Photo by Mike Emery | @emeryphoto
On August 31st it was announced that Ian Harrison would be filling the role of Roger DeCoster as team manager of the Red Bull KTM team. DeCoster, meanwhile, would receive a promotion that appointed him the Technical Director for both Husqvarna and KTM. The duo has worked together for many years and helped multiple riders become champions in the sport. In 2011, they left Suzuki to help KTM develop a more competitive effort in the United States. However, neither DeCoster or Harrison saw these advancements in their careers coming, and they will both be taking on more responsibility than ever before. Since the announcement, Harrison has only had one race under his belt as Team Manger, the Monster Energy Cup. Shortly after the race, KTM invited the media out for their 2019 team introduction, where we were able to spend some time talking with Harrison about the details of his new role.
When did you know that this opportunity was going to be available to you?
I actually didn’t really know. We went on a trip to Austria and they called us into the office and they gave us the layout of the new program with Roger [DeCoster] being moved up. They told me right there and then that I would be Team Manager. I didn’t know, it was a surprise.
Roger and you have a working relationship that goes back quite a ways. What is it like being in this role now?
I’ve worked with Roger for nearly 25 years. It’ll be 25 years next year. It’s been a long, long time and he’s always treated me really well. He’s been an awesome boss and he’s truly a great friend. We just work together and because we do a job we love, it feels like a hobby most times. The change right now doesn’t feel too different because we’re moving along like we did before, but I know that he’s obviously got more responsibilities with Husqvarna and all of that. I think as racing goes along, I’ll start to feel it out, but as of right now, the riders are already in place. We worked on all of those things together, so it’s not too different really.
As far as your personal goals go, was this what you’d always been striving for and was it your plan to land in a position like this at some point?
You know, the only thing I really strived for in life was that when I was a young kid, I wanted to come to America and watch racing. I’ve loved motorcycles all of my life and from the age of seven years old, my closet doors were plastered with pictures of Johnny O’Mara and Rick Johnson. I used to lie in my bed and think, “How am I ever going to get there?” I was a little kid in South Africa and my folks weren’t too into motorcycles. Then I started racing, my folks loved it, and one thing led to another and I got my opportunity to go to Europe before coming here. It truly is a dream come true. I just feel very blessed and fortunate to be in this position now.
I know you mentioned you’re still feeling it out, but how different is it being the Team Manager?
It feels roughly the same, but I feel more connected with the riders and how we’re setting up things. It seems like I get a hell of a lot more emails all of the sudden [laughs], but yes, it’s changing, just not drastically yet.
You’ve got Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin, who are both really talented racers in this class, on the team. What is the strategy for managing everything that comes with that going into next year?
When it comes to Marvin, he is a super talented rider. He truly is one of the nicest people I’ve met in my life, both him and his wife. They’re great people, he loves racing, and I think he has all of the ingredients to win. Obviously, he hasn’t yet, and there’s one small piece of that puzzle that’s missing. I’m just going to try to guide him as best as I can. I think, for me, it’s better to help him with the bike setup, but he has all of the tools he needs to get it done on the track. I’m going to leave it up to him and trust in him. I trust his program with Aldon [Baker] and I trust in our bike. I know we have the right ingredients. Cooper is a different story. He’s new to the team. The things that I love are that he’s very young and he’s been very, very successful in the lites class. He seems like he lost his way a little bit, so for us it’s about gaining the trust and learning each other. It’s like a marriage right now. Everyone’s being nice and polite, we’re in the honeymoon phase. I’m sure we’ll get to a point where there will be struggles, but the main thing is to work through those as best we can and respect one another and keep building confidence. When a rider has confidence and he has the ability like we know he has, you don’t win by accident and you don’t win just a few times. I think it will all come together. I’m just going to try to guide him and keep the team structured well. Of course, I can never, ever fill the shoes of Roger. His accomplishments in life go way beyond what I could ever do, but I’m going to do the best I can and that’s what I’m going to focus on.
We know that coming up in a little bit over a month we’ll be seeing the Factory Edition in December. I don’t know if some people realize how involved in development both Roger and you are, and I know you can’t say much, but is there anything in particular that people should keep an eye out for when it’s released?
Yeah, we always try to learn through the race season from the year before. If there’s anything that we found that really benefited us that we can incorporate into the bike, that’s the goal. Then we have a bike that we can race because of the production rule. That’s what we always try to do. KTM’s dna is in off-road racing, so this is not a hard project for them, and I think the bike speaks for itself. The last few years there has always been a nice step forward. The same will be true for this year.