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Justin Starling on Returning to Gas Monkey/AJE Motorsports

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Racing overseas during the off-season, that’s the popular thing for many of our sport’s top riders, right? In recent years it seems that the number of privateers heading to different countries to race in supecross-like events has become more and more popular. Let’s add Justin Starling to the list as well. Coming off a top five finish last season in Indianapolis, and a newly re-upped contract with the Gas Monkey/AJE Motorsports team, Starling has been honing his supercross skills over in Germany. Recently we caught up with Justin to see how things have been going.

Racer X: Let’s start with Germany. What’s the deal you’ve got going on over there? How’s that season been going?
Justin Starling: It’s been pretty sweet. I came over here for Zwarte Cross this year and then did a race in Italy as well and ended up coming over and racing the German Masters with Castol Suzuki. We raced a couple of those and then the German Supercross series. Always has a lot of Americans, so we’re doing the first two rounds. We’ve already done Stuttgart. I’ll race here in Chemnitz now for round two, then I’ll hop on a plane next week and then I head back home.

How many of those rounds are you doing total? You raced over there before, right?
I haven’t raced over here since 2014. I did Seiersberg Supercross last year, which is in the Netherlands, but the German Supercrosses I haven’t done. I think 2014 or 2015 was the last time I did it. It’s hard to really get a spot over here because of the Dortmund round is during Phoenix, so I can’t do the whole series. I can only do the first two rounds.

What are the tracks like over there? Are they kind of dumbed down more like what we would race in arenacross or full-on supercross?
They’re pretty much exactly like arenacross in the States. They’re really small. They’re in arenas, like only four lanes, really big whoops, one steep triple, a pretty steep finish line, and then a pretty decent rhythm. It’s maybe a little bit bigger than arenacross in the States but not quite as big as supercross in the States.

The team has a new deal with Gas Monkey. How’s everything been with that? Have you had time to kind of test and stuff, or have you just been focused solely on Germany and your kind of in a rush to get back here and hit the ground running? What’s your outline looking like for when you get back over here in the U.S.?
I knew I was going to re-sign with AJE Motorsports before the supercross season ended last year. Basically about a month after the season ended in May we were already starting testing on the 450, which is pretty much the same chassis. We’ve already done some testing on the 250 and been in the States a lot getting the bike ready to go. The bike’s been really good. The team’s been a lot less stressful on the team owner having a title sponsor like Gas Monkey. It’s been good. I get back next week and we have more testing for the next month before Anaheim, but the team’s been really good. The bikes are night and day better than last year. I’m really looking forward to the season.

Are you doing West Coast in the 250 class and then going to dabble in the 450 class a little bit like you did last year, or what’s your deal for ’19?
I’ll be 250 West again and then 450 East. Last year I rode the 250 in the 450 class—the last two years I did. This year I’m actually going to ride the 450 on the East Coast, but probably do four to five rounds of that. The main focus is 250 West. 

Does it kind of excite you now to be on a program where you can actually ride a 450 against the 450’s and not feel like you’re underpowered?
Yeah. The last two years, I rode the 250 in the 450 class on purpose. I wanted to pretty much try to get my intensity up and try to work on some things. We were doing a little bit of testing as well during those weeks. There’s no better way to do it than a racing format, and especially when we can do it in the 450 class where we’re not focused on it and we can try new things every time we’re on the track and do it in a racing environment. But this year I really wanted to jump on the 450 on the East Coast and really see what I can do with it because the starts were always killing me. So I’m looking forward to actually riding a 450 this year. I rode Monster Cup on it and ended up 14th there. I’m really excited about that.

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Last year I talked to you after Indy when you got fifth and you said that kind of sparked a fire and that you felt like you could be a podium guy. Do you still feel like with the team and everything you have going, your program and everything, a podium is possible in the 250 class?
Yeah, I don’t think it’s too far out of reach. Last year, my starting average was 16.5. We were struggling with some stuff but we’ve made some changes. I think the bikes a lot better now. If I can start up front, I have the fitness to go all the way to the end. Even when I got my fifth place, I started 11th. It’s one of those things if I can start anywhere in the top five, it’s not a long shot. I’ve been working hard this off-season and I’ve put all my focus into supercross. I’m over here in Germany racing now and getting ready for that season with just gate drops. Just trying to do everything I can to be ready. I don’t think it’s out of the equation.

Want to go ahead and thank your sponsors and supporters?
I’d just like to thank Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports for doing everything that they do for me and supporting me with racing overseas and also in the full supercross season. Also Shoei helmets, Alpinestars, EVS Sports, and FXR and all the sponsors that are a part of the team. Everyone that sponsors the team and helps me out. I really appreciate it.