Monster Energy Kawasaki team manager Mike Fisher has almost seen it all in supercross and motocross. With the 2011 AMA Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship season coming up fast, we checked in with “Fish” to see how the preparations are coming.
Monster Energy Kawasaki: How has your off-season been?
Mike Fisher: Did we even have an off-season? Right after Motocross of Nations, I took a short vacation with my fiancé to the wine country of Oregon and then flew straight to Kawasaki’s dealer meeting. It was a great turnout of enthusiastic dealers and we went from there right into testing. We haven’t had any slow time yet. We have one more, hard week and then we’ll take a short break for Thanksgiving before getting back into it to get ready for Anaheim 1 on January 8. It has been a whirlwind these last few months getting Jake (Weimer) up to speed but it is great to have him and Ryan (Villopoto) together on the team. Both of them ride together well and they get along great while staying professional.
MEK: It seems a lot of people think this is a down time for the teams and the riders, is that a fair statement?
MF: In the past it seems this was a slow time, especially for the riders. But that has changed and I can tell you for these two guys, it’s not a slow time. For our team it’s not a slow time, this is our busiest time. These guys are working hard every day and it is awesome. Their new trainer (Aldon Baker) has them on a great track.
MEK: When the team is testing with the riders what are the looking for?
MF: I think at the beginning they’re not 100% sure. Ryan has a better idea because he has ridden the KX450F for two years and we have notes on him. So we can see where he wanted to improve from last season. With Jake, he’s not sure. The first time he rode the bike he was like ‘this is very good,’ but we gave him some test parts we had, some that we had made for Ryan and he liked those changes. Both guys seem to like the same things, despite the fact that they ride different. Ryan rides on the back of the bike more and he throttles it and uses the rear end more than Jake. So their base settings are close with just some tweaks in the suspension and engine settings.
MEK: Have there been many changes to the bike this year?
MF: We have a lot of changes this year. They are all just small refinements that we worked with KHI (Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan) on to improve some areas. In supercross the tight tracks and the power of the 450 make the chassis a big deal. We are really working with the chassis to make it even more nimble and easier to control. Our bike has always been really stable and we just wanted to see if we could make it even more nimble. Overall you can’t say anything negative about our bike in 2010, we won so many races and Ryan didn’t want to change much. We have a lot of new parts, but we seem to fall back on a lot of the old parts.
MEK: How is the supercross test track designed? Do you take lanes or obstacles from the drawings to better prepare the riders?
MF: Feld sent out the track maps for the races about a month ago and we traditionally get our riders input on any new lanes or obstacles and incorporate them into the design. We redesign the track at the end of November so while we’re on a break for Thanksgiving they’ll be out there moving a lot of dirt.
MEK: You’ve moved up through the ranks at Kawasaki, how have your different experiences helped you as a racing manager?
MF: As a racer, I suppose I know and can understand the riders’ feelings when they have those quirky moments that all riders have. There is a lot of pressure on the riders and they seem to put most of it on themselves. I felt like I did the same when I was racing and I think our riders do that so I try and let them know they have a strong support system with our team and they don’t need to put all that pressure on just themselves. When I worked in research and development and specifically testing, I worked with the KX450F a lot to develop it into production. We worked three years on that model and I rode it a lot and I got to know the engineering staff very well. Those relationships are invaluable now as we continue to make the bike better.
MEK: How do you see the 2011 season shaping up?
MF: I feel that we are the most prepared we have ever been. Everything from the bike, to the team, to the riders is right where we want it to be seven weeks out from the first race. This week I was out at the track and Ryan did a 20-lap moto and every lap was within the same second and the time was fast. I was really impressed with his consistency over the moto. On the same day, Jake did his fastest lap time on the 450 at the Kawasaki track and that was awesome. The guys are pushing each other which is great to see.