Casting Call: Inside the TLD Team Audition

Click the following link to see video interviews and action from the Troy Lee Supercross Lites audition.
Click the following link to check out additional photos from the Troy Lee Supercross Lites audition.

When it comes to adding riders to a motocross team, selections are generally based on a team’s prior knowledge of what a rider can do. There’s rarely ever much in the way of a tryout, much less a group audition. But there are exceptions to the rule, and we recently got to check out the process used by the Troy Lee Designs crew as they worked to select a second rider for their new Supercross Lites team. They’d already signed Chris Gosselaar as their first rider, and invited Gavin Gracyk, Justin Keeney, Adam Cini, Sean Hackley, and Kyle Partridge out for a day with the team.

Jeff Ward and Bob Weber

Jeff Ward and TLD's Bob Weber talk over some of the morning's activities.

Of course, racing’s not new for the TLD crew, since they’ve mounted their own championship-winning Supermoto effort for the last several seasons, and were already equipped with a full race staff and a semi for hauling bikes and gear. TLD’s Bob Weber explained their decision to get into the Supercross scene like this, “The bulk of our sales go to the motocross and Supercross market. That’s our core customer and I think it’s a good place for us to showcase our capabilities in racing, above and beyond what we’re doing in Supermoto.”

“It’s been hard, where we’ve got a really heavy schedule in the summertime, and maintaining that crew as year-round employees, because we’ve got great people and we obviously want to keep them on board with our program. When we started looking at everything it just made a lot of sense.”

Stopwatch

While lap times weren't the primary focus of the test, there might have been one or two on hand.

“This has been really hard, because the list of riders that have contacted us and heard that we’re putting a program together, and that are available right now is pretty amazing. There’s some real talent out there. We’ve narrowed it down to five guys here today, and we just figured it was a good opportunity to see how they fit with us, and how we fit with them, and how they communicate with the mechanics. Also, what their style and capability on the motorcycle is, and how marketable they are. Is that the right person for us, representing not only our race team, but also all of our sponsors and our brand? We just figured it was a good opportunity to test a few guys out.”

“I think it’s going to be very hard, but it was a good choice. We’ve learned a lot here today. It’s been quite an exercise for us, too, just to see what’s involved with racing on the dirt full-time, rather than about 30% of the time, with slicks.”

Sean Hackley

After all the time he's spent sidelined with injuries this season, it was cool to see Sean Hackley back on a bike.

TLD’s resident MX Legend and Supermoto Champ, Jeff Ward, was also on hand to watch the riders and help make a selection, and will work with them during the season. When we asked about the current state of the Supermoto team he said, “I think we’re second-to-none. I think we have the best bikes. With Pro Circuit, and our mechanics are great, and we learn stuff every year, mainly from the guys from Europe. I know Yamaha has a factory effort, and they’re just amazed that we can put together a team out of a back shop and still go out and win X Games, and Supermoto races and Championships. That’s the kind of caliber and effort that we’re going to put into the Supercross team, and bring it up to a level to where it’s a front-running team, and people want to ride for this team to get their career started.”

“It’s cool to see these guys out there. It’s a non-pressure situation, there’s no lap times, and just get used to the guys and the bike. You can watch them and see which things they pick up quickly, from one rider to another.”

Chris Gosselaar

Li'l Goose will handle lots of the testing duties for the team, but will also be chasing the title.

“I’m sure they feel it, because the last thing you want to do is struggle. It’s not ideal conditions we have here today, with the wind and cold. We’ve also got a brand new ’08 bike and there are little bugs here and there.  Some guys don’t ride the Hondas. I think the most important thing is to see who gels and we know what they do to get to the race. If you put some good effort behind a kid that hasn’t had any, and he’s motivated, he’s just going to step up to the next level. I think with all the guys we have here, that’s their situation.”

Just for fun, we asked Troy Lee if he’d entertained the idea of going 450 racing as well. “Gosh, I haven’t thought that far ahead. This is a big hurdle here to go up against Pro Circuit and Factory Connection and all the other factory teams out there. I just want to go out there and do a good solid job, give 100 percent…I know our guys will, and just take it one step at a time.”

Information download

After each rider's turn on the track, they got a full meet-and-greet to download what they were feeling with the TLD crew.

Wardy had a much more ambitious take on it, saying, “Somewhere down the road I’m sure we’ll move to the 450s at some point, and have two separate semis. This is something that’s at the starting stage and I’m just happy that Troy’s got me around. It’s fun, I love racing. It’s been my life, and it’s neat to be back in the motocross scene and help out these younger guys a little bit more than I already do.”

“I think this is going to be a fun deal next year. It always is with Troy.”

So who made the final cut? We’re still waiting to hear, though it should be finalized this week. In the meantime, be sure to check out the photo gallery and video links above, for much more from the day.

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