Carmichael: "I think that everybody will be gunning for me because I won last year" AURORA, Ill. (December 1, 2005) -- Just two days before the opening race of Amp'd Mobile World Supercross GP, reigning World Supercross GP champion Ricky ...
Carmichael: "I think that everybody will be gunning for me because I won last year"
AURORA, Ill. (December 1, 2005) -- Just two days before the opening race of Amp'd Mobile World Supercross GP, reigning World Supercross GP champion Ricky Carmichael, 2004 World Supercross GP champion Heath Voss, 2003 World Supercross GP champion Chad Reed and two-time 125cc regional AMA Supercross Series champion Ivan Tedesco discussed the weekend's race at a press conference inside Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto.
A complete line-up of industry and mainstream press were on hand to preview on this weekend's race. Fans around the world were able to listen to the press conference live on Supercross LIVE! via www.supercross.cc.com. The audio archive is currently available on the web site. Listeners can log on Saturday night, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. (EST) to follow the opening race of the Amp'd Mobile World Supercross GP live.
What are some of the advantages that a four stroke has on the supercross tracks?
I think everybody knows it's a better bike on the hard pack because it has so much torque and the throttle is connected to the rear wheel so wheel spin is not a problem. On the four strokes, I think people mainly focus on the negatives and not the positives. (The bike) is a little harder in the tight stuff, and in race situations, sometimes it's hard to ride and push it a little harder on a 450 than you could on the 250. It's definitely different and that's why I'm excited to race. I'm ready to see how everyone is doing and also excited since its something new for all of us. I think we're all kind of skeptical.
How far has the Suzuki four stroke come since the one Sebastien Tortelli rode here last year; the one you raced in the nationals last summer; and the one you raced at the US Open?
The bike has gotten really good. We learned a lot from Sebastien and we learned a lot from myself from just racing. You learn something every weekend. I think its going to improve a lot over the supercross season as we race it. Its going to get better and better and its going to be fun because its not the same old thing.
You started your comeback here a year ago, its been a wide open year ... you won the title in both supercross series, won all the outdoor nationals, the Motocross Des Nations and then the US Open ... in between then and now there's been a month off. Was that really month off to relax or is there any time to relax, or are you tired or burned out?
I'm not burned out. This was great racing these two races last year, doing the world races. I believe it kind of gets things going. We all need to be here. I'm glad to see Chad and Ivan. I'm glad to see everybody here this year. (The series) is getting better and will be for years to come.
Do you think its to your advantage that the season has been pushed a month earlier for some of you competitors that have had injuries and are on new bikes?
I wouldn't say its an advantage just because I haven't taken any time off. I think everybody up here is just as motivated and ready as I am. That's the way I'm looking at it. I'm really glad I didn't take any time off. I really feel that I'm still where I need to be. I don't feel too rusty and that's important. Suzuki did a lot of there testing at the beginning of the year so I've been home for a while and been able to just do my thing and prepare.
We've seen recent pictures of you hanging Christmas lights at your home. Could you not find anyone to hang your lights?
It's the holiday spirit. I enjoy doing things like that. Its what keeps us normal. We all up here have a great talent but at the same time we put our pants on the same way everybody else does.
Last year you were really motivated to prove people wrong in supercross in '05. What about '06? And where does your motivation come from now that you're back on top?
I think that everybody will be gunning for me because I won last year. The motivation for this year will be something new with everyone will be racing four strokes. I'm excited about that, so that's keeping me motivated.
Because you did so well last season, does that put a lot of pressure on you since there's not much room for error?
No, I think last year is the most pressure that I've felt in a long time. I really needed to get the supercross title. I felt that if I didn't get it that I would have work left undone. This year I feel really good going into the season and don't feel like I'm in a must-win situation. I'm really happy with what I've accomplished so its nice to go into a series to just go out and race and have fun rather than being in a must-win situation.
Are you surprised how well things went last season?
Absolutely. If someone asked "are you going to win the supercross and win all the races in outdoor?" I would have signed on the dotted line for sure. I think anybody here would. I can say only so much for myself but I owe a lot to Suzuki. They came to the plate with a great 250 for me. Roger DeCoster worked hard on the 450 to get it where it needed to be for outdoors on an unproven bike. You got to give it up to those guys, they did a great job.
We've heard that you might be interested in NASCAR driving in the future. Have you done some testing and have you hung out with those guys?
Yes I've e done it a few times. It definitely appeals to me. I look forward to that day, but right now racing is so serious. This (sports) is my roots, this sport is what has made me where I'm at today. Its given me something today that I could never ask for. (NASCAR) is for something for when I'm done with this chapter of my life.
The NASCAR off season is right now, and the same for other motorsports ... do you guys think about how these races are an opportunity to make this sport bigger than its ever been?
It is a lot of racing, with us and NASCAR; we are on the same type of schedule. There is no real off season any more. I think we need to have some world rounds and I think there are some other things that we need to do that could bring supercross to where NASCAR is. I think its going to take some work from everybody to make it better with better racing and a deep field. We're going to get there. Its going to take everybody to get the recognition and support that they deserve.
What is your goal this season? Is it to win the race or do you really have a goal right now?
My goal is to do the best I can. I'm real skeptical of how things are going to be with everybody on a four stroke. At the end of the day I think it will be the same couple of guys. I would like there to be more guys up there to make it that much better for the fans. Also another goal is we have thirteen straight races in a row ... the main thing is to stay healthy. That's my main goal: To stay healthy all year and do the best I can within reason.
You have a new teammate ... talk about working with Ivan (Tedesco)?
With him living in California and me being out in Florida, I've only spent a couple of weeks with him. He's a two-time 125 champ and he's a great rider. I'm just glad to have him on the team. As much as I can teach him I can actually learn a lot from him. I'm happy for him to be on the team. Its nice to have a teammate that we can work together.
How much pressure or influence from Suzuki to move up to the four stroke?
None. Its in my contract that I have the decision to race whatever (bike) I want. They don't try to persuade me to ride any certain bike. I think they just want to ride the bike that I have the best chance to win on. That's what is great about Suzuki, there's no pressure. The upper management lets me do what I want to do and that's nice. At the end of the day they want to win. Whatever I want to do, whether its on a four stroke or a two stroke, they're happy with whatever I need to do.
Tell me about racing up here in Toronto. Do you get any different reaction from the fans or is the awareness and appreciation as high?
The appreciation is definitely there. It is something relatively new and special for them. We don't come up here very much and I think the really enjoy it. Its not that bad of a flight from Florida. I think its only two and a half hours. I bring my family and wife and enjoy the time here. I think the field being a lot deeper this year it should bring some more fans here and bring some excitement.
What is your status and what happened over the summer?
I had crashed really hard last March. The bike had hit me in the back really hard. It took me about four or five weeks to get over it. I tried to come back to finish strong in the world championship series, I ended up third which was important to me. I kind of toughed it out, but it caused a bunch of problems. I got really sick. I had bruised my intestines and got really sick. It took me about six months to fully recover. At first, they didn't think I could recover from it, but my results have come back and I'm completely healthy again.
When they said you might not recover, what was going through your mind at that point?
My trainer had that same sort of problem ... he had a heart problem. If I had just kept pushing on I might have had a similar heart problem. I'm just kind of hard headed and wasn't going to let that keep me down.
How long have you back on the bike and where do you put yourself?
I've been riding the bike since September. I'm riding the new YX450 this year and it awesome. I've ridden more than ever this fall. I haven't race in a long time so that's probably going to take me a few races to get back up to race speed. I think this year's going to be my best year ever.
What are the advantages of coming and racing in December at the world rounds?
There is nothing better than getting out and racing with 20 guys that you can get out and race with. Its like running a race on your feet when you have someone out in front of you, you want to get out there and catch them. You try that much harder to run them down. That's what makes racing so great. It takes you to the next level and is what drives you.
Let's talk about your progress in racing ... you worked your way up to a factory rider and world champion. Having started late and working your way up the ranks, is there a limit to how good you could be?
Growing up in Minneapolis, the ground could be frozen six months out of the year. I grew up playing the traditional sports, I played hockey ... I played fall hockey, winter hockey, spring hockey, summer hockey. Growing up in the north, everything is seasonal. Motocross was a summer thing. I rode snow mobiles in the winter. When I was 18, I decided to go down south for the winter. Now I'm doing what I love to do.
Talk about the all new YZ450.
The bike's totally new. It's like a night and day difference (from last year's). Sometimes with racing, there are bikes that you enjoy to go trail riding on, and then there's the bike you have to race. This is the bike I prefer to ride and look forward to riding it everyday. Its made me a better rider.
You have some four stroke experience, are any of the other riders calling to pick your brain to find out what it takes to be successful on a four stroke in supercross?
This will be my fourth season on a four stroke in supercross. The bikes have definitely gotten a lot better in supercross. It's the future of motorcycle racing. All the development is being put into the four stroke machines. There are still a few problems with them, but at Yamaha I think we have them all worked out. If you were to look at a performance chart of the motors on the dyno, you wouldn't even think the four stroke was in the same class as the two stroke, its that much better.
How much does it help having a teammate (Chad Reed) riding the 450? Might there be some sharing of the development and the testing?
Chad had an injury so I started testing first. I was really hoping that Chad would like the bike. When he started out riding it, he loved it. Its great that we are both riding the same machine. If I have a problem, its most likely that he will have had it to. Its just furthers the development.
Are you surprised to hear that everyone is making the switch to the 450s?
No. The tracks are developed a little bit different. Its just pushing the development of the machine along that much quicker. All the different companies are having the same type problems. With twenty guys riding them they're going to work through them problems that much quicker.
You were injured at the end of the outdoor nationals last year. What were those injuries and what is the status?
Halfway through the nationals I had some problems with my hand. They were problems that I had been having for a while. I was just waiting it out until the season was over so I could take care of it. Then leading up to Washougal, I was out at Glen Helen and had really big crash. I hit my head and my hand again. I just kind of brought myself to the point in the season where I weighed all my options to see what I had to lose and what I had to gain. I had absolutely nothing to gain staying in the series. I had to get out while I could and get it fixed. While I had that fixed I was able to get two screws removed from my hand and four from my leg. It was good to get that out of the body, regroup and have a break. It had been since I was 16 since I actually had a break. It was nice to go home to Australia, hang out and do some fun family stuff and regroup. I basically took the rest of the summer off and listened to the races on the internet. I was kind of wishing I was there, and wishing that I wasn't. Its kind of fun to get that feeling back where you really want to go to the races.
The US Open has traditionally been a good race for you, winning there two times. What was it like having to watch that race?
It was tough. I had just started riding the Friday before and knew that I could show up and be on the podium. But I didn't want to just show up and be on the podium, I wanted to show up and be the winner. I was motivated to go there because of the whole four stroke vs. two stroke thing. Bubba was meant to ride the two stroke and Ricky was riding the four stroke. I was looking forward to seeing the race off but as we all know that never happened. It was actually my last weekend off.
Did you ride a 250 and 450 in the off season? How did they compare?
Since I got hurt, a lot of things changed. We had a plan to go in to the US Open to ride the 250 and ride the four stroke after that. When I came back riding, I started riding the four stroke right away and was quite amazed at how different and new the bike was. I had been previously been riding a bike that wasn't quite up to racing standards for us. So I just wasn't' having any fun with it and didn't really believe in it. Then I rode it again on the test track and was amazed by it. We started testing, and about three, four weeks into it, I rode my two stroke again and I rode it for maybe two hours, put it on the stand and said "we'll leave that thing on the stand and hang it up." From then on I've been focusing on the four stroke.
Is it tough to be prepared in December as opposed to January with a new bike underneath you?
I think you make decision on what you are presented with. I took the rest of the nationals off and I had a really good break. A lot of things changed in my life this year. I'm not a huge fan of racing in December, but when you've had some time off you feel rested and feel that you're not giving anything to go there. I think it's a great idea. It worked for me in '03 and this year will be nice as well. We have two races to test the new bike and have a month to work on anything that may arise over the race weekend.
If you don't win this race, what type of hit can that have on your confidence?
I don't think any. I think we all come in here prepared and you build off of it. We wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could win or we weren't ready to race. We all have new bikes but nothing is going to change. We are all the same riders. The bike isn't going to make a whole lot difference. The four strokes have changed a lot. They aren't tough to start like they once were.
How frustrating was it last season to see the championship slip away and what have you done to try and prevent that from happening this year?
Last year was a really tough season because I felt that I wasn't in the battle, which is where I wanted to be. Ricky rode a great season. I wanted to be there battling with him. I wanted to be the guy winning races but I wasn't in a position, I wasn't able to. I had some problems, but this year we're just trying to make those better. Every year you learn a lot. 2005 was probably the most I've ever learned in a racing season. I guess I have that season to thank for it. Ricky keeping me honest and kicking my butt, week in and week out, I've grown from that.
Can you talk about your decision to not race Toronto and Vancouver last season and did that turn into an advantage for Ricky?
I had a lot going on in my life last season. I just felt that I couldn't do it. I had spent the whole nationals, with a long season. Went to the US Open, I won there. Immediately the next weekend and I went and got married. And then I went back to Australia. I was doing a lot of traveling and doing things I felt I needed to be done in my life at that time. They somewhat jeopardized my racing, but you learn from your mistakes. I think me being here in Toronto would not have made things better, just would have made it all worse. It was the fact that I was tired and wasn't ready to race.
How much of a role do slower riders play in the battle up front as it gets later in the race?
They can go two ways, they can work for you or they can work against you. At Dallas this year I had a come together with Travis Preston on the last lap and Ricky was able to pass me. That's just one of those things that just happen. I arrived at him really quickly. That's the problem. We are going a lot faster than what they are. It's the 20th lap, we are battling and they're tired and they're just not functioning the way we are. We need to watch what they're doing plus concentrate on what we're doing. Its one of those things you hope works for you rather than against you.
How cool would it be to see a world supercross round in your home of Australia?
I think it would be awesome. As a kid you dream about coming to the US, racing factory bikes with big teams and racing in big stadiums like this. To pack it up and take it to your home would be pretty cool. I think its going to happen. I think our new presenting sponsor, Amp'd Mobile, its a great thing. They are Australians. Like it or not, I think we are going there.
With the new team and the switch, when did you start riding the Suzukis?
I believe it was the beginning of October. Went over to France for the Motocross Des Nations. I took a week off and then started up after that.
Did you consider riding the RM250 or were you riding the four stroke all along.
I tried both and had the option of riding either bike. I thought the four stroke worked really well for me. That's what I've ridden the last two years in the 125 class. I liked the bike right off the bat so it seemed like the right choice for me.
How much experience do you have on the bigger bikes? Have you ever really raced the larger bikes?
I did a little bit in 03. I did the west coast 250 races when I was racing the east coast 125s. I rode pretty decent and I think I ride the big bike well. I'm real excited to see where I'm at this weekend.
Have you been able to ride with Ricky or any of the other guys at the test track? Where do you think you'll stand?
I'm excited to see that. I've ridden with Ricky a little bit and trying to gauge myself off him. He's riding really good right now. I'm not going to say I'll beat this guy or that guy. I'm just going to ride the best I can and hopefully it will turn out good for me.
The last two years you've been battling for a championship, where every finish counts. Are you more nervous because you're in a tougher class and might not be expected to win the championship your first year out?
Last year I had a lot of pressure on myself because I won the previous year and I was the guy to beat. I don't feel that in this class yet. I'm just going to try and use it as a learning year and learn from these guys and try and improve week in and week out. I'll see where I'm at this weekend and try and improve from there.
You've always seemed like a guy who has flown under the radar. Even after having a great season, do you feel like you're back in the same situation after moving up?
I've felt like that my entire career. I've worked my way from the bottom up. I've always flown under the radar. I don't know if its because I don't have all that flash or a lot of drama by me, but its fine by me. I'm just trying to win races and that's what's most important to me. Coming into this year, I'm flying under the radar again I guess. I just hope to have some of the same success I had in the 125 class.