Devin Simonson has really stepped up his game at the start of the 2017 racing season. The Yamaha rider put in some of the best results of his amateur career last November at the 45th annual Thor Winter Olympics, most notably a sixth in the Schoolboy 1 class. In addition to his spectacular form at Mini-O’s, Simonson earned himself a year of support from Race Tech for the 2017 season. His increased support, continued dedication at South of the Border MX Training Facility, and his growing confidence will undoubtedly make him a contender as the year progresses. The Yamaha rider performed well over the course of the spring nationals -- finishing third overall at the Millcreek Spring Classic in the Schoolboy 1 class and also showing top five speed throughout the beginning of the week at the JS7 Freestone Spring Championship. We caught up with Devin to chat about how he got into the sport, stepping off of the 125, and what life’s like down at South of the Border.
You mentioned you were just getting done with a race today. Where was it and how’d everything go?
It was at a local track near me called Devil’s Ridge in Sanford, North Carolina. I went 1-1 in Schoolboy 2, 1-1 in 250 B, and 1-1 A/B All-Star, and made four hundred bucks, haha!
How old were you when you got your first bike and how’d you get into the sport?
My dad’s best friend growin’ up -- he was a painter, and his son started racing. My dad took me to watch him one day and I told him that I wanted a dirt bike. At the time I was only four and I didn’t know how to write my name in school, so he was like “If you learn how to write your name, I’ll get you a bike.” He took me to the local Honda shop and I would just sit on it and everything until I learned how to write my name, then he bought it for me.
Do you remember your first race?
From what my parents tell me -- I won my first race, so that was pretty good!
You just recently decided to get rid of the 125’s and move onto the 250 full time, what inspired that decision?
At Freestone I really felt better on the 250. I like riding the 125, but the 250 really fits my style better. Especially when I’m racing all the factory kids -- like I had Swoll line up next to me, it’s just crazy you’re racing, y’know what I mean, factory level bikes.
Looking back on the spring nationals, you had some solid results at the Millcreek Spring Classic as you came away with third place in Schoolboy 1. How’d the racing go for you down in Alabama?
At Millcreek I really struggled with starts, that’s one thing -- we kinda went back to the drawing board after that to see how I could get some starts. We really couldn’t figure it out. I dunno, the racing down there was good. I guess I just struggled with starts really bad, I definitely struggled more on the 125. On the 250, I’m pretty good with starts, nine times out of ten I’ll come out in the top five. I could have been up front -- like I could have been one and two, but I dunno...stuff just happens.
You moved onto Freestone and showed some good speed throughout the week although your results weren’t quite where you wanted them, how’d the week of racing go for you there?
Yeah, for sure. The heat races were really good! My dad was so happy and I was happy, too, with how I was ridin’. I had good momentum comin’ into the second motos and it downpoured right before the 250 B moto. I fell off the start and then I got back up, I was makin’ my way back through the pack and some kid fell in front of me and I just clipped his bike -- it ripped my radiator hose, so I DNF’d that. In 250 B Limited, I got second the first moto which is really good. The second moto I was in sixth; it was a mud moto. We keep havin’ problems with the 250 -- the first clutch plate that you put in keeps breaking and it’ll go through the motor and it just won’t run anymore -- that’s what happened.
There were loads of different conditions throughout the week of racing at Freestone; dry, dusty, windy, rainy, soft, hard-packed, etc…how does it affect you throughout the week when the track is changing so much? Do you have to make a lot of changes to the bike or anything like that?
I really kinda just go with it, y’know. We all have to ride the same track, so you can’t really complain about it. I like the mud. I can’t really say I like how dry it got, but I really like the mud; I felt like I was riding good in it. The only changes we really made to the bike between the first and second motos was softening up the suspension, other than that we kept it the same. We’re on a tight budget, haha!
Looking back on the 2016 racing season, is there anything that sort of stuck out to you as the highlight of your year?
Pretty much winning the Race Tech Award at the Vurb Classic and then goin’ to Mini-O’s and doing good there. I top tenned in both Schoolboy 1 and 125 B/C, so that was really the highlight of the year.
How much has it helped your program having Race Tech help you out this year?
It definitely helps a lot. They’re really good guys over there, I love workin’ with them. It’s awesome!
You did exceptionally well in Mini-O’s in the SX portion of the event. Is that discipline something you favor a little more?
I for sure like SX a lot. I feel like I flow way better on SX, but I had a lot of bike problems during MX. In the first moto of Schoolboy 1, the power valve governor broke, so it was like super, super slow. In the 125 B/C class, I had to race my practice bike and then I crashed on the start. I just had terrible first motos, so that kinda sucked.
You do all of your training down at SOBMX in South Carolina, how long have you been training there and what do you like about the facility?
I’ve been training there for about three years, I think. I really like the facility, everybody down there’s super nice -- Mike, Ryan, just everybody down there’s really nice. We have a good trainer, Taylor, and we have some fast kids to ride with like (Garrett) Marchbanks, (Brandon) Hartranft, and Justin Cooper will even show up every now and again, so that’s always good.
Does it help you to be able to ride with those guys on a regular basis?
Yeah, definitely. It really helps a lot. I love watching all of them ride; they’re so smooth everywhere, it’s crazy.
Who do you find yourself battling a lot with on a week-to-week basis in training?
Yeah, there’s a couple guys from, I think, Venezuela that we ride with and they usually train there. His name is Andreas, I usually battle with him a lot, or I did when I was on 125’s.
What’s a day in the life like for you at SOBMX?
I stay at my house, so I usually have to get up pretty early ‘cause I go there with my dad in the morning before he goes to work. I usually get up about 6:30 to 7:00, it just depends. I get a shower, drink a protein shake for breakfast, and then I pack my lunch. I go to SOB, we go the gym there at 9:00, do a little twenty minute warmup, and then we’re out on the track at 10:00. We do like sections until lunch time and then I’ll eat sandwiches or whatever. We’ll come back and do motos, then we’ll work out at 4:00, pretty much after work out I head home and eat dinner, and then I go to bed.
You killed it at the area qualifier there a couple of weeks ago before Freestone. Are you planning on qualifying in any other regions and what’re your goals this year for Loretta’s?
Yeah, I think I’m doing mideast and northeast. I’m not sure, one of the regionals is on the same day as my sister’s graduation and my mom is trying to get me to not miss it. But, I really wanna be top three every time. If I can prove myself there and then back it up at the other nationals, I think I’ll be able to be up front and get myself a factory ride.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out?
Race Tech, SOBMX, Real Ink Graphics, Williams Motowerx, ICW
/ Words /Images / Lake Kilpatrick
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