James Hanson is Rockstar Energy Racing’s hands-on global Motocross Manager, en-route to this weekend’s Daytona Supercross – round 10 of the AMA/ FIM World Supercross Championship – gives an insight into the brand that is Rockstar Energy Racing and how he and the team is passionate about its racing project.
Rockstar Energy Racing has experienced a lot of growing pains over the past few years and we have stuck right along with them through all the highs and lows. I have witnessed everything first hand as I have not missed a race since Bobby Hewitt’s team and Rockstar Energy Drink became a family. Yes, from a business standpoint we are the team’s title sponsor thus making us partners. However it has been heard from the mouth of Team Manager Dave Gowland, owner Bobby Hewitt, every member of the crew, riders and Rockstar Energy Drink executives including Marketing Director Mike Kelso, that we are more than just that. The atmosphere surrounding this team is pure magic and that has certainly helped lead the team to its success this year.
I could not agree more.
When I mentioned growing pains and highs and lows, there were certainly our share of lows in the beginning. But that is to be expected when building something great. It’s not often you can start at the top. I remember a time when we had so many injuries to top guys and even replacement riders, that the team semi-fielded only a sole fill in rider in Jarred Browne at Red Bud a few years ago. Then there was a huge high when the team got its first victory from rookie Blake Bagget in Dallas, near Bobby Hewitt’s home town. Each year the highs have grown and the lows have begun to diminish. I will be the first to admit last year my expectations exceeded our results. Not for the lack of trying; but just because this sport is unpredictable and sometimes things just don’t go your way. However, looking back, it wasn’t a bad season: Blake Wharton picked up a win in Indy and finished third in the east coast series and Jason Anderson finished fifth in the west, despite an injury.
Coming into 2013 we were very excited. Not only did we feel this was our most talented team ever, but we also had assembled a 450 program based around Davi Millsaps. I knew just how hard everyone on the team was working. We all knew that every rider had potential of doing great things. I’m not going to lie and say I was surprised when Davi won A1. Although it was probably the happiest, most accomplished feeling I’ve ever had in this sport, I knew he could win races. If you had asked me if he would be leading the points at this point in the season, I would have been more sceptical. However, that is also part of the fact that I refuse to make predictions. Anyone who asks me who will be top-three, or who will win, will get my standard answer; “I don’t know.” It’s not that I’m superstitious, I just don’t like it. I do think, however, we have a real shot at winning this thing. Being a ‘big-stat guy,’ I have to point out they are in our favour, but Davi definitely took a hit to his points lead in St. Louis. I learned a lot about the rule book that night. I am certainly not an official but there are some things regarding ‘red cross flags’ that may always fit into a grey area for me. Perhaps the rules could be changed to be clearer? I don’t know. The only thing that can be done now is to move on and rebuild onto the current 12-point lead Millsaps has. At no point in what has been somewhat of a fairy-tale season so far has he showed any signs of satisfaction. Davi’s head is right where it needs to be and I think there is no question of his physical ability and talent at this point. The “Magic Man” has all the tools and supporting cast make this happen.
On the 250 side of things there has been ups and downs again. Unfortunately Nico Izzi was injured prior to the start of the season and I was really excited about him coming aboard. Nico has put his past transgressions behind him, however, and has a beautiful baby girl and wants nothing more than to silence his critics and return to the form he showed in his rookie season. It’s been tough for him – with the timing of his injury – but I talk to him on the phone regularly and he just wants nothing more than to race his bike. Ryan Sipes also succumbed to an injury in a terrible pile up at Anaheim 2: Sipes was really riding well too. After some complications with his injury, he had to have surgery and miss a couple more rounds. I think we will see Ryan on a 450 very soon before he finishes out his west coast campaign later this year.
Jason Anderson has finally started to grow into the phenom that he was expected to be: Jason had a very tough first year mentally and had a lot of growing to do. Bobby Hewitt knew though what Jason had in him. He was not about to give up on him when others doubted, and he was 100% correct. I’m proud to say that I have been a part of every professional race Anderson has ever lined-up for and privileged to see his journey and what he has become. Last year was a break-out year for him and this year he is leaps and bounds better. Jason has developed a very positive grasp on the mental side of things; a complete turnaround from his rookie season and he’s already collecting podiums.
It’s still early in Blake Wharton’s Supercross season, but he has started by going 2-4-3 in the first three rounds, sitting in third place in the championship. Blake has a tendency to pick up speed and intensity as the series goes on so he is in a good position. There is still a lot of racing ahead.
Another exciting addition to this year was the inception of our 14-part video series “Beyond The Finish Line.” Never before have we been able to put a project like this together. Headed-up by our video guru Travis Valtierra, the series has so far been incredible and so fun to be a part of.
We have also been a part of Eric Geboers’ team Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 for several years now. Eric has always assembled a top-tier MX1 team with perennial title contender Clement Desalle leading the charge. But, even with them, there was a time when things went a little sideways with no fault to the team. We already had the solid MX1 team and were really excited to begin to be a part of the MX2 team in Europe that was already assembled. At the time it was with Arnaud Tonus and a rider whom we were very excited about in Ken Roczen. I had seen Ken grow up a bit in coming to the US to race Loretta Lynn’s. I did a lot of research on him and could immediately see his potential. Then I got to see him race as a professional for the first time at the USGP, and meet him and his family. Great group of people. That’s when things went wrong though…. when Roger DeCoster left Suzuki, so did Ken and our MX2 hopes at the time.
So assembly began of an MX2 team from the ground-up led by Thomas Ramsbacher. It is a similar situation to Bobby’s in the building process: Last year was certainly a learning year and I expect 2013 to far exceed 2012’s results. Julien Lieber is a very talented rider and Max Anstie can surely be considered a podium threat. In the MX1 class, the team is housing two very impressive riders in what is likely our best overall team to date. Desalle is, of course, one of the biggest threats on the line to win at every race, but Kevin Strijbos is also very fast. I would not be surprised to see both riders on the podium at the same time more than once this year. Desalle started things off as good as could be winning the opening round at the GP of Qatar. He has definitely been the biggest thorn in the side of Tony Cairoli the past few years and hopefully this year he can win it all! There isn’t much too say after just one race of course, so maybe I can add more input later in the year.
I am currently on an airplane flying to Daytona Beach in Florida for the next round of Supercross and also the filming of an episode of “Beyond The Finish Line” that I’m pretty excited about. Stay tuned for that. I have a feeling we will do very well on the track here too. Davi spent part of his youth in Florida and is a very good sand rider. I know he wants to win and add points to his lead. I don’t doubt that possibility one bit, nor do I doubt that Wharton could do the same. Don’t get me wrong, that was NOT a prediction! I do hope, however, that as I’m attending the Daytona Amateur Supercross race on Sunday, that we still hold the red plates in both the 450 Supercross class in the US and the MX1 class leaving Thailand. I can’t remember for sure if we he ever held both red plates in the past, but I know we do right now, and that is very special.