The Inside Story: Martin Davalos Interview
Interview Friday 17th January 2013 By Dan Lamb
At the 2013 Monster Energy Supercross opener, the ghosts of SX past seemed to follow the #40 to Anaheim’s Angel Stadium. Martin qualified with a top-five time and comfortably won his heat race, but his main event lasted a total of one turn. Right after the first turn, he was involved in a huge pile-up that ended his Anaheim 1 with a 20th. With that, the detractors got louder, but at round two, Martin rebounded in a big way.
While running third and trying to pass the rookie Joey Savatgy for second in his Phoenix SX heat race, Martin got bucked over the bars in a rhythm section, resulting in a spectacular get-off. At first glance, it looked like a career-ender, but the kid got up, won the LCQ and somehow nearly holeshotted before leading half the main event from the far outside gate. On lap eight, Eli Tomac was able to get around Martin, and on the final lap, Ken Roczen pushed him back to third, but considering everything, it was one of the best rides of Martin’s career. With a podium now under his belt and two huge crashes out of the way, maybe he can get on to doing what he wants to do so badly: win.
After Martin’s gnarly crash and improbable podium in the main event in Phoenix, I gave him a call to talk about the race and see how things have been going. Check out my conversation with Martin in this week’s “Inside Story: Martin Davalos” below.
How you feeling today?
Sore! (laughs) I’m actually driving back from the test track from doing some riding. We’re working on a couple of things.
That crash was so gnarly. What did you hurt in the crash?
My whole body, man. I’m just really sore overall. My ankle is hurting me quite a bit, and my shoulders and neck are pretty sore. I’m very fortunate that I was able to race the main event.
Have you been able to see film of the crash yet?
Yeah, I’ve seen it. I watched our tape—you know the people that film us—and I’ve seen it on T.V.
How did it happen? It looked like you might have caught neutral in the middle of the rhythm section.
I just hit a kicker. I moved over a little too much to the left. I was just trying to put a little pressure on Joey [Savatgy]. We are roommates. I wasn’t going to race dirty or anything—it was also just a heat race. I just wanted to put some pressure on him and show him a wheel, and I just switched my line on that quad ’cause I was a little too close to him to follow the same line. I basically just got thrown over the bars. I thought I was going to save it, but I was coming up a little short.
Yeah, it was not a fun crash to watch. It was the kind of crash that demonstrates how fine the line is that you guys are balancing on. One minute, you’re fine, the next, you’re hoping to survive. People have to respect that.
Yeah, it’s everybody. People don’t recognize our sport as much as they should. Everybody is all about football, but our sport is crazy for the amount we get paid. (laughs)
It’s definitely a sport that is about the passion more than the money. So you and Savatgy are roomates?
Yeah me and Joey have been friends every since I was an amateur. We lived at MTF together. His team wanted him to be in California, and also I need to be closer to Mitch. For testing and stuff, we are always going to California, so I just told Joey, “Let’s just get an apartment and room together.” It’s been good to have a friend I get along with. We get along really well and joke around quite a bit.
It definitely looks like it’s been good for him, being a rookie, to have a veteran like you around. He is definitely showing that he has what it takes in his first two SX races, especially in Phoenix.
Yeah, he rode good, definitely. You know, he’s always been very talented. In the last amateur years, he’s been hurt, so he hasn’t been able to show who he really is. He’s a fast, very quick amateur coming up. He has a lot of desire. You know how these amateurs come up, they’re nuts.
(Laughs) Yes, they are. He’s got a decent ride with a good bike for his rookie year too, so he can definitely make an impression in ’13.
Definitely, JDR stepped it up, and not just JDR—everybody has good bikes this year. Everybody has been working very hard to get a competitive bike, and it’s good. It’s good that everybody has good equipment.
For sure, but speaking of good equipment, your Pro Circuit/Kawasaki definitely did you favors on the start of the main event with your gate pick. You won the LCQ and took the far outside. Did you take the far outside instead of one in to give you more room?
Yeah, the gate on the left wasn’t as good, and I needed a little more room just to move over if I wanted to. I know I have a great bike, and my starts have always been good. I knew if I got a good jump, I’d be able to swing around. I was hoping nobody from the inside would go crazy and go straight. (laughs) It worked in my favor, and I was able to sneak around everybody. Everybody was breaking so hard to get that inside, and I was able to keep my momentum. It worked out for me very well.
Yes, it did. You came out third with Jessy Nelson, and was it Savatgy in front of you as well?
I’m not sure. I know that through the whoops I came out in second. I knew I had the chance to pass Jessy because he wasn’t doing the rhythm section. So I took my time, got around him real quick and just started riding my own laps. My focus wasn’t really good through the whoops so it was a tough main event for me.
I noticed, looking at the sheet, that your lap times fell off around lap eight—right about when Eli caught you. Was the focus issue and your times dropping off related to feeling the effects of the crash, your fitness or just a rhythm issue?
I don’t think it was the crash. Obviously, the crash shook me up a little bit, but I just think I rode too tight. I was holding on so tight in the whoops because my vision wasn’t right. It wasn’t blurry. I usually could see the whoops, but I was really sketchy through the whoops. I knew Eli was coming, and I tightened up a little bit too much. If I would have just rode my laps, Eli probably would have caught me later in the race, and I could have battled for the win. And Kenny just caught me in the end because I was just riding and trying to survive the main event. I just threw away the second, for sure.
Well, given the circumstances of the night, it was an awesome performance. How was Mitch and the team’s reaction to your first podium with the team?
Of course everybody was happy after the incident. We all work hard to be out there, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. The race just made me realize that with a good start and solid laps, I can be up there. They weren’t upset—we got a podium—it’s just a bummer that we had a bad first race—just unlucky—but one race at a time from now on. My starts are solid, and we are working on a couple of things this week that I know I need to improve. I’m just looking forward to this weekend.
Did you have any injuries—lingering effects—in the Anaheim 1 crash? That one looked brutal as well.
I kind of got lucky there, too. The tire kind of hit my elbow and that threw me over the bars. I landed on my back and pinched a nerve, but the chiropractor was able to adjust me and I was good on that. It’s been a little bit of a struggle through the weeks ’cause my body’s been sore, but I just have to take care of it.
I know you have only been on the team for a minute, but what’s it like being on the most dominant team in the history of the small bore class? What have you seen that gives you an idea of why they’ve been so dominant?
I mean, they all want to win, and the team’s been around for a while and they have had so many championships in the past years. It’s just how much they want to improve the bike every day and how much testing we do. I mean, every time we go testing, the pieces keep coming along and the bike keeps getting better and better. They know we can always make the bike better and that, to a rider, is a boost of confidence. You know, they are working so hard to improve the bike so you can feel comfortable, so for the rider, that’s an awesome thing.
There has to be added pressure seeing all those number 1 plates. Do you feel that added pressure to win?
There’s definitely pressure—not just from the team, but pressure I put on myself. I know in the back of my head I work just as hard, probably harder than anybody else in the 250F class. I just want to win. I’ve been around for a long time and there are a couple things I haven’t been able to deliver. A lot people underestimate me. They think I can only do heat race wins, but whatever. Hey, at least I win something. (laughs) No, but I just want to prove to people that I can win, and the people that don’t believe in me, I want to prove them wrong. The people that are behind me know that I am willing to do anything to win.
Yeah, I definitely wanted to talk about the people that underestimate you. When I read stuff around the web, there were a lot of people questioning Mitch signing you when the news broke. No one ever questions your speed, but the results—with all the time you have spent in the class—have not always reflected that speed. I know you have had a lot of bad luck over the last few years, as well—sometimes situations that are completely out of your control like A1 last week.
Yeah, there are times that it is out of my control, but a racer makes his own luck. I’m just glad God’s kept me safe all these years, and I’m able to keep racing. But you know what, a lot of people do talk crap and talk about me being in the class forever. I’ve wanted to move to the 450, but I’ve been given great opportunities to stay on the Lites bike. They can say whatever they want about me; it really doesn’t bother me at all. I’m just really thankful that, this year, Mitch gave me the chance to race. And if I keep getting the chances, I will be very thankful for it. There are a lot of people that hate out there when they really don’t know you and how hard you work. Those are the people that don’t matter in my life. I’m glad I’m healthy, I have great people behind me and I’m able to race for the best team in the world.
Do you ride the 450′s much when practicing or just play riding?
Actually, I haven’t ridden the 450 that much. I got on the 450 for the Monster Cup when I was with the Rockstar team, and I think I surprised a lot of people—I got fourth. I’m known for riding the 450 well and even in my amateur career I rode the 450 well. I am looking forward to racing 450′s. I know I will be riding the 450 the way it should be ridden, especially outdoors. It’s just a matter of time before I go to the 450, and hopefully it’s for a good team.
Are you and Davi Millsaps still hanging out a lot?
Davi is my best friend, and I’ve known him since the first day I came to America. It’s great to have him as a friend. He always wants the best for me. He has always been straight up with me, and the advice he gives me is awesome. I’m blessed to have a good friend like Davi in this sport.
Yeah, I asked because I wanted to ask you what you thought about his A1 win. Were you as surprised as everyone else?
No, that’s funny, because it didn’t surprise me. I’ve known Davi for nine years, and I know what he’s capable of doing. He showed it in the Lites class and he showed it on the 450. People underestimate Davi. Look at last year. They never even brought Davi to the press conference, and he finished second overall in 2012. It’s kind of sad, but I’m kind of glad it happened the way it did. He came out at A1—nobody even mentioned his name—and he won. It didn’t surprise me ’cause I know he’s been working really, really hard, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes. He’s so talented, and he rides the bike so well. As my best friend, I want him to win the championship. I was so happy for him at A1. It almost made me tear up ’cause I know how much he has been working.
One last question, Martin, and I will let you go. With one DNF in a short series, the championship is now a longshot. What are your goals, though, indoors and out for ’13?
I just want to go one race at a time and forget about everything else. I just want to worry about myself, worry about my laps, and I know things will come. For the outdoor season, the bike is unbelievable. I can’t wait to start testing for it. I’m looking forward to outdoors this year a lot and the two new rounds we have. I think it’s Salt Lake and Muddy Creek. I’m looking forward to having a fast bike and getting good starts.
Nice. Well, thanks again for talking with us, Martin. I’ll see you in Oakland.
Thank you, man. I appreciate everything.