While Josh Hansen, Broc Tickle and Cole Seely have been stealing the headlines lately in the West Lites Supercross Series, Ryan Morais has been quietly making waves himself. The Rockstar Energy Suzuki team rider has made the podium twice – one of those times in dramatic fashion – and is currently third in the points standing, 17 points behind Tickle and 18 points behind Hansen. Many feel this will be the year that the 27-year-old from Turlock, California, will nab his first Supercross win. But time is running out.
We caught up to Ryan and talked with him about his 2011 season so far.How would you rate your season so far?
Well, 2011 has been all right. It’s been 50/50 I’d say, I’ve gotten two third and two sixths. I haven’t had sixth place in a long time, so that’s been frustrating, but overall it’s been a good series so far. I just really need to turn it around for the second half. I really need to step it up and win some races and, I need to be beat [Josh] Hansen and [Broc] Tickle every weekend to gain points back up on those guys, I know I can do it, I know I have the equipment to do it, but I just have to put myself in a better position off the starts.
Which race do you consider your best so far this season?
LA was a really good race for me. I think I started eighth and worked my way into fourth and was able to close the gap a little every lap on Tickle. On the last lap, he tried passing [Eli] Tomac, which gave me a chance to close up even closer, and Tomac passed him back. They kind of bobbled around, and I was able to sneak by Tickle on the last lap and almost got by Tomac. It was good, I ended up third and was almost second.
I think that was the first race where I was actually riding to my potential and was actually myself out there.
How are you physically right now? You had a big crash just before Anaheim I.
I feel I’ve put a lot of work into the off season and came into the season excited, felt like I was riding the best I’ve ever ridden but ended up crashing the Tuesday before Anaheim I and got knocked out. So I’ve been kind of battling back from that. It’s been a little frustrating going to the races and knowing I haven’t been riding like myself. I’ve just been racing on the weekends and haven’t been practicing, it’s been getting better, I got to ride this week, and this weekend I think I should be back to my potential.
I’d say I’m 95 percent, every day has been getting better and better for me so, hopefully I’ll come here Saturday and feel 100 percent and ready to rub elbows for that win.
You’ve been racing for quite a while now. Do you feel you’re at the top of your game now?
I feel like I get better and better every year. I learn something new every year it seems like. I think that’s the key is to make sure you still have fun and try to learn as much as you can. I think my fitness and physical condition is the best it’s ever been, it gets better every year. I’m back with the same trainer for the third year now, and he’s done a great job, and we have a great program that works awesome for me. I think that’s a key, and my team is 110 percent supportive of me, my mechanic is amazing, my bike is perfect every time I get on it, I don’t have any questions or worries. I know the thing is ready to go. I think my program has been really solid for the last three years and I think it’s shown, I’ve had some good results the last three years.
I know I’m one of the older dudes out there in the Lites class, this is my last year, so I need to win one of those races before I point out.
Are you predicting a win before the end of the season?
That’s the plan, that’s what I work every day for. I’ve been wanting to do that for a long, long time, and that’s the reason why I race and that’s to win.
You are on the same time team this year, but a lot has changed. This year, the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team is getting full factory support.
Yeah, it’s the same team but it’s a lot different. Last year PC [Pro Circuit] was doing all of our stuff, this year we’re full factory Suzuki, so we have Adam and Scott from Showa doing our suspension and chassis stuff, we have the guys from Yoshimura doing all of our motor stuff, we have Lee helping us out a lot at Suzuki as far as whatever we need, so it’s been really cool to have all of the resources to improve our bike. I feel like if we need to make a change in a certain direction, we have the resource to do that. Its been a big help.
It’s cool to be on this team last year and this year and see it grow and go in the right direction and to be a part of it.
And you now have the new fuel-injected Suzuki RM-Z250 to ride.
Obviously, being on the new 2011 RM-Z is a big advantage as far as with the fuel-injection, and the way the bike handles and turns is awesome. Last year, we were on an older model, an ’09 carbureted RM-Z with the old chassis, so coming to the new bike is almost like switching manufactures, because it’s that much different and is way, way better, the bike is awesome, I think it’s one of the best bikes out there. It’s definitely capable of winning. The fuel-injection is amazing – to have that compared to carbureted is like huge. So that’s a really big step in the right direction, the bike turns a lot better than what it used to. Suzuki’s are already known for their good handling and turning, so the bike is good the whole way around, it’s amazing.
After the San Diego Supercross in two weeks, there is a long break in the series. How will that effect you?
We have eight or nine weeks off after San Diego, personally, I like it, it gives me time to work on my outdoors [National MX Series], and to improve on some stuff that I need to improve on. I think it will really benefit me, to have that break and be able to get back where I want to be for the last few rounds, it will be good for us as a team, because we’re on a new bike and to develop our outdoor bike, and put time in before we go racing. It’s good.
Would you call yourself more of a motocross guy or a Supercross guy?
I would say a Supercross guy. I really enjoy Supercross. When I was a little kid, Casey Johnson used to live with me at my house, with me and my brother and my family, and we had a Supercross track in our back yard, and I used to ride my 60 on it, so it’s kind of what I’ve grown up on and have been taught to ride. Obviously tracks are a lot different now than what they used to be, they are a little faster and not so technical and slow like they used to be, so it’s been a little bit of a transition for me, but this weekend, the track looks a little more like they used to be, a little more – longer rhythm section, steeper, more technical, it should be really good. I’m excited. I’ve done good in outdoors, like amateur Nationals, but never had the best luck in outdoor Nationals in my career. I’ve yet finished a whole outdoor season. It’s a little frustrating, that’s why I’m excited for the break to put in a lot of time and work on everything and do what I know I can do at the outdoor Nationals.
At Supercrosses, it’s funny that your lap times in qualifying are never all that impressive, but you always seem to turn things around when it’s important, in the race. Why is that?
There is definitely a lot of fast guys this year. There are dudes out there who can go really fast in practice and put that miracle lap in, and that qualifies them really good. Obviously, everybody realizes that I’m no qualifier guy for practice. I mean, I think my best qualifying is 13th this year. I’ve been raised, ever since I started riding, that practice never meant anything, it was just to go out there and ride through the motions and get ready to race, that’s the way I’ve been taught my whole life. I’m definitely glad I’m more of a racer and not a practicer. I’d rather be that way than the other.
Like you said, there are a lot of fast guys in the West Lites class this year.
Yes, there are plenty of dudes out there who are going fast. I honestly feel there’s got to be six, eight dudes that can win races, there’s the whole PC team, all those dudes are good, me and Martin [Davalos, Morais’ teammate], we can win races – that’s five already, and then there’s Cole Seely, there’s Tomac, and Wil Hahn would’ve been a really tough guy, but unfortunately he got hurt. Ken Roczen is fast if he can stay on two wheels, so the field is deep this year. There are a lot of young people coming in that are not afraid twist the throttle and hope for the best, and that makes for an exciting series.