Features 28 Apr 2011

The Matthes Report: Reed’s Revival

MotoOnline.com.au’s man in the U.S, Steve Matthes, analyses the rise and rise of TwoTwo Motorsports.

MotoOnline.com.au’s U.S. contributor Steve Matthes is back again with another of his ever-popular pieces, this month giving Aussie fans an insight into Chad Reed’s TwoTwo Motorsports outfit. As en ex-factory mechanic, Matthes is an old buddy of Reedy’s, meaning he’s had some of the best access to Reed’s revival as a team owner/racer in the sport. Lucky for us, he’s prepared to share all he knows… Enjoy!

The sport of motocross is a fickle one, even for a supercross legend like Chad Reed. There aren’t too many rides given out from what you once did in the past – not too much money to be made on old race wins. No, the sport on the professional level is cruel and cold.

Rising young star but you suffer some injuries and lack in confidence to produce results? Your window is closed buddy. See you at the local Hungry Jacks asking me if I want fries with that.

Be ranked third all-time in supercross wins, have three national titles yet suffer an injury, get hurt and then throw in the towel half-way through the motocross series? Well, even if your name is Chad Reed, the sport moves on without you. Or at least makes it damn hard to get a ride.

Which makes what he’s doing this year all the more impressive.

Let’s back up a bit here. Two years ago, Reed had a fantastic season in 2009 on a Suzuki where he narrowly missed out on the supercross title and then won his first outdoor title in the 450 motocross series.

Reed was content to stay at Suzuki, he loved the bike and loved working with tuner to the stars Mike Gosselaar. It all seemed to be coming up aces for Reed and I’m sure, truth be told, he probably regrets leaving the yellow crew.

When it came time for the 22 to re-sign, Suzuki just didn’t have the money needed to keep Chad. They had signed a kid named Ryan Dungey for a 450 ride and there wasn’t enough in the coffers for a veteran like Reed, championship or not.

It was there that Reed went searching for his third OEM in three years and jumped ship to the Kawasaki team, which, thanks to its energy drink sponsor Monster, was able to meet the demands of Reed. It was a one-year plus an option deal for Reed and with rising star Ryan Villopoto also on-board, the team green guys looked to be set for years.

Australia's greatest ever dirt bike export Chad Reed has excelled since forming his own team in 2011.

Australia's greatest ever dirt bike export Chad Reed has excelled since forming his own team in 2011.

But as we know now, Reed’s tenure with Monster Energy Kawasaki wasn’t a good one. Sure there was a moto win at the season-opening Hangtown motocross national but by and large, the union of green and Reed didn’t work out the way either side planned it.

I’m sure Reed would admit that after winning the ’09 outdoor title, he was off to the Motocross des Nations, then straight into his Australian Super X series-and looking back, it all might have been a bit too much for him to bite off.

As the American season picked up in January, it was injuries, a struggle with the bike, mediocre (for him) finishes and frustration for Chad and his team. When Reed rode off the track in the early stages of his moto at Millville, I honestly wondered if it was the last time we would ever see him stateside.

Once Reed decided that he did indeed want to keep racing, it was a case of ‘now what?’ as Reed had now ridden for three factories in three years (Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki) and he now had effectively, through a bunch of different circumstances, only two choices to go racing in 2011.

One of them, KTM, wasn’t going to work out as he tested the all-new 350 and felt like it wasn’t for him. The other was Honda and for years, Reed kept a stock 2008 Honda 450 in his garage for friends and himself when he was figuring out his different deals.

Talks with the factory Honda team hadn’t really reached any serious levels when the Red Riders chose to go with Josh Grant. This decision didn’t make Reed very happy but economics dictated that Honda go with Grant. After all, again, Reed’s 2010 wasn’t anything to write home about and in many peoples eyes, his time had come and gone.

There was a test with the Troy Lee Designs team and then one with the Valli Yamaha team but neither team could offer Reed what he wanted in money or one supposes, equipment.

The only option was starting his own team on Hondas. The task was enormous, the infrastructure of a team had to be built and built quickly at that. Reed was behind the eight ball in terms of getting going as well as getting a bike running the way he wanted it to. When Chad was setting up his team he made a couple of key choices in personal that would help him down the road.

Reed hired long-time industry veteran Dave Osterman to manage the team. Dave’s been around a long time and managed a few teams over the years – he’s a no nonsense, no bullshit kind of guy that isn’t afraid of some hard work.

The worst thing that Reed could have done was hire a buddy who was more interested in hanging out and going to the after-parties as a de-facto manager. He needed someone who knew people and could get things done and he got it in Osterman.

The signing of ex-Jeremy McGrath wrench Lars Lindstrom to Team TwoTwo was a genius move by Reed.

The signing of ex-Jeremy McGrath wrench Lars Lindstrom to Team TwoTwo was a genius move by Reed.

The second key person was the poaching of factory Honda’s test bike mechanic Lars Lindstrom to be his mechanic. Lars had been with the red team for many years and had experience as a race mechanic with Jeremy McGrath and Kevin Windham.

That was the secondary part though, the real key was there wasn’t anyone else who would have left Honda that knew the Honda CRF450 like the back of their hand like Lindstrom. The Honda guys have told me more than a few times that this was a great job by Reed as Lindstrom knew the strengths and weaknesses of that bike like few do.

Besides, if Lindstrom needed a part here and there, he could just walk over to his buddies and chat them up. Or as the joke in the Honda pits went, if Reed really needed works parts, Lars could just take them off his practice bike!

With those two in place and some out of left field funding from oil giant Bel-Ray, Reed showed up at Anaheim with what was basically a Pro Circuit-equipped privateer Honda.

Some Honda people admitted to me that Reed was allowed to buy a transmission from the team but it wasn’t different gearing, just a strength factor for those fourth-gear whoop sections. Other than that, the bike was just the result of some aftermarket companies coming together to produce the best bike they could.

Reed’s season started slowly, an off-the-leaders pace fifth at the opener followed by a lowly fourth didn’t show much. Those rides looked decent on paper but you had to be there to see that Reed had no chance to beat early winners Ryan Villopoto or James Stewart.

And he wasn’t on pace with Ryan Dungey or Trey Canard for that matter and some people wondered if this was the way it was going to end. Like so many other heroes (Mark Barnett, Rick Johnson, Ezra Lusk) before him, was Reed just going to ride out the string, talk about getting better but not be able to actually get his old magic back?

Around this time a couple of things went Reed’s way. One was Grant, the rider selected instead of Reed for the factory team, had undergone surgery and would be out for the entire supecross season and two, Reed used all his veteran tricks to nab a podium spot in the rain in Oakland.

With Grant’s injury, an entire supercross season allotment of factory parts opened up as well and, with his podium, people saw that Reed was slowly figuring it out and getting better.

After Oakland, I heard a few people saw that they were happy to see Reed “get at least one podium this year”. It was a farewell tour in some people’s eyes – just without the rocking chair given out.

Reed has gained additional factory support from Honda as the season's progressed.

Reed has gained additional factory support from Honda as the season's progressed.

Soon a significant test was arranged and the triple clamps on Reed’s machine replaced with some factory ones that offered an offset that his aftermarket ones did not. He was like the old TV show The Six Million Dollar Man at this point. W e will rebuild him, we will make him better than ever and each race, each new technical piece given to him or info shared from the factory team, made Reed better and better.

Reed started racking up podiums again, just like the old days and gobbling up points at the same time. In Houston, he was down in the first turn but came back to seventh. It was a blow but at the same time, he was one of the fastest guys out on the track.

Then came 19 February 2011 in San Diego, California. Reed, having had so much success in the stadium, took advantage of a fall from early leader Canard and won his first race of the year.

The comeback was now complete, the dragons slayed and at this point in the series, Reed was nineteen points back and playing with house money. Despite everything that had gone on, Reed smelled blood and gained more and more confidence, which is one thing that Honda nor anyone else could give him.

The race after that? A dramatic late-race pass attempt on James Stewart left him (and Stewart) on the ground and he ended up third but the notice was served in Atlanta. Reed was all the way back.

From there it was more consistency for the Honda rider and more factory parts showing up on his bike at the same time. As the top Honda rider in the series, he was proving to be a worthwhile investment for the Red Riders. After the Toronto round, Reed gained the points lead and that was it, the stage was set for this incredible sprint to the finish of the 2011 supercross series.

As it sits now, going into Salt Lake City and if the rumors and Tweets from Reed are to be believed, he’ll be on a full factory Honda for the last two races. He’s second in the series and six points back.

The veteran has faced his toughest season in years and he’s going to need everything he’s got to stop Stewart’s momentum and catch Villopoto, but if he can use this boost in equipment to surge forward and win this title, well won’t that just be a rags to riches type of a story? That’s okay though, the kid from Kurri Kurri hasn’t done anything easy in his career so why start now?