Rekluse caught up with AmPro Yamaha's Ricky Russell to see how his season is going, what he likes about running auto and manual clutches, what advice he has for up-and-coming racers, and more.
How has the season been going? You’ve been doing GNCCs, did the TKO and some other races.
The season has been up and down. At the beginning of the year, I was down in Florida getting ready for GNCC round 1 and broke my leg. That was a huge setback, it kind of ruined my chances of being in the championship running or any sort of points chase. I came into [GNCC] round 5 not knowing where I was just coming off of my leg injury. I came back in and got a top 5 and a podium at Snowshoe, so I was happy with that. I’m excited for the last 4 [GNCC] rounds. I got to go on summer break, so I did a few extra races for fun. I did an AMA Western Hare Scramble and was able to win that. I did a few WORCS races and was on the podium there. Then I got to ride a 2 stroke again at TKO [Tennessee Knock Out], which was the first time I’ve ever actually raced a 2 stroke. I enjoy the hard enduros. I don’t specialize in them or anything, but I enjoy trying to “accomplish” them. I wasn’t sure how TKO was going to go, but I was able to finish 7th in the final. Like I said, I don’t specialize in [hard enduro], so I was happy to be there and make a dent for Yamaha. Everyone there is on European bikes.
It’s been a crazy season. Mentally, how do you stay focused coming back from injury and overcome a setback that early in the season?
For me, it was pretty depressing at the time. You’re putting all your heart and training into [preparing for the season], then you get injured the week before. It was definitely tough to get back going. I just did absolutely everything I could to heal as quickly and properly the first time. Between bone stimulating, laser treatment, anything that would help, I was doing it all. It kind of set me back, and I didn’t know where I was because I wasn’t riding and training like I was before. When you get off the bike for a while, you can’t wait to be back on it. Sometimes when you’re training and riding all the time, you get a little bit “over it”. It’s just the usual. When I was off the bike for that long, it made me realize how much I missed it and how much I love the sport. Sometimes getting hurt can reset you and you find that hunger again for what you want to do.
How does a day racing TKO compare to a day racing a GNCC or WORCS race? What do the courses put you through as a rider?
TKO is definitely different. You’re charging out there, but you have to be a little more patient and conservative to make sure you nail each section. If you don’t, you can waste 10 minutes in one section. With WORCS racing and GNCC, they’re higher intensity the whole time, where with TKO, just the Main Event was high intensity. It’s just a totally different type of racing. It all relates, it’s all racing and I love it all, but they’re different mentalities going into the races. 3 hours [for GNCC], or you’re out there for motos [for TKO].
How did your bike setup work? You said the 2-stroke was a good choice. How was the auto clutch working for you?
For TKO, the RadiusCX was awesome. If I didn’t have [RadiusCX], the tricky rock sections would be much harder. I was able to just death grip the bars with both hands and just lug it through there. That bike [YZ250X], I noticed, works best when it’s lugging. If I kept the bike in 2nd [gear] and just lugged it, it would just keep going like a tractor. If I didn’t have that Rekluse [RadiusCX], I don’t think I could have done that. I think it’s better at controlling the traction than anyone controlling the clutch themselves.
You’ve used both RadiusCX and Core Manual TorqDrive. Where would you choose to run an auto clutch versus a manual clutch?
Anywhere that is technical or rocky is my favorite place to run [RadiusCX]. It’s going to do its thing and create the most traction that it can. Like I said, it creates more traction than what someone can do with a manual clutch. It just works that much smoother. All the faster or sandy races like GNCC, [Core Manual TorqDrive] is better than our stock clutch. There are a couple technical GNCC races like Snowshoe where I prefer [RadiusCX]. The first time I ran an auto clutch was at 2017 Snowshoe, and it got me to start thinking “man I should start running this more”. I was able to win the race, so I thought “OK, we’re doing something right”.
Where did you get your start racing?
I rode all my life, but I didn’t start racing until I was 16 or 17. I started racing local Washington State stuff. I did all those for like 3 years, then I wanted to try bigger and better things, so I raced some Hare and Hounds, and I ended up getting hurt really seriously. I was like “man, I want to go race some woods”, so I loaded up my van and drove to South Carolina in 2013 and started racing some GNCCs. Slowly but surely, I got more and more support each year. Before I knew it, I was on Randy’s factory Yamaha team [AmPro Yamaha].
How long have you been with AmPro Yamaha? How has it been?
I got [to South Carolina] in 2013, and [Randy] already helped me out. I was on the road living out of my van. He helped me with a place to stay because he saw potential for me to help his riders, Paul Whibley at the time. I was pretty much his training partner, whatever he was doing, I was doing. It was motivating, having someone to do something with. That’s what I wanted to be there doing anyways, so it worked out. Then in 2014, I rode for Jason Raines. Randy was still helping me with a place to stay. Then in 2016 I left and rode Suzukis for a year because I got some more support for [the] XC1 [class]. That’s the year I had a lot of good rides at the end of the year. I got back with Randy the next year, and I’ve been there since. So ’17, ’18, ’19 we’ve been in XC1 with Randy’s team.
What’s your favorite part about racing?
It’s the competition, and obviously winning. Winning makes you want more winning. The competition is steep, because everyone wants to win. I enjoy it. Like I said, I didn’t start racing until I was older. The first race I went to, I killed myself, but I won. That’s when I was hooked, because I won. I was like “man, we have to do more of this”. It’s hard to explain, but when you win a race, you just want more of it. It’s kind of an addiction I guess.
Do you have any pre-race superstitions or rituals? Anything that you have to do?
I’ve done little things here and there that I try to keep the same, but I try not to get too involved with that. I remember hearing some stories of people doing some crazy weird things every race, but nothing crazy for me.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming riders, someone who looks up to you?
Don’t give up. There’s going to be tough times and bad races, but just move onto the next one and keep pushing. You can only get better if you keep trying, don’t just throw in the towel when times are tough.
If you would like to support Ricky's 2019 ISDE efforts, you can donate to his GoFundMe page, here.