With a four rider program, the AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team is filled with talent and Phil Nicoletti is a key component in the mix. Set to race the 250 West Coast Supercross Series, Phil has been working on both himself and also directly on the development of their 250 machine. We sat down for a great interview with a surprise cameo from his teammate "1W"…
You've been with JGR's 250 program for a year already, so this new factory Suzuki backing has to be an exciting addition to the program.
Yeah, last year was kind of slow to get the ball rolling for me. I didn't find out I could ride the 250 class until right after the Monster Energy Cup last year, and then just getting parts for the 250 program –it takes a while to get all the parts made and everything. Then with JRG taking over control of Suzuki's 250 program now it's been going really well for me. We've developed new parts, new things to try, I've done a bunch of testing and stuff like that, so for me it has worked out a lot better. I have a pretty good direction on where the bike needs to go, and Dean Baker and Mitchell Key are solid at directing the bike that way and making parts for that so it's been coming together good now! Just out here in California right now, obviously the East Coast weather took a crap on us, so I'm out here living with Weston and I'm just riding, training, and getting ready for A1.
You seem like a guy that is more suited to live in North Carolina than California –would you call that a true statement?
[Laughs] That's an understatement. But it's ok, I was actually just telling Weston the other day that it's kind of exciting to come out to California because it's just a different change of pace and there are different tracks. Even though it does suck to be out here, you can't beat it being 70 degrees in December and we're riding our dirt bikes. Yeah I just take it for what it is, and I'm enjoying the steps and enjoying it this year. Obviously I had that massive injury to my ankle, so to be able to come back and feel confident again I'm happy.
That ankle injury was worse than a lot of people realized, right? Safe to say that's your worst injury to date?
Yeah, my heel was in 13 pieces and I dislocated it pretty gnarly. Obviously I've had some pretty bad knee injuries, and femurs, but whenever it's your joint you take for granted how much you use it, like this ankle. I feel the damn thing every day I wake up, and I can't run anymore –it just sucks. But, you know it's part of the sport and I'll feel the effects for the rest of my life, but for being as good as it is I feel near 100% and we're working on getting better.
It's interesting that on the 450 side of your team there is an all-new RM-Z450 platform, while at the 250 level the bike has been unchanged for quite some time. It has to be a benefit in a way not to have to completely develop the bike.
Sure, and obviously you learn more every single day. But basically it comes out to that if you develop something with the bike, getting that piece made or multiple pieces made takes time. And now we have multiple riders so to implement four of those pieces so we have one for each rider, that's a lot to take on for the team. But yeah, the development last year, a lot of it rolled over to this year. And we're just learning as it goes like with anything in racng, but our chassis parts and engine parts are really good. The bike has been around for a long time and not much has really changed with it. We're trying to find half percents here and half percents there to try and make it that much better.
Are you responsible for a majority of the testing?
I'd like to say that I am. I tested a lot of the stuff out and then 1W [Justin Hill] will go out and confirm if he likes the power or whatnot. So yeah, it's good, like I said you always want things to go quicker but things like this can take time and it should all fall together before A1. We've already ridden the race motors and they feel really strong and I'm super excited about that. I was happy to be able to try that out in North Carolina before I got out here –that eases the mind a little bit.
Speaking of 1W, how is the guy to have around on the team?
[Laughs] He's a free spirit, so he enjoys doing what he does. I'm a little bit stricter, you know? I wouldn't say angry, but maybe a little more blunt? He just goes with the program…
That's good! It's a needed balance.
Yeah it's good, it is a balance. Where I'm strict, and I need to let loose a little –he's the opposite. I enjoy it and I enjoy riding with him. We rode together a lot in North Carolina, and it kind of gives him a rabbit to chase and it's good for me to have a wolf clipping at my heels getting me to go a little faster.
It has to be nice to have the guy that won the championship last year around to have a gauge of your speed.
Yeah, and I raced him last year –he kicked my ass! [Laughs]
And you two will be West Coast, correct?
Yeah, him and I will be West Coast. Obviously the number 1 plate brings value, so he'll be West. I was originally slated for East Coast but I've been riding since September on Supercross and one of my teammates got jacked up so he wouldn't have time to get ready. So they kind of let me know about three and a half weeks ago that I'd be racing West Coast, but I feel good and I feel strong –just enjoying the process.
**Justin Hill walks up mid-interview.
Hill: You guys doing an interview?
Yeah dude, Phil is talking smack on you right now actually. Jump in – how is it hanging with Phil? You guys are like the odd couple. Are you running a loose program and he's running a tight program?
Hill: [Laughs] Oh, yeah man. Phil needs to get on the 1W program, the J Hill program. He'll improve leaps and bounds!!
Nicoletti: That's the thing though, he acts like his program is loose but he still puts in his laps. He's a lying sack of shit.
Hill: [Laughs] No, I honestly do. I'm a closet serious guy. That's what they used to say about McGrath. MC used to front like he was just drinking beers and hanging out while he was actually training his ass off. I love working out, I actually enjoy it. So that part of me is fine –I get my stuff done. My thing that I am not as good at that Phil kills it at is the nutrition. I am just…he's way more knowledgeable than I am and I'm learning.
He was commenting on your ratchet straps you're running here clamping down the 1W bike too.
Nicoletti: Yeah, what are those things man?
Hill: They're ratchet straps, dog!
Nicoletti: Yeah, they're ratchet that's for sure.
Hill: I was moving stuff to my house for the summer, that's why they are in here.
I'll let you boys get back to your jobs, thanks for the laughs and good luck…