In this little game that we call motocross racing, keeping in solid contact with the ground is critical. Sure, racers like to launch into the upper atmosphere every now and again, but when the bike meets the dirt, things need to be in perfect control. With over a decade of experience with this dilemma, Michelin’s Randy Richardson is a tire expert. Using experience drawn from each Supercross and outdoor race on the circuit, Randy takes his job very seriously, and is ever on the lookout for the perfect formula to produce the perfect tire. With a degree in mechanical engineering from Greenville Technical college and a three-year professional motocross career under his belt, Randy has successfully combined education with passion. Here is what the Michelin man has to say…
When did you first start with Michelin?
I started with Michelin in 1988, and moved into a mechanical engineer position down the road. Prior to 1995, when I moved into the motorcycle department, I was working in the four-wheel department-trucks and cars. I have always been very passionate about motorcycles and racing; I actually started riding at the age of four, so it has been a big part of my life. I am very fortunate to have crossed my educational experience with my personal hobby.
Tell us about your career as a professional motocrosser.
I never raced as a kid, just rode a lot. Then in 1989, I started racing in the beginner class, and worked my way up to the professional ranks. It wasn’t until 1993 that I started racing the Eastern regional Supercross series. That was from ’93-’95. During that time I was working at Michelin as a mechanical engineer, and I would take my vacation days and use them to go to the races. I wasn’t trying to make a career out of it; my goal was to make it to the night program and then watch the main event. I was already 25 years old, so I knew where my position was. For me, I just wanted to be part of the sport I loved and really thought it was cool to race at night under the lights.
What are your responsibilities at each race?
When I arrive, I set up the Michelin truck with Scott Rinehart and Paul Justice. Then I’ll walk the track and review the results from practice, so we can use the right tires Saturday night. We make decisions based on the dirt’s composition and the track layout, and we pay attention to our competition and what’s going on with each of the racers’ tires.
What’s the deal with colored tires?
That was something I came up with. I wanted to do it a few years ago, as part of my job is to think up marketing ideas. It actually came from our bicycle division. We use silica instead of carbon black as a bonding agent. It leaves the tire in a neutral color state; from there we add pigment. All that we have commercially available now is red and yellow, but we have the technology to make any colors we want. They sell really well, and the consumers really like them. Originally, we did our yellow and blue Michelin colors with Travis Pastrana, Mike Metzger and Mike Jones, but it was a limited production run. We have been running polls on the website we have, and based off of the fans’ response, we decided to go with the red.
What type of racer does Michelin look to support?
Basically, we want the clean image. Michelin is a huge company, and we look for riders who fit into our clean-cut image. We are tied in with Travis Pastrana, and he is the boy-next-door kind of guy. That is very important to us. I look for guys on the track who are always giving 100%, it doesn’t matter if it is practice or the race. I look for hard-chargers who are dedicated and passionate about achieving their goals.
What’s your take on the 2005 Supercross season?
The media has ingredients on the table for certain riders, and they build up all that hype. As fans, we want to see a great race based off what the media makes of it, but the script writes itself each week. You can’t go off of the pre-season hype. With Jamees Stewart getting hurt, I was bummed for him and the sport, because he brings a lot to the table. The same goes with our rider, Pastrana. Now that James is back, he’s making things interesting and preventing the season from getting stale.