Interview: Brett Metcalfe
Brett Metcalfe is solid on the same team, the same bike, and the same program for 2012. He's lucky in that regard. We talked to him about 2011 and what to expect in 2012.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe has had a long career racing in America. So long that the Aussie’s accent is nearly gone! He’s ridden for KTM, Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki in his time in the USA, and the 2011 season was his first full year of racing 450s, riding for the Suzuki factory alongside Ryan Dungey. This year, he’s likely the only racer on the squad, but despite recent news about the Suzuki Factory racing team being removed from Suzuki proper here in the USA, the team is pretty much as it was, just racing out of Yoshimura, and still with just as much support from Suzuki Japan. Metcalfe is recovering from a shoulder injury and spent most of the last month on the sidelines, but he’s back riding now, and things are looking good. He’ll be ready by A1 if all goes to plan.
Motocross.com: Talk about the positives and negatives that you could pull from 2011.
Brett Metcalfe: I think when I look back at last year, I think in Supercross I learned quite a lot. It’s a lot longer than the Lites series, for example! The biggest key for that is getting through and staying healthy and staying within your limits. The times when I tried to maybe push a little bit extra and I wanted so badly to be up there and doing a little bit better than I was, and the times when I pushed it I kind of paid the price on it. So, I think that’s the most obvious learning curve you can make and probably one of the hardest ones to make. That was the biggest thing. Other than that, just learning the bike and trying to get a little more comfortable was a part of that season, too. So I think for this next upcoming season I’ll be a little bit better prepared. And adapting to the Factory Suzuki team was at first a little bit of a challenge for me. I came from a much different setup. Getting adapted to it took a little time. But coming into next season I think I’m a lot better prepared.
In Supercross, you were talking about pushing a little too hard, I know that you had some sort of nagging injuries early on in the season. That couldn’t have helped, either, because it sort of builds up a little bit here and a little bit there and eventually you’re just messed up!
Actually, coming into the season I felt really good, and then at A1 I tore my meniscus. I hurt my right knee, the one I don’t have an ACL in. I got all sideways, put my leg down, and tore my meniscus during the main. From then on, for the next three or four weeks, I didn’t practice really at all during the week. I might have got one day in a week. And that one day wasn’t quality riding time; it was kind of just get out there and ride and practice some stuff, do some laps. But it was a little sore. Once you kind of get something like that going, it can be hard to recover from because you just don’t really feel like you’re improving during the week and the you get to the race on Saturday… Sometimes a week off is good from riding, but in Supercross when you’re taking a few weeks off at a time and just trying to battle through and ride it can get on top of you and starts to play with you, mentally.
Plus, Supercross is technically so much harder that you really need to stay on top of your timing and all that stuff, too, a lot more than if it was Nationals…
Yeah. It’s kind of like… I’m not a great golfer, but you hear about all the top golfers in the world, they’re out there practicing their chip shots and staying sharp every day, working on their little skills. And for us riding Supercross, we’ve got to be so precise, and everything that has to happen has to be perfect, and you have to be really in tune with your bike and at one with it. So every time you take a little bit of a time off, you lose a tiny little bit of that edge. It’s a big mental challenge, really. We all know we can ride, but it’s just staying on top of your game.
You had to take some time off for your injuries in Supercross, but how was your outlook going into the Outdoors?
I guess I was little more comfortable going into the Outdoors. I got halfway through Supercross and then I couldn’t keep going. I had the knee, the wrist, the shoulder…
You were like half a racer!
[Laughs] It was time to just pull the pin. At that point, I was just thankful that something major hadn’t happened already. I had a couple big ones where I just couldn’t hang on to the bike anymore. So, that was unfortunate, but a good time to step away. And then coming into Outdoors I felt a little more comfortable from the previous year. But, really, my biggest focus was just to get through that phase and hit every round and kind of be up there toward the end.
You pretty much did that…
Yeah. I thought I was pretty successful. I would have liked to have been up there a little more, but everyone does. I just was happy with the way I progressed each weekend. I learned a lot about my bike and the team and what we need to get me comfortable. I think, towards the end – really from about a little over halfway – we really started to figure me out and what I need and what the team can do for me. Then everyone started clicking and that’s when we started getting up on the podium and really starting to click off good races.
You’ve talked in the past about how different it is to work on setup on a factory bike. Can you elaborate on that for us?
Sure… I came from GEICO in 2010. We were using the A Kit stuff but the A Kit is still a long way from the factory suspension. The factory stuff is just so… You make little changes and the affects are huge. If you go the wrong way in something, sometimes it can really affect you. You go a couple of clicks different on the forks and then all of a sudden the shock starts to go sideways. It’s really so finicky. You have to be so precise. That’s where I struggled a little bit early on because I wasn’t used to that kind of stuff because the stuff I previously used, it never really affected that much. If we wanted to make changes, then we’d do it internally or change some settings or do something major, but even with factory suspension, a couple clicks and and it’s like, “Whoa, that’s a big change!” At first, I had to adapt to that and get used to that. Then also Adam at Showa, he had to learn what I liked – and what I thought I liked was actually making the bike worse. That’s why we kind of struggled a little bit early on in the Outdoors. I was trying to achieve something that was ruining the whole setup. So then I just had to trust him and I think we kind of got on the same wavelength with everyone on the team. And then I started to trust them and go with their feeling of the bike and it worked out. I got used to it and got better.
Do you think any of that has to do with the bike before being a Honda and this one being a Suzuki?
No, I think it’s purely factory suspension. Once you can get accustomed to it and dial it in, there are huge advantages to it, and I think that’s why everyone on factory runs that stuff. They can get it in. Once I got it down, it was awesome. I love the stuff. I think at first it was just me getting accustomed to it…
Coming into this year, there was that big shakeup at Suzuki. Did that scare you a bit when all that stuff was going down?
A little bit. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I actually found out while I was at the des Nations. That’s the first time I found out. Then, the next morning after I found out, Suzuki called me and said, “Hey, everything is okay. We’ve already got a plan in motion. You’re involved with it. We will take care of you. We want you for next year.” That was cool. That kind of put my thoughts to rest a little bit whether it’s going to be packed up and I have to look somewhere else. I kind of knew I was okay but nothing’s done until it’s down on paper.
Ultimately, you had a contract, so I would imagine that your money was guaranteed, but if they just didn’t have team then what were you going to do, just sit around?
[Laughs] Yeah… I don’t know what they would have done without a team. I could have just sat there and not done anything. I don’t know actually what would have happened. But I’m just thankful that Suzuki worked everything out and Yoshimura really stepped in. The team is actually going to run exactly how it was this past year as far as the majority of the staff. It’s going to be a solid program for me. I’m really stoked that everyone is still there. I think it’s going to be good.
The rumor was that Suzuki was trying to land James Stewart as your teammate, but that didn’t work out, so now the rumor is that the team will be just you. How does that make you feel?
It feels pretty radical, actually [laughs]. It surprised me, but I talked to people at Suzuki a lot and for their plans and their future plans it makes sense. They’re looking at the future. Everyone is thinking they’re just going to hold on for one more year and it will be done. Well, that’s not their plan. This move with me on the team is only a part of that plan. They know what they’re doing. For me, it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s just me or there’s someone else alongside me. I’m just happy to go racing, as are everybody else that has a ride right now.
Outside of the minor freak-out about the team, it seems like the off-season should’ve been pretty relaxed for you, having a two-year deal, riding the same bike, etc…
I believe so. My only little scare was that Suzuki were closing down and they fixed that really quickly. So, that was pretty set. Things happen pretty late for a lot of people and it doesn’t give everyone a whole lot of time. Deals are usually done halfway through the year and as soon as you get done on one team you switch straight over. I don’t think that happened too much this year. Hopefully that can work into my advantage a little bit by being ready, and the Suzuki Team is ready to go.
Have there been any significant changes for you heading into 2012?
Not really. I’m not changing up too much at all. The only thing that we’ve really worked on, since the Monster Cup in Vegas, the whole team has really buckled down and attacked the engine this year. That was one area where I felt like we were a little bit off. The engine, I think, got left behind a little bit this last year just because they lost the couple key people that were working on that. So they kind of had to “run what we brung” kind of deal, which was really good, but I think everyone else was able to step up a little bit and I think we were left behind. So, after the Vegas race the team really buckled down and went to work on the engine. They threw more things at me than I wanted to try [laughs]. So, it has been really cool. Hopefully that can improve my performances and lift my whole racing game.
And that’s always the goal; getting better. Everyone is trying to step up, and this year the field may even be more stacked than last year. What do you think about that?
I don’t think about it too much. I know the field is deep. Last year it was deep and this year it’s going to be even more. There are a couple added extras in there from the Lites class moving up. So, we’ve got some rookies coming in that are going to be good. The field is strong. I don’t want to be the one that says I think this is the toughest field ever, but it probably would rank up there. I just want to focus on my job and what I’m doing and just stay focused on ways that I can get better. I think Outdoors for me comes a little bit easier and Supercross is definitely a bit more of a challenge for me. So, I’ve just got to stay focused on everything I’m doing and making sure we are improving week-to-week and see what we can do out there.
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