Just before the close of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Team Honda HRC announced a massive change to the management of their motocross race teams in the United States. After four years as the Team Manager of the factory operation, Dan Betley was assigned to be Team Manager of GEICO Honda and will oversee the development of the 2018 Honda CRF250R. As a former mechanic on the factory team and with first-hand knowledge of the new generation CRF450R, Betley’s technical input will be a huge asset to the small-bore bike.
News came out a few weeks before the Ironman MX round that you would have a change in positions. When did the idea for that come about?
We had been talking, not specifically about changing positions for me, but bringing the teams (Team Honda HRC and GEICO Honda) closer together for the last six months on many different levels. As far as bringing the teams under one building, whether it was bringing GEICO to American Honda or moving the factory team to Corona, we had a lot of ideas but none of them fundamentally made sense right now. The focus moving forward is the sharing of information, especially now that the 250 and 450 are on the same platform with the chassis. We are trying to bring the two teams closer together on all levels.
You come from a mechanical background, something a lot of team managers don't have. A big portion of your job will be developing the new CRF250R, correct?
I always felt like Erik, who I like and had a lot amount of respect for when I worked with him, came from a rider's perspective and relied on myself and at the time Shane Drew as the technical crew chiefs for the engine and chassis. He let us handle that side of things, so when I took over as team manager, I naturally came from the technical aspect. HRC came more into the team and they brought their technical experts as well, so I feel like being able to go to GEICO I will benefit from the technical side and it becomes more comforting for Honda and HRC since they know me. I believe we will be exposed to more technology than we would be because I can control it better.
In the last few years, HRC has come together globally on all fronts, so there is a lot of communication between Japan, Europe, and the United States. This will be critical in the next few months with the new bike. Was anything discussed on the new bike at the MXGP of USA?
Japan will be working on their development and we will work on ours, and that will all come together at some point. Anything that we try will be given to them and vice versa. Globally we will bring up the race bike.
You'll basically have to reset everything you know from the previous CRF250R, right?
Oh yeah. The old bike will be used as our baseline and as we start to develop the new bike, we will go back and forth. I think it will similar to what we found on the 450, where immediately the chassis fit people and they will be at home on it. The engine, since it is all new, will take us a little more time to get it up to speed. The old bike will stay around as we compare and go back and forth until the new engine is up to snuff.
In talking to riders at GEICO Honda over the last two years, it sounds like they were once lost with the setup. With you coming in and having a knowledge of bikes, it seems like you can come in with an idea of what works already so there is no searching.
I think we will get up to speed a lot quicker on the new bike because of what I was exposed to on the 450. I think what I will be able to bring to the relationship is an organization, structure, and job description for everyone involved. Everyone will know what their function is and hopefully, that will equate to happier riders and faster motorcycles.
When will testing begin?
The first initial test will be an outdoor format because they are in that mode. We will get base settings for outdoors and then put that to the side. I'm hoping to get on a Supercross track by early October.
You've been at this job for quite a while and progressed well with Honda. This shows how comfortable and confident they are with you, to let you spearhead charges like hiring Ken Roczen, developing new bikes, and taking over a team. A lot of championships have been won by GEICO Honda and for you to go over there, it looks like you can show them exactly what they need.
I'm excited about the new challenge. I keep telling everyone that I'm not stepping away from Team Honda HRC; I'm not going to another company. It's a family and we're going to bring it closer together. Being around Ken and Cole, I'll miss that relationship we were building, but when they are winning I'm still on the side of the podium cheering them on. I'm not disappearing from that.