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Between the Motos: Shayne King

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Glen Helen Raceway San Bernardino, CA Race Center: Glen Helen Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship

Remember Shayne King: The 1996 500 World Champion who raced in the U.S. for KTM in 2000 before hanging up the boots? The friendly Kiwi went back home and now runs a very successful distribution business. King still visits the U.S. a lot, though. I saw Kinger in Vegas, in Anaheim, and at the first two Nationals this year. For the second year in a row he brought Cody Cooper and Rhys Carter over to race Hangtown and Glen Helen. I caught up with King before practice started at Glen Helen to talk shop.

Racer X: Hey Shayne, it seems like I see you here in America more than you’re back home in New Zealand.
Shayne King: It’s like a second home to me, mate. I just love coming here. Just the sun shines here, the dirt’s brown and stuff. It’s good to be here. I love coming over here. Motocross and supercross, this is where it is, over here in the world. So, why not? It’s good.

Talk about this little effort you put together here for the first two races?
It’s the same as last year; just bring Cody over, who wanted to do the first two rounds again, Hangtown and Glen Helen. This year with Rhys finishing third on the national championship, just thought it was a chance. He’s younger than Cody, so give him a chance to sort of spread his wings a little bit and bring him over as well. To get the privateer award in that first event was really good for him. The goal was to be top 20. Just really to inspire our people at home. It’s live television. Kids just love to see our guys race with the best guys in the world in America. It’s cool. It’s cool for the industry, cool for the sport, and great for kids to get inspired. That’s what I really do it for.

For you, a guy who raced all over the world, raced here in America, you have a distribution business. I imagine a few phone calls helps you with all of this?
Just a couple of phone calls. It’s amazing. Absolutely. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Obviously money goes a long way as well, but I’ve got some great people that helped me over the years, as you know. It’s just great to be able to just give them a call and they just support you. We try and just live in our means here. We don’t go too crazy. We just need a couple sets of tires and a Hinson clutch and a Pro Circuit pipe and bits and pieces. We keep it simple. Just love everybody that’s here. This industry’s a family. It’s just a great family that you can come and I can call you and stay at your house and eat your food and sleep in your bed, no worries at all, I’m sure.

How’s the distribution business going back home? I know you do Alpinestars and a bunch of products. How’s that going?
Very good. We’ve got some great brands: 100%, Bell, Alpinestars, Ogio. We have fun with it. We just enjoy what we do. We’re passionate about what we do. I just love working with young kids. I love working with every rider that’s on a dirt bike. Whether he’s using our brands, it’s just good fun. The industry’s good. We’re only a small country down there—4.5 million people, 5.6 million sheep. Still looking for that perfect sheep product to be able to sell! We have fun. We love what we do, so that’s important. That keeps me in the industry. Keeps my hands wet. I just enjoy what I do.

Is Rhys [Carter] somebody like Chad Reed, like yourself, like so many others, Langston—is he somebody that you’re like, hey, the next step is going to the GPs?
I think it’s an important part. He’s raced in Canada before, which is the country above America. I’m not sure if you know that place? [Laughs]. He’s at that age where he needs to know some international experience at a good level. So, we’ve got Pro Circuit helping us out here with a bike. I think today he’s really going to shine that much more. Last week he was very, very nervous and to be able to finish 17th, 18th, being that nervous all day and stressed and worried and concerned he wasn’t going to qualify. So, GPs, I think maybe America next year. He’s pretty excited about coming back here next year to do the whole outdoor season. Let’s see where we’re at with next year.

Cooper went 18-22 overall at Hangtown and Glen Helen this year.
Cooper went 18-22 overall at Hangtown and Glen Helen this year. Jeff Kardas

Is New Zealand a bit like Canada where a local rider can get comfortable making a bit of money and not really venture out to try and better themselves?
It’s not like that New Zealand. Cody’s the highest-paid rider in the country, probably the only paid rider in the country, really. Maybe BT. Ben Townley’s probably getting some money from Suzuki, I guess. Rhys has basically got a job during the week, and his job is training kids and training people. So, that’s where his income comes from. We’re putting some plans together for this to grow a bit further. We want to go to South Africa and do a race. Cody’s off to Perth next week when he gets back to do the Manjimup 15,000. Just keep going. As you know, in this sport, some door opens. It just comes down to results. Cody and Rhys can go one and two today in both motos … it won’t happen, but [I’m saying] if it does, if a miracle happens, they could be at Colorado. You’ve just got to keep on trying and put your best foot forward.

As far as you go, world champion in Europe. Then you come over to race here. What do you think about it now looking back on it?
Looking back on it now, I actually missed a lot of opportunities that could have been better for me. We had a great KTM team on the outside, as you know. The inside wasn’t as great as it is these days. I just didn’t ride at the right tracks. I didn’t do the right things. I didn’t go to Florida and spend time in the heat. Different stuff. Didn’t have a good supercross track to practice on. We struggled with that stuff. I think if there was a few things that were better, I know I would have been able to do two or three years here, maybe even more, instead of that one season. But America is a great place. I want to bring the kids here and get a big truck and just go and hang out for a while, and give them the opportunity to experience something that you can do just normal life over here. No challenge. You’ve got tracks everywhere. You’ve got opportunity. America is a great place to ride dirt bikes.