that. It was like the mud where you still have to hit the jumps and it’s just really sketchy. You’ve got to wear roll-offs and all that stuff. They’ll probably call this race. I don’t see them if not it’s going to be bad. But it sucks for Jason Anderson because he got seventh in the first moto [the rain stopped and they ran the 450s after all].
It’s good for you. Your motos are done, so suck it, 450.
I don’t know, man. Marvin went 7-1 for the win, and I go right behind him both motos, 8-2, and I get like sixth. Bummer, but hey.
First moto, nice pass on Marvin. Good job [laughs].
Yeah, that wasn’t one of my better moves. I was feeling really good today. I had a really good day at the track on Thursday in Florida. I was fastest today in the little practice session we had. I was confident. I was super frustrated—I had such a perfect gate in the first moto and I just blew the start. Then I couldn’t pass anybody. I saw the leaders getting away and I was frustrated. With Marvin, I was just trying to get to the inside, like where he would have to slow down before we pop into the rut, but of course I slid all the way into the rut. It was just me being impatient. I apologized to him. Wasn’t one of my brighter moments, but I guess I’m young and I’m going to have those.
Second moto was good for you.
It was good because I had a good start. The first few laps I felt like I was riding really well. I was fast today, so I’m not too bummed on a day where I was fast. I’m third in points and like 900 behind second so it’s not like it matters if I lost points today. Marvin and I were going really good at the beginning of that second moto, we had a big lead on third, then I crashed twice, so then it had to be a hard moto for me after that. Plus your heart rate spikes after you crash. But it was a good day because I was fast. I feel I’m getting faster during the week. –Matthes