Catching Up With Mitch Payton

We spent a couple minutes with Pro Circuit’s Mitch Payton at Reliant Stadium to get his take on his new riders, the new 94db sound limit and 250cc two-strokes in the 250F class at the Nationals.

The west couldn’t have turned out much better for you.

No. The west has been really good. Both guys have done, what I think to be, a great job thus far. Jake [Weimer] is riding really well and Ryan [Morais] has gotten faster every single weekend. I’m really happy with both of them.

Somebody like Morais, who has shown a ton of potential in the past, joins your team and starts producing the results. It seems like that happens often when riders join your team.

I think we’ve all seen him in the past have some really good races, and I think he knew this was an opportunity where he had to step up if he was going to do it. I believe he is putting everything he has into this season, and I think it’s proving that if you put a lot of effort into anything you can succeed. It’s nice to see him do it.

Talk a little bit about your East Coast Lites team and what you expect from them.

I think both of these guys are going to be winners. Austin [Stroupe] won this race last year, and he didn’t finish up the outdoor season because he was hurt, but I believe he is more fit and stronger than he was last year. He certainly has 15 hard laps in him at the test track, so I expect a lot from him. Christophe [Pourcel] has awesome speed, so I don’t see a reason why they both can’t be on the box here and hopefully at every round.

Both Stroupe and Pourcel got bit by the same jump at the test track during the off-season and both had collarbone injuries, right?

Yep. They broke their collarbone on the same jump about a week a part from each other. It was a bad jump, and we should’ve removed the jump sooner.

How has the new sound restriction been? Was it easy to meet or has it been a struggle?

It’s always easy to meet it by choking the bike down. Once you meet it, though, the hard part is trying to recover from the performance that you lost. So that took us a little time to get back to where we were, but we had a little bit of a head start because we went to the Motocross of Nations last year and that was the same noise level over there. We’ve been working on it since July or August of last year. I think we have everything almost as good as last year’s performance.

The Pro Circuit pipe we have on our KX250F test bike is amazing. It’s actually quieter than the stock pipe.

This year was kind of odd because these pipes are built in a way that doesn’t allow the public to alter the pipe in any way. So since we had to sell it that way, we wanted to make sure it was at 94db. When we were testing on a Honda CRF450R, it was actually a little louder than ours. I was worried people weren’t going to like it, but when test riders rode it they said they liked it because it was quieter and had more power than the stock pipe.

Comparing last year’s race bike to this year’s race bike, are you even with performance?

I think we’re above last year’s bike. A lot of that is because we have a new bike this year. They changed a lot of things this year. They gave the bike a new head, which was a good starting point for us. The bike also has more bottom and mid than last year’s bike.

Changing subjects a little bit, we sat down with the NPG last week. What are your thoughts on allowing a 250 two-stroke in the Lites class?

I don’t think it’s a good idea from the standpoint that there is already a rule in place that allows you to ride a 250 two-stroke. It’s not like anybody is banning it. You can ride it in the 450 class. So if it’s due to an expense, you can race that bike. There is already this rule in place, so I don’t think it belongs in the old 125 class. It was never intended for that. The second part of that I do not agree with is that almost all the manufacturers decided to stop making the 250 two-stroke, so why should they spend millions of dollars to produce a bike that many won’t buy. It’s done.

As far as Pro Circuit is concerned, how much of your business is still two-stroke?

I’d say that our two-stroke sales have probably fallen off by 60 percent in the last few years. I think that’s mainly because nobody is competing on them and three brands don’t even sell them anymore. They’re still selling some of them in Europe, which we still sell some product over there. The only two-stroke stuff that we do really well on, though, is mini bikes. A majority of all mini bikes are two-strokes, so that’s good, except for Honda. Even Honda doesn’t make an 80cc anymore. They discontinued that and instead have the 150F. So, I think for them to make this rule two or three months before the outdoors is a bad idea because the manufacturers have already gone down that road and they’re not going to turn around.