TWMX All Access: Pro Circuit

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Back when it was first built five years ago, Pro Circuit’s building in Corona looked like the Taj Mahal of the MX world. Maybe it was its highly visible location alongside the westbound 91 freeway in Corona that added to the impression, but there’s no doubt that it’s always been an eye-catching icon for anyone driving by with a bike in the back of their truck.

But as anyone who’s been stuck in rush hour traffic in the last year can tell you, they’ve also been expanding. The original building had 24,000 square feet of shop and office space, but it was becoming increasingly packed as the business grew, and as four-strokes became more popular (requiring room for more inventory). Now it’s only half the story, because they’ve added another 25,000 square feet of office and workshop space.

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The race team will soon vacate their current location in the main building, which will allow for expansion of the warehouse. The new section of building to the left of the gate in the above photo is where the new race shop will be, and another separate building (at the far left) offers additional room to grow¿when needed. Currently they have a separate pipe manufacturing facility with approximately 125 people working two shifts, in addition to the 35 employees in the main building.

Travis Wicks is Pro Circuit’s General Manager, and after directing a tour through the facility, we settled down in the showroom area for a quick Q & A.

TransWorld Motocross: How has the construction process gone? For being such a down economy, it sure seems like there has been some rapid growth in the area.

Travis Wicks: That’s been the biggest delay. There’s so much expansion in the Corona area that we couldn’t get all of our permits and everything to get everything built in the race shop. Everything is finally approved, and now they’re going to get started on building the dyno rooms and everything else. Let’s hope that we don’t have to expand again, because it’s a pain to move, and I know it’s going to be a pain just moving from this building to next door. Hopefully this will be it. (Laughs)

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I’ve been here since the small shop in Anaheim¿our whole shop there was the size of this showroom. So we’ve definitely grown. We never thought we’d ever grow out of this place, ‘Man, we’re never moving again,’ ’cause it was a pain when we first did it. But now that we’ve moved into this building, we’ve totally outgrown this thing. It’s mainly just warehouse space. The thing we also built that other building for is that Mitch wanted a cool race shop.

TWMX: What’s your role at Pro Circuit?

TW: I actually run the business side of it. Mitch’s true heart is in the race team. Yeah, he does run a little bit of the business side, but for the most part I do the majority of that. Day-to-day duties for me are just making sure that we’re building the best product, and making sure that sales are growing. I think we’re doing that right now.

I started here when I was 17. A year or two after I was here I pretty much was doing what I’m doing now. I just kind of worked my way up and learned about the industry. I went to college a just worked the whole time I went to school. Just tried to learn as much as I could about the industry. Like I said, it doesn’t matter to me if Jeremy McGrath or Ricky Carmichael or Ivan Tedesco¿those guys that come in here, it’s an everyday thing for us. I don’t get so excited about that kind of stuff. I get more excited about making sure that the business is growing. That’s what’s important to me. That’s what I get excited about.

TWMX: Day-to-day, where will you find Mitch?

TW: Mitch hates being in the office. He’s the most hands-on guy I know. He’s usually the last guy to leave here every night, whether that’s 10:00 or 12:00 at night, you’ll see him either on the dyno, or in the porting room. What people don’t realize is that Mitch ports pretty much every barrel that comes in here. That’s a customer’s barrel, that’s a race team barrel, that’s anything. It all goes through his hands at some point. We do have some guys who do some of the clean-up work, and things like that. Mitch does most of the dimensional work. He comes up with all these specs, and he does all those barrels. So for the most part, he’s in that grinding room or on the dyno.

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It should be a relief to a lot of customers because everything is overseen by him, as far as the motor application. It’s the same thing with suspension, too. Bones actually looks at every work order that comes through here and he writes the specs for every set of suspension that leaves this building. He’s been here since pretty much day one. I think that should be important for customers to realize.

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TWMX: A lot of Pro Circuit’s reputation came from what you guys were doing with two-strokes. With the recent popularity of four-strokes, how has it impacted your business?

TW: It’s kind of the same conversion as when we made the jump we made from hopping up Huskys to the Japanese bikes. Back then, everyone knew we could build Huskys. But could we work on Japanese bike? Then we proved ourselves there. With the two-strokes, that’s always what we were known as a two-stroke company. But now with Ivan winning, and working with teams like Factory Connection, and with Team Kawasaki buying motors from us for four-strokes and things like that, we’ve kind of proven that, ‘Hey, here we are with four-strokes.’

TWMX: How did you get through the learning curve in four-strokes and stay competitive?

TW: We actually hired a guy from TRD, and he built Indy car engines, and things like that. His name’s Drino Miller. He’s helped us develop a lot of the aftermarket accessories and things that we sell for motors now. I think you’re going to see more and more stuff that we’re going to have in the future. We’re already working on cams, and we already have valve spring kits and clutch springs, and things that no one in our industry has really put the money in and invested in developing some of it.

There are a lot of teams using that stuff that we’re already selling. On the development side of it, yeah, Mitch knew a little but about four-strokes and we’d done some stuff in the past, but no one really took it to the level that we have now. Drino’s definitely helped out with that. He’s been a huge asset that Mitch had gone out and found.

Two-strokes are non-existent. It’s only a matter of time before they just whittle away. It’s only a matter of time before they start having four-strokes for those classes, too. I’ve heard rumors that Yamaha is working on a four-stroke 85 or 125 or whatever it’ll be.

I was actually amazed at how far the two-stroke stuff has really dropped off. I mean I knew it was dropping off a little bit, but it’s starting to drop off quite a bit.

TWMX: Given Pro Circuit’s prior history with two-strokes, does it hurt you to see it drop off like that?

TW: No, we were a little bit scared¿we knew that whatever we did we were going to give it 120 percent, but everyone can kind of build a four-stroke pipe. That was a little bit scary to see that there’s a lot more companies that build four-stroke stuff. We kind of needed to prove ourselves in the four-stroke market. I think we’re really doing that this year by working with not just our own team, but Factory Connection and we’re even trying to do some stuff with Yamaha. I think the more we work with other teams, we’ll prove ourselves in that market. That’s the most important thing to us right now, making sure we develop and produce a good product that everyone’s going to be happy with.

TWMX: It had to be pretty gratifying to win the 125 West title with Ivan on the four-stroke this year.

TW: It is. For us it was more not necessarily the title thing, but proving ourselves in the four-stroke world. We all work so many hours from the sales department to the race team, and there’s no one that puts more testing in. We also put a lot in financially this year to make sure those bikes did run. It kind of makes it all worthwhile. Actually it’s kind of the same feeling like when we won at Anaheim. It was like, ‘Man, we proved ourselves.’ We knew it was going to happen, We knew he was going to win the championship, because he was the hardest-working rider, and we knew we had the best bike. It was just a matter of time for us.

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TWMX: How much development and testing did you have to put in at the beginning of the season? It was obviously a first-year bike.

TW: We did a lot of homework. We didn’t really get the bike much earlier than when they were available to the public, and even then it was still pre-production and wasn’t necessarily what they were going to come out with. So we spent a lot of time, put a lot of money into it, and we worked harder than anyone on those bikes. That’s where everyone kind of second-guessed us like, ‘There’s no way that they’re going to win a title, because it is a new bike, and they haven’t had the bike for that long.’ They kind of questioned whether the riders we had could win titles. I think we proved to them all that we got the best bike and we got the best rider at this point.

TWMX: How much work was it on the transmissions?

TW: We have our own transmission. We worked with a company last year on our 125 transmissions, and changed some ratios and did that kind of stuff. You heard the horror stories of people breaking the KX250Fs, and the majority of it seemed like it was Supercross application in the whoops. We didn’t want to have that type of problem, and we also changed some ratios. We’re actually going to offer that to customers, too. We’re going to sell a works transmission, and that’s something that will be available in the next couple weeks. It will be a complete outdoor or Supercross application. You’d basically play with some different gearing with sprockets for whether you’d be using it for Supercross or motocross.

TWMX: Watching Ivan during some of the pre-season testing, it was obvious that he was working his tail off to get ready for the season.

TW: Not only was he working, but these guys in the shop were working. If people knew the amount of hours and time that we put into it, most of them wouldn’t want to put that kind of effort into it. That’s what I respect Mitch for the most. Everyone that work here, it’s a huge team effort. Everyone pitches in with helping on Ivan’s bikes, or whatever. Yeah, he has his own mechanic, but a lot of those guys back there help and pitch in. Just the hours that they work¿Christmas Eve, and most of them worked Christmas Day and Thanksgiving, and everything else. That’s the effort we put into trying to win. It’s a different breed working here, and you’ve really got to put in the hours.

we were a little bit scared¿we knew that whatever we did we were going to give it 120 percent, but everyone can kind of build a four-stroke pipe. That was a little bit scary to see that there’s a lot more companies that build four-stroke stuff. We kind of needed to prove ourselves in the four-stroke market. I think we’re really doing that this year by working with not just our own team, but Factory Connection and we’re even trying to do some stuff with Yamaha. I think the more we work with other teams, we’ll prove ourselves in that market. That’s the most important thing to us right now, making sure we develop and produce a good product that everyone’s going to be happy with.

TWMX: It had to be pretty gratifying to win the 125 West title with Ivan on the four-stroke this year.

TW: It is. For us it was more not necessarily the title thing, but proving ourselves in the four-stroke world. We all work so many hours from the sales department to the race team, and there’s no one that puts more testing in. We also put a lot in financially this year to make sure those bikes did run. It kind of makes it all worthwhile. Actually it’s kind of the same feeling like when we won at Anaheim. It was like, ‘Man, we proved ourselves.’ We knew it was going to happen, We knew he was going to win the championship, because he was the hardest-working rider, and we knew we had the best bike. It was just a matter of time for us.

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TWMX: How much development and testing did you have to put in at the beginning of the season? It was obviously a first-year bike.

TW: We did a lot of homework. We didn’t really get the bike much earlier than when they were available to the public, and even then it was still pre-production and wasn’t necessarily what they were going to come out with. So we spent a lot of time, put a lot of money into it, and we worked harder than anyone on those bikes. That’s where everyone kind of second-guessed us like, ‘There’s no way that they’re going to win a title, because it is a new bike, and they haven’t had the bike for that long.’ They kind of questioned whether the riders we had could win titles. I think we proved to them all that we got the best bike and we got the best rider at this point.

TWMX: How much work was it on the transmissions?

TW: We have our own transmission. We worked with a company last year on our 125 transmissions, and changed some ratios and did that kind of stuff. You heard the horror stories of people breaking the KX250Fs, and the majority of it seemed like it was Supercross application in the whoops. We didn’t want to have that type of problem, and we also changed some ratios. We’re actually going to offer that to customers, too. We’re going to sell a works transmission, and that’s something that will be available in the next couple weeks. It will be a complete outdoor or Supercross application. You’d basically play with some different gearing with sprockets for whether you’d be using it for Supercross or motocross.

TWMX: Watching Ivan during some of the pre-season testing, it was obvious that he was working his tail off to get ready for the season.

TW: Not only was he working, but these guys in the shop were working. If people knew the amount of hours and time that we put into it, most of them wouldn’t want to put that kind of effort into it. That’s what I respect Mitch for the most. Everyone that work here, it’s a huge team effort. Everyone pitches in with helping on Ivan’s bikes, or whatever. Yeah, he has his own mechanic, but a lot of those guys back there help and pitch in. Just the hours that they work¿Christmas Eve, and most of them worked Christmas Day and Thanksgiving, and everything else. That’s the effort we put into trying to win. It’s a different breed working here, and you’ve really got to put in the hours.

I respect Mitch in the fact that he wants to win. That’s what it all comes down to. He’s going to put all the effort into it, or as much money as he can put into it. I don’t think there are a lot of teams that are willing to do that.

It’s like when the new bike came out, we weren’t going to wait for Kawasaki and those guys to decide what they wanted to do about the modifications and things like that. We weren’t going to wait on other people. Mitch did it on his own. Like I said, Kawasaki bought motors from us just for that reason. We got the head start on everyone.

TWMX: Walking in the door here, I didn’t realize you guys had the retail space and shop counter set up like you have here.

TW: That’s why we race, to test the products and show people what we race with is what we sell. As far as the business side of it, that’s a huge key and marketing tool for us. The showroom part of it, I think people are a little bit hesitant, they see the outside and don’t know whether it’s just a race shop or if they can come in here and buy stuff. But when people finally get used to doing that, guys bring in their suspension, come to us for motors or service work, and all that stuff. We’re kind of a one-stop shop. That’s why I think it’s really great that a customer can bring their whole bike here, and get clamps put on it, clutch perches, get their motor done, get their suspension¿get all of it done¿new tires or whatever they want. I don’t think there is any shop out there that can do that.

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TWMX: What are the biggest revenue centers for you guys? Suspension? Engine modifications?

TW: To be honest with you, the service part of the business isn’t necessarily the moneymaker. If you add the labor and the overhead and everything else of having the amount of employees and everything in that department, we make a little bit on it, but it’s not a huge revenue generator. Our huge revenue part of it is the exhausts. That’s where we’re seeing the most growth right now, is four-stroke exhausts. Obviously the margins are a little bit bigger and that’s where we’re seeing the most growth.

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TWMX: It looks like all your team suppliers are well represented in the showroom.

TW: That’s one thing that we give back to all of our sponsors. As far as our showroom, we only carry the product that helps our team. Mitch is really loyal about that. We’re approached constantly by people wanting us to carry other products. For Mitch, it’s a total loyalty thing, not a money thing.

Contact:

Pro Circuit
2771 Wardlow Rd.
Corona, CA 92882
Tel: (909) 738-805
www.procircuit.com

Sponsored by:

I respect Mitch in the fact that he wants to win. That’s what it all comes down to. He’s going to put all the effort into it, or as much money as he can put into it. I don’t think there are a lot of teams that are willing to do that.

It’s like when the new bike came out, we weren’t going to wait for Kawasaki and those guys to decide what they wanted to do about the modifications and things like that. We weren’t going to wait on other people. Mitch did it on his own. Like I ssaid, Kawasaki bought motors from us just for that reason. We got the head start on everyone.

TWMX: Walking in the door here, I didn’t realize you guys had the retail space and shop counter set up like you have here.

TW: That’s why we race, to test the products and show people what we race with is what we sell. As far as the business side of it, that’s a huge key and marketing tool for us. The showroom part of it, I think people are a little bit hesitant, they see the outside and don’t know whether it’s just a race shop or if they can come in here and buy stuff. But when people finally get used to doing that, guys bring in their suspension, come to us for motors or service work, and all that stuff. We’re kind of a one-stop shop. That’s why I think it’s really great that a customer can bring their whole bike here, and get clamps put on it, clutch perches, get their motor done, get their suspension¿get all of it done¿new tires or whatever they want. I don’t think there is any shop out there that can do that.

[IMAGE 6]

TWMX: What are the biggest revenue centers for you guys? Suspension? Engine modifications?

TW: To be honest with you, the service part of the business isn’t necessarily the moneymaker. If you add the labor and the overhead and everything else of having the amount of employees and everything in that department, we make a little bit on it, but it’s not a huge revenue generator. Our huge revenue part of it is the exhausts. That’s where we’re seeing the most growth right now, is four-stroke exhausts. Obviously the margins are a little bit bigger and that’s where we’re seeing the most growth.

[IMAGE 7]

TWMX: It looks like all your team suppliers are well represented in the showroom.

TW: That’s one thing that we give back to all of our sponsors. As far as our showroom, we only carry the product that helps our team. Mitch is really loyal about that. We’re approached constantly by people wanting us to carry other products. For Mitch, it’s a total loyalty thing, not a money thing.

Contact:

Pro Circuit
2771 Wardlow Rd.
Corona, CA 92882
Tel: (909) 738-805
www.procircuit.com

Sponsored by: