Interview: Pit Beirer part two – USA – Dungey, Webb, Barcia

In the second part of our four part interview with Pit Beirer. we talk to Pit about the success of the KTM team in America, the Gas Gas project and if there was a chance of Ryan Dungey returning to racing with KTM when he looked into making a comeback.

In America, Cooper Webb I feel has been a great advert for not only your bike but also the team structure you have there in the States with Ian Harrison and Roger DeCoster. He wasn’t getting the results he was expected to with Yamaha but as soon as he got on the KTM he was right up there, won a title and races again this year. How much do you feel he has been a great advert for your program?

I mean, America, you almost need to see the whole picture, where we come from. In 2010-2012 we didn’t win one single race in supercross , we won that first championship with Ryan Dungey, then we could win three supercross titles in row. Once he stopped we got really nervous for what the future would be.

Then Jason Anderson, within the family, brought a title for Husqvarna, then Cooper came over to our group and he won the next title. That whole period was a transition because first it could build up because of Roger and Ian, they were so strong. They created with us a new bike, but then I would say Ryan Dungey, he trusted them more than our company. But in the next few years we became so strong that the team and bike was strong that any top tier rider would come over. That was when Jason Anderson started to win and then Cooper Webb, he came because the bike was already there and we could give something to him.

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We have our own test facilities, we have our own relationship with Aldon Baker as an exclusive trainer so I think we offer a really strong package to the boys. It’s still never easy to win, to win supercross races, it’s still an incredible effort. That Cooper could do that and become our new captain there was very, very nice to see. If you have these young boys in your family and you see them grow up , at this point he got a supercross title with us and then an injury, it becomes like a family – ups and downs. His back injury could have been much worse, his crash was a tough one, but still he tried to go on but in the end he had to fix it. But now he’s healthy and strong and he will be the leading guy from our crew to go into the 2021 season.

We also have to be careful with the Corona thing and the PCR testing. I would say looking into our European season, we will still have maybe a tough first part of the season but maybe after we could be back to normal. But for supercross we are still in the middle of this whole corona scenario and you need to be very careful. Also for the team management we have a big load and stress now to manage our people’s health through this whole Covid thing. I am glad England made a step forward (approving a vaccine) I hope that puts pressure on the rest of Europe and the other people because we need that quick to come back to normality.

We have a fantastic team in the US, Ian Harrison has done well in his new role as team manager but it’s not fair to talk about one rider or one person, we have a strong squad with all of our program, Aldon Baker also being part of our program, so I feel very confident.

This is almost, for an ex racer like me, a dream world. How we had to train, find our own tracks, organise our own training, begging from the University to get some support for our physcial training, we had to fight for all these little things for ourselves. But there (USA) we have the perfect program. We have our own test facility next to the workshop in California, we have four tracks there on our own property with a watering system and you really just go out of the workshop and onto the supercross track.

Then, once you go to Florida, they have the same thing with the workshop at the training facility and also four tracks in that area. I think you have a really great base to prepare for the season and professional support.

It’s more difficult in Europe because we our spread all over the place , our riders and teams. And the weather situation forces you to react quick, some time you are in the South when the North is bad, the you need to go to the sand and get permission to get tracks and training facilities is not so easy. I think this is a perfect example of how it could be on the highest level , how the operation is in the US.

Justin Barcia has signed for Gas Gas, from what I believe he has signed for a lot of money so he is clearly a big acquisition for the team, how much are you involved with that?

It’s part of my role, I am responsible for all motorsport activities for our group that includes all the brands, KTM, Husqvarna, Gas Gas, WP suspension. That is all really central from the headquarters here and then we organise everything around the the world.

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The Gas Gas effort is new for us, we already did the first steps in Europe this year but now we are making another step in the US together with Troy Lee and Justin. It was an interesting period for us to get this together, looking at what we were doing, looking at how the 250 program was going on the KTM side and we were not super happy, so we changed some small things.

This opened the door that we could have still have the Troy Lee team give support to Justin. With Justin we were already flirting, when it was contract time we had talked to each other but we never did the final step before. This time I am super happy and excited that we did it. For sure he will also make our grouper stronger in the US, that is 100% clear.

Ryan Dungey had been talking about making a comeback, had that been discussed with you and did it come close?

Not really, I lost a little personal contact after he decided in an overnight move to go on with Honda. So from that moment there was not really a strong link or discussion about his future or a comeback so, I don’t know, I was not really involved in that discussion.

I believe you were pretty good friends with Greg Albertynwhen you both ride GPs in the early 90s and obviously his mechanic was Ian Harrison, so was it nice on a personal level to have a friend but also a very competent guy and to see his progress and where is his now, the success he had as a mechanic with Greg and now as team manager with KTM?

I spent two winters with both of these boys down in South Africa and we did our things together. I was waiting at the harbour until that boat finally arrived with my motocross bike. I was a mechanic on my bike and Ian helped me out. Greg, riding wise, was a little bit ahead so I tried to catch up speed in practice, so those are great memories.

Later, Greg was somewhat involved, I think I was sitting at a BBQ with Greg, making a plan how to approach Roger and Ian to get them over to KTM!

It’s good to have these relationships, it’s much stronger than just normal working relationship to have these friendships in the people who are really directly links. But this is almost spread over our whole racing program, if I call in any of our disciplines a team a manager, I always call a friend, it’s never between two company colleagues, it’s friendship and that makes it also very strong and very hard for other people to enter if you are not on our side.

If you missed part one of our interview with Pit Beirer discussing Jefffey Herlings injury, Jorge Prado, Tony Cairoli and what could be his final GP season in 2021 and new MX2 world champ, Tom Vialle, go here. For part three, on MotoGP and how Pit runs all the various racing divisions, go here. For part four on Pit’s career what makes a champion, go here.

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Images: Align media