Darian Sanayei is coming off of a year filled plagued by injury and illness. He suffered a knee injury and felt the lasting effects of the Epstein-Barr Virus throughout the entire 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship. Sanayei finished a season-best ninth overall at the MXGP of France on May 26, after finishing 10-13, but the 23-year-old will be forced to move out of the MX2 class of the FIM Motocross World Championship next year (as he’s hit the class age limit). However, he isn’t fully committed to the MXGP class for 2020, as he wants to return home to America to compete in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
On Friday evening, Racer X spoke with the 23 year-old who is marshalling together support to compete at the Paris Supercross next weekend. Here’s what Sanayei had to say about his off-season, his plans for 2020, and more.
Racer X: Darian, Halloween is now behind us and it’s time to get back to work. What are you up to this first day of November 2019?
Darian Sanayei: Today I just went to the Kawasaki test track to do some supercross and was riding with Cameron McAdoo up there and doing some training and practicing and getting out there on that supercross track. Now I’m just having some lunch and then we’re going to head home.
And you just finished up another full season of FIM Motocross World Championship racing.
Yeah, so I did one year, 2016, in the European MX Championship and then I raced in the [FIM Motocross] World Championship in 2017, 2018, and 2019. So I’ve been in Europe for four years and in the GPs for three years.
Do you have any sort of plan to do any overseas supercross races this winter racing season?
Yeah, the plan is to do the Paris Supercross and I also think I’m going to do the Aus-X Open Supercross and New Zealand. I want to do a few of them to try and get more comfortable in supercross.
You’ve sketched out and seemingly finalized a racing program that will see you putting a lot of your time into supercross. How come?
So, it’s not really all planned out yet, but most likely I think that next year I’m probably going to be racing supercross, so I just want to get up to speed. If everything is going good and I’m up to speed, then I think I’m going to try and do it.
So no FIM Motocross World Championship next season if this 2020 supercross program works out?
Yeah, for next year in Europe, I have a deal in the 450 class with my team, the Bike It DRT [Dixon Racing Team], but when you turn 23 you can’t race the 250 class anymore, so I’m 23 now and have to move to 450. And just coming off a bad year in 250 with Epstein-Barr and not being able to train or anything and not having any good results…I don’t really want to do it anymore. I don’t want to live in Europe anymore. I’m kind of excited to try to make it happen over in America. My team from Europe is going to be helping me out a little bit and I think I’m going to do supercross.
So it’ll be Steve Dixon’s race team that will lend you a hand over here when supercross starts?
Will you keep your Personal Services Agreement with Monster Energy?
Yeah, with Monster, they are a big help. They are probably the most helpful in this situation I’m in right now where I’m transitioning from Europe to America.
So that’s going to leave our mutual buddy Thomas Covington as the lone American representative in MXGP come 2020?
Yeah, I think so. Well, not on his own, he’s married now.
So what’s your plan for Monster Energy AMA Supercross come some-60 days from now when everyone starts looking to the baseball stadium for 2020?
Right now, I still have Monster backing me. I’m talking to new sponsors and it looks like I’m going to be running Seven and Ethika and I think I’m going to be with Shoei helmets. I think I’ll stay on the Kawasaki, just because that’s what I know. I’m really comfortable on that bike. Mitch [Payton] over at Pro Circuit is going to be helping me out a little bit to give me good engines. My plan is to train, be good at supercross and to be ready for Anaheim 1.
I don’t mean to sound like a tool, but it appears that you’re still trying to line up support for the start of the supercross series. Correct?
No, we have nothing. It has been pretty tough, but we’re making it happen and just trying to persevere. This 2019 year was definitely the toughest year that I have had in my career. I had the knee problem, then I came back from Epstein-Barr and I kept taking a couple weeks off here and there and then going to the races. I just never got healthy in time. The whole ’19 year I was juggling so many things. After the season was over I thought it was better to just go home. I took six weeks of completely. I didn’t go to the gym one time, I just took six weeks off to get the Epstein-Barr completely flushed out of my system. I just started working out and riding two weeks ago. I’m doing a lot now and I’m actually feeling pretty good and feel pretty positive about the entire situation.
You’re looking for a home and a team to race for right now, aren’t you?
Yeah, exactly. I’m pretty much going to go out there by myself and try to make my own little supercross team for now. My main plan would be up front in supercross and get on a good team.
Yes, here in Southern California the test tracks, practice tracks, free-for-all tracks are all quite busy and will continue to be so until the 2020 seasons starts over at nearby Angel Stadium. I don’t mean it the wrong way whatsoever, but guys on teams can get hurt or sick or whatever. If a team needs a hand, you can be there, huh?
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I don’t want anyone to get hurt, it’s a tough sport. But yeah, it does happen and stuff and there probably will be this coming year one or two spots available on a good team, so I just need to make sure I’m in the right position if that opportunity comes up.
You sound confident. Yes, even though you don’t have a job quite nailed down yet, one can determine that you’re putting in the time and putting in the work.
Yeah, definitely. I know it’s tough. I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, or if any of this is going to work out or if it isn’t… I believe in myself and I believe that I have pretty good talent and I believe that if I put the work in and put my best foot forward every day, at least I can say I have no regrets. I have a feeling that if I do all this, it’s all going to work out.
You’ve been all over the world, raced all over the world and have learned all over the world. You now have a strong body of global motocross work and experience at your behest. You’re a good guy for a race team to take a chance on, huh?
Yeah, for me, going over to Europe, it wasn’t something that I had planned on my whole amateur career. It was something that presented itself and I looked at it long-term. I do feel like it all helped me and it did give me some more experience. Now it is kind of giving me that same transition, only this time back to America. It worked the first time, hopefully it will work out the second!