Vince Friese discusses being in familiar territory with the SmarTop/MotoConcepts/Honda team
Every now and then, the chemistry between a team and a rider is just right. It’s not exactly common either, hence the reason we go over contract talk during the offseason. Vince Friese and the SmarTop/MotoConcepts/Honda team have built a solid relationship over the past few seasons, however, and there are benefits to this. Over the past year, Friese has spent a good amount of time testing the newest generation of Honda CRF450R motorcycle with his team. The result, of course, is that he and the team are fully prepared for the upcoming 2018 and whatever comes their way. We spotted Friese testing at the Lake Elsinore Supercross track and were able to gain some insight into what he and the team have been up to the past few months.
This last summer, it sounds like you had a lot of time to test with the motorcycle and get familiar with the newest generation of CRF450R. Have you been able to learn quite a bit about this new bike?
Yeah, we've been able to learn a lot about it and make improvements with it. I think it's the best motorcycle I've ever had to race. Just the way the bike comes stock is awesome and we've had probably four months now trying to improve it every day. Between our engine guy, Chad at XPR, and our suspension program with RaceTech and using the KYB components, we've made the bike awesome. It's definitely better than the past couple years and I’m excited to take it to Anaheim.
As far as the new bike goes, where have you noticed some of the biggest improvements?
Chassis-wise this bike is really, really stable. I feel like it can handle harder hits and the square edged stuff. It's stable and planted. We've also made some changes with our own suspension and that's helped. The engine has really strong power, which is nice to have a broader area to work with in the meat of the power. To not have to be in the perfect gear at the perfect rpm all of the time gives you more wiggle room. It's easier to ride and more fun to ride.
You've built a pretty solid relationship with this MotoConcepts/Honda team over the years. At what point did you know you'd continue to have a spot here for 2018?
I was talking to Tony [Alessi] and Mike Genova even at the last race of the season. It's tough, I know they like me and they know I want to be here, but there's a lot of really high-level guys out there without rides right now. I didn't confirm it until a month or two before the Monster Energy Cup. I love being here and the team is awesome. They continue to improve every year and I try to improve my riding along with it. It helps that the bikes get better every year, it makes my job easier. It's an awesome program and I'm glad to be part of it.
What are you hoping to accomplish looking at this 2018 season?
I definitely feel like I need to be inside the top ten. That's been the goal for a couple of years and the class has been stacked. It's been tough, but I feel like I'm getting older and I'm getting smarter and faster. It's time to go put in the results. I've had good results and speed, I know my fitness is good and my starts are good, so I just have to go put it all together at the race. I know I'm capable of doing that. I'm looking forward to this season.
Every year, we come into Anaheim 1 saying the 450 class is deeper than ever, but from a rider's perspective, what are your thoughts on the current state of the class? There's a lot of talent and also some talented guys without rides.
I'm excited. For us, it's like every weekend is an all-star event in football or basketball. It's all the best guys on the line, which is cool. Obviously, there's the side of it where there are not enough jobs for all of the best guys in the world and that's not a good thing. It's kind of frustrating. It's crazy when you see past champions without a job. It makes me thankful that I have a good ride and a good motorcycle. I wish a few more things could be done and a few more teams could be added. Anything to open up a few more rides. It'd make things better. I enjoy racing against those guys and it's what I look forward to. I put my time into training knowing I'm going to race the best guys in the world. That aspect of it is cool.