Chatter Box: Mark Yates

Mark Yates on Revo Husqvarna's rise into MX2

· 15 min read

Revo Husqvarna have gone from strength to strength in the last year and are now poised to tackle a new challenge when the upcoming season fires into life, as they will tackle the MX2 class in the FIM Motocross World Championship with Alvin Ostlund and Dylan Walsh. Other parts of their programme, such as where Mel Pocock will race, are still up in the air though, hence why now seemed like an ideal time to catch up with the man in charge, Mark Yates.

MX Vice: First off, we will go back to six months ago. There were rumors in the paddock that you were thinking about going into MXGP, rather than MX2. Was that ever a plan or were those just rumors?  

Mark Yates: No. Initially when we started this year… It was the third year of our three-year step plan, if you like, so the third year was always to go back to GPs. Mel [Pocock] has obviously always been like family, so we got Mel and then we took on Martin [Barr]. Both of those riders aged out of MX2 and the discussion was, if we go back to GPs, we are going to have to consider doing MXGP, because of the age of those two riders. That was the option at the start. Mel really did not want to do MXGP at all. He just wanted to do the European series. His injury… It is compounded by a number of things. He felt he did not really want to be riding a 450F in light of the injury, that obviously he has come back from.  

Martin Barr finished fourth in EMX250 for Revo Husqvarna this season (ConwayMX)

Mel does not struggle, but he has to ride consciously sometimes. On a 450F that would be like starting over again. The second reason is we were not forced to, but we were sort of guided towards… Once we acquired the support from the factory, we were guided towards sticking to what we know and do, which is being an MX2 team. Husqvarna Motorcycles UK were not really interested in MXGP, because they do not sell as many of the FC 450 bikes, so we were asked if we would just focus on MX2. That was the decision then, to go to MX2, which obviously created an issue with our current rider line-up. Everything had to be agreed and understood in a window. It is just unfortunate for Martin. Obviously, it was not going to work for him.

Mel’s been part of the family, so we had already sort of agreed that if we have to stick to MX2 bikes then we would try to actually run him again in the European. We felt he was a strong rider and a strong competitor. Struggled on the hard pack, but again that is his riding style due to the way he is compensating for his hand. Mel rides very forward on the bike, which caught us out a little bit in Switzerland and Bulgaria. The whole MX2 thing came about because the factory guys were trying to push us to sign Zachary Pichon, whilst at the same time we were in negotiations with Dylan [Walsh].

Their biggest push was to take Pichon in the early stages and then to potentially tag Walsh on the side. We said we only wanted one MX2 rider at that time, because we could only cater to two riders. One was obviously going to be in MX2. We went through it and negotiated with Pichon for about three weeks and that came to no end. We were then asked to consider Tom Vialle. There was another rider, who was Australian. I am not sure of his name and, in the end, we said no. We managed to get them to agree to just put everything together for Dylan Walsh in MX2 and put a very small deal on the table for us to support Mel in the European series.

Revo Husqvarna also had Dylan Woodcock racing in Europe and Britain (ConwayMX)

 I just do not think it is that important to the factory, which is fine. That was that part. We obviously released Martin, then obviously two or three weeks ago the news broke about the EMX rule change and that threw the biggest spanner in the works. Not just for us as a team or Mel as a rider, but obviously a number of other teams and a number of other riders. It was a big problem. The support that we got from the factory for Mel was then taken away, basically, but then when Alvin Ostlund came aboard, we negotiated a deal to run him. That is where we are to date. Obviously, Mel is still sat here and we feel a moral obligation to help him.

We had a meeting yesterday. Nothing has been decided with Mel at all yet. Obviously now he is not in the position to do anything in Europe, because he has aged. Atwo-stroke series is of no interest to the team and obviously the 450F is a no-go for him. We are in limbo. We have had a meeting and at the moment we are trying to find a way to support him in 2019 in any way we can.Whether that is going to be under our awning or not is something we have not made a decision on yet. We are hopefully going to decide on what the path is for Mel in the next few days. If he goes somewhere else, we will probably still support him as a Revo athlete or financially try to help him. Like I say, he has really been extended family to me.

It is currently unknown what series Mel Pocock will contest next year (ConwayMX)

MX2 was the only way forward. We have got a lot of development done in the last few years engine-wise. We felt we could take a competitive bike into that MX2 class with two solid riders, if we can keep them fit. I think with Dylan… We took Dylan on. He said he struggled with the Diga bike a bit with tightness in the second races, which he put down to the suspension.We have had him here on a 2018 bike, because we are still getting the 2019 bikes ready and since he has been running on WP, we have got a set-up for him and he is riding that bike and doing two forty-minute motos. He feels as strong as hell.

He is absolutely full of confidence that he has got through that issue of tiredness, where he was over-riding in the first race and then he burnt himself out for the second. Time will tell when we start those races. We will see. Currently Dylan is on a full riding, training and nutrition programme that has been set out by Gareth Swanepoel. Dylan will maintain reporting to him during the winter training and 2019 season.  

On the Mel situation just a tiny bit more, it sounds like no matter how you help him, whether that is in the Maxxis British Championship or somewhere else in the world, that is solely coming out of your pocket. If you wanted to be a ruthless businessman, you could just tell him that these are the rules and there is nothing you can do. This is obviously something that you personally feel strongly about. After all, he has given you just as much as you have given him.

Yeah. I feel a moral obligation. We have been as instrumental in his return and his comeback from his injury as he has to our success and our exposure that we have received. Like I said, he is like extended family. It will be a financial commitment that comes out of our pockets, if that is what we do. It is something that we are talking to him about now, to see what he wants to do. That is where we are.

We are actually a full-factory satellite team, with a factory contract with Austria. We are obligated. We have to run WP suspension. That is where we are at. We know it is going to be a busy year and a hard year. It is not our first rodeo. You know that as a team we were in MX2 with Roger Magee for three years. We are down to do all twenty rounds. 

Martin Barr won a single EMX250 moto for Revo Husqvarna this season (ConwayMX)

It sounds like, like you said, it was your plan to enter MX2 or MXGP at this point. Do you feel ready? Is there anything that kind of stands out as a bit of a fear of yours?

No, not at all. I feel that we have had a good bike and the package will be better than what we had this year. Where we are with the bike, with the engine and everything else… We have a very competitive bike. We signed Dylan and you always worry about only have one rider, so we were going to be going there with Mel as a back-up rider in EMX250. We had to look at an alternative, because we could not go to GPs with one rider. My concerns were only as a one-rider team and failing to go through a weekend after an early injury, because it is a heavy investment. With two riders I feel more comfortable.We have a lot of support with products and from Husqvarna direct too and we need to perform!

It costs so much to do this, as you know. More of that is funded through Revo. We are fortunate to have our sponsors talking to us, because of the exposure that we are creating. Going with one rider was a problem. Alvin [Ostlund] tested the bike and, from the point he tested the bike after he raced at RedBud, he decided he wanted to be on the team. We negotiated a deal over two weeks, then that was all done and signed. It was a relief, because I feel now that we have the ingredients to go there and be relatively successful and solid.

I feel we have got two riders who are capable of being in the top ten, plus we have the equipment to do the job as well. Now, with two MX2 riders, I feel a lot more confident. It is nothing to do with the workload… The added workload does not impact me mentally at all. It actually took more stress off me having two riders, because I feel we have increased ourchances of success.  

Mel Pocock missed out on the EMX250 title by fifty-four measly points (ConwayMX)

It really sounds like you were committed to Dylan Walsh from the very beginning of your negotiations. Was there any reason for that? Do you just like the guy? Do you see something in him?

We met with him and spoke with him. We met him a few times during the course of the season, when he was doing EMX. We could see how quick he was and how talented he was. We could also see from the outside some of the issues that he was having. I knew he, as well as his manager, felt that if he could get support and what he thought would be a better bike, he could do well. It just became a thing that the conversations went on and every time he would come and see us in the paddock. It just went from there, really, and we felt that we have got to start with an MX2 rider from somewhere.  

You are looking around at who is going where and what you have got out there. Dylan did one race at Teutschenthal in MX2 and qualified, I think, eighth in the qualifying race, then had some issues in both motos. I just felt that he was a good kid to take a chance on. He is half British! If I can promote British riders, I do. We have been hit with that just recently, because we have signed Alvin and obviously Dylan. Whatever support you get from the factory depends on your rider choice and, as much as I would like to have British riders, we have got to start somewhere back in GPs.

The support comes with the rider choice, I am afraid. Dylan is British born and has only got a British passport. Obviously, he has lived in New Zealand since he was three or four and then went and raced in America. We are where we are. We also try to support British youth with Ollie Colmer on a TC 85. Now we recently, as of last weekend, support his friend Ryan Waggott. We agreed to give a level of support to those two riders in 85s to try and help the British riders as well. We like to think we could be a British feeder team. That is what we are working towards.

Alvin Ostlund was a late signing for the Revo Husqvarna team (Husqvarna Motorcycles UK)

 Obviously, the Maxxis British Championship has always been a priority for you. Do you foresee a time when the team has to kind of forego the Maxxis British Championship to put all of the resources into the world series? You are a Husqvarna Motorcycles UK team, so that is still important to your sponsors and everything, but how is it going to be balancing those two?

The British Championship is, I would say, equally as important. I do not think either one of them are more important. Obviously, we have a level of support from Husqvarna Motorcycles UK. Their support is really just for the British Championship, so that is a priority to them and therefore a big priority for us. It is more likely that we couldwin the British than the world title. We have been close so many times like with Mel in 2014, when we were with Roger, as we finished in second then. I think even for Mel, he wants to try to win a British Championship. It is the same for us a team now.

I think that as a three-year-old team, under a new guise, I think we have shown we are more than capable of running at the front in the British, provided we have got the right ingredients in a rider. I think we will have that again this year. It is not going to be as easy in the British, because there are going to be a number of MXGP riders with the Revo boys, the Hitachi boys and a number of others. I think the British is going to be quite exciting next year. I am looking forward to the British as equally as I am looking forward to the world championship.

Finally, moving onto MX2 on the world stage was the end of a three-year plan that you had for the team. From this point on, do you only want to get bigger and better? In 2020, will you be looking to sign a podium contender and then the year after get race wins? Do you want to take this to the very top? 

Yeah, for sure. I always say I only race to win. I do not want to be the first loser. My goal is that I always want to win, but you obviously have to be realistic. I need to appreciate that winning a world championship is quite a long way off. You have got to have that quality of rider, like a [Jorge] Prado or [Jeffrey] Herlings. I would like to think that we could be going for podiums at least. At the end of the day, stepping up to a rider of that stature will always come down to how you perform as a team and how you acquire additional financial support. Taking any of those riders is not cheap.

Again, you just have to take it year by year. That is no different with your contracts and such. You will never do a two-year deal with a factory. They are twelve-month contracts all the time. They do not give two-year deals. I think we have to do the year and see how we are going. Then what level of support you tend to acquire… You need to be successful obviously to acquire that sort of attention and get that support. That will determine I think, at the end of the day, if you can afford that rider and if that rider is willing to leave and take a chance on a private team.

Dylan Walsh and Alvin Ostlund will represent Revo Husqvarna in MX2 (Husqvarna Motorcycles UK)

The under-twenty-three rule in the EMX250… Obviously it has burnt you and it has burnt Mel, but do you understand where they are going with this? Can you see the bigger picture and understand that, although it sucks right now, it may be the best thing for the class?

Yeah. I will give you my full take on it now. I agree on half of it and I do not agree on… Let me explain. This is how I believe it should have been. You should age out at seventeen in EMX125. You should age out of EMX250 at twenty-three. MX2 should be treated as a premier class, just like MXGP. Not every guy makes the transition to a 450F and performs like they did in MX2. I think that is the opinion of a lot of people. You cannot have the same age limit on EMX250 and MX2, then still call it a stepping stone.

The only other thing I am a little bit disappointed about is that they pushed to make this decision four months away from the start of the championship and we have all signed contracts. If this was something for 2020, I think we would have all understood it. I understand the reason behind it. We already had our Husqvarna contract for EMX signed with Mel Pocock. It sent everybody back to the drawing board. Not just us, it has had an impact on a number of people. I do understand what they are trying to do, but I do believe that MX2 should be treated as a premier class.

Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX

Fantasy MX Manager
Play & Win Prizes!