In a way, we’ve watched Ryan Surratt grow up. One of the resident fast kids at the Southern California test tracks, we’ve used his skills for page views aboard a YZ125 and other articles over the years. The teenager is now on the verge of his true professional racing debut, but the way it’ll start will be quite different than many would have expected. Thanks to a deal with BUD Racing, one of the prominent teams in Europe, Surratt will spend the first part of the 2017 season competing in select rounds of the 250 West Coast SX series and will then move to the other side of the planet for a run at the EMX 250 championship. During the 2016 Paris-Lille SX, Surratt’s debut with the team, we spent a few moments discussing everything that is set to take place over the next few months.
What did you know about BUD Racing before signing the contract and when did you commit? You’ve probably seen them at a few Supercross races in the United States before.
I’ve seen the team around but I didn’t know too much about it. I grew up racing with Darian Sanayei and I knew that he was over here racing, so what I knew came from him. We were trying to find something for the coming year and some of my good friends that live on my street are from France. His dad is a French champion, so he knew a lot of the people here. At the MXGP at Glen Helen he introduced me to Stéphane Dasse (BUD Racing team principal) and we started talking, so now we are here.
This is a big departure from what you’re used to, from growing up and living in California. Are you excited and do you realize how much of a change it will be?
I’m already starting to notice that everything is a lot different. For one, I had never even been on a plane before Lille. My first plane ride was to Paris. That was about the biggest change [Laughs]. And the language, of course.
I had no idea you’d never been on a plane. How was that to experience for the first time?
It wasn’t too bad. My back hurt but that was about it. I had never been inside an airport, so I wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to do. But I made it here.
How were the first days here? By coming here you have gotten to see where they come from and what they are about.
Where the shop is located, it rained all week. We drove seven hours each way to go riding earlier in the week, and the track wasn’t the greatest. I only got to ride a little bit so I didn’t have much time on the bike. I’ll have a lot more practice, but this was just a race for me to get to know the team and bike before I fly home for Anaheim One.
The plan is the first five Supercross races and then a move to France?
Yeah, we’ll do the first five and after Oakland we are done. Tristan Charboneau (Surratt’s teammate for 2017) and I will fly here at the end of February. From what they said, we will have three weeks to test before the first race. We’ll be going from all Supercross to outdoors, on a bike that I will probably not ride outdoors on until then.
Do you know a lot about the EMX 250 class? As someone that has been able to watch it in Europe first-hand, I think it’s a good championship with younger riders. It’s the perfect chance for them to show why they deserve a professional contract before getting thrown into the MX2 class.
From what Darian has told me, it’s a lot different and that every country you go to is completely different from the others. You’re never riding the same tracks, so it’ll be hard to get used to that because you are going to a new place every time you race. You’re not familiar with anything, from the tracks to the language to the culture. But I’m going to ride and have fun because when you think about it, it’s very easy to feel pressure.
Are you nervous at all?
Yeah, a little bit nervous and excited, all in one. I’m trying to figure it out little by little.
When your name comes up, everyone falls back to your dad’s career. Is that a good thing, because they recognize the name, or do you want to step out and become your own person?
A lot of older people know about my dad, but the new generation doesn’t know that my dad ever raced or that he won a Supercross championship. I don’t hear about it that much, but it’ll be nice to get my own name.
Darian had setbacks last year that kept him from competing for the title. Are you coming in with expectations to battle for the title or do you want to see how things develop over the first few races?
As of right now, I don’t really know what to expect. I hope to be in the top three and it’d be nice to get the title, but for now I hope to be in the top three. I want to see how everything goes and how fast I learn. From what Darian said, it’s hard to get used to the track when you have only ten minutes of practice. And that sets up qualifying and gate pick for every moto over the weekend. You only do one moto a day, and that’s different.
Not to get too ahead of things, but are you hoping that maybe you do what Zach Osborne did and earn the recognition of teams back in the United States?
As of right now yeah, I’d hope to have something back home. I’ll get to do Supercross this year, but after that, I still will have never done the full series or the outdoors. Being from the United States, I’ve only ridden a few tracks in that series. It’d be nice to go back and race the whole American series.