Look back – Team Manager’s Speak – 2000 – Stjernstrom, Narayana, McCarty, Kehoe, Emig, and Brooks
This was originally published in late 2000. Great read and insight then … same today, with some nostalgia now.
Larry Brooks – Team Manager – McGrath Racing
Rider – Jeremy McGrath
Jeff Emig – Team Owner/Manager – The Edge Sports.com/Kawasaki
Riders – Michael Byrne, Casey Johnson
Erik Kehoe – Team Manager – Yamaha of Troy
Riders – Ernesto Fonseca, Justin Buckelew, Nate Ramsey, Nick Wey
Keith McCarty – Team Manager – Yamaha
Riders – David Vuillemin, Tim Ferry
Selvaraj Narayana – Team Manager – KTM USA
Riders – Grant Langston, Kelly Smith, Brock Sellards, David Pingree
Bruce Stjernstrom – Team Manager – Team Chevy Trucks/Kawasaki
Riders – Ricky Carmichael, Stephane Roncada
When did you first start thinking about the 2001 season?
ERIK: In January and February of this racing year (2000) we start thinking about 2001. Everything is always a work in progress. A good example is the new Yamaha YZ 250F four-stroke. There are always many different aspects that we are thinking about. Another example is we are already looking at potential riders for the 2001 season. A lot of riders’ contracts are only for one year, so we are always on the lookout for and evaluating new talent for the upcoming season. It’s a process that goes on year around.
SELVARAJ: We actually have been preparing for this upcoming season starting three or four years ago. Then it really stepped up this past season when we got our big-rig truck. This past season we wanted to see how things worked, about how we can make our team work, and it’s always on ongoing process in putting an upcoming supercross effort together. This season is the very first year that we’ve spent a large amount of money in trying to get the top level riders. We are concentrating on putting together a winning 125 team. It’s a lot of effort, a lot of work, assistance from our sponsors, and the factory in Austria putting in support has been tremendous. The US market is not only important for the US, but also worldwide.
LARRY: We started thinking seriously about the 2001 season in late February. We had an idea of what we wanted to do, and what could happen in the future. Jeremy and I talked about what he wanted to have happen, and where he wanted to be. Jeremy wanted to be involved in racing after his professional career was over, and not just disappear from the scene. Jeremy’s an excellent teacher, and this is a perfect transition for him going to a team owner too. He’ll be able to work with new riders coming up, and the team will continue. For us, starting a new team, it’s a lot of work, and it was a big decision to make. It’s worked out very well so far.
BRUCE: We start preparing in 2000, around March. Some people might think that’s staring early, but that’s just what needs to be done. We start putting together our entire program, and hopefully by that time we have a good idea of who our team members will be. This includes planning, testing, parts that will need to be built, implementing new ideas that we have. In a way, we actually never stop …. it’s on ongoing process.
The biggest change for us comes when there is a major change in the bike itself. Some years it can be good, some years it can be not so good. Our bikes have not changed significantly from 1999 to 2000, and from 2000 to 2001. There is not start or stop time. No matter what, it’s always a work in progress.
JEFF: For us, it was midway thru the 2000 outdoor season. First, we received a three year commitment from TheEdgeSports.com. Next, we looked at bike sponsors, and tried to figure out where we fit in the puzzle. We came to the conclusion we fit best as a 250 support team. We looked at who our riders can be for 2001, and we wanted young guys with potential rather than older veterans who had experience. We picked Michael Byrne from Australia, and Casey Johnson, who was ready to move up from the 125 class. We hope the experience factor will develop with them, and from my input.
What are the first steps you take to get going on things for the 2001?
KEITH: We start thinking about things in April. We are looking at personnel, playing the game of “who’s going to ride for whom”. We try to make the riders happy while at the same time filling our needs for the following season. We are always following trends within the industry, and looking at the overall picture rather than what’s right in front of us.
JEFF: Do you have enough tape in your recorder for me to answer this?
There is so much to be done for building a complete racing team. Racing is not a 9 to 5 job. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Everything you do is towards that race team and getting prepared. You can never be prepared enough. Photo shoots, testing, sponsors, putting together posters, design, graphics, team apparel, riding gear, the trucks, the bikes, what size each sponsor’s logo is going to be, where it’s going to fit, contracts with the riders, contracts with the mechanics, contracts with sponsors …. it’s been quite an experience.
LARRY: It’s mainly personnel. That’s one of my biggest concerns all the time. You need to have the right people in the right surroundings to get things done. I believe you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. So part of my job is to make sure all the people associated with the team are top-notch.
BRUCE: Well, like I said, it’s always work in progress. Getting the riders and mechanics is the first part of it. Typically we start working on that early in the prior season. We hope that by the middle of the outdoor season we have everything set as far as personnel.
SELVARAJ: The first things for us are the budget, factory support, and who are our potential riders. Then we get into the technical issues like the bikes and testing. Since KTM has really begun rebuilding the entire company from the ground up, we have to look at all the elements that are needed to compete at the very top level. We spend a lot of time looking at riders, making sure they can fit into our program of how we approach supercross, and then sponsors are important to see if we can work out the budget to make all these things happen correctly.
Briefly run down the list of things that have to be done for a new season.
BRUCE: I think the thing that’s the most interesting to me, having been around the sport, and also talking to the fans is when they ask me ‘What do you do when the season is over? Do you take a vacation?’ My answer is that I believe for the team, the most difficult part is when the season ends until when it starts again. And that’s because of all the preparation the goes into a new season, and dealing with sponsors. An example is that we are getting a new semi for this season. We started working on that in February. It was just delivered to us, it needs to be painted, fixtures need to be built and put in, the tents are being shipped to us …. it’s a tremendous amount of work that is not typical for every season. It’s an additional burden, but it’s part of the game, and we have planned and prepared very well for it. Everything is on schedule, and it’s working outvery well so far.
For the riders, this is not a very glamourous time of the year. Lots of laps, lots of testing. This is the time of the year that the work pays off for the entire season. If all of us do our work now, including the riders being physically and mentally prepared, and the team has the bikes working well, then when the racing season starts that’s when it can be more fun. The work never stops though … that’s why this sport is so competitive.
KEITH: In addition to so many things, our perspective might be a little bit different because we also contract out other teams. In addition to our team, we handle Yamaha of Troy’s contracts. Same thing for Jeremy McGrath’s team. We have to make sure all those things for all three teams are aligned and ready to go.
ERIK: There are a myriad of things. We’ve got some new riders. Some new sponsors. Painting the truck. Changing the pit awning that comes off of the truck. Putting together press kits. We have to take out old parts out of the truck, and restock it with new parts.
One unique thing that happened to us was that our big rig driver Rudy was driving the mini-van that rides along inside the big-rig. He was side-swiped by another vehicle, so that’s something that came up …. repairing and repainting our mini-van.
SELVARAJ: We have a very structured way of making everyone’s schedule so that we can make things happen with the team. One is the big-rig, another is sponsors and graphics, team uniforms and clothing. We have to co-ordinate a lot of this with our sponsors, such as THOR and Red Bull, which are some of our sponsors in 2001. The design of all these things must fit in with both the KTM image and the sponsors images, primarily on design and color combinations. We put together press kits, and those will start to come together after we have a photo session.
Much of our testing is done in Europe, over most of the year. The testing for the US starts around the first week in December.
LARRY: For me, it’s a bit different, since we are building a team from the ground up. We started with nothing but an idea. Yamaha and our title sponsor Mazda have approval on certain design things. It might be a mixed blessing being that we are a small team, not a factory. I have a lot of free reign to do as I see fit, but I ask a lot of people about their ideas and advice. Then we source out certain things to people that have more experience in a particular field than we do.
What are the very last things that happen for your team coming into the first race of the season?
JEFF: In the past, it was the team poster. When you are trying to put together all the apparel and riding gear, color coordinating things, working with all the different logos and sponsors, so that it doesn’t look ‘ordinary’. It always seems as if you never have the final specs, and it doesn’t get done on time. Add in the now working with the riders, and it seems as if there is never enough time to get things done. It’s always a work in progress.
KEITH: Well, I don’t think it’s getting things done last minute. It’s just that we are governed by a lot of other schedules. One thing that comes to mind is our team uniforms. We plan for that very early. We get the designs all done. But maybe for one reason or another a vendor might not be able to do what they said they can do. So there you are standing at the first race or the first press day with no uniforms.
ERIK: Graphics always seem to come last. We have to get approval from a lot of different people and places, including Yamaha USA. Even on the bike design, Yamaha plays a major role in that, and we need to communicate on how that looks. Also our crew shirts, jersey artwork, and photo shoots come down to the last minute. And we’ve got some sponsors still finalizing their budgets for 2001, so maybe they can’t give a full commitment until that time. It’s a lot of juggling of deadlines that goes on, and add in Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and it can get pretty hectic.
SELVARAJ: You are absolutely right. Many things, no matter how much we prepare, come down to the last minute. Nothing ever goes at 100%, even though we are trying at 100%. Since we have some international riders, they have to attend to some things in Europe which might put them behind schedule. And there is always more testing to be done on engine and suspension components. We do have schedules that have us finishing everything by the first event of the year. But there are always unexpected things that come up that don’t get finished until that last week or beyond.
LARRY: In the past, it’s always been the bikes. Testing has already been done, but the actual race bikes were the very last thing to get complete. This season, that is more of a problem that Skip Norfolk (head technician for McGrath Racing) will handle. And we know it will get done But no matter who you are, or what team you are on, you are going to have some problems. It always happens.
BRUCE: There are so many things that need to get done, and some seem to get done last minute. Last season, it was our big rig truck. It was not 100% painted by the first race at Anaheim. It was one of those things, and it was embarrassing. There was a problem with the painter that was out of our control. It is something that has been changed and addressed for this coming season. It normally seems to be ‘appearance’ things, whether it’s team shirts, painting, or graphics. As far as the bike itself goes, it’s always on ongoing process …. it’s never ‘done’. Even if a rider is happy with the bike, I need to remind all of our staff that we never stop working on the bike and trying to improve it. No matter how good the bike might be, we are always working to make it better.
At what point in preparation for 2001 do the riders themselves get involved?
SELVARAJ: We have a few new riders. They started preliminary testing in November. We have a brand new test track in Corona, California, and that’s where most of the preseason testing in the US gets done. And then our ‘official’ testing starts at the beginning of December.
ERIK: Mentally, it starts the day after the last national in September. However, a lot of the riders’ existing contracts don’t end until September, October, or November, so each one is different as far as when you can get them physically involved and riding the new bikes. This year we worked out a nice deal that allowed Nick Wey and Nathan Ramsey to start with us earlier than normal.
LARRY: Jeremy’s the rider, but he’s also the team owner. He’s my boss. At the same time, he has to be ‘Jeremy McGrath – the racer’. I try not to get him so overly involved that it takes away his thoughts. I either tell him what he needs to know, or he gives me feedback on what I might need to know or things that I’m unsure of. Again, I try to keep things off of his plate so to speak, because his plate’s full. With who he is, appearances, television, the actualities of being a racer, the pressures of winning multiple supercross championships, expectations of winning more races … those are tremendously big shoes to fill. He’s hired me to take care of things from start to finish. I only involve him when needed. Why do it this way? I think ultimately it allows Jeremy to be a better racer.
JEFF: Once we had our contracts in place with our two riders, then I sit down with them and discuss their training programs and see if they are in order. Next up came figuring out what bikes they would ride, and our deal with Kawasaki came together later than normal, which was just after the US Open in mid-October. So then we had to get the guys together and familiar with the KX 250′s.
KEITH: We start getting the riders involved in September. After the national season is over, we get started with our initial testing and planning for the new season. In Jeremy’s case, because he does so many overseas events, we get started with him very early. In David’s case, he went back to France for a little vacation. He had problems coming back to the US because of visa issues. So we ended up going to Europe and doing testing with him over there.
There is no ideal scenario …. it depends on what’s going on with your team and what’s going on with each individual rider. Tim Ferry got a late start, and then he got injured. So he was set back for a while. Right now, everyone is on track, and we are right where we want to be as a team.
When do you start testing? What happens at a test session?
LARRY: Testing started for us after the outdoor series ended. Yamaha takes care of the motorcycle completely. Skip and Jeremy will go out with Steve Butler (who is the head of testing), Bob Oliver (who oversees motors) and Jon R. (who takes care of suspension). Those three guys are really quite a team. They take care of the motorcycle … they take care of everything.
They’ll start with their settings from the 2000 bike on the 2001 model bike. Then they’ll try to massage it to be equal or better than the 2000 race bikes. It’s a lot of feedback, and a lot of engineering back and forth between the rider and the testing crew that will build the new race bike. Of course, with a new model, they might come up with a few things that are better than the 2000 bikes. The goal is to make it as ‘rider-friendly’ as possible.
SELVARAJ: Again, KTM has procedures in place to organize that. The factory supplies engineers for engine and WP suspension. They will be here for our testing sessions. Some tests are only engine and suspension. Some tests combine engine with frames. Sometimes we cannot do all of them at the same time, so we might do individual testing for the individual components like suspension. We also have different testing for tires only. We spend a lot of time on that to make sure we have the correct tire compounds. We also have our own dyno facilities now in California and Ohio, so we did that type of testing ourselves. But again, keep in mind, most of the testing is done year round at the factory in Austria.
ERIK: A big part of it is getting the riders comfortable on their bikes for the upcoming season. A lot of adjustments for each individual rider, each riders preferences, and how they ride the bike. We know what range most parts work well in, like suspension and gearing, so we just make a lot of fine tuning for each rider.
BRUCE: We start testing for the 2001 season in June of 2000. Maybe we have a little bit different philosophy about testing. This past season, we had three riders, Ricky Carmichael, John Dowd and Larry Ward. They all lived over 3000 miles away from our headquarters. It made it difficult at times to do proper testing. We had to get a little more creative, and had some test sessions on the east coast. We had riders come out one at a time to test here in southern California. This season, we have two riders on the team, Ricky and Stephane Roncada (and Ricky still lives 3200 miles away!). Ricky has been out whenever we’ve needed him for testing, and Stephane lives nearby, so his schedule has been a little more flexible. But, as with all aspects of the bike, it’s a never ending process.
JEFF: We’ve done a lot of testing, considering we started later than normal. What we do is figure out what parts of the bike we need to improve or fine tune for each rider. For suspension, we work with Ross Maeda at Enzo Racing. We use Kayaba products, and we feel that Ross is the best in the business. For suspension testing, Ross will go out with the riders, and he’s already got great knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. He’ll modify valving, change spring rates, and oil levels to give each rider what works best. For our engines, we are working with Pro-Circuit. I’m really pleased with the effort Pro-Circuit has put forth in helping us. With engine testing, every part gets looked at. And we’ll modify how the power is produced: more power, less power, longer power, shorter power, more hit, less hit. It’s not uncommon this time of the year for a rider to try 25 different exhaust pipes and silencers. There is so much room for adjustment. It’s very similar with cylinders. Each rider will go thru 10 different cylinder and head combinations. Testing is a lot of fine tuning.
KEITH: It depends what we want to test. We start with a baseline of what we want to test whether it be brakes or gasoline or engine development parts. We’ll start with that baseline and then move into the new parts and see what our lap times are or see how the rider’s comfort is to go easier or faster around the track.
Some riders are good at giving feedback, some are not ….. tell us about the differences.
JEFF: I think both of our riders have potential. Part of my job is to connect with both of them to develop a good working chemistry. Another part of my job is to help them become better racers thru my experience and knowledge. I can’t ride the bikes for them, but hopefully, just like experienced riders helped me when I was coming up, I’ll be able to help them. In turn, if they become better racers, it will help me with my dreams of being a team owner and manager.
KEITH: David has a very acute sense of what his bike is doing. He picks up on small changes very easily. In Tim’s case, I think he’s a good test rider, although he hasn’t ridden the 426 that much yet. I believe that as we progress thru the season and he gets more seat time on the bike he’ll definitely be a guy that can help himself and help the team.
ERIK: Yes, definitely there is a big variance between riders. For some riders, it seems as if changes are not that important to them, and they are not that affected by small changes. Other riders can be very sensitive in changes and settings. We all spend a lot of time out at tracks with the riders trying to get their input, and it can be a tough job sometimes. I personally try to watch the riders, see what’s happening, and give my input. A lot of it comes from years of experience from everyone’s perspective.
Each rider will explain things in a different way, and sometimes it’s our job to ‘read between the lines’ to figure things out. After working with a rider for a period of time, it becomes easier to figure those things out.
SELVARAJ: We have a very good group of guys. Three out of our four riders are coming from different bikes, and even though our bikes might be a bit different from others, they have all been pleasantly surprised at the power output and the characteristics of the 125 KTM’s. Having all four riders test together allow them to learn from each other. At the same time, our testing procedures assist them in providing info from them on our deadlines. Rather than making a deadline for all testing, we make a deadline for each component. The feedback that we have received so far from our riders have been very good. They are more productive and responsive than any group of riders we’ve ever had in the past. They are very good at communicating, it’s coming along very well, and I’m very satisfied.
LARRY: Jeremy’s mind is always going. When you talk with him, he’ll come back with a response that usually includes the best possible scenario. Maybe something you (me) had never even thought of. His mind is very strong. Also, Skip brings a lot experience on Jeremy. Skip and Jeremy were together when Jeremy was coming up and still learning about motorcycles. Skip and Jeremy have learned a lot together. As they learned together, they grew together.
BRUCE: I think a lot of the feedback on testing has to do with a rider’s experience, and a rider’s success. When a rider is winning, his type of feedback seems to change a little bit because that rider knows what it takes to win. They know what it takes to get to that position of winning, and they have more confidence. When a rider is not winning, he’s not as confident, and that changes things a bit. A rider then will feel like he’s still searching for the correct fit and feel of his bike. So, their confidence level changes how they approach things. As a team manager, I need to be aware of that.
For this season, we have two riders who are both 21 years old. You might say that’s young. With these two riders, we now have varying levels of experience in testing. The team will need to take a rider at his word, even if we might feel that we are heading in the wrong direction. It’s important to go that way with them so they understand how they get experience, and also that we trust each other. They will learn from making mistakes ….. as long as we don’t take too much time going in the wrong direction.
Testing is a long process, and there is no real way to shortcut it. What we hope to come out with in the end of the testing process is a rider who has confidence, and is comfortable.
What process happens when you get input from the riders to make those changes possible?
ERIK: If it’s only one rider that’s having the problem, we can work with them to make those changes, whether it’s footpeg placement or something else. Also, we work with a lot of outside vendors that supply us with parts and equipment. We work very close with them, and it’s easy to make changes with them whenever we make a request … whether it’s a different grip material to a higher or lower seat, we all work well together.
SELVARAJ: Most of the modifications, whether it be frame, or suspension, are done in house here now. If it’s another type of characteristic such as engine, ignition, or carburation, those are supported by the factory engineers that have more and better knowledge. They spend a great deal of time traveling between Austria and the US. Those engineers at the factory have much more experience and they will determine whether the change can be modified according to AMA rules. There are limits as to how much you can modify a 125, and we must stay within those rules set by the AMA.
KEITH: First we assess what the rider is looking for. From that point we try to determine the best way to give it to him. It might be something that is more of a creature comfort compared to a functional-type part. If we have to re-fabricate a part, then we’ll do that. We might first do that in-house. We’ll make a few of the parts and see if we are on the right path and we can solve the problem. Once that’s done, then we’ll mass roduce the part for the season.
If it’s an engine performance issue, we have a dyno, and we can go back and correspond the info the rider is giving us to what the dyno’s info is. We make a change, and then go back out to the track and test it. If it’s suspension related, then we’ll try to fully understand what the rider is communicating to us, along with carefully watching to see if we can understand what he’s talking about. We’ll come back, make changes, and then go back out and test again.
LARRY: It’s mainly the group I mentioned before – Steve Butler, Bob Oliver, and Jon R. They’ll make those changes possible. And they in turn communicate with Yamaha of Japan too. Skip has some input with them too, because they’ve learned to trust his knowledge.
BRUCE: For the most part, over the years we have developed a lot of adjustability in the bike such as ride height, and parts like handlebars, footpegs, seats, etc. and their placement on the bike. With Ricky, we’ve been thru a lot with him, and we know what works and what to expect. With Stephane, he’s new to the team. He’s coming from a different size and brand motorcycle. We had the whole arsenal of parts ready for Stephane, we even had new parts made.
As far as how major things get changed, we have a complete machine and fabrication shop at Kawasaki USA, so we can make adjustments very quickly, usually in one day.
JEFF: For us, we work with a lot of great companies, whether it be Pro-Circuit, Renthal, or others. They know their specific business better than anyone else. When a rider says he wants his bike to have more power, or different power, we know that Pro-Circuit will know exactly what to do with the motor. We get the feedback from the riders, and then we talk with each individual company.
Do you have to communicate with a ‘parent’ company?
BRUCE: Yes. It’s daily with Kawasaki of Japan. With regards to progress on certain things that are being built for us. An example is a part that might be a one-off piece that’s been used in testing, and we’ll need multiple units by the first supercross in Anaheim. Sometimes it might be drawings that go back and forth. No matter what, we always have ongoing communications. With other things, we are probably working on things 6 – 9 months down the road. Right now we are working on things for the outdoor races later in the year. It has to be daily, there is really no other way that would work well, and progress wouldn’t be made.
ERIK: We communicate with Yamaha USA on almost a daily basis. There is a lot of things involved with our program with Yamaha. Bike testing, schedules, dyno facilities, track time …. there are many things going on. We do most of our direct reporting to Yamaha USA, but occasionally we communicate and/or meet with engineers from Yamaha Japan. We met with some engineers from Yamaha Japan recently at one of our test tracks regarding the Yamaha YZ 250 four-stroke, which we think is such a great project.
SELVARAJ: We communicate with the parent company in Austria every day. It can be phone, fax, or e-mail. Sometimes there can be a bit of difficulty since there is a nine hour time difference. Sometimes we must come in extra early in the morning, or stay late at night to communicate properly. We are also using a new technology where we can have instant communication directly from the track via new technologies like the new pagers and such.
LARRY: Almost every day with someone from Yamaha. If I have a question, I might call Keith. There is a lot of feedback and communication, so we need to talk almost daily.
KEITH: We communicate on a daily basis with Yamaha of Japan. They are very involved with our program. Or should I say we are very involved in their program? No matter how you look at it, we have great support from Japan.
JEFF: With TheEdgeSports.com, they know that we know about our business, which is racing. Of course we communicate with them on logos and advertising and budgets and many other things. We are always trying to work together to do things better.
Everyone is in the sport because it’s fun, but it’s also a business. We want to increase sales, we want to increase advertising and marketing exposure too. With Kawasaki, many of the same things occur, but there is also the issues of dealing with the motorcycles themselves, different schedules, and team appearances. We all communicate daily.
Each rider has a different personality, and ways to get motivated. How do you try to motivate them?
ERIK: We do have to use different methods of trying to reach different riders. However, we have set-up various policies in place the help. I think the key to making it work is to get each rider to understand all the different aspects of a race team. It’s not just showing up on the weekend and riding! They need to be conscious of appearance and representation of themselves, and how they represent all of our sponsors. That can be dealer appearances, communicating with the fans, signing autographs, doing interviews with the media, and more. If you try to force someone to do something, it can become a struggle. But if you teach them the importance of it and they understand, it all becomes much easier. Some riders understand the importance of these things, and it’s never a problem for them to show up on time for appearances and such. Other riders, we might have to remind them more than once. We have to educate them to understand the importance of it all. What I like to do is try and explain to them the ‘big’ picture. That was one of my biggest learning experiences when I went from a professional racer to being a team manager and trying to understand the business side of things.
SELVARAJ: My personality is important. I must adapt my personality to different riders and their personalities. I feel this is very important. It can be difficult sometimes, but at the same time things are changing within the sport, because the riders are now realizing they are professional riders, and they know the objectives we are trying to accomplish along with winning races. They must have a winning attitude and a good working relationship with everyone to satisfy both their and the companies goals. All of us, from the managers to mechanics to the riders realize how important this objective is, and to maintain the rules and regulations of the company. I’ve always said that the racing team does not maintain the company, but the company maintains the racing team. We all understand how important that is.
LARRY: Of course everyone is different. Everyone goes thru highs and lows during a season. Jeremy is the type of person that is very straight-forward. I feel like I’m straight-forward too. If I feel something needs to be said, I just say it. I just try to tell him whatever I’m thinking right from my heart. No b.s.. Jeremy’s been thru so much over his career, he can see right thru the b.s.. Just tell him what I think, and he’ll run it thru his thought process. He’ll use the good, and throw out the bad. There isn’t a word I can say to fire him up, ’cause he’s already so motivated. He’s already got the self-motivation.
BRUCE: From my personal standpoint, I never like to have any discussions with one rider in front of another.
Within the Team Chevy Trucks/Kawasaki, there is actually two teams: ‘Team’ Ricky Carmichael and ‘Team’ Stephane Roncada. Ricky doesn’t want Stephane to beat him. And Stephane doesn’t want Ricky to beat him. In each race, there is only one number one finisher, and riders take little comfort in their team-mate beating them.
We try to treat each of them individually, so that they know they are being taken seriously. Each rider needs to know that they have equal opportunity to win. We don’t play favorites one over another. It’s important that if you want to get top riders on your team, one rider can’t take a premium position over another.
JEFF: With Michael, we’ve already put together a good working relationship and chemistry. With Casey, I think we are still finding out what makes each of us tick together. I think it’s all coming together though. Because of where I’m at personally, during the month of November I didn’t get to spend enough time with our riders as I would of liked to. Now however, I’m able to spend more time going out with them to practice and test.
KEITH: For me it’s all about timing. This past season was David’s first time to our team and I think he was very motivated coming to the US to race a full season. He wanted to do well. I think he did a great job. He proved to everyone including himself that he’s competitive. He left with some unfinished business though. I know he would of liked to win a championship this past season. That’s motivating him for this coming season.
In Tim’s case, I think the same thing will happen to him that happened to David. Tim will probably be more self-motivating.
One thing is not to force a guy to ride over his limits. Let them find out where they really are. Everyone wants to believe that he’s ready to go and is a winner, but that’s not always the case. Tim will find out where he fits, and then work on improving that. That’s my method of approaching things.
Your hopes and expectations for 2001?
KEITH: We’ve done everything we can do to be ready, and I’m excited about our team. Our riders have been working hard and are really looking forward to the first few races. As always there is competition out there too. That’s what makes all this so fun. You just don’t know what level all the other guys are at too. We always assume they are going to be the very best, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
I think there is going to be some great racing. I expect us to be on the podium a lot. We are going to win some races. And we are racing to win another championship or two.
ERIK: Our expectations are to be in the hunt for all three championships that we contest. That will be the 125 West supercross, 125 East, and 125 outdoor nationals. We do have two former supercross champions in Ernesto Fonseca and Nathan Ramsey. Add in Justin Buckelew, who recently won the 125 event in Bercy, and is coming back for his second year. He’s gaining confidence, and I look for good things to come from him. And Nick Wey is with us too. He’s always been very consistent in the 125 East events. He’s always in the hunt, and I look for him to make a move to be on the podium. I look for good things in 2001 for the Yamaha of Troy team. We’ve got a good group of people.
SELVARAJ: Of course, we want to win! And all four riders want to win. Realistically, we believe we have a very good chance of doing well in the 125 East and West in supercross. Grant Langston is a newcomer to supercross in the US, and has not had that much experience in supercross, but he is very fast, and will just take time to become more familiar with supercross tracks. David Pingree has experience, and he’s motivated. Brock Sellards is very strong, and he’s very motivated. His record in 125 East is very good, and he has a good attitude. He has said that he never expected the bikes to be this good, and he’s very excited. Kelly Smith is another one that is very motivated, and I think with all four of these riders working together will benefit each one of them individually.
BRUCE: We want to win. We want to win championships. Our goal this coming season is to win both 250 championships. We’d like to think we’ve put ourselves in a good position to do that. An example is Ricky. He’s only 21 years old, but his growth has been phenomenal. I believe he has confidence now that maybe before he didn’t have. We’ve made improvements in the bike, and he’s made improvements in himself. We think he’s capable of winning. With Stephane, there are so many things that are going to be new to him. New team, new size bike, new brand of bike, and there will be a lot of adjustments that will need to be made. He’s a very talented supercross rider, and we expect a lot out of him. With his ability, we believe he’s going to improve as the year goes on. I think he’s a podium level rider. Is he championship caliber? Right now we don’t know because we haven’t seen him race yet in the 250 class.
We are very happy with the two riders we have. They are both young. They are both different from each other, and I believe that’s good for us. There is a lot of enthusiasm within our team, and that works together to say that we should have a good year, and that’s what we are looking for.
JEFF: For long term during the supercross series, a reachable goal for us is to have both guys inside the top ten. For a short term goal, I’d like to see one of our guys get top five in a race. I think that’s possible, and therefore a reachable goal.
LARRY: Expectation is to win the supercross championship of course. Ever since this team was put together, we all have that common goal. Of course, every team wants to win Ideally, I would like to see Jeremy win more races in the series. Jeremy races to win races. Jeremy is not out there racing to make money, or any other reasons. Don’t get me wrong … Jeremy makes a great deal of money. But he gets paid well because of what’s he’s done in the past. As far as the future goes, he just wants to win races.
We have assembled all the right personnel to make it happen. We have a rider capable of making it happen, …. but with racing, ya’ never know!