What a turnaround for Marvin Musquin. The Red Bull KTM rider notched the ninth 450SX win of his career on Saturday, but it was his first victory since March of 2019, and his first since a knee injury cost him all of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross campaign. Further, Marvin’s 2021 season was dotted with ups and downs, as the Frenchman collected a few podiums but also struggled through other races, which is why he sits ninth in points. That’s quite a drop for a rider generally locked into the top three in multiple 450 title chases in supercross and motocross.
Then on Saturday, it all came back. Musquin held up under pressure from his teammate Cooper Webb and grabbed the victory. We talked to Marvin on the phone on Monday evening to hear about his race.
Racer X: You’ve won a pretty good amount of races in your career, but how high does this one rank? You had not won one since ’19. So was this one of the bigger ones? Or are other wins when they’re in title contention and stuff, do they feel bigger than this?
Marvin Musquin: That’s definitely a good question. This one is pretty high. Obviously, it’s not like my first one in Dallas back in ’17. The first one is like, “Oh my God!” But still, Saturday was like, “What did I just do!?” It was that type of feeling because of the way that my season was going. I had a lot of ups and downs. I had one second place and maybe two third places, or something like that. There were some races where I was super fast, like in Indianapolis I was fast, but I had issues like crashing and coming back from dead last. So it’s been super rough. Then in Dallas I qualified P1 and I was second in the heat, and then I got a massive crash hitting neutral and getting a concussion. So that definitely stopped my momentum. I basically spent two weeks not doing much trying to recover. If you miss two weeks of riding or intense training, it’s huge at this level, and having a concussion is super tough on your vision, focus, physical condition, everything. Then we went to Atlanta. Atlanta was pretty tough on me. I didn’t feel like I was very strong, but I was starting to kind of come back. It felt good to be back in Salt Lake in a regular supercross track, technical track. It was super good. To get a win like that, it’s just, whoa. When it’s definitely not expected, it’s a great feeling.
I can’t judge your season. I can’t figure it out. There have been so many of these weird crashes and first crashes and being dead last, as you said, and then you missed a little time there with the Arlington crash. Do you feel like you’re actually riding well this season, or do you still feel like you need to gain a percent or so to get to where you were a few years ago? Or do you feel like you were at that old level, you just couldn’t show it because of the crashes? Or was it both?
To be honest, the last few rounds I was definitely not where I would like to be, confidence-wise and physically. I was doing my best, but I felt like I couldn’t do any more because of how the season went and then having a crash like that and missing training. Like I said, it kind of feels good to be back on a regular supercross track after the three rounds in Atlanta, and then we went back to California to switch it up a little bit. I don't want to say I’m back and I’m going to win next weekend. [Laughs] That’s my goal, but I know how high the competition is. It’s just insane. There’s so many guys that can get on the podium or win. Cooper, he came back from sixth or fifth and got second, but that doesn’t happen every time. You see [Ken] Roczen who is fighting for a championship. He goes down, gets back up, and he actually lost a position to Dylan [Ferrandis] and got sixth. He never came back to a podium. That used to be like that a couple years ago.
You don’t just get third automatically no matter what, like it used to be.
Exactly. That used to be the case. Now, look at the lap times from Malcolm [Stewart] or [Chase] Sexton. They are so close. If you have a little tip-over or a bad start, it’s really hard to come back and say, I’m good, I’m just going to get a fourth or a third. There’s no way this year. That tells you the level.
Do you think, let’s say in Indianapolis or Orlando, those five races, if you get a holeshot at any of those five do you feel you were ready to win? This all could have worked out earlier if you had just gotten a start?
Obviously I was kind of working my way up for sure from missing a whole year, but Indianapolis I felt great. For sure, I had the potential to fight for a podium and to be in the battle when Kenny and [Eli] Tomac were battling for the win. If you look at lap times, for sure I was right there. Like I just said, so many things can happen and you have to put everything together in the main event to be able to get on the podium this year.
How did you manage this race? You were saying your confidence is a little down, but you started making moves towards Kenny. You were closing in, so that’s big. Then Cooper was on you and you had to hold him off. That’s big. So what was the mentality when these things started happening? When you started to catch Kenny were you like, “Hey, wait a minute—I could get a win here?”
Yeah, exactly. That was a very good gauge for me to have Kenny in front of me. He kind of ran away three or four laps. Then, I don't know if we got some lappers at some point and he lost a little bit, I’m not sure, but he had over three seconds and then I brought it down to like a second. I could see him, so I just wanted to be consistent, put laps together and see what was going to happen. Behind me there was a gap, so nobody was pressuring me. So that was a really, really good position. Then I got into the lead when he went down, and I made a few mistakes. I missed the double after the mechanics area. I had to roll that. So a couple mistakes, and then Cooper was quick. He caught me actually really quick, too quick!
Cooper has been unreal in the last five minutes of the races the last couple years, and even more so lately. Did you have to tell yourself something to weather that storm? He did catch you quick, but then all of a sudden you figured out the whoops, and then you held your ground. What did you do to be able to withstand that?
I knew it was Cooper. It went through my head, a couple of the main events this year where he got Kenny on the last few laps….
So you do think about that?
[Laughs] Of course I did! But I was like, you know what? Just hit your marks, be consistent in the whoops. I knew he could maybe get around me in the whoops, but I was like, just be consistent. Hit your lines. If you do that, it can work out. So then Frankie [Latham, Musquin’s mechanic] showed me five laps or six laps [to go] and I’m like, still a long way to go. So many things can happen right now. Then he showed me three laps. Then I see the finish line and I see the white flag. I was like, why? What just happened right now? So the I knew I had to do one more lap just the way I did before. I got on the gas a little too hard by the mechanics’ area where there was that little kicker. I was right on the edge. I got super close to going down. I got kicked and went sideways. Almost washed the front end but kept it on two wheels and then just hit my marks the last lap and closed the door a little bit on the final corner, then I went a little bit too far up in the berm. I was kind of mad at that move, but anyway I still pulled it off and was able to win. So that was a massive relief and just a great feeling. There’s nothing better than winning.
To me, it’s one of the hardest things to do. You went 7-7-9 in Atlanta and then all of a sudden, you’re leading a race and it’s in your hands to try to win. That seems so tough without that momentum, without that confidence.
For sure. It’s hard to explain, but when you are in that bubble, when you’re so focused on yourself and your riding… I’ve been obviously in that position for many years and been able to win a couple main events in my career, but it’s just maybe experience that helped me, even though this year it hadn’t happened. I led a couple times and won a couple heat races, but in the main it’s a different story and it’s a longer obviously 20 minutes and your heart rate is super high compared to when you’re in the heat race. I didn’t have anything to lose, really. I was kind of somewhat relaxed in my head and focused and really enjoying and embracing the moment, and it worked out. So it was amazing.
With the concussion and some of the bad races earlier this year, how down were you? Were you like, “Man, I don't know if this is going to work out?” Or did you just know it was a temporary thing and you’ll get it back?
For sure I had tough moments. When you get a concussion and you’re not feeling great physically but also mentally, obviously I wanted to get back to my full potential but it takes time and that’s what’s really hard. I definitely questioned it. I always say I’ll keep racing until I feel like I’m capable of fighting for podiums, wins, top fives, but if I’m battling for barely top tens or something, I don't think I would want to keep going. So that’s why, when you don’t get the results you want, it’s definitely tough. But I’ve got great support. The team, my wife, Frankie, my family. We love it and we just keep on going. I just showed this weekend that I still have the capacity of doing great things. So, I just wanted to keep going.
You’ve been on the same team for years now. Is the day to day effort they’re putting in, the conversations you’re having, is it the same whether you’re going 7, 7, 9 at Atlanta or when you’re leading the supercross points, as you have in previous years? Can you sense that they tried harder with you three years ago, or is everyone trying as hard as they can all the time no matter what?
That’s a tough question. I know I have great support and there’s no question about it, but definitely right now the big picture is Cooper Webb winning the championship, but that doesn’t change the support that I have. The team knows that I’m capable of doing great things. I showed a couple times. That second place in Orlando was great. When you see your rider is having a difficult time after a crash like that, it’s definitely not easy. From the team, I have the support no matter what. I feel like it’s more on my side to do my own work and get it done.
Hey, why did he put five laps to go on the pit board? Did he mess up? Did you find out why?
I didn’t talk to Frankie about it, actually. We didn’t have a lot of time. We caught a flight on Saturday night after the race. It was on the radio, they kind of messed up the lap time maybe on the radio.
Some people theorized he did that so you didn’t get too nervous. It wasn’t on purpose, it doesn’t sound like.
Actually that’s funny you say that because when I hit the finish line and I saw the white flag, and then I went left and I went on the straightaway, I thought for a second, “Did Frankie do that on purpose to kind of get me fired up for the last lap?” Instead of telling me the last lap’s coming up. It went through my head thinking did he do that on purpose. It always feels good. You put in even more energy when you see the white flag, or like a moto outdoors, when you hit two laps to go when you don’t expect it, that feels good. One lap or two, you’re like “Let’s go, let’s finish it up!”
I have to ask you about the neck brace. You’ve taken it off. Can you talk about what was going on there?
I mean, it’s something I had been thinking about doing for a long time, and this year we have a different helmet design, and a bigger helmet, so that amplified it, too. So that’s the main reason.