If you are unaware, Eli Tomac is a bad dude on a dirt bike. He literally started his pro career with a win and decided he liked that feeling. He is fourth all time in Supecross wins (tied with Chad Reed) with 44 and will most likely surpass Ricky Carmichael in 2023 who has 48. He’s amassed 32 Pro Motocross wins for third all time, and he’s the all-time leader of wins at the historic Daytona Supercross with six. And don’t forget he’s a two-time 450 Supercross champion and four-time 450 Pro Motocross champion. So yeah, he’s pretty good. He’s currently in Florida doing some testing on the new 2023 Yamaha 450 at Star Yamaha Racing’s facility and looking to make a run at another championship. I called him up to see what he thought of the new bike.
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.
Jamie Guida – Vital MX: What's going on, Eli?
Eli Tomac: Oh, I've just been spending a couple of weeks down in Florida out here at the Star Racing facility. We're dialing in our bike, getting some good riding and testing in. And yeah, that's what's going on right now.
Vital MX: Do me a favor and sum up 2022 for me. Multiple championships, some overseas wins, and a new team.
Eli: Best year yet. Best year I've had. So that's it, man. It was just a journey, and it was an enjoyable one. You know, any time you get those wins, it's an enjoyable journey and I wouldn't want it any other way. And to think back now, to win both championships was a special, special thing for us. So, yeah, I had a lot of fun doing it. I'm grateful for all of it.
Vital MX: You’ve spent a little bit of time now on the ‘23, and I talked to you a about this in Paris. Kyle Chisholm helped do some early development to get it close to how you liked the ‘22. What do you think of the ‘23 so far? What stands out? What's different?
Eli: The first thing you notice on this bike is the weight savings. And that's a big deal. Just a change of direction is a lot easier on it. That's by far my favorite part of the bike, the weight savings. And then I would say there's some similarities to the chassis itself, but there are some things that also are different. We weren't able to go straight to our old base settings. We did have to do some tuning around it, so it's different that way. But we're in a good spot now. And like I said, the change of direction on this bike is really good. I'm excited to put it to the test in Supercross. I think that's where it's going to shine.
Vital MX: That's what I've been hearing. I heard the chassis is not quite as rigid. Maybe it turns a little better.
Eli: The lean is really easy on this bike. And that's what I'm talking about, what you feel is the lean angle. Initiating your turn is a lot easier on this bike compared to the last one.
Vital MX: It's kind of scary how good you were this year. If this bike is better, how much better you might be.
Eli: Oh, it has the potential to be better. And I think it is at this point. You don't know until you go racing. But for the laps we've been doing, and I've done some back-to-back things and it is plenty good. Like I said, you don't know until you go racing. But at this point, I've got a lot of confidence in taking it racing.
Vital MX: When a rider like a Kyle Chisholm does this early development for a guy like yourself, how close can someone like that get it?
Eli: I would say they can get it 90% of the way there. Somewhere in that neighborhood. But the last 10% is fine tuning from the rider. Rider’s styles are all different and everyone likes a different feeling. Certain riders like a front-end bike and some riders like a rear-end bike. Meaning whether you like to steer with the front or steer with the rear. So that's where you have to really fit the motorcycle to the rider. And that's even more critical in the 450 class.
Vital MX: I want to talk about Gilly for a second. You've contributed some of your success to him and having him with you this year and in the past. Do you believe it's more your comfortability with him as a person, somebody you're actually comfortable with? Or does he have a better understanding of suspension and how it works for you?
Eli: So, this is kind of the same thing when I'm talking about setting up the bike in general with riders is certain riders like certain damping characteristics. And Gilmore knows the style of what I need in that area. And a lot of teams just have a base and they run that base with most of their guys. But if you can have a guy that tunes it specifically to your style and the way you ride, that's huge. That's a huge deal. And then can they make that style of damping work, period. Make it readable. And then, we're great friends off the track too. It just makes that much easier when you are working with each other.
Vital MX: I heard recently that the way he started working with you was your mechanic at the time couldn't show, couldn't make it, and he filled in. Is that accurate?
Eli: We have to go way back to the Geico Honda days, and he was actually my mechanic in 2013 during the summer, my practice mechanic. We met him because he was over here with Dan Reardon. This actually goes before that also. That's how we met Gilmore. And then he was my practice mechanic for a summer, but during all that time he was also starting to do suspension.
Vital MX: I know you've been at your place in Colorado and that's generally your comfort zone. But spending a few days down in Florida with the boys, how's it going?
Eli: It's a great mix up for me, and it's really important for me to get on a track with a bunch of bikes. It's really critical to setting up the bike, especially a new one. So, it's good for me to be here. I got to ride with the 250 guys a little bit and a little bit with Dylan. It's been a good mix. It's honestly the perfect amount of time. And then next week I'm going to go to California. I've kind of been bouncing around, but for me, it's like the perfect scenario for developing this new motorcycle.
Vital MX: Does that help you pick the intensity up, being with the other guys like that?
Eli: Yeah, it does. I mean, you can only do so much by yourself and riding with the guys always brings that intensity up. It’s fun being here, and it keeps the workdays easier when you have a bunch of guys on the track.
Vital MX: I want to go back to this season. In Supercross, if I'm not mistaken, you won by nine points over Jason Anderson. Motocross was something like seven points over Chase. Some of the tightest series we've seen in years. Is that more meaningful or fulfilling to you than, say, 2020? I think you won by 25 points and in ‘19 outdoors, you won by almost 60 points. Does it matter to you how much you win by?
Eli: I'll say the motocross one was literally down to the wire. I mean, that was the last moto. All of it's on the line. So that one itself was a much more of a pressure cooker situation. I mean, that was the gnarliest championship battle I've been in period to the end. To get it was special that way. I mean Supercross was close, but I didn't even race the last race so it's a little bit different. I was stressing because of my knee even in Denver, but that one, I felt like I cruised more than motocross. But motocross man, wow, we pushed each other to the end.
Vital MX: And poor Chase. It kind of fell apart there at the end. And I'm sure you've been in situations like that. It’s so much pressure and everything has to be perfect.
Eli: It is. I mean, those scenarios, man, it's tough. You know, it's tough. I probably had the upper hand on him just because I've been in those situations before and I'm older. I kind of was thinking that during that day. So, it helped me with my confidence for sure.
Vital MX: And I bet a guy like him, it was probably good for him in the end because now he kind of knows that feeling. If he had just went out and won it, maybe it would have come too easy, but to have that feeling, that's a learning lesson.
Eli: You always learn from your failures, so hopefully he doesn't figure it out too quick. But yeah man, that was a fun series to race.
Vital MX: I want you to rate your competition a little bit. I want to take Chase Sexton, Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen, and Cooper Webb. Who do you feel has the best race craft of those guys?
Eli: To be honest, it changes with the series. Last year in Supercross I’d give that to Jason. He was excellent in Supercross, but then in motocross, it was Chase. Those are the guys that I rank as my number one competitors for those series. And the other guys would fall in line that way. But when Cooper Webb is on in Supercross, it can turn into the same thing. I can't even position or put a number on Cooper or Kenny for who’s number two. Like I said, Jason was obviously the guy in Supercross, and Chase was the guy that I had to battle in moto.
Vital MX: Who's the most fun to race with? What guy do you just enjoy battling with?
Eli: The most enjoyable guy is….well, Ken and Chase, let's just say I feel more comfortable around. Just straight up. I mean that's the way it is. I haven't really had too many run ins with any of them, but I feel like I can trust those guys. Maybe I shouldn't be leaving myself out there like that, but that's how I feel.
Vital MX: I like the honesty. If you could take one trait from each of them, do they have any traits that you'd like to have?
Eli: Last year I learned in Supercross that Jason is very good at the retaliation pass. So, I'll be watching out for that this year. And then trying to think about the other guys. Kenny, I would say his strongest trait is early in the race. The guy can make passes so unbelievably quick. The first couple of turns and the first couple of laps. And he does that in motocross and in Supercross. And then, Chase, man, he's solid every weekend, too.
Vital MX: TJ, from The MotoXpod Show would like to know what would have to happen for you to line up outdoors this summer?
Eli: What would have to happen? I don't know. I would just have to decide that I want to go race it. And I'm still not at that point yet. I'm sure Yamaha is running out of patience. But as of now, I would say there's a very high probability of me not racing motocross.
Vital MX: Well, that's going to work out for another question I have for you here in just a minute. First, my buddy Mark wants to know if you're human. We know Mike Brown is not human. And we're wondering if you come from the same planet as Brownie.
Eli: Oh, because we’re still winning races at 30?
Vital MX: You're just beasts. It's just unbelievable what you guys do and the way you perform.
Eli: Yeah. And I think it's cool that we're making it longer in our sport being at the peak and our whole current group is getting a little bit older and it's at this point. Age is only a number. But yeah, at the end of the day, we're definitely humans. We're just very, very well trained at what we do. Absolutely. Repetition.
Vital MX: My last question, which falls into the summer, if you're busy during the summer, this may not work out. Last time I had you on, we talked a little bit about Metallica and concerts. Dude, they're going on the road. They're going to be in Arlington in August with Pantera. You going to make it?
Eli: That I'll probably be down for. Yeah, I'll be checking those tickets out.
Vital MX: I literally just looked a minute ago because I have to figure that out. So, yeah, Pantera back together, even though it's not really Pantera, it's close enough.
Eli: Yeah. Yeah.
Vital MX: Did you get to go to any shows during your downtime? Because you've had so much of it?
Eli: No, no. The only thing I got to go do was drive a car. But then this year, it felt like I never stopped. I still don't feel too fried yet, so that's good. I'm going to try to keep this thing going all the way through May.
Vital MX: You just mentioned the car thing, the Porsche deal. Do you think that's something you'd like to do, post moto? Maybe do some kind of racing series?
Eli: We have interest in it. I have interest in it for sure. But here's one thing I know is all the guys that race those are really fast. And you obviously can't just jump in there and expect to be great. So, it's a learning curve, but there's some translation from moto to cars, but at the same time, there's not. It's something fun. You have a lot of good speed and yeah man, it's something different.
Vital MX: Yeah. They say with age comes a cage. Nothing wrong with that.