Roger DeCoster Set To Make KTM Debut

Kit Palmer | January 7, 2011

Three months ago, Roger DeCoster probably didn’t think, even in his wildest dreams, that he’d be this busy come Anaheim I. After having just given Suzuki a Supercross title, a 450cc National MX title, and a class win at the Motocross of Nations in 2010, the long-time Suzuki team manager probably felt that he’d breeze right into the new year with a program that needed very little, if any, tweaking. He’d certainly have a quiet, stress-free off-season. After all, he’d have the same personal around him, he’d be using pretty much the same proven bikes as he had before that would need little testing, he’d be working with many of the same sponsors, and, most importantly, he’d be working with his same key rider, Ryan Dungey. But something happened on the way to re-upping his contract with Suzuki – it didn’t happen. Unable to come to terms with a new contract, DeCoster left Suzuki without a job. But that wouldn’t last for long.Ready to make its mark in Supercross, KTM quickly snatched up DeCoster and gave him the monumental task of rebuilding its Supercross/motocross program. Suddenly, DeCoster found himself starting from scratch with a new team, new riders, new bikes, new personnel, new work shop and even a new bathroom. And he only had a few months to get everything up and running.We caught up to “The Man” yesterday at the Anaheim I Supercross media day and asked him a few questions about his transition from Suzuki to KTM.

So, Roger, how are things at KTM?

It’s been busy. It’s been two and a half months wide open basically. It’s good to come up to a race now and see where we stack up, to see our work, and what level we are at. Up until now, you’re just working with testing and all that, and only with KTM guys. It’s hard to say how far we have [gone]. There was an enormous amount of work to do, because KTM not being involved in the top-level of Supercross, as a team and a base and all that, they did not have much of a infrastructure on the Supercross and motocross side. They have an established off-road team that does very well, but motocross and Supercross, we had to rebuild pretty much from scratch; it’s only been two and a half months, so it’s been little time to do development for two bikes, new riders, work shop, semi-trailer, machine shop, bathrooms. There are a lot of thing to do and we still have a long ways to go, but I think we’ve made a lot of things happen already.

How’s it been working with an all-new crew?Our crew is really good. We have very good people, and they are working together the best I’ve ever seen on any team, and that’s been a big plus. And we need to keep things going that way.

Are you happy with where you are at when it comes to testing with both the 250 and 350?

I’m happy with both bikes, actually. Our 250, I have no doubt will be a player. The 350, I think we are farther ahead than I thought we would be, but now we have to see in a race situation.

What is your biggest concern with the 350 going up against the 450?

You never can get the torque from a 350 like you can from a 450, but the bike is pretty fast. When it comes to torque, I think in some sections of the track [torque] will be important, but in other areas, I think we should have a little bit of an advantage, because we have less flywheel mass, which means the bike changes direction easier than a 450, so I think there are advantages. Also, definitely the bike will take less energy to ride than a 450, it takes less strength. If you make a mistake on the 350, the consequences and the reaction won’t be as harsh.

How’s Andrew Short adapting to the KTM?

Andrew is learning really good, I think. I was not so focused on him in the past, because I was working with my own guys, but from what I can see, compared to how he rode in the past, I think his corner speed is better, and he is able to ride a little bit more aggressively.

How about Mike Alessi? He doesn’t really consider himself a Supercross specialist.

Mike is tough, one minute he’ll tell you he will win, and the next minute, he thinks he’s going to have a hard time to qualify. He is really difficult to follow mentally, but he has the same equipment as Andrew, and we’re going to give him 100 percent support and hopefully – I think if he puts it in his mind that he can ride Supercross then he can be competitive. He can be good, two years ago when he rode for us when I was with Suzuki, he finished on the podium two or three times.

Has he changed much since you worked with him in 2009?

He’s pretty much the same guy, people don’t change that much.

Have you had the chance to say hi to any of your former crew members from Suzuki yet?

Yeah, got to see our suspension guy from Japan, and Goose [Mike Gosselaar, Dungey’s mechanic] earlier, it’s been nice to see them a little bit.

How about Ryan?

I have not yet talked to Ryan today yet, because he’s been busy doing interviews, be we talk pretty regularly anyway.

So, the bottom line – are you and KTM ready to go racing Saturday?

Yes, we are ready to go.

Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.