Two years ago at Anaheim 1, Martin Castelo failed to qualify for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season-opener’s night program. This season he currently sits 12th in overall points in the 250SX West Region and is in a much better place. In true privateer fashion, Castelo has had to face some challenges during the 2019 campaign. Such as, locating a new ride after San Diego.
Martin chatted with us this week and explained why he changed bikes mid-season, the process of finding a ride, as well as his thoughts on the season so far. As you’ll read, he has big goals set for himself, and admits that “settling” and just being at races is not one of those goals.
Racer X: The season’s almost over. You’re currently 12th in points, only 17 points out of the top ten. Just kind of walk us through that a little bit. Is that kind of where you expected to be or wanted to be? Just give us your thoughts on the season so far.
Martin Castelo: Yeah, definitely the season has been really good and then some of the things have been challenging. Things don’t ever go perfect, but there’s definitely been a lot of positives for me, especially compared to my past couple seasons. This one has by far been my best one. It’s been exciting. I wanted to be inside the top ten. That was my goal to finish the season in the top ten in points. Like you said, I’m a few points off, but all things considered I think it’s been a really good learning experience and I can carry that into the next few years, hopefully.
It’s kind of been an interesting season where you started on one team and now you’re on another. Talk about the challenges that you had to face with switching up your program and getting into a groove, or has it actually been good for you making that switch?
Back in the beginning of December, or end of November, the season was approaching super fast and I still had nothing going on. The guys over at Twisted Development and Bar X Suzuki got a program together for me. They committed to go racing for the first five rounds, so they built me some really great bikes. We really didn’t have much time on the bike before the first round. I think we had a little bit over two weeks, and we went racing. It was good. It started good. They were great to me. We had some ups and downs. I made a few really costly mistakes, especially in main events which was pretty frustrating because I feel like I could have been further up in standings. Overall, I learned a lot.
Then after San Diego the deal ended. It was a good thing and a bad thing. First, I think it was good because it opened a lot of lines of communication that I didn’t have before, so I had to really get out of my comfort zone and literally walk to all the team semis and be like, “Hey guys, I had a five-race deal and it’s over now, so if you guys ever need a rider throughout the season I’m going to try to stay ready for as long as I can.” So that was good. Then I talked to a few teams that were interested. It’s hard in the middle of the season because everyone’s kind of on a budget when they have an injured rider, but after the fifth round I think there was no riders injured, really. So JMC ended up stepping up and offered me something good to go racing. So I took it and they committed to do the rest of the season with me and the first three outdoor nationals, which I think is a good opportunity for me. Eventually I obviously want to race full-time. I want a supercross and an outdoor contract. I set my goals pretty high. I don’t always want to be struggling to find a ride. Eventually I want to be in a more solid program where I can keep building and keep growing as a rider and eventually putting better results also.
Talk about that experience a little bit. That had to have been kind of nerve-racking or make you a little bit nervous just walking over to teams going, “Hey, hire me. I need a ride.”
Yeah. Like I said, that’s like coming out of my comfort zone. But Jamie [Ellis, owner] at Twisted Development, he’s the one who actually pushed me. He’s a former mechanic for some factory teams and he actually told me his story, that kind of the same thing happened to him. He was being let go and he had to go to teams and just talk to everyone, really. He’s like, “I had to do it, and you need to do it. It’s your career.” But I’m not going to lie, I was pretty scared. Still I went to most of the rigs and I asked for the team manager and then I talked to them and basically said that I don’t have a team right now and if I can do anything for them, even if it was testing, that I just want to stay on a bike and stay riding. I believe I can be good on a good bike, on a good program. I think I’ve shown that in the past couple years because looking back… It’s funny because this weekend I was kind of mad about getting an 11th. Actually pretty mad because I feel like I could have been in the top eight or so. But looking back, I didn’t make the night show at Anaheim 1 two years ago in 2017. So, I’ve definitely come a long way. I’m excited about the improvement, but I just want to keep doing better every time.
That’s kind of funny how that works, right? One year you’re not even making the night show and then a couple years later you’re like, “I should be finishing higher than this.” There’s just kind of that pendulum swing. I think it kind of shows how guys like you, even though you’re not on a factory team, you still grinding and putting in the work and still have high, but obtainable, goals.
Right. That’s the main thing for me. Like you said, I’m not on a factory bike right now, but I don’t want to settle. I see a lot of guys that you see them race for a lot of years and they just kind of stay in the same position. I don’t know if it’s from a lack of effort or why it is, but I definitely always want to strive for better. There’s rides out there that pay a lot of money and have great bikes, and that’s always been my dream since I was a kid. Unfortunately, as cliché as it sounds, you just got to trust the process. It starts wherever you are. I eventually want to be on a factory team, ride a factory bike, and be fighting out front. So that’s just the main thing for me. I just want to keep getting better, keep getting better and not settle. I don’t ever want to just settle, like “I’m comfortable here. I just want to stay here.”
What do you do throughout the season to keep it fun? You have goals. You work hard. How do you keep yourself going? How do you keep the fun in it?
That’s the main thing I think that has changed for me the past couple years. This year actually a bunch of people have asked me, “So, what did you change? What did you change on your program?” thinking that I have another trainer now or something, but actually after San Diego Supercross in 2018 I started just riding by myself so I could find the fun back in it. At the end of the day, I started doing this because I love it and it’s fun. That’s the reason why I left everything behind. I left my country. I left my family. I left everything I knew to come here and pursue this dream. Obviously since it’s my dream and everything, but mainly because it’s fun. Riding dirt bikes is super fun, and it’s not going to last forever. We all know that. As athletes our careers don’t go until we’re 40 or 50. We just have a small window to make it count. Not only results-wise—like I said, it’s just about having fun also. So bringing back the fun has been super core for me. I really like riding. That’s the main thing for me. Obviously you’ve got to be fit in order to be strong at the end of the motos and stuff, but for me, just to keep it fun, I just ride, ride, ride. Try to go with my friends. Even if I have to do motos, I always try to go out with a friend once a week and then free ride a little bit after, make a video, go to the amateur supercross track. Just fun stuff like that. I just like riding a lot.
Do you do anything away from the track to just disconnect and have a little bit of fun and recharge the batteries a little bit?
Nothing specific. I like mountain biking which is part of the training, which is cool, and cycling in general also. But I don’t have one specific activity that I do off the bike that really keeps my mind off of it. I don’t feel like I need to keep my mind off of it because I actually do like riding, so as long as I’m keeping the riding fun and challenging every day, I think that’s the main thing. I don’t want to be stale and get bored of it, get bored of the program. So I try to change it quite a bit.
A couple years ago you were training with Ryan Hughes with that whole IB Corp thing. Do you still follow his program a little bit? Or have you mixed that up? What do you do for training and that kind of stuff?
Actually last year in San Diego, also in 2018, I felt like I needed a break from all the training. I felt like I was in gnarly shape, like such good shape, but I just wasn’t good on the bike. I didn’t feel good on the bike. I wasn’t racing good. I didn’t feel like I needed to do any more fitness training, so I just kind of walked away from that and started doing my own thing. I started out by riding a lot, like I said just riding a bunch. Then I actually did that and I did the whole pre-season by myself. No training, no nothing. Then I promised myself that if I got a ride to finish out the season then I would hire a trainer. So as soon as I got my deal with JMC I went out and looked at some different options. I’m working with Seth Rarick now. He basically just does my program. I send him all my info from the day. He’s been really helpful. I felt like in the fourth round in Oakland I kind of wasn’t as strong as in the beginning of the season, just because during the week I was kind of scared of over-doing it and being tired for the weekend. So it’s good to have a program to follow and just trust that whatever he has me doing is going to be the best for me. I’ve been feeling great on the weekends. I’ve been feeling strong.
You mentioned that you’re going to do the first few outdoors with the JMC team. Do you kind of have a plan outside of that, or just do those three and see how that goes?
Last year I did basically the same thing. I actually borrowed bikes from IB Corp to do the first three was the plan. I ended up doing the first two and then I got a ride with Cycle Trader/Rock River Yamaha. It only ended up being for one race, but I think it worked out pretty good to get my name out there and stuff. This year with a little more experience under my belt, I really hope to do good these first three outdoors. I feel like I’m more of an outdoor rider. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape, also, to put in long motos. So that’s the plan for now, to do the first three and then kind of just see what happens. Obviously the best-case scenario would be to catch a ride on a factory team to finish out the season. But we’ll see how that plays out. Right now I’m kind of just taking it day by day. I’ve been riding some outdoors. I’m actually riding outdoors this whole week. Just trying to prepare myself the best that I can to give myself the best opportunity that I can when the racing comes. So I think that’s all I can. But best-case scenario I would love to finish out the outdoor season on a factory team.
Getting back to supercross, we have one round left for you. You’re just a little bit outside the top ten, but it still may be possible depending on how the chips fall. What’s the plan to finish out the season? Just come out swinging and hope for the best? What are you looking forward to as the series winds down?
We actually have been struggling a little bit with our suspension just because we haven’t had that much time on the bike. I know that I’ve been on the bike for a while now, but still you think about it, all the other guys are locked in by when? October? Then they star their training. So they have three months before the season even starts, and then some of them start a little bit slower, and then you build on the bike and on yourself as the season goes by. Well, I got the bike in the middle of the season, so it’s been kind of crazy trying to get used to a totally different bike that I haven’t ever rode before and try to do that. Different suspension because I started out on air. I’m on spring now. We’re going to do some testing these next couple weeks.
For me, this season, I know we only have one race left, but it’s still just as important as the first race for me. I want to finish strong, especially because I’m proving myself. If I had a two or three-year contract maybe I would be like, let’s focus on outdoors, or something like that. But this is still super important for me. So we’re going to do some testing these next couple weeks. Hoping to get the bike better suspension-wise because the engine is great, obviously. We’re just going to try to set up the suspension a bit better and hope to come out swinging in Vegas. Anything can happen, so I’m just going to try to the end.
Martin would like to say thank you to JMC Motorsports, Fly Racing, Integrity Electric, Axiom Construction, WPS, Aliance Steel, Horn Rapids MX, Howard’s Paving, McCormick Excavation, EVC guy, Owens Meats, Rekluse Motorsports, Alpinestars, EVS, 100%, Dynamic Designs, HGS, Bud Racing, Liqui Moly, Renn Fuel, Renthal, Engine Ice, Dg2 Motorsports, Tri City Tools, Dubya, Acerbis, DT-1 Filter Service, ARC, Dunlop, Guts, Moto Stuff, Ryno Power, Motion Pro, Technical Touch, X Trig, and Husqvarna for their support.