Interview: Davey Coombs on…Ryan Dungey, US motocross, MXGP and the USGP!

It is going to be a busy summer for Davey Coombs!

The man behind Racer X and MX Sports has 12 rounds of Lucas Oil Pro motocross racing starting this Saturday at Hangtown to promote, a week of Loretta Lynn’s racing and then the USGP at Gainsville at the start of September!

Despite running a website and the imminent commencement of the US motocross championship this weekend, Davey was kind enough to sit down with us right after Ryan Dungey announced his retirement so we could discuss an array of topics.

We talk about the new pay-per-view package for the US motocross series, the retirement of Ryan Dungey, the US GP, MXGP and of course look at the potential contenders for what should be a brilliant US outdoor season!

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Davey has been around the sport his entire life and has a broad perspective from being a former professional rider who even raced supercross, a fan, promoter and a journalist.

So sit back and enjoy the opinions of one of most influential and knowledgable men of motocross racing!

Just before we get to the outdoors, what were your thoughts on that Las Vegas supercross, the Osborne pass and Tomac’s tactics?

I have to say it was probably the most exciting hour in the history of supercross! To have six guys, four in the 250, and two in the 450 with a legitimate shot at the title, and have them both come down to the last lap both in different ways. Zach Osborne’s astonishing charge and Joey Savtagy’s baffling freeze I guess you’d call it. Cianciarulo almost sneaking it out then Jordon Smith crashing twice, it had all the bells and whistles of a pretty dramatic race!

I would have been satisfied with that but then to see Tomac, who obviously let it slip through his fingers in New Jersey, the only thing he could do was hold up and Dungey and try and wait for help and then Anderson took it into his hands to be the enforcer and knock Reed off the track. You know that Grant was coming up to try to help, Tomac rolled up his sleeves and did some dirty work but sometimes you have too in that situation. He could have knocked Ryan down and he didn’t, that said he did give up the moral high ground which he held after Musquin decided to help Dungey without Dungey even asking.

It all probably would have been much different had Roczen not gotten hurt but I really thought Tomac had him and I thought it was done in New Jersey. So it was exciting stuff and I am glad Ryan came away a champion because I think he knew well before Vegas that would be his last race.

Ryan Dungey has literally just announced his retirement (just before this interview) I remember you told me back in 2010 in he reminded you of Jeff Stanton, but how would you sum up his career? He was a real worker and a nice guy.

Ryan was very, very similar to Jeff Stanton only Jeff was never smiling! He was such a driven guy and the same could be said for Ricky Carmichael for much of his career. Ryan, he always had a smile, always had time for you. He was the consummate professional and a pleasure to work with. These guys work really, really hard, like Ryan said, 17 supercrosses and 24 outdoors motos is a lot to squeeze in, in eight months. Then with the off-season stuff and the travelling.. I think in any sport as a professional if you get ten years you are doing well and stay healthy, you have to count your blessings at that point. If you feel like still going for it, good for you like Chad Reed. Ricky was the same age (as Ryan Dungey, 27) when he pulled the plug. It’s hard to believe, and someone pointed this out to me today, Zach Osborne is older than Ryan Dungey! So that shows you how successful Ryan has been.

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Ryan Dungey will retire as a champion. @SupercrossLIVE photo

Moving to the outdoors, Ryan has announced his retirement, Ken Roczen whose character was making him the Valentino Rossi of the sport got badly injured, as a promoter is that difficult to see and do you have to re-market the series?

With Ryan I have no problem, I am very glad for Ryan and proud of him. I am proud he raced with us for as long as we had him, he was always great to work with, the fans loved and he was a fantastic role model, my own 15 year old son he’s his favourite rider, he really looked up to him and I was good with that.

But with Kenny, he was our defending champion and so dominant last year. The way he opened in January, I was thinking he was going to be amazing on that bike outdoors. Honda hasn’t won a championship in the 450 class other than Ricky’s last outdoor title in 04 and they have never won a supercross title (450) their last was with Ricky in 03 and they just seem cursed sometimes. I think they had the right guy with Kenny, that’s going to be tough to come back from. Everyone is genuinely concerned for Kenny that he will ever get back to where he was in January.

It is sadly the nature of the sport, you have a guy you are really looking forward to seeing and he gets hurt. Think of Ryan Villopoto in 2015 when he gets hurt in Arco di Trento. It can come out of nowhere and it can really affect how you market and display your series and you just have to hope that other guys will step up.

We are looking forward to Marvin stepping up, he will have Ryan in his corner, Eli is going to be tough to beat because I guarantee you he is pissed off the way supercross turned out because he had it , and one bad night, and he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

One guy I am really looking forward to seeing on the 450 is Cooper Webb, 250 champ last year, 450 experience from the Des Nations, he could do big things this year as well?

Yeah and I think Cooper and Jason Anderson, now you mentioned it, there are like the next level. I thought Cooper would do a little better in supercross to be honest with you but like Jeffrey Herlings found out, it’s a man’s game when you get to the 450s, those guys fight every lap, every corner, if you don’t start up front it’s hard to get up front. I hope that Cooper will feel more comfortable outdoors, he is the champion from the 250 class and now he will be the entire focus from that Yamaha team because Chad is not doing outdoors. I think he will be up there but Eli is being tough to beat.

Cooper Webb has already impressed on the 450 at the MXON Pic: YS

As far as Jason goes, I think that crash with the Japanese rider at the Des Nations, I think that stayed with him and he got off to a slower start in supercross than we all expected. now with winning that last race in Vegas, even though it was sort of choreographed that way by Tomac to do whatever he could to put Dungey off his game, still it’s a great way to end supercross and I hope that he can carry that right into Hangtown this week!

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Another guy is Blake Baggett, he has always been a better outdoor rider, sort of like Jeremy Martin and I think I think I would put him right in the top five.

Just transitioning to the 250 class, with four factory bikes for nearly every manufacturer, there are so many guys it’s hard to pick a top five!

Well tell me your top five, who would you pick?

Off the top of my head, Jeremy Martin, Austin Forkner, Zach Osborne, Ferrandis and Savatgy!

I think those are the five guys, I just don’t know what order they are in! Let’s start with Ferrandis, I’ve been hearing he has really impressied people with his outdoors skills, he got through supercross unscathed and he has a great team, that’s why they have three championships in a row and, I think unlike Aaron Plessinger, who I truly believe may be the next big 450 star because of his size, he gives away so much on that bike (250). I think Ferrandis, he’s a veteran, and I have to say I think the Europeans learn tracks quickly.

Savatgy has a lot to prove but I think mentally he is sort of a mess right now, if Tomac had a catastrophic last couple of weeks, it was nothing compared to Savatgy. It was brutal, it was hard to watch. So I see Joey figuring it out. I think Forkner needs to settle down a bit, he had a lot of crashes in supercross but he also had a lot of crashes last summer, he ended with a win but I expected him to do better in supercross.

My main two guys, I think Zach Osborne has a head of steam, I think he is working hard than he ever has, he is getting to practice with Ryan Dungey, Jason Anderson and those guys are good and they leave clues to that success so he has a front row seat to that now and he has never been in a better position.

Osborne is all smiles after winning the 250 East coast title, can he continue the momentum into outdoors? Pic: Husqvarna

Finally Martin, it think that Jeremy has a great deal to prove. Everything went so wrong for him last year at Star racing with Cooper Webb and it also went wrong for his brother which was a whole different story. Gieco Honda paid a lot of money for him to come over and they don’t usually do that. They like to raise their talent organically so this is out of their wheelhouse but Jeremy I think on any given day he is the fastest 250 rider in the world right now with Jeffrey moving up and Cooper moving up but he has to do it consistently and he hasn’t been consistent since the summer of 2015 and if he can get that figured out I think he will be the leader in that class.

Good news too for US motocross fans in and outside of America with the NBC pay-per-view option – with no commercials plus practice!

Yeah it starts at 10am with three hours of pre-race coverage. I empathise with any fan around the world who has trouble getting the racing. I have always watched GPs since I could find them and finally when the Pay-per-view came out I thought, ‘I don’t want to pay to watch it,’ but finally when I started paying I really enjoyed the access and the ease of access. You can really count on it with MXGPtv.

When NBC said they wanted to go that route with live streaming I said, ‘hey I’ll pay for it,’ I’m just glad we were able to bring it in much cheaper than I was worried it was going to be. I hope it works well and everyone enjoys it. I will be glad to not get angry e-mails that people can’t get it – especially Canada! The TV system is Canada is really strange as far as getting American content so this pay-per-view allows them to get it really easily. So I am glad we have taken this step and made it affordable for as many fans as possible.

(Click the link here, to get your season pass of US motocross!)

Moving to the USGP and the combination with Youthstream and yourselves (MX SPorts). I went to the 2010 US GP at Glen Helen and seen the others, the racing itself has been quite good but the crowd and the atmosphere has been mostly lacking. With this dual partnership will you be abloe to bring the atmosphere back and get all the top Americans racing as well?

I will do my best! I know David Luongo and Giuseppe Luongo are doing their best too. In America whether you are Youthstream, MX Sports or Feld motorsports to add more races is quite a challenge. As Ryan said in his retirement, it’s a lot of work, there are a lot of events to do. Our hope is because it’s on a track at Gainsville that everyone is familiar with, it is right after our season ends and just before the Des Nations, that the guys will look at it as a chance to stay sharp.

I think because the world has become a smaller place with the internet, a lot of interest for not only our series but MXGP and people will want to watch that showdown. The idea that we will see Gajser and Herlings against Tomac and Cooper Webb – that’s a pretty cool thing! But it is going to take a bit of education, Gainsville hasn’t had a national in 20 years and like you said the GPs haven’t done so well here. But California in September is a tough ticket, you have football, it’s hot, it’s a tough time to put on a race up there.

Eli Tomac won the last two GP events in the USA and is the favourite for the 450 US Nationals, will we see Tomac racing Herlings at Gainsville? Pic: Youthstream

Charlotte was a good race with a good crowd but it was really expensive to build a one-off track like that so we are working on keeping the costs down, keeping the interest up and attractive for the riders that do our series and also make it an easy trip for the fans from Europe that are coming over to watch. You can get a direct flight to Orlando, Disneyworld is 90 minutes away, Florida is always a good idea.

Heat-wise what will it be like for riders and fans going there?

Heat-wise it was 91 degrees so that’s not too bad. it would be worse in June or July. Because of the geography and the weather with what Youthstream wanted and the fact it was a natural motocross track, with easy access on the East coast we thought this was the best move. We have a very accomplished promoter with a lot of resources and we are looking forward to making this a big annual event. it’s been fun working with the Luongo family and Youthstream, it’s nice to have a friendly rivalry instead of a bitter rivalry.

Is it more relaxing that way?

Oh yeah, it was a ten year rivalry that got off on the wrong foot. The AMA wanted to sell the nationals and we both wanted it. It got messy, public and that was unfortunate for everyone. But after realising to keep trying to do events that wasn’t involved with our series it was going to be a challenge, and knowing how important it was for OEMs and the AMA that there is an FIM world championship round in the US, we both sort of compromised on this and that.

We think it’s going to work and I have to hand it to Giuseppe, he was the one that initiated the conversation after the Des Nationas last year and that was a pleasant surprise. Everything we have talked about since we have worked through together and it has been a pleasure so far, we are commited to making this work as best we can but we can’t guarantee who’s going to be there but I can guarantee we will make it appealing, if not this year then next year, we will get it right – I promise!

Just finally, your thoughts on the MXGP series so far, it’s been pretty unpredictable!

Yeah I was expecting more out of Herlings, less out of Cairoli. I was thinking Tony is getting to a place where Ryan was where he might be thinking about the exit. But man, he is motocross’ Rossi right now, it has really been great to see his resurgence. Gajser is finding out that a championship is harder to defend than it is to win for the first time, I have heard that from a lot of people over the years as a journalist.

Just watching Herlings struggle early, I know he had a hand injury, and it was a bad one, but I knew when he got to the sand and starting in Valkenswaard he was starting to get his feet back under him and he looked fantastic in Kegums. He’s probably too far back, it’s going to take a really big mistake by Tony or more mistakes by Gajser for that to happen.

It’s weird to think that Bobby, Nagl and Desalle haven’t even won yet. I cant belive how Romain is doing as well.

It’s been fun to watch. In MX2 I am partisan cheering for Tom Covington, him and that track in Mexico, he just loves that place! His teammate Olsen has been the biggest surprise and most impressive to me. I knew Jonass was going to be good but I figured Seewer would be better but he has just had some bad luck but they have been good to watch.