MotoOnline.com.au checks in with U.S.-based Supercrosser Michael Byrne to get the lowdown on Anaheim 1 and his deal for 2010.
It’s hard to imagine that a rider who finishes fourth in the AMA Motocross Championship would be left without a factory seat for the following year, but that’s exactly what happened to Queenslander Michael Byrne for 2010.
In fact, Burner finished fourth in what is arguably the world’s toughest Motocross championship in both 2008 and 2009, but found himself replaced at the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team by rookies Ryan Dungey and fellow Aussie Matt Moss for the New Year.
Not one to let the disappointment stand in his way of chasing success, the 30-year-old has put together his own privateer effort for this season by the name of Two Six MX Racing, purchasing his own Kawasaki KX450F and going to bat against the likes of Chad Reed and James Stewart in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, series.
Burner picked up his Kawasaki just weeks before the Anaheim season opener last weekend, qualifying directly through his heat race with a solid sixth place before a crash forced him to settle for 16th in the main event.
MotoOnline.com.au caught up with Burner this morning to see how round one went and to find out what he’s expecting to achieve for the remainder of the season.
Burner, you’ve just finished up round one of this year’s AMA Supercross series in your debut as a privateer on a Kawasaki, so what’s the deal exactly for 2010?
Well it’s all happened in the last couple of weeks, really. I got back from Oz and a few of the things that I was working on fell through. So after that I was sitting at home for a few weeks and decided that I didn’t want to sit there anymore. I went and bought a bike, made some phone calls, got some stuff, and then put it together with only a couple of weeks on the bike.
I just thought we’d see how we go and I qualified easily through my heat race, feeling pretty good considering the time that I had on the bike before the first race. I fell in the final when I came together with a guy on the second or third lap, went down and it took me a little while to get the bike started. I was just way back by then and ended up 16th, so that’s pretty much it!
You’re a guy who’s been on factory or factory-supported equipment for a long time now, so what’s it take for a guy like you to put a bike together for the AMA series? How do you have support from?
I have a little bit of help from Kawasaki and Pro Circuit, plus Enzo with the suspension are helping out a bunch. I’m still with Answer, Bell, Rockstar and Alpinestars, companies that have been with me for a few years now. I’ve also got EKS (X) goggles and Pro Taper, just a bunch of people who are stepping up to help out – I couldn’t do it without them.
Even though you missed out on a factory ride for this year, it must feel pretty good to have all of those leading companies stepping up to support you as a privateer.
Yeah, for sure. It’s always good to get along with everybody and don’t burn bridges as you go along in racing, that way people are there to help you out when you’re in need.
I’m pretty happy with the way that it’s all come together so far and I’m sure that with a bit more time on the bike, do a little bit more suspension testing and I’ll be back up there where I belong.
Now that Anaheim 1 is out of the way, does that make it easier for you to gauge where you’re at and build from there for the remaining rounds?
Definitely. You know, a lot of people were behind the eight ball this year in getting ready, only having a month or six weeks to get ready, which is kind of short. For me to only have a couple of weeks [on the bike] then I’m even further behind than them, so the more that time goes by I will be able to build each weekend and it will only get better and better.
It’s a deep field this year in the AMA with a lot of good riders on good equipment, so from this point on what’s the goal for the rest of the season?
My goal is to be where I was in the nationals last year, top 10 every weekend at worst, and top five or on the podium on the good weekends. I want to be consistent throughout the year, so to be a top five guy in the points would be huge.
You’ve been on a Suzuki since 2007, switching to Honda late last year for Super X in Australia and now you’re back in the U.S. on a Kawasaki. What’s it like adapting to all of those bikes in a short amount of time?
It’s been different. Obviously I’d been on a Suzuki for three years and then stepped onto a Honda 450, which I’ve never ever ridden before. It was hard without the factory resources to make the bike how I wanted it, but it was good to come home and do the series, getting some racing in while I was home.
As far as the Kawasaki goes, that’s what I rode before the Suzukis to I’m pretty familiar with the bike. I feel that Kawasaki has the best production bike out there so that’s why I chose it. Having Mitch Payton and those guys helping me out is good too because they definitely know a Kawasaki.
Being a factory rider has its advantages not only in having top equipment and a dedicated team behind you, but also by having the test track to ride on everyday. Where have you been testing and riding as a privateer?
I’m lucky that I haven’t burnt any bridges, like I said, so Kawasaki lets me ride at the test track. My relationship’s still good with the team and I’m fortunate enough to be able to have that luxury of riding at the test track, so it’s all good.
Just to wrap it up, you’re starting out as a privateer right now, but is there a possibility of moving into a factory team should a rider get injured or something?
Well I’m in a position to switch because I don’t have anything in concrete, so I’m in a position to switch for sure. But I’m trying to put myself in a position with what I’ve put together so that I can rely on it, focussing on doing my own thing and making it work without trying to rely on anyone getting hurt.
No worries, thanks for the time and good luck with the season. We’ll check in again soon to see how you’re progressing.
Yeah, thanks bud.