Veteran 250cc campaigner turned 450cc pilot Joey Savatgy has proven that he can go the pace with the world’s best supercross racers. Looking at Saturday’s race in Atlanta as something of a hometown event, the Tallahassee, Florida-based rider is hoping to find a way onto the podium.
Q: As you’re learning, racing full-time in the 450cc can be a bit of a marathon, eh?
JOEY SAVATGY: Yeah, obviously it’s a lot of weekends in a row before we get a weekend off. It’ll be nice this weekend to race in Atlanta, and it’ll be a nice change of pace to not have to go to the airport and not sit on an airplane and do all that.
Q: The upside is that you’re right there in the mix in the 450 classification…
JS: Yeah, that obviously that makes the job a little bit easier, and more enjoyable when things are going well. Things have been going how we wanted to, and we’ve been able to have consistent progress and put ourselves in good spots. It’s definitely more manageable when it’s like this.
Q: The first two rounds – Anaheim 1 and Phoenix – were not super-kind to you, but you kept focused and continued to improve.
JS: The first round at Anaheim wasn’t good, but it was a mud race and unfortunately with those you either do good or you don’t. We had some issues and some things we needed to figure out. We went to Phoenix and didn’t qualify terribly, but then I went into a heat race and made a stupid mistake. It was a miscalculation on timing, and the crash wasn’t bad at all. I must have caught the bars with my helmet, and I kind of whiplashed into the ground. The impact was worse than what the crash was. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to race that night.
I kind of thought about it the whole way home and just tried to figure out what I needed to do, and the biggest thing for me was to get comfortable. I really emphasized that during the week, and I turned up the next weekend at Anaheim with a different mentality and I just reminded myself that no one expects anything other than for me to just get seat time and to improve for the future. Being comfortable on the bike, for me, is huge, and we’ve been able to do that. Once we go past those first two rounds we went back to the Triple Crown format, and the results weren’t terrible there. It was definitely a building block to place eighth overall and from there on out, it has definitely gone uphill and it has gotten better.
Q: A 250cc racer making the jump up to the 450cc classification is by no means easy…
JS: Like I said, the first round is a wash. People just say what they want. We all had the same conditions, and I went down in the first corner. No excuses. If everything would have worked out that night, we definitely could have been in the top five or top seven, for sure. Unfortunately, that’s not how it went. Mentally, though, I believe in my program and I knew what I had done in the off-season had been very productive and I felt good. I knew it was just a matter of finding a happy spot and finding a flow each weekend. I knew the results would come. We got to the third race, and like I said, the results were still not great, but the results were a big step in the right direction for me. We got all those gate drops that night, and we got to battle with some guys, and I walked away with eighth overall on the night. I knew that the speed was there and I knew the fitness was good, it was just a matter of putting it all together.
Q: And then came round four at Oakland. Not a great night for you with a P21 main event score. Thoughts?
JS: Things really clicked there and we were fast. We won a heat race and we put ourselves in a good spot for the main event. It really clicked there. I thought, I’m just as good as these guys. They have the experience on me, but I do believe my ability on a motorcycle is just as good as anyone else out there. Confidence is definitely huge in this sport, and just putting myself in a winning position early on and just proving to myself that I do belong up there has gone a long way.
Q: You guys then went to San Diego and you were right there in the fray and seemingly gaining traction. A confidence-inspiring result for you?
JS: Like I said, my confidence started to grow. I definitely believe that on any given weekend I’m capable of being up there near the podium spot. Other people might think I’m cocky, but I’ve done it before. Like I said, I believe in my training program and I believe in my ability on the motorcycle. If we get a good start and we’re feeling good that night, there is no reason why we can’t run up there with those guys. Obviously, there are a lot of really fast and proven guys and champions. I think the speed has been there every weekend. We’ve been pretty consistent. It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. I think once I do that, we’ll be ready to rock and roll.
Q: What’s huge is that you now know you can do it in 450cc class.
JS: Yeah, I’ve learned from other people’s interviews when they go pro, or in any realm, when people make bold statements… I tend to stay away from that. If it doesn’t work out, you just get bashed for it. For me, I believe I don’t feel like I’m speaking outside my realm when I believe that I can be up there for a podium spot every weekend. We just want to keep that mentality going forward.
Q: What’s the difference racing with the 250cc guys? Is the racecraft radically different?
JS: The biggest difference is the race etiquette. The respect is a lot higher and the race etiquette in the 450 class is way higher than in the Lites class.
Q: So far, so good, huh?
JS: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve never been one to start off super-hot. That’s where I think I struggled with that Lites series, because it’s so short and we’d go four or five races in a row and then we’d take five weeks off. What little bit of momentum you can get by the fourth or fifth round, it basically stalls out until the East/West. For me it’s all encouraging because I know there is this weekend and the weekend after. It’s not like, ‘I’ve got to do well this weekend because we’re taking a four week break.’ I want to have that momentum and I want it to be continuous. Around round 12 or 13, I’ll be like, ‘Alright, this is gnarly.’ I’m excited to go racing on the weekend because it’s another weekend for me to improve and to learn and to get better. I hate to keep reiterating that, but that’s the name of the game for me this year.