Words and Photos by Brendan Lutes
With six rounds of the 2009 Lucas Oils AMA Motocross Championships in the books, Muscle Milk/KTM's Tommy Searle has had some good rides in the last few races, finishing on the podium at both Mt Morris and Red Bud. Like expected, since coming over from the World Championships where he was one of the top riders, Searle has had to adapt to the tracks and racing style of the U.S. riders. While he was out practicing at Pala Raceway today, we caught up with him to see what his thoughts have been on his season so far.
We're now at the halfway mark in the series. How do you feel it has been going for you?
It's getting better. It started off okay at Glen Helen, but then I had two bad rounds and lost some points. Now it seems to be picking up, I'm having fun, and things are going pretty well.
Has the speed of your competitors and the way the tracks are been what you expected before you came over to the U.S.?
Yeah, pretty much. I enjoyed some of the first tracks—I enjoyed Glen Helen, but then in Sacramento [Hangtown], it wasn't what I was expecting. When you see that race on television, there are so many lines and it just wasn't really like that. I also didn't really like Texas, but the last two rounds [Thunder Valley and Red Bud] have been pretty good. Those tracks have been a lot of fun. Red Bud was amazing—probably the best track I've ever ridden. As for the speed of the guys, I think I was just lacking a bit of something—not speed, but I feel like I was faster before than I am now, because I was riding outdoors for so long. I've figured things out, though, and last weekend [at Red Bud] I rode the second moto more like I've been practicing—smooth and fast. I rode the first moto like I had been at all the other races—I got tight and rode bad, really bad. I didn't know what was up with me. I knew that I wasn't riding good, but I just couldn't change it. Like I said, the second moto was good, though, and probably the most fun I've had on my bike in a while. It was how I should be riding.
You mentioned that you really enjoyed Red Bud. Are there any tracks in Europe that are like that with big jumps?
There are tracks in Europe that have big jumps too, but probably not like the leap. I didn't do it in the first practice. It's actually quite scary to do and I didn't jump it in the first practice session, and to jump it was kind of a big thing for me. And I knew that if I was going to jump it, I needed to do it pinned. I kind of prefer a jump like that over one that if gnarly and you have to time it. With the leap, I knew that if I hit the corner right and kept it pinned, I was going to make it over. Even still, though, when I went to do it for the first time, I was still really scared.
At Mt Morris, there was a bit of controversy about if you or Tyla Rattray had finished third overall. Can you talk about what happened there?
It was just one of those flag issues again. I was in third at the time and they put a flag out. I genuinely didn't see the flag. When I was in mid-air over the jump, I took a glimpse to my right and thought to myself, "Oh man, I think that was a flag." I kind of eased up really slow and rolled the downside of the jump to try to make up for it. On the next lap, it was gone. I know how strict they are about those cross flags, so I knew that they would probably deduct a place. I didn't know if I should roll the jump just to make up for missing the flag then I could say I lost the same amount of time on the next lap. I knew it was a big deal, though, because [Josh] Grant didn't get his points back [at Hangtown] and he could have won his first overall had it not been for the penalty. I didn't think I was going to get my points back, but then Danny Paladino went and walked the track with some officials and they found that there was no way that I could see the guy with the flag. I think I was the first guy around after the crash, so the flagger wasn't in a very visible position. It was kind of a bummer, though, because I genuinely didn't see the flag, and I got my first podium. In the end, I know that I got the podium and I rode well, so that's the main thing.
Now that you've landed on the podium a couple times, what are your expectations for yourself in the second half of the series?
I just expect to ride like I know how to ride and like I've been riding lately. I was struggling at the beginning and revving the bike way too much, and if things didn't start going my way, I would rev it even more. It was like a circle; I wasn't riding like I should, so I would panic and try even harder. So, yeah, I just want to ride like I know I can and I think I'll be on the box. Last weekend, [Christophe] Pourcel was right there and I probably could have gone even faster and I was following him line for line, and I think I had some really good lines—maybe even better than his. The only problem was that I didn't really believe. Pourcel was first, I was second, and he was going really well; I was happy with where I was at. I think that if I believed a little more in myself like I do now, I probably would have pushed more for the win. In that race, I never really pushed for the win and tried to make the time up on him. I just kind of thought I was good with where I was and knew that the guys behind me weren't going to catch me. I don't know why I didn't have a different attitude, but now I do.