When a fractured neck halted his Supercross season, Tyla Rattray turned his focus to the very distant outdoors series. While Rattray worked himself back into race shape aboard his familiar Pro Circuit Kawasaki KXF250, Ryan Villopoto was sidelined with a knee injury that would park the defending champion for the summer. Monster Energy searched for a suitable replacement to the fill the vacant role, and after weeks of speculation announced that Tyla Rattray would make the jump to the 450 class for the summer.
How was the recovery process after you crash in Oakland?
After Oakland, I had to take three months off to let my neck heal up. I have been riding for a few weeks now, and everything has been going good. I got the ride with Kawasaki in the 450 class, which I had been hoping for.
Do you feel like more of a 450 rider because you are a bigger rider and older?
Yeah, definitely. I raced it at the Motocross of Nations a couple of times and really enjoy riding the bike. It has a lot of power and with me being a bigger guy it suits me more. I am looking forward to getting out there because I have never done a full season on the 450.
The end of your recovery and Ryan's injury happened at around the same time. How long was it before you were approached by Kawasaki to ride for them?
I think it had obviously been negotiated for quite a while, but only got the go ahead the day before it was announced. I am really pumped about it because I think it is a great opportunity for me to step up to the factory team and ride Ryan's bike. It has won a lot of championships and races, so I know what it is capable of. It is just a matter of me putting in testing time and getting it how I like it. The most important thing is getting out there, because I know my fitness is good.
There was talk that you would contest the Nationals aboard a Pro Circuit 450. How close to a reality was that?
I was going to. I told Mitch that I would have liked to race a 450 outdoors, if it was for him or if it was for Kawasaki. I am just happy that this opportunity came around. Obviously, it is not a Pro Circuit 450; it is a factory Kawasaki. It is kind of a bummer to leave Mitch, because he has been so good to me over the years, along with everyone at the team, but they can see it is a great opportunity for me. I can't thank them enough for letting me do this.
Even though you are coming of injury, you stayed in shape and look fast aboard the bike. What do you set for expectations?
I just want to go there and try to get good starts. I was still working hard with the injury that I had, and with my neck I could still cycle, run, and do my gym work. Going into Hangtown, I just want to do well and get out of there safe. That is going to be my plan; go there, get good starts, race as hard as I can whether it is for the win or third place. I'd like to be up front and racing for the win, but I have only been riding for a short amount of time. As the season goes I will get better and better with more saddle time. I'm looking forward to getting back to racing again. It has been a long layoff since January for me, a good four months that I have missed racing.
This will be your third year on the National circuit. Are there tracks that you favor more than others?
I like tracks like Texas and Budds Creek. All the hot races, those are the ones I'm really looking forward to. I have been working hard in my offseason, you could call it, and am looking forward to getting on those rough tracks. Kawi has a great bike and they have won so many races, so if I get out the gate I don't see why I can't win.