it. A couple of years ago, he came
and apologized for the way he was
when he raced for me. He said, “I
was so stupid and screwed up, but I
really thank you for putting up with
me.” It was pretty cool that he said
that. He’s a good person.
YOU’VE WORKED WITH
A LOT OF DIFFICULT
PERSONALITIES. I had all kinds
of riders who didn’t follow the discipline. There are a lot of guys that I
have a hard time even remembering
their names. The guys that were difficult were riders like Mickael Pichon,
who had tons of talent but wouldn’t
take advice. His father advised him,
and Mickael made so many bad
decisions. He should have won at
least one major championship in the
U.S.; however, he always wanted
to do things his way. Jean-Michel
Bayle was also very stubborn. He
was a difficult person to deal with,
but there was one side of him that
was really good. On the important
matters, when he was after the
goal of winning, he took advice. It
would have been nice for us if he
had wanted to stay with Honda and
win more championships, but once
he achieved his goals he wanted to
become a road racer. I really enjoyed
Travis Pastrana. He’s a really good
person, but he has two personalities.
There was Travis without the helmet
on and Travis with the helmet on.
Without the helmet, Travis was the
nicest guy and would do whatever I
wanted him to do; however, once he
put the helmet on, something clicked
and he became a totally different
person. He would just go wild. He
could have done so much more in
motocross, but he never even won
a single Supercross race. I’m pretty
sure that Travis is set for life because
of his freestyle, TV and thrill shows.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST
BETWEEN MOST TOP
MOTOCROSS RACERS? Most of
the riders aren’t bad people, but a lot
of them don’t realize how important
it is to acknowledge the fans. They
think that signing autographs is a
chore. I should introduce them to
retired motocross racers whom no
one ever asks for an autograph from
today. These riders need to under-
stand that it’s easier to sign a few
more autographs than to explain to
people why you can’t. Indirectly, the
riders are paid by the fans. If there
were no fans, there wouldn’t be any
sport. Look at Tony Cairoli. He’s
really nice and has lots of loyal fans.
They aren’t loyal just because he
wins, but because he makes time for
people. I try to explain to my riders
that there are two values in racing.
The first value is their race results.
The second value is their connection
with the fans. Yes, winning is important, but I can name fifth-place guys
who’ve sold more bikes, products
and gear than some champions.
ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I’m most proud of my five World
Championships and being the best
in the world for a period of time.
It still makes me feel good. I can
say that in my time I won against
the best in the world. Today, that
is not completely true. In my day,
the best riders were in the World
Championships. Today, the best rid-
ers are split between Europe and the
U.S. Take Stefan Everts, for exam-
ple. He won 10 World titles, but not
against the best guys, and he never
won anything in America. During my
time, I went where the good riders
were and I won. I went out of my
comfort zone and took on big chal-
lenges. I raced all over the world. I
would race in every possible class
that I could, beating guys like Harry
Everts and Gaston Rahier in the 125
class. When I won, I knew that I
was the best in the world. My
was bringing Suzuki back to the top
as a team manager in the U.S.
DO YOU HAVE ANY
REGRETS? I wish I had learned
things faster as a rider and team
manager. I’m a slow learner. It takes
me a lot of time to figure things
out. I wish I were a better public
speaker. I could have done a better
job if I had been a better speaker.
I wish I were more knowledgeable
about computers, because I get
frustrated so quickly with them. The
other day I was on my bicycle, and
this girl was jogging on the side of
the bicycle path and texting while
running really fast. I couldn’t even
begin to do that [laughter].
WAS THERE EVER ANY HOPE
FOR ONE OF YOUR SONS TO
FOLLOW IN YOUR RACING
FOOTSTEPS? My second-oldest
son could have been a good rider.
He was in the Marines and got
injured in Iraq. He’s actually going
to have a knee replacement because
he was hit with a bomb. He also has
back problems. When he was young,
he was a troublemaker. He had
talent and looked good on a bike,
but he didn’t care. I’m sure if he
could do it all over again he would
do things differently; however, if he
hadn’t gone into the Marines, he
most likely would be dead now from
drinking or drugs.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE LEFT
TO ACHIEVE? I’m so fortunate to
be an old man and still be healthy.
Health is by far the best thing I’ve
ever been given—more so than
money and fame. I’m able to work
with much younger people and still
be involved in what I love to do. I’m
also thankful that I can work with a
dedicated young group of hard-working people. I want to win more. I
want to get a 450 Supercross title for
KTM. This is my fourth year at KTM,
and it’s crazy how fast time goes.
Life seems to move faster every year.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE
CAN YOU OFFER? Lots. Nothing
comes for free. Hard work keeps
you healthy. You have to go after
your goals and not get discouraged.
If you want something, make a full
commitment. Most of all, always look
forward. Observe what’s going on
around you. Never make any excuses. People seem to remember the
good stuff about the past and forget
the bad parts. That’s a good thing. ❏