Team Purvines/DA8 Racing's Gary Sutherlin Interview
29-year-old Gary Sutherlin has ben a staple in the off-road racing scene for many years. He won the WORCS Off-Road Championship back in 2015 and is currently leading the National Hare And Hound series and WORCS series. We sat down with Gary at his home in Hesperia, California recently as he was recovering from an injury he sustained at the Sand Hollow WORCS round.
Tell us about the team you are riding for in 2017?
Well KTM basically didn’t have enough room for me for 2017, so Ron stepped up and put together this awesome team together. After my spleen injury last year Ron Purvines go a hold of me pretty early in the year and wanted to put something together for 2017. I was kind of leery on riding Beta’s because I haven’t had much time on one, so Ron and I sat down and basically came to an agreement that if he switched to a brand that I was more familiar with that it could work. He asked all the riders what they would want to ride and they agreed on Yamaha’s, so that is what we are riding this year. I signed a three-year deal with the Purvines/DA8 Racing team and I am very happy. I am not a young pup anymore so a little security is nice for Emerie [Gary’s daughter] and I.
How was the transition from KTM to Yamaha? Was it difficult?
I have rode the Yamaha’s before and I really liked them. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was the engine-braking feel on the Yamaha. The KTM virtually has none and the Yamaha has more than I was used to. I am still working on my corner speed with the Yamaha because the engine braking really throws off my braking points into corners. I love the suspension on the Yamaha and the thing is really stable, which I enjoy.
You are currently leading the NHHA Series and WORCS Series. How is it going back and forth between each series?
I have had my ups and downs, but overall it has been good. We had Taylor Robert jump into each series as well, but unfortunately he got hurt and it messed up his chances at a championship. My goal was to win each series, but it’s hard because each series is pretty much all year so I really have to stay healthy and on top of my game for a long period of time.
You have some stiff competition in each series, so can you learn from your competitors/rivals?
I have known Taylor for a long time and know that he has really good sprint speed, so I realized I needed to pick that part of my game up to be competitive with him. So much happens in the first hour of a WORCS race so I am really trying hard to get my speed up sooner rather than later. Ricky Brabec rides his Dakar bike a lot and I think him pushing that 400-pound bike around really helps him out in the desert when he’s racing his 250-pound CRF450RX. That thing probably feels like a 125 compared to the Dakar bike. I really have to learn to push while going 90mph across the desert. I constantly evaluate and learn off of others. There is always something you can learn no matter how long you been at this.
Is Rally Racing something you might want to do in the future?
Ricky has had success in rally and now rally racing is getting more popular I think because of that. Seeing how popular it is getting, I would love to have chance at doing Dakar one day and learn the ins and outs of that type of racing. I think it would be a cool career opportunity for myself.
You basically do all of your own work on your bikes and have to take care of your little girl. How do you find time to train, practice, not to mention all of the other things that it takes to lead two of the biggest off-road championships on the west coast?
That is my biggest hurdle. However, with this being a new team I knew that I would have to do all of my own work on my bikes because the team is based in Las Vegas. I really have to organize my time to make sure I get as much as I can in on any given day. Sometimes I don’t get to practice as much as I should or go on that bicycle ride like I am supposed to because the dirt bike comes first. I know I am giving up a little but in that area to my competitors that do not have to do all of this, but I am grateful for what I have. I would love to find a mechanic, but finding one hasn’t been so easy. What is good about working on my own bikes is that if I have a problem I know it is my fault and not anyone else’s. But I am good mechanic so I don’t anticipate that.
Ron Purvines is not only giving you, but Destry Abbott, Cooper Abbott, Axel Pearson and Nick Burson a job in off-road racing which is rare. He has nothing to promote and sell, but he put together this team and now you all have rides and are making money racing dirt bikes. Do you consider him the modern day Wonder Warthog of the off-road world?
I don’t think I have ever met anyone like Ron. He wants to give back and give guys opportunities to live their dreams. He was a very good desert racer in his day and he just loves being at the races and being around dirt bikes in general. He knows what its like to put in the effort on and off the bike so he gets it. The amount of purse money we are making in off-road is not something we can live off of ya know? I feel like all off-road riders deserve more and fortunately Ron sees this and supports a team. So with that I want to reward him and win as many races for Ron and myself. He not only supports the team, but he has helped countless other riders with bikes, parts, etc. I mean he bought 29 brand new Yamaha’s at John Burr Cycles for us to go race. Without out him I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in right now and possibly not even racing.
You got hurt at the Sand Hollow WORCS round a couple weeks ago. How are you doing?
I am doing better, but had to ride a NHHA race the next week after my leg injury, which was tough. My calf was swelled up so big I thought I had compartment syndrome, but it turns out it is just bruised very badly. We have a week off and then it’s back to the WORCS series, so I will be good to go come next round.