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Talking point: Tyla Rattray

Has Tyla Rattray went backwards since going to America? It seems like he is the forgotten man in motocross despite his podium last weekend.

Let’s go back five years. At the end of 2008 Rattray had the opportunity to join the 450 GP KTM team in MX1 for the 2009 season. He had just been crowned  MX2 world champion and everything looked rosy.

But after looking ready to accept the KTM deal he changed his mind and went to the USA to sign for Pro Circuit Kawasaki and staying on a 250. To race in the USA was one of his childhood dreams and the opportunity was too good to turn down.

But was it the right decision?

Rattray’s success has always been his consistency and toughness. GPs race two days over six months and it entirely suited the South African’s style. The sprint speed and pin it to win it style of the American racing has never been Rattray’s strength and despite a couple of second places in the 250 US national series he never quite put his mark on the sport there like he did in GPs.

His wins have mainly come on the tough sand track of Southwick that required toughness and physical fitness highlighting the strengths that helped his GP campaigns.

In the last couple of years injuries and a lack of success in supercross have hurt Tyla mentally and physically to the point where this season could be his last chance saloon for US racing and even then, it might be too late.

In America to get a good 450 ride you have to be a top supercross rider. Supercross is king and Tyla is in his late 20s now and realistically will never be where the two Ryan’s are in Supercross. That leaves him just 12 days of racing a year – if it is even possible to even get an outdoor only contract.  It seems if you are an outdoor specialist and want a ride, the USA is not the place to be.

Check out countryman Gareth Swanepole for proof. Swanepole struggled in supercross but got a sixth place in 2011 outdoors including winning a moto – but now doesn’t have a decent ride to speak of.

It seems Rattray is at a crossroads in his career just like he was at the end of 2008. In that same time span his former rival Cairoli has went on to win four world titles (three ironically with KTM) and is at the peak of his powers while Rattray in comparison has struggled.

Both Kevin Strijbos and Clement Desalle went over for two weeks and both beat Rattray when they stayed off the ground. That has to hurt the South Africa as will the younger generations of MX2 riders that have went to America and outshone him.

The GPs have moved on and racing in America has meant Tyla has lost the golden touch he had in 2008, unfortunately he has never quite been the same rider and time is running out to restore the magic.

When Tyla Rattray got a quiet podium at Mount Morris on Saturday  it the was the end of a rough road of injuries and poor performances  in the last year and a half that have really knocked back his career. Hopefully it will be the start of some better results that will help Tyla get a decent ride in 2014. But it seems he is between a rock and a hard place.

He is good outdoors but not as good in supercross which makes it hard to get a ride in the USA . So maybe that ride should be in GPs, however having been away from the GPs for so long and locked in the USA racing, could he successfully adapt back and be the rider he was?

I believe he could. Tyla is a GP rider, he spent so many years in GPs it’s ingrained in him and to adapt to the US style of tracks and riding at his age as well as learn Supercross may have been just a bit too late for him. You need to go to the USA when you are young like Roczen or have supercross background like Musquin in order to show your potential.

I feel Rattray has unfinished business in GPs.  He has only just moved up to the 450s, a lot later than his counterparts in the USA or the GPs so maybe a winter of outdoor riding and a full calendar of 18 GPs would bring Rattray back to being a championship contender but it won’t be easy with the depth of talent in the current field to find a ride.

The issue is do GP teams still believe in Tyla Rattray? Both Suzuki factory riders beat him in the USA and there are more and more young riders getting the top MX1 rides – with Herlings the next in line. He has to restore some confidence in teams to get a ride he deserves. Rattray is not just under pressure  to perform in order to get a ride in the USA next year, he will also need to deliver some more podium results if he is wants a chance of making it back to the GPs as well.

It could be another big career decision for the tough South African at the end of the year especially since staying in the USA also has its benefits when you have a young settled family.  Hopefully Tyla makes the right one, for him and his family.

Article by Jonathan McCready

Photo By Frank Hoppen

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