Weston Peick was a sensation in 2014 and 2015, going beast mode to transition from privateer to factory rider, first with RCH Suzuki and then with Monster Energy/Autotrader.com/Toyota JGR. And once he got on the good teams, he didn’t falter, showing top-five outdoor speed with RCH, and then landing podiums with JGR in ’15.
Then came 2016, with Peick poised for more. Unfortunately, he totally lost his poise in qualifying for the Anaheim 1 Supercross, when Vince Friese put a block pass on him which took both riders down. Peick snapped and started raining punches down on Friese’s helmet. The fans went crazy and the video quickly went viral—in fact, it’s probably the most popular racing clip from the entire season.
It didn’t help Peick, though. He was thrown out of the Anaheim race and suspended for two rounds. When he returned, he wasn’t as sharp as he was in 2015, and now admits that incident sent his season into a tailspin. He’s back with JGR hoping for better in 2017, and he’ll do it on a new bike, as the team switches from Yamaha to Suzuki. We talked to Peick last Wednesday after his first day testing Suzuki engines with the team.
Racer X: How has this transition been going? You’re on the same team with a different bike. It doesn’t happen very often. Has it been a huge change?
Weston Peick: It’s been a huge change for everybody, not just me. I’d say for me it’s not that big of a change because I was on Suzukis in ’13 and ‘14. So for me, I already knew what I was getting into. The biggest thing I think for the change of the team is that you have so much development in one bike for nine plus years that when they made the switch—and we made the switch late—that everybody is scrambling to get parts, bikes, and everything. There’s two riders on the team with [Justin] Barcia and I so there’s so many things. We’re trying to get motor setups and suspension setups figured out, but there’s not many parts, so we’re trying to bounce back and forth. It’s definitely hard to deal with but it works. At the end of the day I have confidence in these guys that when we line up for A1 that we’re going to have one of the best bikes on the track guaranteed. I think it’s all coming together slowly. We still have almost two and a half months until A1, so it should be good.
When this was first going did you literally start on a stock Suzuki? Did the team even have any stuff for you to try?
Well before this was happening, before I re-signed with JGR, I was actually in-between and I didn’t sign until a week and a half, two weeks ago. But I had a 2014 Suzuki at my house that I went out riding a few times. I hadn’t been riding for six weeks so I was like, I’m going to ride. So I went out and rode a little bit here and there. I was able to ride my ‘14 a little bit to get back on it and get used to it, just ride some outdoors as well as a little bit of supercross. Then I was able to get a ’17 in my hands, but even at that point it was a stock bike with some suspension on it and stuff. So it’s one of those things where we’re still developing and we’re still building that base to work off of and make better for the future.
You would never start at an almost stock level under normal circumstances? You would have had a race bike the day you signed the deal?
Yeah, exactly. The typical thing would be like, you sign for a factory, here’s your factory motorcycle. But it’s okay, it’s almost one of those things that you look forward to it now because you ride something stock and you ride something that’s maybe a little bit modified but not a full works bike, and then you don’t take it for granted as much. You just kind of start to realize like, this is what stock is and now we can build a factory machine around it and see how much better it is and see the progress that the team has made and kind of just base it off of that.
When this deal first came together, everyone thought “Oh, Weston rode Suzukis for two years, he’ll be used to it.” Is it really like that, or after you get on the first time was it like, whoa, I’ve got to get used to this again?
It’s just like anything. You ride something for two and a half years and then you get on something new and you’re like, this isn’t even the same thing. Even though you rode it for three years before, you’ve still got to get used to that feeling of something different under your legs, how it works, how it corners, this and that. So there’s definitely that big factor with how the whole different bike feels.
It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m right back in 2014 right now?”
Probably after half of the first day after getting back on it. I’d say within the day you start to be like, this is what this bike did better here or this or that, so you start to slowly put it together.
And you would know these bikes well because at one point you were a privateer building your own Suzuki team pretty much. You probably know this bike better than a lot of riders would who were just being handed stuff.
Yeah. I kind of know this bike inside and out and everything it does right and it does wrong. Thankfully for me they haven’t changed the chassis much so it’s easier for me because I know what worked for me back then and got me good results back then. It makes it easier for me and the team to already kind of give them feedback and information of what I like and don’t like.
What about the ‘16 season? It immediately got off the rails, before you even raced a main event! Did you have the season you wanted? It obviously didn’t start the way you wanted it to.
It’s a tough call. I could blame it on that whole thing after the first round and just losing my shit there at Anaheim, and I think that does play a factor. It was kind of like a game changer. You could have been in points position to run for top-five in the season and this and that. Even though it was two races, it threw me off so much and I had so much anger out of it that I think I got distracted and I kind of started falling off and just thinking too much about that. Then there was so much media and publicity about it that I was just like, “What the hell is going on?” It’s like being pulled from every direction, then you can’t focus on what you need to do because your head’s doing circles. That was definitely not the way to start it, it definitely took me a long time to turn it back around. I still didn’t even have anywhere near the season that I was expecting to have. But the most important thing is I was able to turn it around a little bit there for the end of outdoors and make it work. Like I’ve said, I think people have those bad years were you’re doing your job and you’re doing everything you possibly can to make it work but every time you turn around it’s just something else going wrong. So it’s one of those things where it was just a bad year.
When you were a privateer, we knew you were a guy that wanted to prove himself, you wanted to get on a factory team, and then you actually got there. But when that happens and then you have a bad year, I think people get worried that now you’re going to start to cruise because you finally made it on a team. It’s not like that? You still have the desire you always did?
Exactly. My first year on the team was awesome. I had killer results in supercross and as well as the beginning season of outdoors in ‘15. Then ‘16 came around and I thought I prepared myself better, but I changed a lot of stuff in my off-season program with off-the-bike training and it kind of turned against me and worked the opposite. I had to slowly transition back into what I was used to, what I was doing prior to ‘15 to get those results for ‘15. So it was kind of a learning curve, so now I know what works and what doesn’t work. That was a big part of it as well. I was working just as hard as ever, maybe even harder, but it wasn’t working.
But this is good because now you’re able to say, “This year should be better because I already learned this stuff?”
Yeah, exactly. Now I know what really works so I can focus and fine-tune that more, and then now we’re on a new bike and I think this bike suits me better. This bike has been great and we’re just getting started. I’m excited to build with what we have.
So, from what you can tell so far, you guys can make this bike fast? You guys can make this bike work?
Yeah. Obviously after riding it today, the first race motor we’ve tried, it’s already able to compete and ready to race as it is. With the motor obviously we can always make it better but with what we have here we can go racing tomorrow.
So it’s not like, dude, what are we going to do?
No, there’s no stress like that. The biggest stress level would be to get more products in our hands and have more time to develop. That’s the only thing that I could say.
I want to go back to your incident at round one, where you didn’t get to race the main event. Usually we see guys learn a ton about themselves and the bikes at rounds one, two, and three. I would think that’s probably one of the biggest times of the year to learn the bike, get confidence and all these things. So let’s say you’d had that incident around four. I would think that wouldn’t have had as big an impact?
I wouldn’t say we needed to make a lot of bike changes, but you do still make some changes once you go racing. But really, there’s that confidence that gets into play, getting the first round done, then you go second round. It’s almost like those first couple rounds you build off that. That puts you into that state where you feel more comfortable doing well and you’re ready, where I kind of felt like I was on a merry-go-round and trying to catch up. Actually, not catch up, but I was trying to keep my shit composed and everything else.
Back in 2015, you had this awesome race at round two in Phoenix, and then you got hurt. But the whole time you were hurt you were like, I’m already on it. Once I get back out there, I’m going to be good.
Right. It’s a confidence thing because you know you did good. You did good, and you knew what you could do and you knew what you were capable of doing. So then you just kind of bring that into the next race you’re in. When you don’t even get to race, then you’re like, where do I stand? You just wing it from there. It’s different. It’s a hard game to keep consistent and to be confident.
You said you had six weeks off. Was that because you didn’t have a deal? Were you healing up? Were you resting up?
I had some personal stuff that I did, and then really just kind of took some time off and took care of some personal crap that required me to take some time off.
Six weeks in the beginning of the off-season is not going to matter.
As soon as the last outdoor was done I stopped riding until three weeks ago. It didn’t damper me in any bit of way. I feel good now and we’ll be ready for January.