After his Monster Energy Supercross season was cut short due to a broken arm sustained at the Detroit Supercross, Honda HRC’s Trey Canard was adamant when he returned for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross that he would ease back into things. He held up his end of the bargain, showing speed—eight top-tens in eight motos—but never forcing the issue. While many riders shudder at the sound of off-season races, they were actually beneficial for Canard, who used the Monster Energy Cup and Japan for valuable testing time.
Early mistakes at the Monster Energy Cup cost Canard a chance at the overall, but he rebounded the following week in Japan at the final round of the All-Japan Nationals at Sugo, where he upended FIM World Motocross Champion Romain Febvre and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb. We caught up with Canard last week to discuss his experience in Japan, his scary crash at the Monster Energy Cup, and more.
Racer X: You’ve been with Honda your entire professional career, but this was actually the first time you’ve visited Japan?
Trey Canard: Yeah, for sure. My first [year with them] was kind of the year that things went bad with the economy, so I’m sure that cut things much shorter, but it [this trip] was awesome. Such a great trip. I’m really glad I got to go this year.
Did you get to tour Honda? What was your itinerary?
We got in on a Tuesday, and then we went to Honda’s kind of proving center—that’s where they develop pretty much everything from cars to dirt bikes. So we went there a couple days, got to meet a lot of people, and just kind of see all the work that goes into it. And then from there we got to go to a place called Motegi, which is a Honda museum; it’s like a racetrack as well. They had a MotoGP there this year actually. But there was just a museum. We got to see pretty much everything from the first motorized bicycle to Asimo the robot. It was pretty neat; pretty awesome to see that and see the history behind it all. From there we went to Simga, where we stayed for the Sugo race. Did that, which was awesome, a great experience. Then the day before we left, we got to go to Tokyo to HRC and HCA. It was awesome.
What was it like seeing the rest of what Honda does? I think we can all get caught in our little circle of Honda just making motocross and other bikes.
It was wild. You for sure get caught in your own little world and kind of forget that the company is much more than just dirt bikes. So it was a pretty humbling experience to see everything that Honda is. It’s a really humbling experience because you see what the company is truly about. I was definitely kind of honored once I saw how the whole company is and what a good company it really is that a lot of people to work for.
Last year, Cooper Webb said it was surprisingly some of the best dirt he’s ever ridden on. What was the track experience like for you? How did it differ from something you’d see over here?
It was good. It was definitely a lot tighter than some of our national tracks. It was surprisingly rough and rutty I thought. But it was good. It was awesome. I thought that the whole two-day format was a lot of fun. You’re getting to do a qualifying race and all those types of things. It was a really good time. It was really cool. I was so glad that we went.
What’s the race day schedule like? It’s two days, but how is the pit setup and things like that? Give us a view of what it’s like over there on the race day.
It was a lot different than what I’m used to. Motocross nationals, you’re done by like four. You start at 7:30; you’re done by four. We didn’t start practicing, I don’t think, until eleven, and then our qualifying race was at like three. That was just day one, and then day two was kind of a little bit the same. Practice was a little earlier. We didn’t leave the track until like six. Just kind of an all-day thing. It was really cool because we got to have a signing. It was really relaxed. It was a lot of fun. It was really cool to get to interact with a lot of the Japanese fans and get to see a lot of really good people.
I’ve heard the fans over there get super excited when the Americans come over there. Is that the experience you had?
Yeah, for sure. It was really cool. I’ve never gotten so many gifts. I showed up and there were people just handing me presents and stuff. Kind of different. Probably one of the coolest things was after the race every fan lined the track and you gave a high five to everyone that was there, which was totally different than what I’m used to, but it was cool.
Were you aware that’s traditional Japanese culture—giving gifts and stuff—or did it kind of catch you off guard?
It definitely caught me off guard. I kind of knew it was a thing, but I don’t know half of these people. They’ve giving me all these packages! It was cool.
What were the things you got?
Just some super-cool Japanese things. I got like a fan and some handkerchiefs maybe. I don’t know, that and some food. Just really random stuff.
Talk about the other aspect of it, Tokyo and all that stuff. Do you have any good stories from there?
Some weird stuff for sure. Honestly, it was such a great trip. I just really enjoyed Japan. Everyone was so friendly and courteous and respectful—just really good to you. Actually, I ate some beef tongue, like raw beef tongue. That was probably the gnarliest thing that happened. It was such a cool experience. It was such a team-building experience for American Honda, and also for everyone in Japan too. It was such a good morale booster for everyone. It definitely makes it exciting to go into next year racing.
"It's always tough after an injury to come back, so any time that you can have some victory, it makes it a really good thing."
Who from American Honda went with you? What was your entourage over there?
My wife got to go with me, which I was really thankful for. And then my mechanic Brent [Presnell], Dan Betley [Honda HRC team manager], our test guy Jason Thomas, also Johnny from KYB, a couple other higher-ups from Honda, and Brandon Wilson and Sam. Also, some of the Japanese that are over here sometimes—they were going home.
What was your bike like? They actually get to have some pretty special stuff on there. Was it like your bike back here, or was it completely different for you?
We actually sent a bike over from here. So it was exactly like I’ve been racing. It was good, though, because I made some changes after this outdoor season with the bike, so we did experience and kind of feel those changes being a positive thing.
Last year after the Monster Cup you said something to the effect of it was good to get some wins for outdoors and stuff, but supercross is way different. Is that kind of the same feeling you have after leaving Japan?
Yes and no. It was really good for my head. It’s always tough after an injury to come back, so any time that you can have some victory, it makes it a really good thing. I know it’s just a Japanese national, which is far different from anything in America, but I felt like I raced some good guys and I was riding really well. It was really good for me. Definitely makes me excited to go racing this year.
Do you think it helped having Febvre, who won the world championship, and then Webb, who’s been doing pretty well on the 450, riding over there?
Yeah, it was really good. It was actually good for me mentally just to be able to race with some great riders, and then to have a good weekend too. Plus, my starts were much better, which was huge.
So it seemed like you can actually take something from this and kind of apply it to either off-season training or even into 2016.
Absolutely. It was a totally positive experience for me. I think it’s going to be a really good thing for me this coming year.
You referenced your injury and how you’ve had to come back from it. Is this one any different or more difficult?
Yeah, I think if you watch the video you can see the disappointment on my face after that crash in Detroit. Just because I was so close to having a good year. Way out of the championship, but still realistically second place was there. So it was disappointing. Each time with an injury, it gets more and more difficult to continue to come back. So like this Japan race and not having a great Monster Cup but still having a good lap time and having a shine of brilliance [there] were really good for me.
You referenced the Monster Cup, and you did show a ton of speed. Did that crash shake you up a little bit? It was a scary-looking crash at the beginning before anybody knew what exactly happened.
It wasn’t good for sure. It just happened so fast. I just slowed down to try to pass [Jason] Anderson, and he was heading a different direction than I anticipated. It’s definitely scary, but I’m happy I got up. I could have easily just went back to the truck, but I got back up on the bike and had my best lap time of the day. So I was excited about that. Hopefully I can clean up the little errors and put me in a much better spot.
At the end of the outdoors when you came back, I think you had said you were just trying to ease back into it; you weren’t going all out or anything like that. How important was the Monster Cup and Japan to get that all-out speed coming back to you?
Yeah, one of the biggest things was just the comfort level with the bike. I just felt really comfortable those last couple weeks. It’s something that I didn’t have at the end of the year. And I feel strong and healthy now. Definitely far from what we’ll be doing at Anaheim, but they were good tests and it gets us geared up to starting the new year.
When does the boot camp start for you? What are your plans? Are you going to be in Oklahoma or California?
I’m taking this week pretty easy; just trying to get back to American time. But next week we’ll get after it. I’m planning on trying to be in Oklahoma as much as I can. Obviously, we’ll reach a point when it’s time to migrate, but I’ll try to be here as long as I can and then I’ll move to California. Should be good.
Are you going to be training with [Justin] Bogle and those guys? There’s a pretty good contingent of fast guys around that area.
Bogle’s been back in California most of the time. Obviously, some local guys are still riding this year—Colt Nichols and Chase Marquier with the Crossland Racing team. I’m sure I’ll do some riding with Jimmy Albertson and some local guys that aren’t in the supercross right now. It’ll be good. It’s always good for me to just kind of have my own thing and be able to focus on me. So I’m excited about it. I think we’ve got some good things to build on.
Anything different for you this year in regards to the bike or training?
No, I feel like I’ve made some good improvements with everything, but no real big changes. We’re heading into a really good thing. Sometimes change is exciting, but sometimes you build off of what you’ve learned. I feel like we’ve done that, and hopefully we continue to grow.