Tyla Rattray | The Internationalist
Few professional riders have seen the world as extensively as Tyla Rattray. His departure from South Africa to Eurpoe at a young age latter resulted in a FIM MX2 World Championship and a ticket to America for a shot at the prestigious National titles. Success in the United States was mixed with injuries, and in 2014 Rattray returned to Europe for another go on the international circuit with the reformed Red Bull/ICE One Racing/Husqvarna team. Unfortunately, more setbacks ruined Rattray’s run on the works Husky and he parted ways with the team before the end of the year, only to land a ride as Ryan Villopoto’s teammate on Kawasaki’s factory racing effort for the next few seasons.
You have another year in Europe down and now many more ahead. Even though 2014 was a bit injury plagued, do you considered it a success?
Yeah, it was good to get back there and see people that I haven't seen in five years. Obviously it wasn't the season that I was hoping for, but I'm ready to put that behind us. We have a great team and a great year ahead with KRT, and I'm looking forward to doing work and getting the bike on the podium. That is the goal. We are getting our offseason training in, and this is the most important time of the year for us.
How are you feeling physically?
I feel good. I'm back to being healthy now and I'm doing a lot of training and testing. It's time to get on the normal program and we are looking forward to next year. Before we know it, it will be time to get on the plane and head to Europe for the season. We will stay in Belgium this year, and it's pretty central for the Grand Prix series. There are a lot of practice tracks there and we have a lot to look forward to.
How was it to go from riding the Husqvarna to the Kawasaki?
I came to America after winning the World Championship with KTM in 2008, and when I came I had been on Kawasaki ever since. I was on Kawasaki for five years in America and it is great to be back with them. They are a great company globally and it is exciting to be on their program. They have a great bike, and they have won championships here in America and proven they can win races in Europe, too. The main goal of Kawasaki in Europe is to win the World Championship in the MXGP class and get the other bike on the podium.
After living in the United States for a few years, how did you adjust upon returning to Europe?
Well, I was in Europe for eight years before I came to America for five years. So for the majority of my time, I have been in Europe and know what to expect. There is obviously a culture change and in the weather, and there are a lot of different tracks that we race on, but there was nothing new in going back there. It is going to be fun this year, obviously with Ryan coming over and racing the GPs.
To move a family back and forth, deal with a house, cars, furniture, and everything else seems like a huge hassle. Do you ship everything you have here or just replace it when you arrive?
That's basically what you have to do, rent a house and put furniture in it. You take a trip to IKEA and grab a whole bunch of furniture, and that is how it goes. Obviously it's not a place that I will settle down after my racing career, so there furniture that we have there is cheaper stuff and will be easier to sell or trash when we are done. There is a lot of traveling during the season and a lot of overseas races, like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, and Qatar, and those will keep us busy with travel. It is a good experience, and compared to America it is a much bigger step. It's something fun that we look forward to.
It's a big deal for the GPs to go to Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand, but there are issues that come as well. How do the riders and teams overcome things like the fuel in Thailand?
People want to go there and have the best equipment possible. Like in Thailand, there was an issue with the fuel and hopefully this year we don't have that when we go there. It is very dangerous when we are racing at a high level and then have a bike bog at the bottom of a jump. It's not good for the riders or the teams. Hopefully this year everyone will have that solved when we go to the overseas races, and there won't be issues with fuel or mechanical problems because of the rules regarding the country. It's just something that we need to stay positive about.
With so many countries close together, there are conflicts that we in the United States are often times removed from. For instance, the GP of Ukraine has been cancelled and during the Motocross of Nations, many in Latvia had a close eye on the situation with Russia. Is this something that you as a racer pay attention to or are you just there to live?
It's hard to even think like that. We want to go there and race, but we want the country to be safe and not at war. You have to put yourself in good positions, and it wasn't safe for us to go to Ukraine while there was fighting going on. But if they are going to send a bomb and blow up Belgium, they could send it to America, too. You just never know. When you are over there training and racing, you are not thinking of that. The organizers and promoters of the Grand Prix races want to keep everyone safe, so we are not going to countries where wars are going on.
How do you cope with the numerous time changes and different weather you go through when following the series?
I'm used to it by now. Racing in America, when you go to the East Coast and you go forward those three hours, it's a big difference. In Grand Prix racing, you have a lot more time to get over there and get used to the time zone before your race on Sunday. You head over on Wednesday evening, land on Thursday, check the track out on Friday, race the qualifier on Saturday, and by Sunday you are sleeping well. It is not something that is too crazy, but it is different than racing here in America.
The two-day format is something a lot of American-based riders struggled with at the Motocross of Nations this year. Having done both the one-day and two-day formats, do you think it is tougher to race the European two-day schedule?
You can see both sides of the story. On Sundays in America, you have football, NASCAR, and golf, but on Saturday there really isn't anything. For motocross to get bigger in America, it's better for it to be live on TV on a Saturday. Whereas in Europe, you have both a Saturday and Sunday program, and it is also live on Sunday. Yeah, there are football and Formula 1 fans, but there are motocross fans that will sit and wait for the race to come on. Motocross in Europe is getting bigger and I think the sport is growing on both sides of the pond, in Europe and America. As long as it is live on TV on the weekend, I think it is good for the sport.
The biggest thing of this year is Ryan coming over. Do you have advice to give or is it best to let him learn on his own?
I can't tell him how to ride a motorcycle, because everyone knows that he is the fastest guy. I can't help him in that section, but he can actually help me [Laughs]. When it comes down to the race and putting in motos, everyone expects him to win. In my eyes, I don't think that anyone can beat him in a championship. He has been solid his whole career and when he hasn't been hurt, he's won the championship. He's pretty tough to beat, but you can't count Cairoli out. It will be a new challenge for him and maybe it motivates him that Ryan is coming over. Once the gate drops in Qatar, it will be an exciting season.