Aj Roberts Interview

The Yamaha Australian Off Road Championships progressed three rounds into their series before grinding to a halt as the world deals with the Coronavirus. Yamaha Active8 Yamalube Racing’s Luke Styke leads the E1 division while Josh Green sits second in the E2 class and their bikes are patiently waiting for things to get fired up again for the back half of the year.
With the break in racing, we caught up with the leader of the Yamaha team, AJ Roberts, to see what race teams do when there is no racing.

YMA: So, no races on for the moment, so its just feet up on the desk and watching replays of AMA supercross, right?
No, we still have a lot to do and plenty of work to carry us forward. We recently had bikes return from the 2019 ISDE (6 day Enduro) and we must now prepare them for sale. So that often means stripping them back to a frame, rebuilding the motors, service and returning suspension to stock, replacing parts and a good detail of the bike. It is all time consuming but a necessary part of the job.

On top of that we have a range of bikes to maintain for our riders as well as reprepare the bikes used at the last round of the AORC. Then once that is complete, we can look at any of the workshop or truck jobs that are required and there is plenty of things we generally struggle for time as we are on the go week to week so we can catch up on those.

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YMA: In off road you have so many versions of the same bike. The bike for the AORC is different to the bike needed for Hattah, or the ISDE or even for the A4DE. Keeping track of them must be a job in itself?
Yes, but we have a pretty good system in place now. Riders can often have three or four bikes at a different spec for whatever event they are competing at. For example, the bike we build for Hattah would be considerably different in motor and suspension settings than what would be used at an AORC round and then the bikes we use for a 6 Day can be away from nearly six month so we sacrifice a lot of parts there, so keeping track of them is vitally important.

We use a system where we document everything done to the bike via the VIN number as its so easy to forget what has been done to a bike if its via memory. So our paper work per bike must be neat and up to date so we have a good record of where things are at and what needs to be done to each bike in terms of building it, maintaining it or selling it.

YMA: Expand a bit on your role within Yamaha’s Off road as you don’t just look after Luke and Josh, do you?
I look after a fair chunk of Yamaha’s off road but not all of it. Obviously there is Luke and Josh, but also the bLU cRU involvement of Michael Driscoll and Blake Hollis, Kyron Bacon, some junior things as well as offer advice and mentoring as its required. We even assisted Riley Graham build a bike he was planning on using at the A4DE.

YMA: You also have an involvement in MA with the Off Road / Enduro committee, where do things stand at the moment regarding a return to racing?
At the moment we can only follow the government advice and listen to what they are telling us. If we all follow the instructions, hopefully this will blow over quicker and all get back to normal sooner rather than later. But as far as a restart date, we really have no idea and are in the hands of the government on when things return to normal.

YMA: Australian off road has produced some world class riders of late and our results at the ISDE have been sensational. What do you attribute this success to?
In years gone by, the A4DE has been the prestigious event in Australia but I think the introduction of the multi round AORC with a range of different formats has been what’s really progressed Australia’s level. In the AORC, riders race each other more often in a consistent and worthy championship and the introduction of something like the sprint format has enabled our riders to get faster, quicker.

The UK and the USA have now adopted the Sprint format into their racing and you will find that we are the strongest three nations in off road at the moment.

YMA: Yamaha has recently introduced a new WR250F into the market, how have you found the new bike?
The bike is super impressive and will change many peoples idea of what a 250cc of road bike is capable of. It produces impressive power but still remains as light and agile as a 250cc bike should. It is also extremely versatile and the feedback we get from the riders and the punters in general is that they are extremely happy with the bike and believe it is a massive step forward in that category.

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YMA: I believe we will see you at a few MX Nationals round this year with Styke wanting to get back to his roots and race some MX!
With the AORC being 12 rounds over six weeks, Luke just wanted to race more and with the dates working between both series, then we looked at his options and decided to go ahead with it. Luke just loves racing and for him it’s an opportunity to race more but also earn more money if he is able to get on the podium. It’s something different for us and we will enjoy the experience with him

YMA: If you were locked in isolation with your team for a month, who would be the first to lose their marbles?
Can I say that Luke and Josh would annoy me equally as they both can’t sit still and I would lose it first at both of them and their behaviour. I would argue I was provoked by two guys that have serious issues but I’m claiming it would be me to lose my temper first because of them.