It was eleven years ago that Ricky Carmichael retired from full-time competition. The GOAT is still one of the most popular figures in the sport, despite that, hence why we were eager to catch up with him at the Motocross of Nations and discuss the state of the sport and the now-defunct RCH operation.
MX Vice: Team USA have been talked about a lot this year, but maybe for all of the wrong reasons? Guys have opted out of the Motocross of Nations, whereas you always jumped at the opportunity. How do you view that situation?
Ricky Carmichael: It is just different. We just live in a different generation now. These guys put so much emphasis on supercross and don’t do the same for motocross. They do what they have to in order to get by, be competitive or get the job done. I think they are more focussed on supercross and that it has been that way for the last several years. The motivation for them to come here is not as high as it used to be. I do not know what is different, other than that it is just a different generation. There are still the same number of races and everything is worth the same as it used to be, so I cannot explain why riders are not as eager to be picked for the team. I don’t know why.
Did you not put the same emphasis on supercross in your career then? Obviously you had seventeen indoor and twelve out, so kind of the same schedule.
I put the same amount of effort into any event I did or any series, you know. I am not saying that the US guys don’t be put effort into motocross, but I think they do just enough to get by. They do what they have got to do to get by in motocross, whereas in supercross they go above and beyond what they probably have to do.
Motocross is where you made your name, so is it disappointing for you to see it go that way? Do you see it trending downhill further as time progresses?
Unfortunately, I do. It is a shame, it really is. It is a change in the times and I do not think that I necessarily know the reason why it is changing, but it is sad a little bit. Motocross is definitely where I had a lot of my success at. I also know that times change, man, all in the world.
Did that confuse you with RCH? You were out there with the guys focussing on supercross, but scratching your head and thinking about the twelve outdoors that were coming up and how they needed to start preparing for the heat and humidity?
Yeah, pretty much. Just to give you an example, as we are talking about supercross and motocross. We prep for outdoors for a week or two maybe, but we prep for supercross for months and months at a time. There is just a lot more emphasis put on supercross and if you ask any of the guys from America about the championship they want to win, it is going to be supercross. All I can say is that times change.
Transitioning onto the team, which is obviously done. Are you content with the fact that it has gone? Do you feel like you still had more to achieve and give?
I am content with what we accomplished. We got to do a lot of things that most teams have not done and compete against some of the teams with a way bigger budget. I am happy with what we accomplished. However, I wish that we could have got a supercross championship. It really sucks that we didn’t get that. You know, we did all that we could do. I’m happy with who we beat and what we accomplished. If there is a regret or disappointment that I have, it is that I wish we could have got a supercross.
From your viewpoint, why did the doors close? Is there one thing that you saw? A mistake or path that you went down that you regret or indicated that the end was near?
No, I don’t regret anything that we did. There is just no sponsorship. We can’t spend our own money, because it is just too expensive to operate the way that we want to operate. That is at a high level, because we are racing against teams like HRC and KTM who have deep pockets. The bottom line is that we didn’t have outside sponsorship and that is just the way that it goes.
I guess that is the worrying thing. A guy like you, with your connections, let alone Carey [Hart]. If you cannot make this work, then what have we got to do here?
I really feel like we had the best marketing programme in the paddock. If we could not do it, it is going to be hard for anyone to do it.
Obviously the title was your greatest accomplishment with the team, but I feel like the podiums with Broc [Tickle] this year may have meant more to you on a personal level? You worked with him for so long and took him to that point.
One hundred percent. Sometimes taking a guy like Tickle and getting him on the podium is better than having a guy like Ken Roczen and him winning. It really is. You want to take a guy and make him better, as you always get a lot of satisfaction out of that.
That is why I did not really understand the rumours that were going on this year about you losing interest after losing a title contender. You were invested personally in these guys, obviously after working with Broc for so long and Justin [Bogle] ended up on your farm, so maybe there was more reason for you to pay attention?
Yeah, I think we had the right people in place at RCH to do the job. I really believe that. All of the employees we had had been at other teams and won championships, so I know that we had great employees. I had invested interest in the riders, especially the guys who wanted to listen to my help, so you want to see them do good. It is a shame, but times change and I feel like all of our employees did a really good job for us. They got a good opportunity and our riders got opportunities as well.
Finally, what does the future hold for you? I guess you are going to be involved with JGR in some way?
Yeah. I’ll be involved with Suzuki as a brand ambassador, so I’ll be helping them and continuing my role where it is at. Any help that they want from me then I am their guy!
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer