Typically the progression goes the other way, but this time, it’s a born and bred off-road racer who is stepping onto the motocross scene – not the other way around.Last weekend at the Hangtown Motocross Classic, things were looking quite dismal for the factory Kawasaki squad. For the second week in a row, Timmy Ferry tried to ride practice, but was still in too much pain from broken foot which hasn’t quite healed yet. Worse yet, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s up and coming star, Ryan Villopoto, announced he was not going to race the second moto, and will sit out the rest of the season due to a torn ACL.
Talks had already begun to bring in “the Alternates,” and yesterday, the announcement was made that Superccross/Motocross regular Branden Jesseman would fill in Villopoto’s spot, and that Kawasaki’s off-road ace Ricky Dietrich would stand in for Ferry this weekend in Texas.
Dietrich actually raced the first round at Glen Helen (without Kawasaki’s knowledge, or permission), and did astonishingly well, running seventh for most of the first moto until he slipped back a few spots due to a front flat.
Those who know him best aren’t surprised at his motocross debut – after all, Dietrich trains with Ryan Hughes, and rides mostly motocross to train for the World Off Road Championship Series (WORCS) and the International Six Day Enduro (ISDE). He even spent a lot of time on the Supercross track last year training for the AMA EnduroCross Series.
“For most people, it goes the other way,” trainer Ryan Hughes commented. “They start slowing down and once an off-roader, always an off-roader. But there’s always an exception to every rule, and Ricky is the exception to that rule.”
“He’s the most talented off-roader there is because he can ride motocross and be top-ten. He can qualify for a Supercross, he can win EnduroCross, he can win WORCS races, he can go win ISDE, and he can go probably win a GNCC. There are not too many people around who can do what he does.”
Especially after seeing Dietrich’s lap times at Glen Helen, Hughes is optimistic to see how the multi-time off-road national champion and ISDE Top American will fare in the AMA Pro Motocross ranks.
“I would like to say I see top-ten consistently and on occasion, top-five,” Hughes said regarding his expectations for Dietrich this summer. “I think the bike will definitely take off a couple seconds a lap. And also the enthusiasm that comes with being under the big tent is going to take off some time, too. So I’m looking forward to big things. I always can count on Ricky. Even when the pressure’s on, I can count on him.”
We caught up with the 21-year-old Washington native to talk about his upcoming factory Motocross debut, what he expects to see, where his focus will be for this season, and what this could mean for his career.
How did this deal come about for you?
Well, it actually started like two months before outdoors even started. (Kawasaki Off-road Supervisor Jason) Smigel went to (Team Manager Mike) Fisher and actually tried getting me on Ferry’s bike if Ferry wasn’t going to be back in time. He just kinda put the word in Fish’s ear that, ‘Hey, if he’s not going to be ready, Dietrich would be a good fill-in for a couple rounds.’ They thought Ferry would be ready in time and they were banking on that. As it turned out, he wasn’t quite ready to race, so they decided to bring me in for a couple rounds because he needs to sit a few out and let his foot heal.
Which rounds will you be racing?
As of now, I’m just doing Texas. I would probably be in for High Point for sure, except that it conflicts with the WORCS race. So we’re trying to figure that out. I’m going to the WORCS race no matter what. I’m going to finish out the WORCS series, for sure; that’s our main goal. But we’ll just see how my results are and how my speed is this weekend and if things go well, I think it would be realistic to bring me in for more rounds throughout the rest of the series. But we’re just going to take this first round and see how it goes.
I hear you actually got in trouble for racing Glen Helen.
[Laughs] I didn’t get in trouble, but I’m hired to race the WORCS series and that’s what Team Green wants me to focus on – racing WORCS and winning that championship. I kinda got a little slap on the wrist for going out there, but I thought it was good for myself, and now look what happened! Now they’re bringing me back in. So I think it was a good thing – I break the rules and it works for me! [laughs]
Was today your first day on the bike?
Today was the second day. We went out to Perris yesterday and I was out there all day getting a feel for the bike, mostly just changing basic setup stuff. I didn’t really touch the power or suspension or anything. Basically what they did was give me Ferry’s bike and see how I like it. I think he likes his bike a little more level than I do. I like them a little more choppered out so we made a couple little changes to suit my riding style. Today I was feeling really good on the bike.
What would you call the most noticeable difference between the factory bike and your off-road race bike?
It’s a toss-up between suspension and the motor. In WORCS races, we basically just run a stock motor because you can’t have a rocket ship out there; you can’t hang onto that for two hours. So the power is amazing on the bike. I really like how that feels. After Glen Helen, I was trying to get more power out of my bike if I was going to do more nationals because there was no way I was going to get a good start on the bike I was racing there.
We practiced the starts yesterday and more today and that thing is an absolute rocket ship coming out of the starting gate! So I have no excuses for not getting a good start anymore.
What were you riding at Glen Helen?
It was basically one of my old WORCS race bikes – just a practice bike we threw together for the weekend. I told all the guys at the Kawi team that I did that race on basically a stock bike and they were like, ‘Wow… right on!’
This is a very atypical progression for a racer to go from off-road to motocross. Usually it’s the other way around, but you actually came up through the WORCS amateur ranks, and didn’t come from a moto-background.
I thought about that before. If in the future I could transition into the moto scene, I think that would be a first. It’s almost unheard of. No one does that. Even out of the top five in WORCS right now, I’m the only true off-road racer. The rest of the guys are ex-motocross racers.
If this goes well for you, do you think there’s a chance you’ll gravitate more toward Supercross and Motocross in the future?
It’s possible. Right now is the best opportunity I could have to dabble in that. But I’ve got a really good thing going with off-road right now – I think I’m probably America’s top off-road racer right now – so to completely leave that and go on to something else would be tough. But I really enjoy racing motocross. If there was a way that I could do both, I think that would be my dream. I’m still young, so I think I have a lot of opportunities to go in any direction.
What are your expectations for motocross this season?
I want to be top-ten and I think that’s extremely realistic for me. And if I have a good start and a good race, I think I can even creep inside the top-five.
Are they going to put a headlight on Ferry’s bike for you?
[Laughs] We talked about it, but Fish wasn’t so got on the idea.
How about a kick-stand?
You know, I told them I tipped over because the bike had no kickstand. But I don’t know… I don’t think he thought it was as funny as I did.