After winning back-to-back flat track racing championships in the AMA 450 Singles class on a Kawasaki KX450F, Henry Wiles is preparing to add to his trophy collection for 2011. We recently chat with him at Southern California’s Perris Raceway where he was putting in some laps aboard his championship winning AMA Flat Track racing bike.
HIS 2010 SEASON IN WHICH HE WON THE 450-CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP:
I won the Expert singles championship on a Monster Energy Kawasaki [KX450F] it was our second year in a row winning it so that is definitely exciting being able to back up the championship that we won the previous year and I’m happy to have done it on a Kawasaki.
Actually this was the first year Kawasaki had ever won a manufactures cup. It’s the first time since anything else besides a Harley-Davidson has won. Between the couple good finishes that Bryan [Smith] got on the bigger tracks and the four races I won on the 450 it was a good year for Kawasaki. I’m looking forward to next year and having some fun out here at Perris [Raceway, local Southern California flat track venue]. Right now a couple of other guys riding my bike that have never really ridden flat track before so they’re really digging it.
HOW HE BEGAN FLAT TRACK RACING:
When I was a young kid I grew up in Michigan and we raced on the ice which is basically an oval format. I raced a little bit of motocross too. We started getting into it [flat track] so it was a natural progression. I remember when we rode motocross we’d do these contingency races when I was riding 80s I won like $1200. I took that money and bought a 125. But then we’d always ride a little bit of dirt track during the summers. The first year I went to amateur nationals I was racing 60s and 80s and was racing with some of the Haydens. It’s been neat so see everyone grow up and progress. I’m just glad I’ve been one of the ones that were able to keep on progressing obviously this is just in dirt track, but I’m happy with that.
(Center) Honda’s Joe Kopp and Jared Mees rounded out the Pro GNC podium behind Henry Wiles (center).
WHY HE DECIDED TO RACE FLAT TRACK AS OPPOSED TO MOTOCROSS:
We could see that we could go out and win decent money riding dirt track. Obviously we had to learn to be one of the top guys nationally. We just basically went out one year—we were already won amateur national titles without a whole lot of dirt track experience so it seemed pretty natural route to go. Money was a big factor. Dirt track is not as hard on bikes. Those road racers don’t crash very nice. When you crash a dirt tracker all you need to do is throw on a new set of handlebars and they’re ready to go. You can throw the things down the road and they’re pretty reliable. Motocross you put so much time on the bikes so they get thrashed. A dirt tracker is about as least thrashed as one of these motocross bikes can get.
When I only had one bike I remember we did hillbilly stuff like use tie downs to tie the rear end of the bike down. We use to do dumb stuff like that because we’d always go back and forth between motocross and dirt track. There wasn’t always enough money to really do it right but we had a lot of fun.
WHAT HE’S BEEN UP TO DURING THE OFF-SEASON:
Just trying to put together next year’s program. I have a lot of irons in the fire. Yeah for sure we’re going to be on the Kawasakis in the 450s. We’ve got a pretty good program worked out and I’m looking on building on it for sure.
ARE THE 450 ENGINES HOPPED-UP LIKE AMA MOTOCROSS RACE BIKES:
I’d say our dirt track motors are faster than a motocross guys motor. I’d have to see it on the dyno. But this is a real small track compared to some of the tracks we do ride on. You need to make it reliable but you’re trying to get as much horsepower out of it as you can. On a 450 I’m not for sure the speeds but when we’re drafting down the straightaway at a mile track on our Twins we get up to around 130 mph.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER RACING 450 SINGLES OR TWINS:
Henry Wiles clenched his sixth straight victory of the 2010 season at Peoria and led all 25 laps of the GNC main.
I’ve had a lot better luck on the 450s. But there is a lot that goes into the Twins program. You’re on bigger, faster tracks. You have to have a bike that’s super fast but also puts power to the ground. I’ve won a couple big bike nationals the last two years. There is a lot that goes into it. You’re going against guys like Chris Carr who has been racing professionally for as long as I am old. He’s got a book full of notes and they know what they’re doing on an XR 750. When you have to race against guys like that and Kenny Coolbeth and guys like Bill Warner who is tuning on the Kawasakis now. They’ve got a big bag of tricks and have been around the sport for a longtime. It’s pretty involved a lot of people probably don’t know that side of it because some of the teams are underfunded and done on a lower budget. But there are a lot of guys who’ve been around it for a long time and they know what works and what doesn’t.