The drama over off-road racer Shane Watts’ relationship with his old employer, KTM, finally came to an end at the fourth round of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, when Watts rolled a Yamaha YZ250 out of his trailer. Watts has raced KTMs for 15 years, but a fallout left him in full privateer status with the orange bikes in ’07.
“The call went right up to the president of the company, and he said no,” said Watts at the Pirelli Big Buck GNCC in North Carolina. “I got this bike a little over a week ago, and it will be fine; it won’t be a problem switching. I have an offer for some help from Yamaha, but nothing is official yet. At least this way I will get YZ Bucks (contingency)!”
Watts’ time with KTM has been successful, but also rocky. He has won all over the world on the orange machines, including a World Enduro Championship and an ISDE Overall Title, as well as the 2000 GNCC Championship, when he won races on five different displacement spec KTMs (and then added a win on a sixth different KTM in 2001). He even earned a top 100 national number in AMA Motocross in ’01, all of which made him one of the most recognizable off-road racers ever. But his highs are contrasted with lows, including countless injuries and frustrations, and a falling out with the KTM/Powersports GrafX satellite team he was supposed to race for this season.
Watts’ team dealings and website postings made him a popular—and polarizing—figure on some off-road internet message boards this year. Then he bought his own ’07 KTMs and promptly won the GNCC opening round in Vero Beach, Florida. After a few succesful rounds, he called KTM one last time looking for support, and when the answer was no again, he decided to move on.
“The last time I rode something other than KTM, it was a Suzuki back in 1992, I think,” Watts recalled.