The 2022 Motocross of Nations at Redbud MX was a new experience for many of the U.S. mechanics. This was their first time with a multi-day format, having two bikes at their disposal, and a few were on teams representing countries other than their own. We reached out to Daniel ‘Mohead’ Castloo (Justin Cooper), Christien Ducharme (Jett Lawrence), Alex Campbell (Dylan Ferrandis ), and Josh ‘Jelly’ Ellingson (Eli Tomac) with some questions about the event.
For the full interview, check out the YouTube video right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.
Vital MX: How was the overall experience of Motocross of Nations?
Daniel Castloo: For me, first and foremost, I have to show a lot of gratitude and appreciation for everybody that's involved with Team USA. It's an actual team. I mean, obviously being a part of Star Racing, I'm a part of a team. But with Team USA, I didn't know what I'd be getting into and it's a group effort. For me, being a small part of it, it's a dream come true. Having a guy like Justin that's a big piece of the puzzle. A guy that takes pride in his country, takes pride in his craft and his work, and he's quietly confident in his abilities.
Christien Ducharme: That was my first time being at a Des Nations and it was a totally different experience, honestly, between the fans and the event as a whole. It was a lot to take in for sure.
Alex Campbell: It was good. It was my first ever Motocross of Nations and my first time ever doing a two-day race event and it went pretty good Saturday. Dylan won his qualifying race and then Sunday was muddy, but everything went pretty smooth and had some decent results. And Team France got on the podium for second place behind the USA.
Josh ‘Jelly’ Ellingson: There's always pressure in those types of races because it's a team event and you want to show up and make sure everything's perfect, just like everyone else. You don't want to be the weak link, so you basically want everything to go as smooth as possible. And added pressure in that we haven't won in 11 years. And we're on home soil. We are going there to win. We want to end the losing streak and then bring it back to the USA. Qualifying races went smooth and then the weather comes in on Sunday and that just adds a whole new element to an already tough, long race.
Vital MX: What was the stress or pressure like leading up to this event?
Daniel: Right around Unadilla there's talks of the announcement of MXoN. It was between Christian (Craig) and Justin. And so, we built a 250F for Christian. By we, I mean Duffe, his mechanic, and everybody at Star Racing. And man, they let them go at it, you know. A lot of the public doesn't know those things, right? They don't know that these dudes battled it out for 30 plus two at the Farm and at MTF and GPF and everywhere we could get them to go. But all the media and stuff prior lit a fire under Justin's butt. And mine too. We were doing the work during the week, and we did the work on the off weekends. Right after Pala I flew back on Sunday at 6 a.m., landed at noon and went straight to the shop.
Christien: Definitely the week after Pala, we were testing 450 stuff, finalizing some settings and then having to build two bikes and get this truck reloaded and all the stuff ready to go. Then we leave. We get there. And when we landed on Wednesday until we took off yesterday, just wide open the entire week. I was setting up three trucks on Thursday and then Friday last-minute suspension and then any other last-minute details we had to do to the bikes. It was a different format than what we're used to here in America. The mudder definitely added more stress on the things, but the two bikes, as much of a pain in the butt it is, it actually helped a lot. We only had 25 minutes between motos. You would have been stressed for time. You were thrashing from the moment they come back from site lap until the gate drop and you're just standing in the mechanics area thinking like what the hell just happened that last 5 minutes.
Vital MX: What did you think of the multi day format?
Daniel: I'm still trying to recover, to be honest with you. I don't know if it's all the liquor we drank or if it's the fact it's a multi-day format. I'm not a fan. It's maybe better from a spectator perspective.
Christien: I would rather it be one day. Let's just do it. Let's get it over with. It was cool to have a few sessions to ride both bikes, shake both bikes down, and make sure they both feel the same. To try different suspension settings. But in reality, you only have one session. And then you have a qualifying race. Whatever setting you choose, you just have to go try to race it. And if it's not the direction you wanted, well, you have to settle with it the whole 20 minutes or whatever it is for the race. That's your only two times on the track Saturday. Now you've got to think about how you want to start Sunday, so you discuss what direction you want to go. You have a brief warm up Sunday morning, but the track's pretty smooth, so you don't really know exactly how your suspension will handle for the race. I would rather do it all in one day because you're on the same track condition.
Josh: Just for one event I enjoyed it. But to do it for every race I don't think it's a better layout than what we already are currently doing just because right now we get their Thursday set up Friday and we're racing Saturday and we're out.
Vital MX: How was having the wash bays handy? Was that something you'd like to see implemented?
Christien: No, no. MX Sports should continue having us wash at our trucks. That was a hassle because we were parked the furthest away from the wash bays. It was a mission to get back. Everyone doesn't really have pressure washer etiquette so you're just getting hammered by the guy next to you. You're plastered with mud from the guy next to you and the euros can keep that. It has more cons than pros.
Vital MX: How was it working for a team that wasn’t your home country’s team, but probably wanting the U.S. to win? Christien: I want to see America bring the Chamberlain Cup back home. Also, when you're in the moment of it I want my guy to win every time he lines up. It was so weird because I found myself halfway through the day, the competitiveness in me, going, ‘well, I want to see Australia give America a run for its money’. I like both the Lawrence Bros. and I wanted to see us up there to bump elbows and make the USA earn it. At the end of the day the USA is home and I’m glad to see them back on top.
Alex: Dylan obviously got asked by his country to go, and if Dylan says he's going to do something that means I'm in for it as well. I was glad to be there and get to do MXoN because if Dylan didn't get asked, I wouldn't have been able to go and have a rider on the gate. We're all proud to be from the U.S., but you're working for Team France. And then there's people, obviously some crazy USA fans that want to talk crap on the French or whatever it might be. So, you're kind of just like, ‘Oh, just let them talk crap’, even though you answer back to them in perfectly good English. Like, “Hey, I'm from Minnesota”. I'm thankful because I was also there because my rider is one of the best riders from his country.
Vital MX: Talk about the two-bike situation. You have to build, prep, clean, and service two bikes which is extra work. But then you have a second bike if it’s needed.
Daniel: You're 100% correct. To put it in perspective, the bike that we rode in Moto 1, we used as a sight lap bike for Moto 2. So, I still cleaned it. Actually, my engine guy, Trevor Carmichael, was a huge help to me this weekend. I can't give enough props to him. He was my right-hand man. Literally after Moto 1, when we came back, I looked over the motorcycle outside the canopy, got it ready to wash, and he's like, “Hey, grab your transponder. You're not riding that bike the next moto” which we all agreed on prior. “Go make sure your other bike’s good”. So, I was in there with a bike from the day priors qualifying that I prepped back up. We didn't wash it. It wasn't exposed to water or anything of that nature. The bike I used for free practice early in the morning ended up being my bike for the second moto. There was a method to our madness, but it's a lot of work, man.
Alex: I think it is a benefit just because Dylan was MX Open. So that meant he was Moto 2 and Moto 3, back-to-back motos. And it was muddy. But if something happened in the first moto you can just switch to the other bike and that is kind of nice. You don't have as much stress as, ‘Oh, we've got to swap this engine or swap this part’ if there's a crash. But also building two bikes identical, you can have all the same parts on both bikes and all that stuff and build them both yourself. But there's still small differences in two different bikes. You've got to adjust the levers the same, the handlebars the same, one seat might be newer than the other, whatever could happen. And then when you have a picky rider, it makes it even more stressful to have all those things dialed. You might take all the measurements you want for your front brake lever and make sure it's just as far away from the handlebars as the other one, but it might engage just the smallest bit harder, and the rider can pick up on that. So, it's kind of tough to make two bikes exactly the same.
Josh: It's got its pluses and minuses. You have it if you have an issue and if you're the first and second moto, there's less time than a normal American national. So, the two-bike thing really works out to go to the line with a machine that's already been gone through. Everything's been checked on it. Instead of rushing through your current race bike, washing it quick, changing the clutch quick which opens up for a possible mistake. I was Moto 1 and then Moto 3, so I had a decent amount of time. I used our second bike for our site laps, so I had plenty of time to do tires, do the clutch and prep for Moto 3. So, I only used it for the site lab. The negatives of two bikes are you already have a long day of taking care of one bike. You're still doing your normal maintenance to that bike as well.
Vital MX: What was your reaction, your mood when you woke up Sunday morning to the weather?
Daniel: I woke up and, I don't want to sound arrogant, but I felt that it was going to be a good day for me. You don't get that much in racing. I've only had it a couple of times. Everything clicked. I’m not saying I had a perfect day by any means. But when I woke up in the morning, to me it was like, ‘okay, all right, if this is what it brings, then we're ready’. Back at the Farm we've done some mud days, I'll tell you that. We rode every condition straight up, Darkside. We made sure we put that kid through hell before we went racing. There was definitely more emphasis the last four or five weeks of outdoors when everybody's kind of tapering off. “Justin, you're getting in The Hurt Locker every day, budd”. They're doing 20s, you're doing 35s. Or they're doing 30 plus two’s, you're doing forties”. I quietly knew that the work was done. I knew that he was okay with those conditions. So, for me, it was just another routine day, man.
Vital MX: Any special moments away from the actual racing, whether it be being with the team, the camaraderie, post-race, what were some of the best moments.
Daniel: My biggest takeaway is the camaraderie and the selflessness of the team. We all were there for each other. I think that showed from day one. It's awesome to go to war with those guys. My biggest takeaway was the shirts, you know, or the teams didn't matter anymore. I think that it takes some pride to operate at that level. You have to put your own goals to the side and operate as a team.
Christien: I think the biggest thing was on the podium. They just played the instrumental for the National Anthem. All the fans chimed in and start singing it, and it was like thousands of people were singing the National Anthem at the end. I thought that was pretty cool. That probably topped my weekend.
Alex: The motocross community came together and then the three riders on Team USA working together and stuff like that. It's cool to see motocross come together. And on Team France, the other riders talking to Dylan after their motos or Dylan talking to them after his moto. And I want to reiterate that I even though I was separate, I still worked under the Star truck and had help from the whole team throughout the day. I ended up using the same bike. I was Moto 2 and Moto 3, but I wanted to keep going on the same bike with hot brakes and hot suspension and stuff like that. So, I prepped my bike after Moto 2 for Moto 3 in like 40 minutes. And Jelly, Eli's mechanic, and Justin's mechanic, Mohead, along with Trevor and Brent Duffe and Justin Hobson, all those guys helped me on Team France to get my bike ready for the third moto and make it out there. For Dylan really, on Team France. And I thought that was pretty cool that we all worked together as a team, even though they bleed red, white and blue for the U.S. Josh: You only dream of moments like that where everyone unites together. And I know Steve (Matthes) hates the rev’ing of the bike, but everyone was amped, everyone was relieved. All the work that everyone put into this race was just taken out on that 101 machine and it doesn't have feelings. It brought an amazing season, and everyone got to enjoy a part of it. Everyone got a chance to twist the throttle of that bike and feel what Eli feels on a regular basis.