Wednesday, October 29, 2014
“Take off a little bit more out of this side and off that side,” he points out to a mechanic who listens closely. Payton then continues to turn the cylinder over in his hands. “Finish it up and then sand that puppy up”
And with that the wrench walks away to carry on. Not 30 seconds later another team member enters the office with a host of loose pages of art work which will ultimately find its way onto the new race bikes. Yes, while both the Motocross of Nations and Monster Cup are now things of history and the off-season has officially been declared, it’s full throttle here inside the big white Pro Circuit building in Corona, California. Coming off a mixed bag of a season in which his team very well could have won a few championships, Payton and company have turned their full attention to the task at hand: preparing the bikes and riders – and entire team, for that matter – for the fast approaching 2015 Monster Energy Supercross Series. A highly evolved affair if ever there was one, there really is no rest in the never ending search for speed. Be it a tenth, a hundredth or a thousandth of a second, no rock is left unturned when it comes to trying to figure out ways to get a motocross bike and its rider around a racetrack as quickly and efficiently as possible. And so it is with all this that we ask Payton to take a few minutes out of his day to, well, get us up to speed on what will be his entity’s rapidly developing ’15 race effort.
Mitch, the Motocross of Nations is past us and the Monster Cup has come and gone. It’s the off-season, but as you know as well as anyone, the work is now just beginning. What have you and your team been up to as of late?
“Well, right now we are currently working on new clothes, working on new hats, working on new bike graphics and moving forward. We are still testing. We are testing engine components and suspension parts. We are waiting on [Arnaud] Tonus. I think he’s going to be here today. He finally got his paperwork cleared so he can be here. Joey Savatgy was just out here to do some testing and he headed back to MTF and we shipped a crate down there to him. Adam [Cianciarulo] is starting to ride at Kenny Roczen’s place. Ty Bowers has a bulged disk in his back at the moment but should be just fine. And Chris Alldredge is good. He’s been riding out here. Everyone is doing their deal.”
How about testing the new bikes and parts?
“We’re testing race team stuff and the new bikes are out. We’re testing all different things on the 2015s.”
When you take possession of the new production KX250Fs, what do you do to them?
“To be honest, usually the bikes are for sale right around Loretta Lynn’s. I would say August or September the new bikes are usually out and then we’ll receive some new bikes at the same time that the dealers get them. We usually are aware of the changes that they’re going to make to the new bikes ahead of time. When we get the bike we just start testing and see what’s different and what works and we also begin to look at what new ideas and new parts we want to try.”
So the new bike is almost like a blank canvas?
“It depends on how many changes are done to it. This year the bike didn’t change that much so it was a little easier. A lot of the components that we have will bolt straight onto it. It’s not a complete redo. Sometimes if it’s a brand new bike it’s a lot of work because nothing you have will fit so you have to redo everything. The motor is similar to last year but we have a lot of new pieces to try. We built a lot of components to try during the off-season to see if we can make it better. The suspension is kind of the same. We have some new parts to try for supercross that we didn’t have last year.”
Can you say what kind of new components that you have?
“We’ve got new heads, new pistons, new cams, new throttle bodies and all kinds of things to make it better. We’ll try new pipes. We’ll try anything and everything. We’ll work a lot on the mapping to see if we can get it better. We’ll try to touch each piece. Our goal is to try every part a little bit better.”
With your riders all over California or Florida – or wherever – right now, is it tough to start testing?
“No. Joey was just out here and did some testing and was pretty happy with where we were. And that’s just the beginning. In the beginning with supercross they kind of just need to try and get their legs under them. They need to get used to riding supercross again. They just need to get some seat time. After that we can kind of hone in on the things that we have found that we believe are going to be better and then go that direction.”
So the riders almost have to have their own personal riding baseline
“Yeah, because there’s no reason to test if the riders are just beginning to ride again because I don’t think they’re going fast enough – especially for suspension.”
Will your guys do any of the overseas supercross races this winter or do you like to keep them closer to home?
“We never really did a lot of them anyway. We used to do Bercy years ago but the promoter kind of ripped me off so we don’t go there anymore.”
Come January of 2015, which of your guys will do the West Region and which will do the East?
“West Coast will be…Laughter… You try and start the healthier guys on the West because they have more seat time under them and all that. Then you put whoever was hurt on the East. But as we get closer and we see the speed of everybody I want to try and do the right thing to try and capitalize on two championships. We just have to wait and see. It’s not like a secret, it’s just evaluating where everybody is at when it gets closer.”
If, say, Adam Cianciarulo expresses that he wants to ride the West Region, how do you play that?
“It really depends. If he’s ready to rip at Anaheim and he’s the fastest guy, then I want to throw him on the West. If he’s not ready, we’ll put him on the East so that he’ll have more time to get ready. That would be the same with any of them. You know it’s almost if they are ready to go at Anaheim, you want to get the fastest ones out there because they’re kind of peaking; they’re ready to go and you don’t want to hold them back.”
What are you expecting out of your guys this year? Maybe start with Adam.
“I would like to see him win. He won three races last year and then popped his shoulder out and didn’t get to ride outdoors. I would think that he’s older, wiser, stronger. I’m hoping that he can win. I’m expecting that out of all of them. And Arnaud Tonus, maybe the first year is a little bit of a learning year in supercross, but I think he should be good at it. I think Bowers will be a contender for the indoor title. Alldredge was really good at the last national of the year. I think with time on the supercross track, we can get him up to speed. Savatgy, I was super-impressed with him last year. I expect a lot out of him.”
So you’re expecting top threes and titles?
“That’s why we do it.”
The competition. How do you see the competition?
“Well, let’s see. KTM. They’ve got Marvin Musquin. Marvin has been very capable. He’s very smooth and both a good indoor and outdoor rider, actually. He’s been in the class a few years so he should have it down. He’ll be a competitor. I wouldn’t say that he’s better than any of our guys, but I would say that he’s equally right there. Just Hill was really fast last year in supercross. He’ll be in the mix this year, too, so we’ll have to deal with him too. With Yamaha, you’ve got Cooper Webb. Cooper was pretty good indoors last year. He did good outdoors. With a little more experience, I expect that he’ll be faster this year. I expect more from him this year and the same for [Jeremy] Martin. Martin won the outdoor title and that will give him confidence. Factory Connection, I would say [Justin] Bogle will be there. I think Bogle rides supercross good. He was a contender last year. We were able to beat him the majority of the series, but not the whole series. I expect him to be fast. He’ll ride good. I pick Bogle to be their top guy. Husqvarna will have Zach Bell and Martin Davalos. Martin, obviously, was fast last year. It’ll just depend on how his foot heals up. They’ve got Zach Osborn and he’s been fast in the past.”
Okay. I have to ask you. I know you hear the “Pro Circuit is not as fast and dominant as they used to be” comments. Thoughts?
“You can’t be hurt. You’ve got to be healthy in order to do it. I think that’s the biggest key. I don’t think we haven’t had the talent to do it. You have to be healthy. We haven’t stopped looking for either more power or better handling or anything. I don’t think we’re lacking on the bike side. I think we’ve lacked on the talent pool being injured.”
What’s your take on the Ryan Villopoto topic?
“I’m happy for Ryan. He did a great job when he rode for Team Green. When he rode for me he won championships. When he rode for Kawasaki he won championships. If this is something he wants to do to change directions and if it’ll keep him involved for another year then I’m all for that. He’s had a lot of pressure on him over the years and has been expected to always win and win at a really high level. It does wear a guy out. He’s got one more left in him and he’s done. That’s just all there is to it. It’s evolution. It’s going to be everybody’s job to find and build another Villopoto.”
Words : Eric Johnson