By Eric Johnson
One year ago, almost to the day, Brett Metcalfe went to the starting gate at Glen Helen Raceway for the opening moto of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship as a full-on factory rider. Drafted onto the Monster Energy Kawasaki to substitute for the then injured Ryan Villopoto, Metcalfe placed fourth overall that day then continued on to do a bang-up job in the ensuing 11 Nationals to place a fantastic fourth overall in the final series point standings. Metcalfe, the Australian who has been racing in the United States since 2003, will once again be behind the gate at Glen Helen on Saturday, this time as bucket-and-spade brigade privateer. Having placed a fighting seventh at Hangtown last Saturday afternoon, Metty will now race up, down and all around the San Bernardino circuit with 39 the AMA Pro riders before packing everything up and immediately heading northward to Canada. And it will be there that the 2013 CMRC Canadian Motocross National Champion will compete for the Monster Energy Thor Kawasaki team this summer. On Thursday's press day at The Glen, we sat down with the 31 year-old and his two year-old son Nash to get the inside line on both his abbreviated National program and the fast approaching CMRC opener set for Kamloops, British Columbia on May 31st.
Brett, you just came off the second of two 20-minute practice sessions here at Glen Helen. Can you learn a lot in two sessions such as these?
Oh yeah. It's huge. It's more practice than we get on race day. Race day we get two 15-minute sessions. It's good. You learn the bike, and for me, I came out today to get some PR to help sponsors that are helping me out to do these two nationals. But yeah, you get a feel for the track and you kind of work on a bike set-up. Doing it the way I'm doing it – as a complete privateer set-up, really – it's hard for us to get the testing we need during the week. I don't have a team behind me so this was a huge test session for us. We have a new shock from Factory Connection and new fork settings. This was great practice for us.
How close is your bike to a production bike?
Very close. Anyone could buy this stuff. There's no factory internals or anything. It's pretty much off the showroom floor and assembled at home in my garage. It's an awesome bike. I'm really stoked on it.
You rode to seven-nine moto scores to get seventh overall at Hangtown. Considering you raced production-based motorcycle and are paying for most of tis out of your own pocket, what did think of the result and what type of feedback have you received?
Oh, I got really positive feedback. I was a little disappointed because I was kind of hoping to be around the fifth spot – if not higher, actually – so I was wanting a little more, but this whole little package and program that you're seeing here performed well. A lot of work went into getting the bike ready. I mean we finished the bike Thursday before the raced. It was a huge effort so when I got to the race I was already pretty tired, but that's how it is in the privateer life. I have had the luxuries of riding with the factory teams for a long time, but doing it this way, I'm still happy to be inside the top 10 in this country and in this class. This is a great effort and we achieved that, no problem.
You're competing against guys such as Eli Tomac and Ryan Dungey and Jason Anderson and Ken Roczen and still hovering around the top five. That's really remarkable considering your equipment isn't researched, developed and supplied by a major motorcycle manufacturer. You're at a pretty major disadvantage.
I understand exactly where you're coming from. There's a lot of talent in the field and the machinery the last couple years has really been stepped up. I think everyone's improving their motorcycles a lot. Doing it the way I'm doing it, I have to follow suit the best I can. But the beauty of this sport is that it always comes back down to the rider. I mean the machine is a huge, huge part of it and if you're not comfortable with your set-up or you're off, you're not competitive. There is so much that goes into it, but this sport has and always will come down to the rider. That's the best thing about our sport. I definitely want to be out there and be competitive. If I knew I wasn't I probably wouldn't have shown up to do these two races. I'm here to do work, man. This is what I live for. It's cool to have this cool set-up and to be giving it a go. Taking what you've got and making it the best you can is all you can do, really.
As far as your fitness and speed, do you feel right on it?
To be honest I feel a little bit off just because we had our second baby boy just five weeks ago. So I've got two guys and the family at home so my preparation compared to other years is down a lot this year. But I have supercross under my belt this year – I hadn't raced supercross in two years – and did six rounds of supercross which was really, really fun.
And qualified for all of them.
Yes, I qualified for all six. Top 10 was the goal, but I fell short of that. 11th was my best result. But to answer your question, I feel right now, when compared to other seasons my preparation is maybe a little bit less. But now I'm going up to Canada for 10 rounds and that's a long season, so I'm just trying to look at building each week and it won't take me long to kind of get to where I want to be.
You were the CMRC Canadian Motocross National Champion in 2013. However, you weren't able to defend your title in 2014 as you rode for Ryan Villopoto here in the U.S. You want to go back and win that thing, don't you?
Yeah, definitely. The team is awesome. The team sponsored by Monster and Kawasaki. We don't have any factory connection or factory support – we don't have anything like that – but we assemble basically the same bike you're looking at here at Glen Helen. This is very similar to what I ride up in Canada. And I've got some people that I'm working with across the board now for the whole year. That is huge. That's what I didn't have in 2013. Hopefully that helps me a little bit. The equipment is good, it's just consistency that's the key. Consistency is everything in this game and I have that in place now.
And as many very good riders will attest to, it's no easy task to go all the way up to Canada and try and win that title, is it?
In any country or in any championship that you're in, if you can win the championship, it's a big feat. In 2013 it was cool for me to win the championship and that's the goal for this year, for sure. I want to go out there and win it again, but it's not easy. The guys up there are fast and they have good bikes. The cool thing about Canada is that it feels like it's almost a spec class. No one has factory bikes, there are no factory tires. Everyone is pretty competitive as far as machinery. The guys up there are fast and they know the tracks and they've got their bikes set-up perfectly. I did an interview this week and I said the same thing: I think RV going to Europe this year, you could see the differences in riding style and bike set-up. It's kind of the same going up to Canada. You can't take the U.S. set-up and run it up there. It's different. Maybe the same thing for RV in Europe. I'm looking at it from the outside in, but that's probably what's going on a little bit with him. It's never easy to win a championship. Ever.
Who do you fighting it out with up there?
Well, the guy who won last year, Colton Facciotti. I mean he's won multiple championships up there. I've got my teammate Teddy Maier. He's riding great right now. Cole Thompson. Tyler Medaglia. He's always fast and strong up there. Bobby Kiniry. Matt Goerke is going up. There may be a couple guys sneaking up there, too. It's always the same when you enter a series. You're not focusing on who's going to be good or this or that, you just have to focus on yourself and make sure your bike is good and you're healthy and focused.
Can you make a living racing at the level you're at in Canada?
Yeah, the deal I got up in Canada this year was really the best deal presented to me for this year. You know I'm still making a living out of racing and at the end of the day when you're a professional at something like this, that's what counts. You're making the best out of the opportunity that you've got and taking it. Canada is providing that for me. We'll see what next year brings. I'm working on a lot of things right now to try and get something back down here, but for right now I'm happy to be going up there and racing in Canada.