We recently sat down with Tim at the Yamaha Team Intro, and it was apparent that he’d been working hard in preparation for the upcoming season. His off-season training program had him looking leaner than ever, and he sounded both confident and excited about the prospect of riding a redesigned (and lighter) YZ450F. After a solid second place finish at the first round of the THQ World Supercross GP in Geneva, Switzerland, it appears that his confidence wasn’t misguided.
TransWorld Motocross: How’s preparation going for the 2003 season?
TF: “It’s going good. We’re done testing. I came in right from Steel City to start testing for like six weeks. Since then I’ve been back home, training and doing my own thing and really getting in shape. This is going to be a good year. The new 450 is like a breath of fresh air for me. The four-stroke was cool when I got on the 426, but this bike’s on a totally different level. It’s ready to ride Supercross, and it’s ready to win.
“I think this is my year to shine. I have another year with my trainer, Jeff Spencer. This is the third year I’m doing this, and I think this is the year where I’m finally getting to where I need to be to win. After that injury I had last year I really wasn’t ready, you know? I wasn’t physically ready with the knee, and mentally, too. It was bugging me. I feel 100 percent coming into this season so far. The bike’s great, I feel strong, and riding 20 laps wide open isn’t an issue, and before it sometimes was.
TWMX: How frustrating was that at the beginning of 2002? You got right to the start of the season and then hurt your knee.
TF: “It was definitely frustrating for sure…painful and frustrating.”
“My first year on the four-stroke (2001) I kind of took it a little easy to get used to the bike. I knew that it would take a little while to get used to it. Yamaha didn’t really put a lot of pressure on me to go out and win races and championships that first year. Towards the end of the Supercross season it started coming alive and I got a couple podiums. I felt really good in the outdoor series, won a national and got third overall.
“In the off-season (before 2002) I felt great, I felt like it was time to really start racing and trying to win races. To have an injury definitely sucks, and the worst part maybe wasn’t the injury, because I was back on the bike in seven to ten days, but just from the surgery and stuff it took me two months to come back. It was frustrating, but that’s how it goes. It depends on how fast you can bounce back from stuff like that. Show character and show that you want to win.”
TWMX: How’s it going to be with an extra guy in the Yamaha semi this year? Is it going to change the dynamic a little bit?
TF: “It’s a pretty good mixture of people on the team. Everybody can kind of learn something from everyone else. Over the last couple years it’d just been me and David. Actually, a lot of times it’s been just David, because I’ve been hurt, or just me because he was hurt. With three guys underneath the tent, we’ve also added a bunch more staff. We’re not going to be short of help, and nobody’s going to go without. It’s going to be good for the team. I’ve got a new mechanic this year, Steve Matthes, and he worked with me back at Noleen. It’s going to be good.
“With three of us practicing together it only elevates our speed. If you ride purely alone, you kind of lose that edge. I never want Chad or David to be faster than me, or vice-versa, so we’re always pushing each other on the track during testing.”
TWMX: Do you think everyone’s seen what RC has done with his training program, and is stepping up this year?
TF:: “I think people have been stepping up each year. But I think you can’t really make big strides at this level. But I think this is maybe going to be the year where everyone comes alive and I’m prepared for that. I’m one of those guys, too. There’s going to be a bunch of guys. I think Ezra’s getting comfortable, he started riding good during the nationals. Chad’s in the 250 class and he’s riding really fast. David’s back, and obviously he can ride Supercross…he won races last year. He was almost on his way to winning that championship when he got injured. I think this is the year when everybody’s going to be there. I don’t think it’s going to be a runaway year for anyone. Not myself, Ricky, or anyone. That’s going to be exciting for the sport and for the fans.”
TWMX: What are you doing training-wise that’s different?
TF: “I’m not doing anything really different…kind of the same thing I was doing last year, but it seems like every year I get a little bit stronger. You don’t want to do too much and burn yourself out in your off-season. Last year Spencer had me on a great training program, and this year we just kind of followed up in the off-season and got a couple percent better. That’s what it takes at this level to win.”
TWMX: Are you going to try and step up the intensity on the first few laps of the main events?
TF: “Ricky’s kind of fast the first few laps…I’m not letting the cat out of the bag. It’s obvious right from the gate. Great starts, the first six to ten laps he goes wide open, and by the 11th or 12th lap he can just put it on cruise control and go slower than everybody behind him, because he’s got such a big lead. By the time he gets that kind of lead, whoever’s in second is going, ‘Carmichael’s 15 seconds ahead…’ They kind of give up. I think that definitely the first few laps are going to be the most important.”
TWMX: Do you think some of the riders kind of gave up a little bit last season when Ricky got on a roll?
TF: “Obviously no one ever totally gives up, but people get beat up mentally a little bit. I just kind of gave it everything I had until the last moto at Steel City was over. That was pretty much all I had. I sure didn’t have the speed to run with him.”
TWMX: What do you think of the international Supercross rounds?
TF: “I’m doing them and I’m not sure how it’s going to go or what to expect. It’s just something that I felt I wanted to do. I wanted to stay racing, and Yamaha wanted to do them and backed us for them. Obviously Clear Channel has stepped it up the last couple years and everyone gives them a hard time, but they are making things better. The riders are making more money and we figure we’ll give them a shot and give them the benefit of the doubt and do the races and enjoy it. I’ll definitely be ready for Anaheim.”
TWMX: What do you see for you this year?
TF: “People can only win for so long, and not everybody can win every race. I just think it’s time that I start winning. I’m 27 now, and I’m finally to a point where I believe in myself. I believe that I can win. At 27 that’s getting a little bit older. Not old, but I want to start winning races and winning championships. I want my name to be in the record book too, you know? I think ’03 is going to be a good one for me.”