There’s a week off here in America after three straight Lucas Oil Pro Motocross rounds. That’s it, after this, as there’s six in a row, so enjoy the barbeque sessions now riders and industry members. It’s just going to get major busy from here on in!
Some thoughts on an injured star from over here, then interviews with Lakewood 250MX winner Joey Savatgy and factory Honda team manager Dan Betley fill my MX Vice report this week.
Big news over here was the injury to Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, who crashed and broke some vertebrae in his neck in a somewhat innocent crash at Lakewood. The fact that he’s now out six to eight weeks with this injury is a huge blow to KTM, Ryan and the series. It’s incredible that these upcoming nationals will be the first ones that Ryan has missed since 2007 when he was on a 250! That is incredible in this day and age.
With Ken Roczen running away with the first six motos of the year (yeah, yeah we know he lost at Glen Helen but it was still a runaway) he’s now got a thirty-point lead over Eli Tomac, who now assumes the mantle of ‘guy trying to stop Roczen’.
With six in a row and then a two-week break Ryan’s diagnosis would be to come back at the last three and line up for some wins. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he and the team just held him out of the rest of the series, the two USGP’s (although he wasn’t committed to either one yet) and unfortunately the MXoN. That would leave him in line to come back for the Red Bull Straight Rhythm and then the Monster Energy Cup.
I hope I’m wrong because it would be great for Team USA to have Dungey back on the MXoN team, but we don’t normally see these high-caliber riders come back late in a series they don’t have a chance at.
Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy answered everyone’s questions about his win at Hangtown with a convincing win at Lakewood with 2-1 finishes. It probably should’ve been 1-1 if not for a late race fall in moto one. Savatgy’s got the red plate now with a weekend off and after the race in Colorado I caught up to him to get his take on things.
MX Vice: Us in the media, we were talking about how this weekend was really big for you. Obviously Glen Helen didn’t go well so we thought you needed to come in here and show that Hangtown’s ride was for real. I think you did it.
Joey Savatgy: Yeah like you said, I don’t necessarily, no offense, care what the media thinks. But, for me, especially it was very important that we regroup. I wasn’t feeling that great last weekend at Glen Helen, no excuses, but was a little under the weather.
I still thought you rode well though, coming from the back.
Yeah, we didn’t have good starts or ride that great. But we had a long week at the farm. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. Got my rear end chewed out and all sorts of fun stuff. We put in the work during the week. We’ve been putting in the work all along. Now it’s starting to come together and everything’s clicking. It was important for me, especially. I know that I have the speed regardless. It’s all about execution and at Glen Helen we didn’t execute. Bad starts, didn’t ride that great, didn’t feel that great, but we worked through it and came into this weekend feeling really good.
First moto was probably one of the best rides I’ve ever had in my life. Everything was clicking. It felt good. Unfortunately, I went down but the second moto we got a good start and put ourselves in a position to win. That’s the biggest thing. Every weekend with as many guys as there is, as long as we can put ourselves up there and in a good spot to win, I feel like we have a really good chance.
Alex Martin caught you in the second moto, I saw you look back and then to your credit you picked it up and held him off. How’d you do that?
It’s a double-edged sword. The first moto when I passed Jeremy (Martin) I was like, all right, I’m putting my head down. I wanted to try to pull a lead. I did and I had a goal in mind. I’m not going to say what it was, because people don’t need to know. I was laying the hammer down and it was just a dumb mistake. I could have taken a little bit – I might have lost half a second – but taken a different line, not follow the lappers, and we would have avoided that.
So we go to the second moto and I’m in the lead, I have a little bit of a lead. I’m trying to be conservative but not too conservative. Then when I saw he was catching me, it was like, all right. I did it until I looked back going up the hill and I saw that it was a blue bike with a red plate and I was thought that was Jeremy. So we had to pick it up. We had to go faster.
Did you find something out there or you just say ‘hey, I got to bear down and pick it up’?
A little bit of both. I started taking a few different lines, but the biggest thing for me was I had to bear down and go a little bit faster than what I was. I wasn’t necessarily conserving anything, but I was making sure I was hitting my marks. Whereas once Alex caught me it was kind of like, ‘alright, we got to go and not think so much and just throw it in there.’
Do you like this track?
I do. I’ve had terrible results here in the past. But I’ve always qualified good here and we did it again this year. Like I said, the biggest thing for me is I have to execute.
Give our readers an idea of how slow the bike is here at altitude.
I would imagine it’s comparable to if you left a rag in your air box and you’re wide open. The bike is just not going anywhere! A mod 125i might be as fast as our bikes at normal altitude.
Factory Honda riders Trey Canard and Cole Seely are looking good to start the nationals with good starts, some podiums and a consistent presence up front to start the season. I caught up to Dan Betely, who’s a former championship-winning mechanic for Jeff Stanton and guiding the big red ship. Of course Dan wouldn’t say anything, but we fully expect Ken Roczen to join Cole Seely over there for 2017. We touch on those rumors at the end of the interview.
MX Vice: All of us experts said that Yamahas and KTMs would be up front on these starts. Your riders, however, have been getting off the gate very well to start through the six races. You’ve got to be stoked on that.
Dan Betley: Yeah, if you can change I’d definitely switch over to team red, Honda power.
Did you find something? In supercross we spoke all year about Trey’s starts and everything else. Did you find something or is it just these guys are happier outdoors or what?
No, [Jason] Weigandt asked me the same thing. It’s really not. We do have a setting that we use for this race in particular, but we’ve been getting good starts for the beginning of the outdoors and really motor hasn’t changed that much. It wasn’t like we found all this horsepower or something. Starting in supercross and staring in outdoors are two different complete animals. Some guys have figured it out for both and some guys, like Trey, started coming around at the end of supercross. He's got it figured out now. So actually all three guys including Bogle are all good starters.
Seely was very impressive in the first moto. People probably won’t talk about him, but he ripped through the pack to get a really good finish. Trey finished on the podium. In the second moto Seely ended up third, so it was a good day for you guys.
Yeah, I’m really happy for the whole team. The engine department, chassis guys, everything. We’re clicking really well. We’re working well together. I’m just happy that we seem like we’re getting some momentum, we’re moving forward. Cole especially. He knows where he’s weak and he’s working on it and he’s got a new programme. I expect big things out of him, I really do. He’s got a lot of talent and he’s working on those weaknesses. Actually, I didn’t except a whole lot from him today. He came into the race saying he hurt in places he never knew he hurt before, but two solid rides from him and Trey also. I was really happy.
We know Trey's fast, we know he’s an outdoor guy, but Cole’s opening some eyes from Hangtown (third for twenty-eight minutes) to now. He’s been impressive.
Yeah and he’s never really been considered an outdoor rider before. He knew that was his weakness and he’s working on it. I’m stoked for the future.
What do you think about this track, facility and all that? These are things that people ask you about, as a team manager. What do you think about this place?
I like it. I really have always liked coming here. I actually remember coming here in like the ‘80s, believe it or not, and this place was an armpit. With what they’ve done to it, I really enjoy coming here.
What can you tell us about 2017 silly season for Honda?
It’s still silly. I can’t really say. We’re talking about when we’re going to release some of the information. I know people get all bent out of shape that we can’t say what we need to say, but people need to realize a little bit there’s a lot of reasons behind the scenes why we do what we do. A lot of it involves sponsors.
Yeah people forget that there are staffing issues, people’s lives are affected by what the riders are doing.
Staffing, people, whether they’re going to be around or not be around. Everything has to be taken into consideration before we release what we’re actually doing.
Sometimes us in the media, we’re competitive too with the other media guys where we want to break things or get things. So we’re probably partly to blame.
I don’t blame you. That’s your job, and you guys do it almost too well. But unfortunately we try to keep things quiet for reasons that I stated and then things just get out. They leak out through clothing guys or agents or whatever.
Can you believe the stuff that people tell me?
It’s nuts. It bewilders me how you guys find out about the things you find out about. Literally within hours of things happening, you guys find out about them and it just really pisses me off.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: KTM/Simon Cudby