Making the jump to national pro level when you’re 17 is plenty tough, but it’s even harder when you get dropped right into a factory ride with all the accompanying expectations and pressure. Shane Bess had been a successful product of the Suzuki amateur ranks, and landed a factory deal with their 125 West squad for 2002. When the supercross season started, he missed qualifying for a few mains, and it was easy to see that while the pressure was mounting, the results weren’t, and he wasn’t having much fun. Throw a couple outdoor season injuries into the mix, and it didn’t end up being the memorable intro season that he or Suzuki was looking for.
For 2002, Shane’s landed a ride with ECC, and is looking for a fresh start. He’s also looking to show everyone that Suzuki’s trust in him last season wasn’t misplaced.
TransWorld Motocross: From the outside, it sure looked like you had a tough intro season. How did it go?
Shane Bess: “It started out good, but I had a few little injuries while learning supercross trying to get the jumps down. Then when we got to racing, I just never got into the flow of being an aggressive rider…getting out there and passing people. I’d start out, get passed, then get passed again, and never really charged to pass people back. It was hard…a lot of pressure that I put on myself. After it started going downhill, more pressure gets put on you and it gets harder and harder.
“This year’s going to be a lot more fun. I’ve got a good team manager (Mike Craig) and it’s fun already. The whole crew… everybody likes everybody and it’s working out good so far.”
TWMX: Talking with you earlier, it sounds like you’re psyched to be working with Steve Lamson, too.
SB: “Yeah. Steve’s been around forever, and I’ve been watching him since I was a little kid. Having him as an older rider is kind of like having Buddy Antunez like I did last year, but I think Steve will be able to help me a lot more in the outdoors. Having Mike Craig as a team manager is awesome. The guy just knows how to work with you, and he’s a rider and still young, so it seems like he’s another one of us.”
TWMX: It seemed like you had double pressure. Your first year at the national level, plus you get tossed into the factory rig right off the bat, too.
SB: “Yeah. I’ve been racing for years and I earned that ride for sure. No one would pass that up the opportunity to ride for a factory, so it was take it and run with it. The bad part was, I got hurt. I hurt my collarbone twice, and got knocked out. I was always just trying to come back within a couple of weeks of being injured, because I had to do good before the end of the year. It just never worked out. I took a good month off at the end of the season, just to heal myself up. I’ll be ready this year.”
TWMX: How much difference between the bikes you were riding last year, and this time around?
SB: “The bikes were awesome last year. So far I’ve only ridden the stock bikes, but they’re better than last year. They’re good. Our motor stuff should be getting done soon. I’m not too worried about that.”
TWMX: What are you most looking forward to doing this year?
SB: “Just having a fun year. I’m not putting pressure on myself, and these guys aren’t telling me that I have to finish in a particular place. It’s just go out and have fun and that’s when I ride like I can. I never got to show that last year at all. Not once.
“I just wanted to prove it to myself and I never even did that. I just want to come out and ride, have fun, and ride like I can and I think I’ll do pretty good.”
TWMX: How was it having Roger DeCoster as a team manager?
SB: “He has a lot of knowledge but we’re both quiet, and I never really got to know him like I wanted to. Plus he’s a little older than me and I think it’s a little better working with a team manageer like Mike…someone young. Someone that’s energized. Roger was quiet and I never knew what he was thinking. He was a great team manager and the guy is super-smart. He’s probably the smartest guy out there in the motorcycle industry. But I’m glad I’m where I’m at now.”
TWMX: Which tracks will you guys use for supercross testing?
SB: “We’re going to be using this track a lot. I also have a couple people I know who are building private tracks. Suzuki’s also supposed to let us use their track.
TWMX: What’s the big difference between where you were and the guys who were leading?
SB: “They’re so mentally strong. They don’t worry about anything, they just ride their race. Guys like me, I’m looking back, ‘Aw, crap… it’s Mike Brown, or Ernesto Fonseca.’ I was just like, ‘Okay, I’m in fifth,’ then I’d get passed, ‘Aw, that was Ernie,’ all right, I’m in sixth. Then I’d get passed by some other big name, ‘All right, I’m in seventh.’ I’d just never say, ‘No, I’m just going to go for it and get somebody back.’ I just kind of kept settling for whatever place I was in.
“I always had the speed last year, I wasn’t worried about my speed. It was just my mental push. As soon as I got a little mentally strong, I started getting good starts and things started coming around.”
TWMX: What were the biggest things you learned during your first year that you can put to use next season?
SB: “I noticed a lot of the riders respect each other, and there’s no hard feelings out there on the track. This year I think I’ll be a little more comfortable going in and making passes and not feel like, ‘Ah, that was a dirty move,’ and worry about a comeback. It’s just racing. I think that’s the biggest thing I learned. Ah, and starts…you’ve gotta get those starts. (laughs)