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By Jim Kimball
Honing his skills in his home country of France, Marvin Musquin was a quick learner. In 2004 he captured his first big championship by winning the 2004 85cc European Motocross Championship. Two years later he won the 2006 125cc Junior European Championship. Later, after joining the Red Bull KTM Team, Marvin won back-to-back 250 World Championships.
Setting his sight on America, Musquin left Europe to compete on Red Bull KTM’s US Team. His first couple years were marked by fantastic rides, and hampered by injuries. When Marvin became the 2015 Supercross 250 East Champion he then looked toward the 450 class. Now in his second year on a 450, Marvin looks to be a constant win and championship contender. And he better be because with Ryan Dungey retiring this week, Marvin becomes the KTM team leader.
MARVIN, DO YOU CONSIDER 2017 SUPERCROSS A SUCCESS? Oh yes, for sure. I was looking forward to the second year on the 450, and having a better beginning to the year. The goal was to begin the year definitely better than last year. As of right now, finishing third in points, with a comfortable margin over fourth, I feel good. I was somewhat far behind the two leaders, so that was a bit frustrating. Overall, it was a good season, but at the same time, I am a little bit bummed. When I was sick, and it went bad in Toronto and Daytona, it was a bit of a low point. But I picked it up again after that, and got back on the podium, and took another win. It was almost like it has been two seasons rolled into one, really good at the beginning, not as good in the middle, and better after.
WHEN YOU CAME TO THE 450 CLASS RYAN DUNGEY WAS TEAM LEADER OF THE TEAM. DID YOU RISE TO HIS LEVEL THIS SEASON DURING SUPERCROSS? That was the goal. I wanted to get better, and to get closer to Ryan — and to beat him. He has definitely been a role model for me since being his teammate at Red Bull KTM. I was already on board with the Red Bull KTM Team when he joined, but I have learned a lot from him, especially since we have been training together for the last three years in Florida.
The first time I beat Ryan, like straight-up beat him, not like I got the holeshot and he was last, but like really passing him, I was like “Yes, I did it!” He was the number one, so that was a big step forward. I showed some good speed and good technique this year.
IT IS OBVIOUS THAT YOU TWO ARE FRIENDS; DO YOU RACE HIM DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHERS? Sometimes it is a tough situation because we know each other really well. We respect each other, and, at the end of the day, we are friends. But we get paid to win, so we battled. We try to be really clean with each other. You have never seen Ryan clean somebody out intentionally, and, I would say, that is the same for me.
YOU ARE AT YOUR BEST ON THE TECHNICAL TRACKS, AGREE? Yes, but it is also important to put yourself in a good position off the start. I can show my best abilities when I get a good start, especially if the track is technical. Some tracks like Minneapolis and Indianapolis got super rough and super rutted. The rhythm sections at those tracks were tough. I like to find different lines during the main event. I’m not afraid to try new lines. In those two races, I was able to pass Ryan and it was a great feeling.
WAS 2017 SUPERCROSS FILLED WITH MORE RIDERS GOING THE SAME SPEED? Yes, but it has been this way the for the last four years. But definitely more so this year. In timed practice the top 10 are within a second of each other. One second is not much at all.
BUT TIMED PRACTICE IS NOT THE SAME AS RACING. Racing is different because you are not riding by yourself, you have guys in front of you nd behind you. So, i if you get a good start, you have a clear track in front of you. That is awesome. I was able to win in Dallas with a holeshot. I did the same in Seattle. When you get a bad start you try just as hard, but you cannot move forward.
YOU RENEWED YOUR KTM CONTRACT, WAS THAT AN EASY DECISION? For sure. I have been racing for them for eight years. Two years in Europe and now six years here, it has been good. I have been working very hard with them, and I have been working with my mechanic Frankie Latham for many years. It is like a family when you know a team really well. With this team I have had some success, and some tough times. But we never give up. I gave them a championship on the 250 and now I have given them some wins on the 450.
DID YOU KNOW THINK THAT YOU WERE GOING TO BE A WINNER IN 2017. It is kind of hard for me to believe that last year, when I was a first-year rookie on the 450, and struggling. The idea of winning main events was not in my mind. It is easy to say I want to win, I want to win, and I want to win! But making it happen is a different story. That is why everything is really good here.
HOW DOES FLORIDA DIFFERENT FROM SOCAL, AND FROM FRANCE? California is a lot different. But I like that we mix it up—be in California and then be in Florida. In Florida we have a really nice property with Aldon Baker. It is more a countryside in Florida than in California. We just come back to California when we have races on the West Coast. I spend most of my time in Florida.
It is a lot of work to have two houses, but, in the end, I tell my wife “we make it happen.” It is not like we go back and forth every week. As for France, I have been living in America for years. I only spend a couple of weeks after the season in France. But now, I am really focused on my job and my work here in the U.S.
YOU SEEM TO HAVE BECOME A FAN FAVORITE. HAS YOUR FAN BASE GROWN? I have seen that year after year. It is nice to see more and more fans talking to me when we do autograph stations in-between practices, and when we do the Red Bull KTM signing on Friday nights. It is really nice. I remember Atlanta last year, getting so close to winning the main event and losing it on the last lap—people felt bad for me. They gave me some extra love, and support, and were telling me that next time; I was going to get it.
DO YOU THINK WINNING PLAYS A BIG PART IN WHO THE FANS LIKE? Yes. Having a couple main event wins in the books, the people see that, and they see that I beat Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac. They love to see new guys come up. Plus, I am French, so I think that they see that I am a little bit different than American riders. I am really proud to be the only French rider right now to win multiple main events. With TV showing us live, now my even neighbors, who didn’t know anything about Supercross before, are following it.
HOW HAS THE KTM TEAM CHANGED SINCE YOU’VE BEEN ON IT? I remember the first years when I came to the USA. it was difficult at first, but then they hired Roger DeCoster, Frankie Latham and Carlos Rivera. Then Roger hired Ryan Dungey and were able to win championship with them. I think that KTM is the number one team for sure.
DO YOU FOLLOW THE MXGP SERIES? Of course, I always loved watching those guys, and I know all of them. I like to support my teammates, Antonio Cairoli and Jeffery Herlings. With those two racing together in the same class it is awesome to watch. I love see the races on TV even if it is not live. I like to watch the races without knowing the results, because it is best when you don’t know what happened.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR FELLOW COUNTRYMAN GAUTIER PAULIN DID SO POORLY AT TEAM HONDA? He has a great technique, and he is a really tall guy. Paulin comes from BMX and it is awesome to watch him ride. But the Honda CRF450 seems to be a pretty small bike, and it did not suit himas well as the Kawasaki. Obviously I did not see him race the new 2017 Honda CRF450, but when he was on the 2016 Honda, he made it look very small. I just think that he wasn’t confident on the Honda, so it is was very difficult for him. He is riding much better now that he has switched to Husqvarna.
He has been through some teams, and maybe the money was played a part of his decisions at times.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE 250 GUYS STRUGGLE SO MUCH WHEN MOVING TO THE 450 CLASS? I think the 250 guys need time to adapt. Remember, last year I struggled, and then I started to get better.
Cooper Webb struggled at the beginning of this year, but then he started to improve. I heard that he changed a lot on the YZ450F. Unfortunately, an injury stopped his progress and he was struggling again when he came back.
Eli Tomac has had some really highs and really lows when first moving to the 450 class. He was up and down every weekend, The tracks are different and sometimes you feel comfortable and sometimes you don’t. Some tracks you like and some tracks you don’t. Jumping from the 250 class to the 450 class is a big change — night and day different.