Monster Energy Kawasaki Supercross Team Manager Mike Fisher
Team Manager Mike Fisher took a few minutes to talk to us about how the preparations are coming along for the upcoming 2011 Supercross season:
Let’s start with Ryan Villopoto. He’s your ‘big gun’ in supercross – a proven commodity. RV has won multiple AMA National Motocross Lites Championships, is a two time regional Supercross champion and has an overall individual championship at the 2007 MX of Nations on a 250! He won seven Main Events in the 2010 season, but then was injured and has been out of action since the St. Louis Supercross earlier this year.
How has Ryan’s testing for the 2011 Supercross season been going?
Mike Fisher: It’s been awesome. We looked at all of our notes from the previous season, and we addressed every one of the issues he had at each race. We’ve worked hard, and we have satisfied him in those areas.
We’re just really excited to finally go racing again, and we’re pretty much ready. We have one more test day just to finalize things and then we’re ready to go.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Supercross racer Ryan Villopoto
It seems like you are right on top of getting your riders and their bikes ready. Jake and Ryan both seemed pleased with the baseline set up, and said they have only been making small changes.
Mike: We go through a process. One of the biggest things about us as a team is we’ve been racing since 1973 and we have notes from that time. Not that we would use any of those now, (laugh) but we have a lot that we do. We have a lot of data on the bikes that we use to get an initial set up, and go from there.
Every once in awhile we get ahead of ourselves and don’t look at the previous data. We have to pull back and say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s go look at our stuff. Let’s look at last season, let’s look at the year before. What did we do at this track the last three years?” Then we just look at all the data, we make a list, and a plan for the future.
Plus we have a great staff. Our suspension technician is awesome. We have one guy and he does everything. He doesn’t miss anything. He’s there at every race and we don’t switch him around with other people.
The suspension and the chassis work are the most difficult things for bike and rider set up. It’s really ‘tuning’ it for the rider
That’s the difference between everyone that is out there. It’s the difference between any team or any rider and their bike. All the bikes are basically good bikes. Everybody builds a good bike to start with, and it’s just how well we can adjust it for each rider that makes the difference. If we need to gain another second or half-second, what can we do for this rider to achieve that? And then we just keep pushing until we find that.
Jake Weimer told me he is really happy with the way you guys have got him set up on the bike. He said you’ve been making very good progress.
Mike: Yeah, we started out with last season’s settings that we had for Ryan. As we were testing and made improvements on Ryan’s bike, we had Jake try everything as we went along, because Jake was pretty happy with the starting place.
As things moved along, Jake went with everything that Ryan did. Finally, after riding for a while, he had his own opinion about things and we started working with him directly. And it was really, really good. He’s really good to work with and, I think you’re right – he seems to be really happy.
With this being Jake’s rookie season in the 450 Supercross class, do you think it has been beneficial for him to have someone like Ryan around who has had success on the bigger bike and is considered one of the top riders in the sport right now?
Mike: Very much so. Jake worked with Ryan some last season also. They rode together and I think Ryan mentored him a little bit. I don’t know if he’s so much mentoring him currently, but they get along. They train hard. They don’t goof off so much that you think their friendship will get in the way of being competitive. They are not like that all. They really work off of each other and push each other.
Do you think Jake will be able to duplicate the success that he had in the Supercross Lites West Series last season?
Mike: That is the million dollar question. Do I think he is going to be awesome? Yes. But, it’s hard to predict how well guys will do when they move up to the 450 class. There are definitely a lot of talented guys out there right now and he will be racing more races than he has before in his career. But his riding style is very smooth, with very good control.
Jake Weimer clinching the 2010 AMA Western Regional Supercross Lites Championship in the snow at Salt Lake City
Both Ryan and Jake seem ready to go for 2011. But that was not really the case with Chad Reed in 2010. What happened?
Mike: Clearly it didn’t work out that well with Chad and Kawasaki. When we started out, he was only testing with us for two days before he left for Australia for two months. Then he came back in mid December, and then it was the first race of the season at Anaheim 1. We just never really had the right amount of time. We didn’t have a ‘team dynamic’ with him yet, and it was difficult. It was his first time on our bike and with our team and we didn’t have any time to set things up properly for us or for him. It just didn’t really work that well.
Will Christophe Pourcel be with Monster Energy Kawasaki in 2011?
Mike: There was some discussion about him joining the team, but it didn’t work out. We have our two riders and there are definitely no plans to add a third rider to the team.
Just keeping a bike on the road and keeping the bike running is really expensive with the cost of parts and the staff. We decided we couldn’t really afford to do it properly and we are not going do it.
Can you talk a bit about how you keep a team going throughout the season in not the best economic times. The way I’ve seen Kawasaki run operations at the race track, it’s like you are taking an entire race shop on the road with you.
Mike: We are doing things pretty much the same way we have in the past. We have had to reduce some areas, but most of those areas that are being reduced are non-essential things for racing. We have a good relationship with our parent company in Japan, KHI (Kawasaki Heavy Industries).
All of our racing is developmental work for the KX motorcycle line. It’s a benefit to the company to have us racing at this level.
How closely do you guys work with Mitch Payton and Pro Circuit? He obviously has a pretty good development program over at Pro Circuit, but how involved are the two teams?
Mike: We’re involved with parts, and technical support from Japan. We supply the riders and pay all the riders’ expenses and stuff like that. And then Mitch does all the development on his own, so he has freedom to do his own development. If he encounters problems then we try to help him with it. He takes care of all the day-to-day operations of the team.
Mike, thanks very much for your time, the interview, and I hope you and Kawasaki have great success in 2011.
Mike: Thank you too. And we’ll see you at the races!