Davi Millsaps surprised the motocross world not only by winning the opening round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series but also by holding the series points lead for the following five rounds and then winning the sixth round in San Diego. That’s a credit to Millsaps and a credit to his team, Rockstar Energy Suzuki, for giving him the tools to compete with the big factories.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki is owned by Bobby Hewitt and managed by Dave Gowland and Dirt Rider spoke with Gowland about Millsaps and going toe to toe with the factories.
Q: Are you surprised at where you guys are at right now, atop the series standings?
A: I don’t want to say I’m surprised, but we didn’t really expect to come out and do as well as we did at A1. We really never measured ourselves against anybody, but we put in a lot of hard work during the off-season in order to get Davi absolutely everything he wanted, and some of the things he was missing. This team is made up of a group of individuals who share the same passion for racing that I do and that Bobby does so we work hard. We never really practiced with anyone else so we never really knew where we stacked up. So when we showed up at Anaheim we were prepared and things just turned out really well.
Q: When Davi signed with you guys most people thought he took a step backwards from where he had been at Joe Gibbs Racing. Does that bother you?
A: No. We had had a 450 rider before with Tommy Hahn, but we didn’t really take the next step to having someone of Davi’s caliber. Someone who we thought could actually be on the podium week after week. I think for Davi, maybe some of the other programs didn’t allow him to contribute as much as he has with us. We started with a really clean slate and we just started building around him and I think he appreciated that. I think that’s part of the reason he’s found some newfound success, again, because we worked together on it. We don’t claim to be the biggest and baddest on the block. Obviously there are factory efforts out there that are more established and have been around a lot longer than we have. But again I have to say that the reason we are here is because of the dedication of the organization.
Q: It seems you’ve proven to a lot of people that a satellite team can compete on equal footing with the factory teams.
A: I think we’ve done a very good job of that. I think there’s sort of a changing in the way that things are done. I think there are a lot of other people in the industry, with the four-stroke technology, that have been able to share their technology with us. Obviously we build everything in-house and we have a couple of excellent motor guys in Jamie Ellis and Jason Thomas. They grew up some of those same guys that are working at the factory now so they did their due diligence in listening and understanding and learning. And along with other people we have met along the way that have helped us, they too saw the potential that we had to be able to compete against the factories. And kind of being the underdog, the people’s choice, I think that’s something that people appreciate.
Q: Tell us what you do in-house and what support you get.
A: We contract Showa to do our suspension, and then all the motors are done in-house. We use a group of suppliers and vendors to come up with the right combination of parts to deliver the performance that we believe we need to compete with the factories.
Q: Do you get any support from Suzuki?
A: We don’t get any direct factory support, no. I get a discount on bikes and I get a discount on parts. We’re trying to work on building a more solid foundation with them, but it’s not factory support.
Q: Is this the way of the future?
A: I think from a factories standpoint, they need their factory efforts because they need to R&D their product. And they normally like to keep that very close to the vest. And I think the 450 is where their most emphasis is at. You don’t see a lot of factory 250 teams now. Mostly they are farmed out. But I think there’s a version of that model coming. If they can get the trust with a team to be able to share that information, then there is a place for that, but it’s never been done before.
Q: Tell us about Davi. There have been different phases of Davi over the years and this one seems to be more consistent. I think he’s always been capable of winning but he’s never been this consistently fast.
A: Ezra Lusk and Davi have a great relationship and the whole thing has come together and that dynamic along with our team stuff have just come together. I think his comfort level is really high right now. We’ve just been able to give him a surrounding where he feels like he can go out there and succeed. I think it boils down to the people and every good business comes down to the people and we’ve got a great bunch of people. We are a team and when we have issues and problems we all chip in. And I think that’s something that has helped us grow over the last couple of years.