Interview: Dickie Dye on RFX KTM and Shaun Simpson

Dickie Dye has been in the MXGP World Championship paddock for a number years now. However, the 2019 season will be a new challenge for him as he’s the team manager of the RFX KTM team for the year ahead.

Shaun Simpson has signed for the team and together Dye is hoping for a successful season in the MXGP World Championship.

We caught up with Dickie Dye to get his thoughts on the year ahead.

Gatedrop: Dickie, first of all, you’ve been with the I-Fly JK Yamaha team for a number years. What was the reason for a new challenge?

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Dickie Dye: Yes, I have been with JK for a while now, but the switch was a gradual thing and not that straight forward, like most things.

The I-FLY JK YAMAHA deal has been fantastic for all of us. The tie-up with Italy was formed wy back when Alfie Smith rode in MX1 GP’s with JK who were then running an Aprilia team. JK were originally a Yamaha team and after three Aprilia years, they switched back to Yamaha, I joined JK with Alfie and Alex Snow as I was at that time working with them on their training and riding in the UK.

Alfie injured himself at the first race of the year and effectively (retrospectively) ended his GP career and Snowy snatched a few GP points. The team had to replace Alfie and this was pretty much left to me to find a replacement rider. This isn’t easy at a moments notice but Riccardo, the team owner knew an English racer now living in the US, Paul Coates quite well so we ended up bringing him over from the USA for a few races and while he gave 100%, the results were’t there so we had to move on. We muddled through the season but things needed to change. We have spent the last three years running with riders mostly provided by Yamaha Europe for one reason or another. Yamaha EU aren’t interested in the UK MX scene and Yam UK aren’t interested in us as we are an Italian team, though as more and more of the team sponsors were UK based, the need to race and perform in the UK became greater. Riccardo also had his own European and Italian sponsors who wanted the JK team to race in Italy etc. There was an ever increasing conflict of interests. When we had decided to make the break from Italy, Yam UK still were’t interested.

Youthstream, who run the MXGP`s need racers in their championship. When we sign up a rider for the season, it is our responsibility to replace that rider if they are injured and/or can’t race. I brought freelance, mercenary racers from all over including Dakota Alix from America and Cedric Soubeyras from France. Aussie Champ, Jay Wilson even stepped in for a while (from our AX team) when we were short of an MX2 GP rider, but as a team we were not where we needed to be at all. The basic infrastructure was all wrong.

To be successful in championship racing we needed to be more consistent, with riders and results etc. We were just doing a season of separate races with no continuity whatsoever.
This year it has been good to work with Ivo Monticelli particularly. He came from a very good Leopard Marchetti GP team and we really needed to up our game for him and for the sake of the team. Ivo has a good work-ethic and by the end of this year, the bike was very, very good. The results were beginning to come for us though I don’t think Ivo wanted to spend another year with I-FLY JK YAMAHA the way it was and before we could tell Ivo what we were intending to do, he signed for the Standing Contruct team on a KTM.

For me, GP racing is not a jolly. I do love it but I am away from my family and children (Annie, Jet(9) and Tate(6)) and every minute I spend working on racing needs to be positive, worthwhile.  More and more increasingly I felt that most of the I-FLY JK YAMAHA team were at Grand Prix for the sake of being at a GP and not about working hard as a team to win. Testing, training, developing and learning. Making improvements every week until we get it right.

I still have this fire in my belly but I can’t do it on my own. Everyone needs to give 100%… 85% doesn’t cut-it. Riccardo owns the JK Team. I-FLY joined our party several years ago and now the I-FLY JK YAMAHA TEAM is an established, smart, professional Grand Prix team, or rather a team who compete in Grand Prix. But that’s no good to me. If I am putting this amount of work in and my sponsors are investing a huge amount of finance and support (and time), I want to win, not just score some points and go, “yaaaay!”. So, the reason for the new challenge? I want to win, my sponsors and supporters want to win too!

Gatedrop: You are going to be the team manager for the RFX KTM team in 2019, how did that opportunity all come about?

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Dickie Dye: (laughs) Yes, 100%.  Talk is cheap, don’t they say, “Pee or get off the pot”?

I have been involved in motocross for 40 years and I have worked with and for factory teams and national teams all over the world. I have played a part in winning championships at all levels all around the world. I work hard and as part of a team I give 100% (at least!) for other people to achieve their goals either as riders or managers.

It is easy to see the cracks within most teams only just under the surface and when I have talked to Riccardo about how we can make the (I-FLY JK YAMAHA) team better on and off the track, he just laughs and it falls on deaf ears. It is a case of, “If you think you can do better Dickie, you do it?”

I talked to my sponsors at length and they are behind me more now than ever so I’m putting up my hand. I’ll do it and with the great team we are building right now with UK industry heavyweights like Paul Irwin from RFX, Matt Walker from KTM, Gareth Edwards from WPUK and full factory KTM and WP backing in Europe and sponsors like Michelin, FLY, Bell, Talon, Renthal and Motorex, together we can do stuff, all we needed was a rider!

Simpson’s new look for 2019 Pic: Elliot Spencer

Gatedrop: The team have signed Shaun Simpson to contest MXGP in 2019 – you must be excited to have signed an established GP rider and for the team to make the step to MXGP?

Dickie Dye: We couldn’t be in a better place right now. I am in motocross heaven. I have spent a reasonable amount of time with Shaun over the past couple of months and as I get to know him more, I like what I see and hear. There is no doubt in my mind at all that Shaun can be World Champion next year. We need a winter of hard work on and off the bike a strong wind behind us and a bit of luck and we’ll be there, Shaun will be there.

We are not going into 2019 to make up the numbers, we are aiming at the top. The Wilvo Yamaha team Shaun has been with over the past few years is absolutely top-drawer, no doubt. But as one of three racers, the attention to Shaun is divided and like all champions, Shaun needs a team around him to be focused on him, not two other riders who share the lime-light. Shaun is a self-proclaimed “late-bloomer”.  I would say at 30 years old, he is just coming into his prime. The main ingredient is the ambition which he has. It is this ambition and self-belief which will carry him through the blood, sweat and tears which will fall this winter (w’ve had a bit of blood and a load of sweat already!).

The main reason I wanted to spend time with him was to see if he really wants it.  Shaun also has a fire burning which I know I (and we as a team) can add fuel to. His skill level is incredible and I am absolutely sure that together we can do something really special next year.

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The team training in Spain

Gatedrop: Obviously, making the step to MXGP isn’t easy and it’s expensive so this wasn’t done over night. There must have been lots and lots of planning?

Dickie Dye: Yes, it is never ending. This is a classic plate-spinning exercise,  the more plates you have on the go, the better but every plate needs attention. You never have enough finance or support. This move has been in the making for over a year and it continues to develop. I am pleasantly surprised at how many people and sponsors have approached me asking to be involved now we are a UK team on KTM machinery. It is fantastic. I know most of our sponsors personally and I am sure a big part of their reason for coming on board is because of our long-term friendships. They know I will work hard for the team and for them. It is a nice situation to be in.

Gatedrop: From a team manager prospective, what’s your thoughts on the MXGP calendar as it looks at the moment for 2019? There’s a lot of fly-away races!

Dickie Dye: Yeah, the fly-away races are always tough to negotiate. This is all part of Grand Prix racing. This is why it is so hard to coordinate. I divide it up into three – we have fly-aways, long-haul Euro rounds and close Euro rounds. The close stuff is relatively easy to deal with. These are like going to a British Championship round. The long-haul drives need a bit more attention but if they are planned correctly and well in advance, they are straight forward and in the past I have tried every conceivable combination of racing on the other side of the World and both Shaun and I are in agreement – fly out, do the job. Fly home, In and out.

The most important thing is to have a good team around you and all work together. I love the variation of tracks and climates and the logistics of GP racing. This is why I am so excited about 2019. I have been doing this all my life and what is a headache for some is a pleasure for others. Bring it on. The variety of tracks, countries, temperatures, food, language, travel etc is precisely why the MXGP World Championship is so hard. Shaun is an experienced pro. If a top rider has not had several years in GP it is very, very hard to adjust and many don’t make the transition. MXGP is another MX World.

Gatedrop: In terms of the machinery Shaun will have, will he be getting support from KTM or anything? It’s not easy being a privateer in MXGP so every little helps!

Dickie Dye: My deal is with the KTM Factory in Austria. We have help and support from several angles and it really helps to work with a rider who has been with KTM before at this high level. Shaun knows what he wants and I think I know how to deliver it. It is my job to be able to put in place the expertise and material to get this job done. If Shaun has a good bike and a smile on his face he will win. I have to manage both of those. The deal with KTM is fantastic and for me, having the factory connection gives us a route to information which is the most valuable part.  Knowledge is power.

Shaun is so precise and specific about what he wants, this makes it easier to develop a great race bike in our time-frame. The fact that Shaun has also raced a KTM before having his best ever years is a bonus. He says this knowledge comes from his dad who drummed it into him how important it is to be able to understand what is going on with his bike when he’s riding it. Shaun is able to communicate and it’s what we/I do with this information which is the important part, that’s why it is so important to have a good team around us. Where I think we gain over a factory team is how we can just do stuff.  I don’t need to ask someone if we can try something. If we feel it will be positive, we can try it. Being the only MXGP racer in the team is also positive I think. I am not testing stuff, then asking three different opinions! There’s only one opinion which matters now and we can test and make moves in as much of a scientific way possible.

Gatedrop: What’s your expectations from Shaun in 2019?

Dickie Dye: I expect Shaun to give 100%. We all know what he is capable of on the track. He’s won British Championships,  he’s won Grand Prix’s. If we all give 100% and Shaun goes to the line with a smile on his face, I would’t bet against him! We are limited only by ourselves.

Simpson putting in the laps on his RFX KTM Pic: Elliot Spencer

Gatedrop: The team will run with Joel Rizzi in the UK and EMX125 Championship and now due to the change in age limits for EMX250, Nathan Dixon will also compete in MX1 in the UK and MXGP. Ben Clark will slot into EMX250. What does the team expect from them?

Dickie Dye: We expect them all to give 100%, that’s it. On and off the track, no one can ask for more.  Joel is one of the up-coming UK talents but he is a part of our team and we will all work together on and off the track to improve and get results. Most of the young riders these days in the UK Championships and especially at EMX level are gifted and again it is up to us, as a team to provide them all with the platform of expertise, coaching, support and machinery on which they can win.

Being UK Champion in 2018 does’t mean you will be again in 2019, this demands continued hard work and consistency. This is a race team and we race to win. When all of our riders sit behind the start gate their intention is to win and to give 100% in an effort to win. With the riders we have, if they give 100% and we provide a bike which can do the job, anything is possible!

Gatedrop: I believe you were heavily involved in the I-Fly JK Yamaha team running an Arenacross team in the past. Will the RFX team be participating in that series? Jason Meara would be a good shout for a ride!

Dickie Dye: Yes, last year was very good for us. We didn’t win the overall but Dan Reardon, Jason Meara and Julien Lebeau turned some heads and gave the team loads of positive publicity. I have been talking to Dan about the 2019 series already but right now I am undecided. I want to concentrate on the Grand Prix season ahead. Loads has happened in the past few weeks. As a team we are focusing on the outdoor season ahead, but let’s see what happens. I know Dan would want to race a Yamaha which kills it for us really, but it would be good to have Dan back in the UK in AX. Matt Bates (at AX Live) has made the UK AX Series much easier to compete in by running only three double-headers but we’ll have to see. Meara is a fantastic rider, UK and Irish Champ this year, very well done to him and I am sure he would go well on one of our KTM250’s if we did compete. I’ve got his number (laughs).

Gatedrop: Anyone you’d like to thank?

Dickie Dye: I have mentioned a few people previously in this feature but to be honest the list is endless and to avoid missing someone out, I will just thank everyone in this industry and the outside supporters and sponsors who help to make this all happen, not just for me, but for everyone involved and for the sport in general. Without all the people behind the scenes, we would’t have a semi-professional or professional motocross in this country. All the teams have friends and supporters. I did ask a couple of them if they wanted a name-check or a mention and they said “no”.  That just sums this sport up, It is about motocross and the unsung heroes and all the people behind the scenes. When you see the MXGP’s on the TV, while i’s not quite F1, there is a massive network going on in the background. The rider on the track is the visual result of relentless hard work and seemingly bottomless pits of money for little or no reward. For 99.99% of us, motocross is not the sport to be in to get rich but those in it will agree – there’s nothing like the feeling of riding a motocross bike. I was told, “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Elliot Spencer