One on One with Tyla Rattray

Jean Turner | July 6, 2010

At the halfway point in the AMA Motocross Championship, Tyla Rattray sits third in points in the 250 class behind two of his Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki teammates. With a win and several podium finishes to his name the South African is hungry for more. This past weekend at RedBud, Rattray was headed for another podium finish when he went over the bars in a spectacular crash. Fortunately he is okay and still managed to card a finish in Michigan.

Heading into the second half of the season, the former FIM Motocross World Champion is looking forward to spending even more time on the podium, and taking on his own teammates in the chase for top honors in the 250 class. We caught up with “Styla” Rattray and talked to him about his advantages and disadvantages in the class, competing against his own teammates, and what’s still left on the table after the 2010 season is over.

Being a bigger guy in the 250 class, people always talk about your size working against you, but in some cases, doesn’t it also works to your advantage?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’m not huge like a giant, but I don’t weigh 135 pounds like half the field does out there. It’s good for me especially when we come to rough tracks.

When you’re bigger, if you want to do a pass you can just nail the bumps because you can be strong and make the pass. Whereas if you’re small, you can’t pass a bigger guy just handling the bumps because you’re probably going to get kicked off and crash.

It looks like yours size is also an advantage when it comes to contact, because other guys just bounce right off you.

Yeah. [laughs] They try and hit me and they get bounced out of the way.

Your teammate, Christophe Pourcel, grumbles a lot about the “kids” in the 250 class and how crazy and unpredictable they are on the track. But you both came to the U.S. with world championships and a much more patient, mature style. Do you guys have more respect for each other out there?

Yeah. Me and Christophe, when we get into a battle we know how to race with each other; we know how to race clean. We don’t try to take each other out. Even if he wasn’t on the same team as me, I still wouldn’t race dirty with him because Christophe’s not a dirty rider. I think a lot of riders are like that. Don’t ride dirty with me and I won’t ride dirty with you. But there are some guys out there that are just dirty all the time. They’ll just try to take you out.

I’m not the kinda guy that’ll just go out there and take a guy out; I’ll pass him clean. But if someone’s going to come in the corner and try to take me out, next time I’ll be coming hard. They’ll get it back… and it’s going to be nasty.

Last year you were in and out of the season with injuries, but did you get to go to the races? Are you familiar with the entire motocross circuit?

Yeah, I pretty much know all the race tracks. I washed Washougal on TV. I missed that round and I missed Unadilla also.  Millville, I raced it in 2006 so I know what it’s like and what that track’s like. I pretty much know what to expect going to the rounds. The only tracks I don’t know are Washougal and Unadilla. To me they look really slick and slippery and technical so that’s good for me.

So you feel prepared going into the remaining rounds?

Yeah, yeah. For sure. I know what to expect at these races. I’ve trained in these conditions. I’ve raced in mud, I’ve raced in snow, I’ve raced in cold, I’ve raced in humid, I’ve raced in dry. For me it’s just another day at the office and I know how to do my homework and it’s paying off.

How long did you live in South Africa before moving to Europe to race the FIM World Championship?

I lived in South Africa until I was 14 and then I went over to Germany. I stayed in Germany for a year and then I moved to Belgium because the tracks in Belgium and Holland are really sandy. Sand improves your physical condition and also it helps on hard-pack tracks to keep your momentum up in the corners. I’d been living in Belgium for eight years and then won the world championship in 2008. Mitch [Payton] said, ‘When you win a world championship you can come ride for me.’ So I won in 2008 and came over [to the United States] in 2009.

People say that because you’re South African that you’re used to the heat, but hasn’t it been a while since you’ve lived and trained down there?

When I was in Europe I always went back to South Africa in November, December, January and I’d leave for Europe early February and that’s the hottest time in South Africa and Durban. It’s humid and it gets to over 100 degrees every day. The humidity sometimes even goes over 100 percent. So it gets cooking hot.

I remember when I went to the beach when I was back home two years ago, it was boiling hot there. I couldn’t even walk on the beach sand. When I got home I looked at my feet and I had big blisters on my feet just from running maybe 30 yards to the water. That’s how hot it gets there.

Because of injuries, you haven’t had an opportunity to get good results in Supercross; do you feel like that’s something that’s still on the table for you?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve been riding really good at the test tracks. I’ve got good teammates to compare myself against – Christophe, Jake, Dean, Hanny. There’s some good guys at our test tracks. Villopoto’s out there, Reed, so I’ve got some good guys to judge my speed against and watch and learn from them. (Next year) is going to be my first (full) year, so the plan is to just learn as much as possible and hopefully win some Supercross races.

So you don’t want to be known as just the moto guy. You want to show your Supercross skills, too.

Definitely. I’ve been feeling good at Supercross; my speed is good. When I crashed it was just a little crash and cost me the series. It wasn’t a big crash. The jump that I crashed on you could jump on a BMX bike. I slid out before it and landed on my shoulder and pretty much just stopped when I landed on the jump so that’s what cost me.

Looking ahead to 2011, do you think you’ll be staying in the Lites class?

Yeah, I’ll probably stay in the Lites class for Supercross because I haven’t had a year yet in Supercross. I would like to stay another year in the Lites class and maybe do 450 outdoors, but it just depends on what team I end up on. I would like to give Mitch’s team another shot for Supercross. I really enjoy being here. Mitch is a great guy and we definitely have the best bikes, especially in Supercross. We proved that this year going 1-2-3-4 in Las Vegas and with Jake and Christophe winning the East and West Supercross championships. I would like to stay on Mitch’s team for another year. I haven’t got a contract yet for them or we haven’t negotiated anything yet. But I’d love to stay.

Jean Turner | Contributor

A former staffer at Cycle News, Turner continues to contribute to the website and magazine as a columnist and someone we can count on to whip up a few thousand words on an off-road race when needed.