Eli Tomac interview – Oakland
All the anticipation for the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship series, was centered around the possible three-man 450SX showdown between HRC / Honda’s Ken Roczen, Red Bull / KTM’s Ryan Dungey and Monster Energy / Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, but that would never materialize. The first two 450SX wins went to Roczen with Dungey finishing second in both, but Tomac was openly struggling with arm pump and recorded a fifth and a sixth in the first two main events of ’17. At round three in Anaheim, the series lost Roczen, and when Tomac crossed the line eighth, it was beginning to look like we might be seeing the Ryan Dungey show from here on—but then came round four and a new Eli Tomac.
In the Glendale SX main event, Eli grabbed the holeshot, sprinted away to a massive eighteen-second lead and put it on cruise control for his first win of ’17. Everyone was blown away with Eli’s ride in Glendale but reserving judgement on whether or not the #3 going to be consistently that good. If you were one of those people reserving judgement, Eli made it easier on you in Oakland.
After having problems in his heat race and having to qualify out of the semi, a poor gate pick in the main had the Kawasaki rider around tenth in the first turn and eighth after lap one. Making his problems worse, Dungey got to the front early and was riding his own race and setting the pace on the weather-beat, deteriorated O.Co Coliseum circuit.
With the deck seemingly stacked against him, Tomac put his head down and one by one picked off riders before finding Dungey’s rear wheel. With three minutes plus a lap to go, Tomac passed the defending champ and ran away to another big win and the beginning of his first ever two 450SX wins in a row.. With his two wins in a row, Eli leaves California with more confidence than he’s ever had in his SX abilities, but he still has a seventeen-point mountain to climb to catch the #1 in points. Our man in USA, Dan Lamb from Motoxaddicts caught up with him.
Eli, two wins in a row for the first time in your career here tonight at the Oakland SX. You have to be feeling good leaving here.
Two in a row is a pretty good feeling, especially for the track conditions and the different racing surface we had this week from last week. I think today confirms that last weekend wasn’t a fluke. I had the big open stadium, the hard pack and I think people judge me as a pinner and say I can only ride that big of a track, but I proved them wrong tonight and took the win in the main. It wasn’t pretty all day before the main.
Did you have a rough start to the day?
Yeah, I had a rough heat race and a rough practice before that, but I was able to find the balance when it counted. I was able flow and I got to the front. The start [in the main] wasn’t pretty, but I made it happen.
What was it that worked so well for you here in these gnarly conditions? You seemed to get better and better as the night progressed. That obviously continued through the main and you started pulling the trigger on that big 3-4 combo through the rhythm section. What was it that you liked or—other than winning it—was there actually anything to liked about it? (laughs)
(laughs) It was fun in the main event. That’s all I can say. The rest of the day I hated it. I was just struggling, but I never lost faith. I just kept it going and hammered down in the main.
I don’t know if you did it in qualifying, but was that 3-4 through the rhythm something you were eyeing all day?
I did it once or twice in qualifying and kind of saved it. It was good. If you went double, step-on, step-off, it took a lot of energy and you were hanging up on the landing. It was a big line, but I would say it was an easier line.
A lot of these big combos look big until you see someone do it, and then after you see it done you’re like, “Oh, that’s not that big,” but that quad looked huge when you guys did it.
Yeah, it was. The second jump was big. It was cool to do.
Before this year, you were known as the guy to go out and huck the biggest combos, but the last two weeks you were one of just a few guys doing the quads.
I’ve been ripping ‘um.
Is that just one of those deals where you’re feeling really comfortable right now, so just go?
Yeah! Shoot, I think the only other guy doing that combo today was Cooper [Webb]. We’re going big.
Alright, well you chipped three off the top of Ryan’s points lead and it’s now down to a 17-point gap. It’s early and the series now heads out of California and to the East. It was a rough start, but is this Championship now within your grasp? Can you win this one?
Oh yeah! It sure isn’t over until it’s over. We’re a lot closer than we’ve ever been. We’re still a ways out at 17, but we’re creeping forward. At this point, I really don’t want to think too much about points. I’m just excited that I’m getting back to some winning form and I can ride in the different conditions of the past two weeks. We won them both whereas last year I couldn’t think about points. I’m pretty stoked right now.
Photos Courtesy of Monster Energy Kawasaki