MPG / DAILY BREAD / MARCH 10, 2017
Alex Ray is on a clear path of steady improvement thus far in 2017. He’s made a total of five main events throughout the opening portion of the season, matching his tally from the previous year in half as many attempts. His consistent speed and solid performances were enough for him to attract the attention of Christina Denney and the Cycle Trader Rock River Yamaha team to replace the injured Tommy Hahn. Ray contested his last race as a privateer this season north of the border in Toronto and he’s set to make his debut for the team at the tenth round of the series in Daytona. The Tennessee native regularly lives and trains at Club MX in South Carolina, but he made the move down to Millsaps Training Facility in preparation for the weekend to do some testing on his new race bike with the team. Ray wasn’t sure that he would be financially stable enough throughout the year to continue his program at Club MX for the remainder of the season, but the new deal came at just the right time. A huge burden has been lifted in terms of financially supporting his racing, preparing his own bikes, and arranging his travel to and from the races, and it will undoubtedly show through his results as he progresses throughout the season. We caught up with Alex to talk about how the deal came about with the new team, how his season has been up to this point, and what he plans to do over the summer.
Big news for you this past week getting picked up by the CycleTrader Rock River team, how’d that come about?
Well, this year I’ve been puttin’ in a little bit better results than the year’s past and unfortunately Tommy got hurt at Oakland, y’know. I got in contact with Christina shortly after that and we started talking from there, and Tommy was gonna try to ride Atlanta and that didn’t really go as planned. So yeah, I just got on the bike yesterday and the thing is sick!
How much of a relief is it knowing that you don’t have to worry about working on your bike, arranging all of your travel, and paying all of your expenses?
Dude, it’s such a huge relief. There’s so much stress off of my back. Y’know, I’ve been stayin’ at Club MX this year and actually on my way to Atlanta, I was like “My funds aren’t lookin’ very good. I’m only gonna be able to stay at Club until after Indy.” I was just gonna have to go home and ride somewhere there, make that my homebase and train from home, and do it by myself with the way funds were lookin’. Luckily this came about and I’m able to stay at Club now, so I’m pumped.
You’ve had a pretty great 2017 season so far, making five main events, are you content with how the year has gone up to this point?
Yeah! Toronto didn’t really go as planned, it was kinda like I was glued to the ground it seemed like. But yeah, I’m pumped on the way the year’s going. Y’know, as long as I’m moving forward I’m happy, so for the most part this year has gone really, really well.
Do you expect a little more from yourself now that you’re moving up to a team with a good bit of support?
Yeah, for sure. Definitely. I’m on an awesome bike and I’ve got a great group of people around me and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go up from here.
So, you’ve been down at MTF this week doing some testing with the team before your debut at Daytona, how have you felt getting some time in on the race bike?
Yeah, I’m here at MTF now and I’ve got my mechanic Kyle and the whole team here. So, that part’s good; it’s a great environment to be around. The first day on the bike I immediately felt at home -- the Yamaha is super stable and how the bike feels through the whoops is amazing, y’know, it stays straight. The motor package is sick, I haven’t changed a thing with my suspension, it’s great. Like straight out of the box, on the bike, and it’s good, really good. So, I have zero complaints about the bike and I’m really excited to race it this weekend.
What are some of your first impressions with the Yamaha after racing the Husqvarna for the past year or so?
It’s good. The power is definitely a lot different, y’know, the Yamaha has a pretty gnarly hit but at the same time it’s a smooth hit. The bike is really centered, I would say, it’s really well balanced. The way that Tommy had the bike setup with the chassis was really good and then we threw my suspension setting on there from Enzo KYB stuff, and it’s awesome. It’s a little bit wider of a bike compared to the Husky, but I adapted to it quick.
Has there been any sort of hazing from the MTF kids since you do most of you training up at Club MX?
Not too much, no. I’m sure there’s somewhat of a rivalry there, but it’s been alright. I just did a few motos with my new teammate (Lorenzo Locurcio) today.
Is Daytona a race that you generally look forward to racing every year?
Umm, I sort of have mixed emotions about Daytona. It’s a little bit different -- the bike set up is hard there, I never really changed anything, I would just go send it with what I got. But yeah, I like Daytona; it’s good, it gets nasty and rough. I got mixed emotions about it, but I think with the awesome bike I have now it’s gonna be great.
You had your best finish of the year with an eighteenth place at Oakland, could you talk a little bit about what it was like racing on that track? It was definitely one of the gnarliest of the year so far.
Yeah, it was crazy. We were actually lucky with all the rain that we got, y’know, that week there in Oakland. The whoops over there on that far side were so gnarly that I started jumpin’ em in the main event, and that was way more consistent for me. I just tried to stay consistent the whole main event...and yeah, that’s the best finish I’ve had so far. It was nasty, man. There were ruts everywhere and I just did my best to stay up and stay consistent, and just bring ‘er home.
There’s been a lot of races the past couple weeks where people have been jumping the whoops and the tracks are getting real nasty…
Honestly, all the concrete showing on the track’s becoming super gnarly the way they are with the timed main events. It’s actually made riders a little bit more cautious in the way that they ride -- I mean, ‘cause they have to! Heck, when you’re riding on concrete half the freakin’ race, it’s pretty crazy. Goin’ back to the whoops, y’know, they’ve been built really weird here lately. We had a good set in Phoenix and the set was actually really good in Toronto as well until the main events when they got really nasty -- of course I didn’t race, but they started to get pretty chewed up in the LCQ’s, and they became jumpers as well. In the other rounds, I think they were built a little funky, but I’m sure the Dirt Wurx guys know what they’re doin’. I think we just need more dirt honestly. In the first 450 B practice at Atlanta, there was already concrete showing after a few practices, so that’s pretty crazy.
Do you know what your plans are after the season finale in Vegas?
No, I really don’t honestly. I’m thinking what I’m probably gonna do is just stay at Club and train my butt off all summer. I’m still gonna do my motos outdoors just mainly for my fitness, and I may do a few races here and there, but I’m not gonna do the whole series. I feel that my strong suit is SX and I wanna stick to that, so I’m just gonna be ready for 2018 and just stay agile, y’know.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out and getting you to this point?
CycleTrader, RockRiver, Yamaha, GPI, RoostMX, Yamalube, GYTR, EVS, ARC, Cv4, Cycra, DUBYA, Dunlop, ENZO, Excel, FMF, GET, GUTS, MIKA Metals, MotoStuff, Never Summer, Race Tech Titanium, VP, Works Connection, X-Trig, DT1, TXS Productions, K1 Speed, FXR, Dedicated Ride Co.
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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