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Interview: Larry Brooks – working with Roczen

Interview: Larry Brooks – working with Roczen
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Larry Brooks has worked with some of the biggest champions in supercross history with Jeremy McGrath, Chad Reed and James Stewart all under Brooks’ management in their careers. Now, it’s Ken Roczen’s turn as Larry is back in the big time with the HEP Suzuki team in the 450 class.

We spoke to Larry at the end of the night in Tampa to get his thoughts on returning to the big class as team manager, working with Roczen and his memories of working with McGrath, Reed and Stewart.

Larry, back with Suzuki in a team manager role, first of all, how are you finding being back in a high profile team with Ken Roczen joining?

So I did a lot of amateur racing when I stopped managing for a while there I kind of went to the amateur scene and managed there for a while with kids. I had a good time and kind of got my break with pro racing, but it was 250s, not so much 450s and I really enjoy working with 450 and premier class riders. I did a little bit and brought some of the amateurs into professional racing with the Bar X team and had a blast but the 250 class just wasn’t my cup of tea, so when I had the change to do some 450 racing and the Progressive and Twisted Tea team wanted me to manage the team, I thought it was going to be great. We didn’t have Ken Roczen at the time.

The idea was to come in and build the infrastructure to hire a top rider like Ken Roczen or whoever, then he came available, rode the bike and enjoyed it and they made the decision early, a year earlier. We weren’t really planning for it but you know, when you have the opportunity to work with a great rider like that we had to take it when it came available.

It’s fun, I really enjoy competing in the 450 class and competing and working on a 450, working at the highest level. It is so competitive, I kind of forgot how much work it was but I am enjoying it.

How is Ken to work with? Obviously very talented, the results are pretty good, maybe besides last week, but the speed is not far away already.

No, we are making big improvements on the bike all the time and the bike it’s been around for a while so we need to build it up so it can be competitive in the class and it’s getting better. We are learning a lot every week. We are running into small little problems that we didn’t know existed with the bike but a rider like that, at the speeds they ride and how they hit the whoops, all these little problems pop up, but I have a great group of guys around me. All the mechanics, Twisted development, Hinson clutches, everyone has jumped on board. We spent the whole week out here with Ken and made some big improvements. It’s just learning each other but he has been a blast to work with you know? It took a little bit to gain his trust I think, because he really didn’t know any of us but he gets better every week and we are definitely getting closer to where we want to be.

You managed Jeremy McGrath, James Stewart, Chad Reed, is Ken more like Jeremy, he likes to have fun but then he can focus...

He likes to have fun, he’s an easy going guy but then at the races he is more like a Chad Reed, he wants to win, he wants to work on the bike, improve the bike, so he is a bit of all those riders put together so it is kind of different. I am fortunate that I have worked with those guys and kind of know the personalities and know the buttons to push when it needs to be pushed. So far no worries, and everything has been really good with him but we will come across a time where he will explode on me and stuff but so far, so good.

So I remember you racing and it wasn’t long after that you started working with Jeremy. What was it like to work with someone that talent, and what made him so special?

When I was getting done with my career, Jeremy was coming in so we were on the race track together a bit and obviously he was better than me because he came in going like gangbusters. It was coming to the end for me, my body was banged up and I was losing the fight that I always had. To work with a rider like Jeremy, he was just really fun. I learned more about racing once I quite racing and how a champion does it. It was definitely an eye opener, I always think how fortunate I was to work with a guy like that and we had so much fun. We had a great friendship, it was really fun, we won three championships and he won a lot of races so it was definitely a pleasure to work with him

He seemed really smart, when to win and when to hold back whereas maybe a guy like Lusk kept pushing the edge, was that something you thought was good that he didn’t get into battle he didn’t need to?

He would stay out of those battles. He didn’t want to take somebody out or battle them when he couldn’t beat them. His whole theory on racing was get the start and go as hard as he could for ten laps and then cruise you know? And he did that really good, he achieved a lot of wins just by doing that, I learned a lot from him, I learned a lot from James, I learned a lot from Chad and I think I am using all that.

You kind of forget all of the things that you learned, then I’m back into it at the level I am at and you have to pick your brain and realise what those guys did and use the knowledge that you gained from them to help Kenny. It’s been fun.

You were on both sides of the Reed/Stewart rivalry, was that a pretty intense time even as a team manager?!

It was a bit crazy! Those two, James and Chad, they were just like oil and water, they just went at it. It was really crazy, I think they are just so competitive. James was threatened by Chad because Chad was so relentless and tenacious, he wouldn’t give up at all. And James, he was just pure speed, so they were different personalities so it sort of rubbed each other up the wrong way. It was kind of fun once I went to James to use some of the things I learned with Chad against him at the time! We are friends now, like we talked tonight and stuff, it’s funny because it was different, I was more the enemy when I went to James.

Interview and images: Jonathan McCready

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