Rick: Tim, in 2002 you showed you have the speed, but luck wasn’t too good for you. Will you be doing anything different for 2003?
Tim: Yes, I’ve changed some things a bit. I’m working more on riding technique.
I’ve always taught myself, and that’s what I know with my riding style. But at the end of the 2002 season, I started working with Ron Tichenor on technique. It’s helping me realize how and why I do certain things on the bike, and make adjustments accordingly.
I’m also training a bit different. I felt very strong at the end of the outdoor season. In the off-season I’ve continued to work hard. Haven’t had any ‘down’ time, which I think helps with strength.
During this past season, I had a few small injuries that kept me off the bike for a week or two at a time. And I had a more serious knee injury coming into the start of the season. But now I feel strong.
There is not a big difference between me and Ricky Carmichael, but it’s there. So how can we make this up? That’s why the little changes in how I’m approaching things.
Taking it up a notch is something Jeremy McGrath started years ago, and now Ricky Carmichael has done the same. It’s something I hope and need to do as well.
Rick: You’ll be riding the YZ 450. What about the bike? Is it better?
|This is Tim’s YZ 450|
Tim: Compared to the 426, this new 450 is better. More than 10% better. And at this level, that’s saying a lot. Normally from year to year, the bikes make small improvements, but this year it’s a huge improvement. It should make a nice difference.
This new bike is easier to charge on. It has a feel almost like a two-stroke. And it’s lighter. I can hit the face of jumps harder. It’s much easier to be aggressive on.
Rick: I’ve heard the 450 has a really nice hit, and you’ve made some changes to make it smoother for your style. What did you change?
Tim: Our bikes are very close to stock. We did a small amount of head work, and we added some weight to the flywheel. It’s a little bit easier to ride, and a little more mellow in power. I can be more aggressive, and use the mid and high part of the power band. For me, riding 20 laps aggressively is more important that having more power.
The 450 has less four-stroke engine braking with the motor. The bike coasts better when the throttle is off, more like a two-stroke. That means when you jump in the air, the front end stays up a bit more.
Compared to how we modified the older 426, we haven’t made many changes to these new bikes. Right out of the box they are great.
Rick: I’ve been in different positions coming into the first race of the year at Anaheim. Sometimes I felt I had to win, and other times I would be happy getting in the top five at that first race. What would you walk away content with, and looking forward to the remaining 15 rounds from that first race in Anaheim?
Tim: It’s going to be a long series. To go into the first race thinking I want to win every race is unrealistic. To come out of that first race with a podium finish is what I’m shooting for. If I can’t win the race, I just want to be on the box.
You can’t go into that first race wanting to win, and then not win, and be disappointed. There are a lot of good guys racing right now, plus new guys coming up.
It’s a long season, and I want to be in it till the end. I raced the US Open, and a race in Italy, and I’m doing the two rounds in Europe too. I want to stay in the rhythm of racing. I want to come into Anaheim ready to go.
Rick: On the starting line of a main event, there are 20 guys going for the win. I don’t want to single out any guys, but right now it’s impossible not to – Ricky Carmichael put the wood to everyone in 2002. What are you going to do to beat him?
Tim: You are right – Ricky is the guy. Ricky’s the fastest guy on the first lap of practice, and the fastest guy at the end of the race.
What I’m going to do is be more aggressive all the way around – from practice till the checkered flag. We all need to take it seriously, because Ricky definitely takes it all seriously. Every corner, every jump.
Rick: Are you ready to get physical on the track if need be?
Tim: I am. This is the strongest I’ve ever felt. I was more aggressive when I was riding two-strokes, such as when I rode for Chaparral, and as a privateer with Noleen. When I got on the four-stroke, it felt a little heavier, and harder to whip around, especially in the corners. I feel like my aggression went down the past few years. With the new 450, I feel like I can more aggressive now.
I’m looking forward to 2003. I’m looking forward to being more aggressive, and making some passes when I need to, not waiting for an opening. It’s 20 laps all out.
I’ve been riding a lot with team-mate Chad Reed, and he’s shown he’s going to be a force, and he’s aggressive. And you know Ezra, LaRocco, and Roncada are going to be aggressive too. It’s going to be an exciting year, and you are going to see a lot of passion on the track.