Interviews 15 Nov 2016

Race Recap: 2016 AUS-X Open

Reed, Brayton, Faith and Richardson on winning AUS Supercross weekend.

The 2016 AUS-X Open was not only the annual international that it’s become, but also the stage of the final two rounds of this year’s Australian Supercross Championship. Post-race tracked down event winners Chad Reed and Gavin Faith, as well as newly-crowned title winners Justin Brayton and Jackson Richardson for the event’s Race Recap interviews.

SX1 – Chad Reed

Image: AUS-X Open.

Image: AUS-X Open.

Chad Reed, 2016 AUS-X Open, you got the double this weekend – must be absolutely pumped with that.

Yeah, stoked on that. I fell short last year and they added a little flavour this year, they did the AUS vs USA, and the sand in the tunnel. It’s kind of a combination of more races and important races that you want to win, you don’t want the USA to beat you when you’re in your hometown. For me, there was a lot of pressure this weekend, but I felt like I was really prepared to do battle. [Justin] Brayton rode awesome, I think he’s a very deserving Aussie supercross champ. It’s funny, around a week ago when they announced the gambling odds and I saw him down the list, I was like, man, these people don’t understand how good he is. The fact that he’s been racing the last four weekends, or whatever it is, he’s got his bike pretty much tweaked to Aussie-style tracks. I was expecting to come here and him be a huge part of the show and I think that proved to be true. But overall, really happy with the weekend and the double, tonight was difficult in the fact that the track was tough. We had a technical issue with a set of pants and that was really distracting, but I was able to try and shut it out as best I could and pull it off.

It looked like the difference this year was that for 2017 you have a job, whereas last year you were sort of in limbo. It seemed like you had that added element of focus this weekend, and obviously Goose [Mike Gosselaar] is here and, as good a fun this is, it’s all about working towards Anaheim as well.

Yeah I mean, if people only knew how off the couch we were last year when I came here. I feel when I come here, whether you’re prepared 100 percent or less than prepared, you come here to put on a show. Last year I felt that I was probably a good 20 to 30 pounds heavier than what I am now and not even close to being in the shape I’m at today. And you know, the result really wasn’t drastically different, I think my riding was better and my bike and preparation. But like you said, having a job and knowing that I was coming here months and months ago, it just allowed me to kind of set out my off-season and use this race as a tool and roll out. Bringing Goose and sending out complete race bike from the States and all of those little things, that’s what adds up. I want to be good in Anaheim and this is the best that I could do to prepare for Anaheim.

Aside from the main events and the heat races, there was obviously the Australia vs USA and the Superpole as well. It looked like you were really working on improving yourself, making yourself better, during those parts of the show. That was a really good race with Brayton as well, especially the Aussie fans loved it…

Yeah, I think if I’m leaving here and things that I feel like I need to work on, one thing I really need to work on is that one-lap, all out, balls to the wall speed. I think that Superpole last night and tonight was a complete disaster for me, I just didn’t get the most out of my lap. Even in the practices, I want to say the first practice, which was a free practice, I was fast this morning, but you know, I was second in the next one, so it wasn’t like I was at the top of the board for those one-lap sprints. That is something that I haven’t been working on, my focus is not there, my focus is about going fast and being able to sustain that speed – that’s where we’re at in the program right now. So there’s some things to work on because you have to qualify good, there’s the addition of the semis back in the States now and you never want to go to a semi. You want to be in the top four and transfer directly out of the heat to give you a good top eight pick of the main event.

What were your thoughts on the track this year? Night one versus today, it was actually quite a bit different, and a little bit of a different layout to last year.

The layout and the track were really challenging. It’s hard to say if it’s better or worse, I think racing wise, it was maybe better last year. I think if I were to criticise anything – and I would use it as constructive criticism – I think that they should leave the sand in Manly [laughs] and just have a normal situation out there and allow that to happen. The finish line maybe has a better place where it was last year, so maybe we can implement that if there’s a third event, but who knows, you never know these things. But I think that the second time around is always so difficult, things pop up that never popped up in year one and the expectation is there, so you have to achieve a certain goal otherwise you feel like you’re falling short. So yeah, I think overall, I’m really proud of what AUS-X Open achieved over the weekend and I’m just proud to be a part of it.

Something you mentioned a couple of times across the weekend, which will make headlines, is that during 2017 you would like to extend [your Yamaha contract] for another two years. Is that obviously the goal?

That’s the goal. There’s no discussion happening within my circle of trustees and with Ellie and I. It’s not about setting ‘hey, this is when I’m going to retire’, the focus is trying to live in the now and achieve the goals early on in 2017 that will put me in the position to go on and hopefully extend my relationship with Yamaha two more years as a rider. But yeah, I mean I’m sure that it’s not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge.

Having Ryan Villopoto here, a new element to the show this year, how did you find that?

Yeah I mean, obviously you know, the Ryan that we got was not four-consecutive supercross championships Ryan, but watching Ryan, riding around Ryan, it brings back good memories. The guy’s only 28 years old and for me in some cases it’s really sad to see a guy with so much talent and ability on a motorcycle so willing to be just okay with not doing anything. That’s something that I can’t comprehend, but obviously everybody and each individual is different and you have to respect that. But yeah man, massive respect for his talent and obviously the guy can still throw down. He got a holeshot tonight and lead three or four laps, you could tell he didn’t have 20 in him, but for me tonight when he was leading and I was behind him, the goal was to pounce when I could. I needed to pass him really fast, because again, kind of what I said earlier, the sand was just impossible. Coming into the sand and exiting the sand, no matter if you were first or last, anytime you were following somebody it was just so hard to maintain speed.

That quad in the rhythm before the tunnel, that was pretty impressive for a retired guy [Villopoto] on his Superpole lap!

Yeah I mean, it’s probably the third thing I’m most disappointed about with myself. I knew I had that on Saturday and I’m disappointed I didn’t do it then in the main event, because through the main event I easily had it and I don’t know why I didn’t pull the trigger. Throughout the day it was kind of something that you think about, but you’ve got the big picture in mind. On my Superpole lap I had all intentions of going for it, but I didn’t get the pop that I needed out of the first three. I think that more than anything, I was just racing hard out of the turn and expected to get a little more pop than I did and yeah, I just pretty much made a mess of the lap.

Well you got the most important wins anyway and, on behalf of Australia, thanks for coming back – it was an awesome weekend.

Cheers mate, thanks I appreciate it. As always, it’s a busy and difficult weekend, but it’s so rewarding to come here and feel the energy of the Aussie fans.

SX1 – Justin Brayton

Image: AUS-X Open.

Image: AUS-X Open.

Justin Brayton, you’re the 2016 Australian Supercross Champion – congratulations and you must be pleased to end up with that result.

Yeah, it’s what I came here to do and it really is awesome. It’s been a great experience, I’m just so happy to get this for the Honda Genuine Racing team, my mechanic Brent and my wife and family. It was a stressful couple of weeks before the season trying to put it all together and make it happen. Thank you so much to those guys and everyone at American Honda – I couldn’t have done it without them. I’m happy to get this number one plate on the bike for next year and hopefully [I can] be back for some more.

You came together with [Chad] Reed at the start of the main tonight, what were your thoughts on that?

I don’t really know, other than that I didn’t do anything – I had the holeshot and Reed just came into me and shoved me off the track – it’s pretty simple I think. It’s alright, it is what it is. I felt like I was riding really well tonight so no one can really take that away from me. To came from last to third was cool, it made the race pretty exciting for me – it was a challenging track to pass on. It was fun, other than the first turn incident. Yeah, there’s not much I can say about it.

Like you said, the track was pretty hard to pass on, but you seemed to have no difficulty in moving through the pack. What do you think was the key to that?

I just think I had a little more speed, I felt like I was pretty good all day with being fastest in practice, getting superpole and then I just felt like a holeshot in the main would’ve got me the win. You never know for sure, but that’s what I had my mind set on. Once I went down, obviously I had to charge back, not give up and yeah, coming back to third was pretty cool.

Obviously you’ve been in Australia for the six rounds [of Australian supercross], what has been a highlight for you so far?

It’s just been awesome, there have been so many highlights from spending time with my family on the sunny coast and then down in Melbourne, eating some great food and meeting some awesome people. At the races, it’s just been great with winning the first three, wrapping up the championship and meeting so many friendly fans and people inside the industry. Just overall, it’s been a great trip. I was here in 2010, and I actually met my wife two weeks after I came home from Australia, so it was fresh in my mind and we always talk about it – I always told her how awesome it was. Now it’s cool to show her and experience some of the same restaurants and beaches that I got to experience back then. Especially having my daughter here too, it’s been a really cool experience.

Do you think the series has been good to keep you in shape and carry some momentum into 2017? I’m not too sure what your plans are, but yeah, do you feel that it has helped?

Yeah, I absolutely think so. For me, just doing tonnes of laps at the test track – I’ve never really liked that because I feel that I was always better at practicing. I would go the test track and feel great, then I would go race and I just wouldn’t ride that good. If you look at my career from the start, I’ve challenged myself to race all the time. I feel like I still need to hone that race craft – I feel that anytime you can line-up and simulate what we’re going to be doing in the states, it’s awesome. The competitiveness in me is more than ever, I feel like I’m riding better than ever, so why not go experience something that could be a once in a lifetime opportunity – to go to Australia and take the family, do some racing and have a great time. Obviously I’m not 20 years old anymore, so I don’t have 10 years left in me, I’ve got a few good ones and I want to make the most of it.

SX2 – Gavin Faith

Image: AUS-X Open.

Image: AUS-X Open.

Gavin Faith, back-to-back wins here in Sydney, you must be pleased with your weekend as a whole.

Yeah, it’s been awesome. I kind of put high expectations on myself with the tighter course and my background in arenacross being champion this year. I was stoked with how good of a position I put myself in off the starts – my starts were on-point this weekend. I feel like it was a big part of my success this weekend, it was a tough track to pass on and it was really important to get out front – I did that and I executed it well.

Do you think your arenacross experience really came into play this weekend?

Yeah, definitely. Obviously I’m an arenacross champion, so I know how to ride arenacross really well – actually, arenacross is a little tighter than this. I like the indoors, there’s a lot better traction than most of the outdoor stadiums, so the traction and the tight racing really suited me well with the short lap times. I’m super happy to come away with 1-1, I kind of felt like that’s what I needed to do, and I’m really relieved to be able to do it.

Last week when we spoke, you said the title was a long shot, but you ended coming within a few points of it. Do you feel a little bit disappointed that you couldn’t get that done in your time here?

It kind of is what it is, I guess. I gave it my best shot, I went 1-1 this weekend, and I won last weekend in Melbourne – there’s nothing really more that I could do. I messed up earlier in the season, I just had to put that behind me and put my head down and work for it – there’s no going back in time. I just had to let that go and do the best that I could, and I did, but we came up a little bit short. I was happy with the results and we had a good season – I’m just thankful for that.

Is coming back to Australia something you’re going to try and pursue again?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve been coming over here for a lot of years – I love it over here – I love all the people and the racing community. It’s been really awesome, it’s treated me really well, so I’m looking forward to coming back in 2017.

SX2 – Jackson Richardson

Image: AUS-X Open.

Image: AUS-X Open.

Jackson Richardson, you’re the 2016 Australian SX2 champion – congratulations mate and you must be over the moon to come home with that result.

Yeah man, I’m definitely pumped – it’s been a hectic weekend. The first night I was able to come away with second, I got a bit tight in the main, and then Hayden and I came together a bit. But yeah, I was glad to come away with second – [I] gained a few [points]. And today, I mean oh, it was just stressful. I got a bad start in the main, I was way back and got up to third – Hayden and Gav were a fair way in front. It was crazy, I came around with one lap to go and Hayden was off the side of the track – I thought he went down, but apparently it was a mechanical issue which just sucked. I don’t like to win a championship that way – I wanted to beat him straight up, but it’s the way it goes sometimes. I feel for the bloke, but I mean I’m still pumped on the championship. We worked our butts off this year.

When you crossed the line it didn’t really look like you knew you won until your mechanic came over to you, what was going through your mind when you first realised that you had won the title?

Oh man, it was all just a blur. I mean, I looked like a dear in the headlights when I came off the track – I had no idea what was going. I didn’t know if Hayden had just crashed and got back up or something like that. I didn’t see him come around – it was crazy. The boys waited a bit, and then they confirmed that I got the championship – I just lost it man, it was crazy.

Have you gone over and consulted with Hayden?

Yeah, I went over and saw him. He came over just after the race – he is as professional as it gets – he held his composure there at the end, you could see he was emotional. I was too because I don’t like to win that way, we’re good mates and I know he works just as hard as me, if not harder. We’ve been going back and forth all season, we’ve had some good battles and we’ve been going at each other, but at the end of the day we’re friends and I would’ve been just as pumped as him if he won the championship.

Now looking ahead to 2017, is a fulltime return to Australia on the cards?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve got some stuff in the works, but I’m not going to announce anything just yet – I’ll wait a couple of weeks. But yeah, we have some stuff in the works and I’ll be announcing it soon.