CHAMP INTERVIEW: Dustin Wimmer
The GNC National motocross champ speaks out
Dustin Wimmer took his first Pro ATV motocross championship by placing fourth at the Red Bud, Michigan motocross National. The fresh-faced young racer claimed his title on a fast, technical, demanding race track. Knowing he only needed to place fourth to take the championship, Dustin cruised to his first Pro title. Either way, Dustin Wimmer was not going to be denied a championship on this particular day.
With the familiar #191 mounted on the front of Dustin’s sleek factory Suzuki LT-R450 Quad Racer, this slightly built and soft-spoken racer-had at least achieved his ultimate goal. It was, in his own words, his best moment of the year.
Strangely enough, Dustin doesn’t look all that fast when you see him out on the track. While other racers are careening around, smashing berms and skyshooting jumps, Dustin is concentrating on riding smooth and flawless. His speed derives from his fierce determination to be the best and fastest racer on the track. That, and his innate riding talent have helped to propel this 21-year-old professional ATV racer to the top of his chosen sport.
This was apparent to his parents, who have been pivotal to his success. Even from his early days racing a Yamaha Blaster in Hare Scrambles events near his hometown of Center Valley, Pennsylvania, Dustin has shown he had the skills necessary to work his way to the pinnacle of his career.
Riding against some of the best, most talented ATV motocrossers on the planet, Dustin has put his Yoshimura/Hinson/QuadTech/Red Bull/Motion Pro/Walsh/Maxxis sponsored factory Suzuki up front enough to become the 2008 Moose Racing/ITP/ATVA motocross National champion.
We sat down with the new National champ at the Suzuki dealer meeting, speaking to him between one of his autograph signing sessions. We asked the champ about his season, his quad, and his will to win.
Dirt Wheels: What was your first ATV and race?
Dustin: A Hare Scrambles near my house on a Suzuki LT80.
DW: What did you race after that?
Dustin: I raced the LT80 a few times and then switched over to a Yamaha Blaster. My friends told me that I should take up racing motocross instead of Hare Scrambles. It sounded good to me; I wouldn’t have to race in the snow, and I liked the tracks. Dave Gibson from East Coast ATV took me under his wing and I started racing a bit more seriously for him. I raced for Dave some ten years, all the way up to my factory contract with Suzuki.
DW: Who were your ATV heroes back then?
Dustin: In the early days it was Tim Farr and Doug Gust. Travis Spader as well. Travis won the championship in 2000, the first year I started racing.
DW: What was the biggest difference when you made the switch to the pro ranks?
Dustin:The starts were a lot more hairy. They were really scary, because the pro riders never let off. I thought I was in shape, but I was wrong. You have to be in really good condition to race the entire moto and still be going as strong or stronger at the end. Since its snowing in Pennsylvania in the winter, I like to take off to Florida, like a lot of the motocross bike racers do, and train and ride.
DW: What do you do to condition yourself for racing?
Dustin: I am in a program with TST, a training regimen that several top pro racers use. I also do a lot of cross training but mainly I would tell a rider to go out and ride their machine as much as possible. I still think that is the best training you can do.
DW: How do you compare your factory ride with what you had before?
Dustin: No comparison. Now all I have to do is show up for the race. In the old days, you had to take the week between races to get to the next event. Now I fly out a few days before and race. Big difference. Before, I had to load up the trailer and set everything up and then the worst part was taking everything back down and then driving to the next race.
DW: What do you think the major ATV manufacturers are going to do for the next season?
Dustin: Even with the downturn in the economy, I still think it’s going to be a good season in 2009. They still need to sell product, and racing sells units. Younger riders want to see what’s winning and thats the machine they want to ride. I think my Suzuki is the best it’s ever been. Since I have been involved in testing the machine so much, it really suits me well, especially now.
DW: Describe briefly some of your competitors. Doug Gust?
Dustin: Doug’s the wily veteran. He’s so knowledgeable and knows the setup and tracks extremely well.
DW: How about John Natalie?
Dustin: Back in the day, you used to have to watch out for him plowing you in a turn or off a jump. Not so much now. John has calmed down some. He’s a better rider now. John goes fast, right out of the gate, but maybe his conditioning isn’t as good as it could be.
DW: Joe Byrd?
Dustin: Like Doug Gust, Joe’s been out there a while and knows a lot. He knows how and where to get you. He also is in good condition and rides as fast at the end as at the start.
DW: How about your Suzuki teammate Chad Weinan?
Dustin: He’s an animal. He manhandles the machine a lot more than me. He’s all over it when he’s riding. He is also a bit hard on equipment. He’s a thrasher.
DW: What would you change on a stock Suzuki LT-R450 to race it?
Dustin: It’s already set up extremely well. There isn’t that much you have to change. I would concentrate on tires, wheels, and dialing in the suspension for the types of tracks you ride on.
DW: How do you find out what you need to change and modify on your machine to race it?
Dustin: I wasn’t that good at testing starting out in the early days. You need to get a feel for your quad when riding. The more time you spend on a machine the easier it is to dial it in for racing. Again, you need to ride as often as possible to know exactly what your quad is doing and how changing something as simple as the rebound or compression shock clicker effects your handling.
DW: What about your personal quad setup?
Dustin: I like to run CR bend high handlebars with plus one taller steering stem. This allows my longer arms and legs to feel more comfortable. I use the stock seat height with a softer foam. I run about seven inches ride height with the suspension, front and back, on my race quad, and will occasionally change it for different track conditions.
DW: What single item, that a lot of people might overlook, should a racer put on his race or trail machine?
Dustin: I think a lot of trail and track racers don’t realize how good a steering stabilizer helps out on any quad. I use a Precision Steering damper, and it really does stabilize the handling and make it easier to ride faster for longer periods. That is the key to winning races, riding faster and longer than the other guy.
DW: Any riding tips or secrets you’d like to pass on to our readers?
Dustin: I like to apex my turns and not take the berms all the time. The more you take different lines, the faster I’ve found you can go. Don’t always follow the existing lines; they are not always the fastest way around. That’s one reason I like to apex turns, and get in and out as fast as possible.
DW: Any other tips?
Dustin: Something that helps get you into and out of turns faster is using the front brake more effectively. Once I found out how much faster I go by using the front brakes, my speed really picked up. I think I could ride without even using the rear brakes sometimes. When you learn how to use them properly, you’ll be amazed at how much quicker you can do your laps. Practice, practice, practice. That’s what it takes to use the front brake properly, especially on a quad, where you have double the braking power of a traditional motocross bike. I’ll slide the machine into the corner with technique and power, instead of using the rear brakes to initiate a slide.
DW: How important is it to be smooth?
Dustin: You don’t have to look like you’re all over the place when you’re riding. I grew up riding the way I do and it comes to me naturally. Whatever your riding style is, stick to it and go with that. I don’t think its wise to try and change your style from whatever it is naturally. The more comfortable you are, the faster you can go. If you start riding like somebody else, you’re going to crash.
DW: Tell us a bit about your parents?
Dustin: My parents are Sally and Gary Wimmer. They have supported me my entire career and made it possible for me to get to where I am today. My mom has never missed a race, my entire career. They both have been very supportive and made it possible for me to focus on racing. I owe them a lot.
DW: What’s your best advice for a rider starting out?
Dustin: You have to love what you’re doing and be determined to get good at doing it. You have to be dedicated, train, and go to all the races. Put it all together, and you can become a champion.
DW: Favorite track obstacle?
Dustin: Probably turns. I seem to excel in the corners, at least that’s what my friends tell me [laughs].
DW: Why is that?
Dustin: I think a part of it is my size. I’m pretty tall, so I guess I have more leverage to turn the machine in the corners. Also, the Suzuki just turns so well. That’s one reason I like it so much.
DW: What’s your least favorite track obstacle?
Dustin: I’m not that much a fan of step up jumps. I’ve crashed on a step-up before and I guess I have a few bad memories about them.