For Supercross that is. This has been a hot issue in the last year and despite KTM’s best efforts to put positive spins on such a radical change things are not panning out. I think the signs were there early, but some false hope with Alessi at Hangtown and the dominance of the two at Glen Helen a week later, a track with some of the biggest hills in the world. Then Cairoli wins the MX1 Championship making things seem like they might just be ok. Enter Mike Alessi. In what was considered no doubt a less than fantastic reunion Mike almost jumped ship. All the way up until the start of the 2010 outdoor season there were rumors abound that Mike was going to land at MotoConcepts or possibly Europe. After a bombardment of odd and interesting press releases and statements things got interesting. Pit Beirer, head of race direction globally for KTM, will be paraphrased into something like Mike is an excuse maker and is not a rider they can work with. In a pre-season race where Mike was scheduled to race, he sat out, prompting that response from his boss. Mike went home and that was the source of the rumors.
Fast forward now to the fall of this year and the kickoff of SuperX in Australia. For me this was the moment I started thinking this year might be tough. Mike was pretty much getting spanked down there and despite his obvious lack of confidence I am sure he is more capable. Now a couple things to consider before we move on. One the argument the Cairoli won isn’t usable. The guidelines in regards to modifications is seriously skewed and the bikes cannot be compared. Second and I know this is always an area of contention, but the US circuit is no doubt a larger challenge. And last we have the “I have seen guys on 250f’s come through the pack”. To me this is apples and oranges. I am not going to in depth, but of course riding a bigger bike is harder and can be seriously altered by the conditions of an event and it’sÃ‚Â topography.
Then there wasÃ‚Â theÃ‚Â whole off season show. First they announce the swooping of “The Man” DeCoster and then the signing of Andrew Short. Quite a few top names were rumored to have tested the bike including Pourcel and Reed. When neither guy choose the KTM when I think KTM would pay the money each would want, or at least closer than the next suiter, I could tell it was not good. Now I know the bike is early in it’s development, but KTM has been developing a SX class bike for 10 years with no success. They have had some of the top riders in the sport yet they really show no real SX class success in the states.
Andrew ShortÃ‚Â unfortunatelyÃ‚Â will become the scape goat for KTM fans this year. I don’t say Mike because he has been the beating horse for years and to be honest I don’t think people are expecting much these days. Short has ridden ok, but his results have been very a miss. Andrew and Mike are usually around each other time wise on the track, but Short makes the most of it in the main. When I went back and looked at the results and point standings the guys ahead of him were Stewart, Villipoto, Canard, Reed, Dungey. That is not bad company and if you remove the guys from the mix who were out last year things look much different for KTM and Short.
So when I say can the mistake I don’t mean the bike itself, but I mean more in lines of the philosophy of developing a MX1 SX competitive machine. For years it was about the linkage and that has been erased. There was the management issues and theÃ‚Â revolvingÃ‚Â door affect that reminded many of the RaidersÃ‚Â organization. With out hesitation I can say if anyone can do it it will be DeCoster. The question remains will KTM give him the freedom to do it. For those of you who don’t know the power struggles that go on between race departments, divisions and philosophy’s that it is difficult to think things will change. Between all the brass they have in this company between DeCoster, Everts, Pit, Kini, Pierer himself and an endless number of second tier guys amongst Europe and the US. Then there is the US vs. Euro thing and trust me it is there. Hell there was always a California vs. Ohio thing going on and probably still is to this day.
With the company in position to financially attack the market it is vital that the strike while the iron is hot. The motorcycle industry is in peril and who ever help take it through to the end mayÃ‚Â benefitÃ‚Â much to the way Honda did when they rose to dominance in the US. Next year I expect KTM to step up big again and with guysÃ‚Â likeÃ‚Â Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the waiting I think things lookÃ‚Â promising. These riders have grown up in the European mentality, but probably now more than ever are better prepared to make the transition and succeed where many others before them have failed.