Michael Gaynor Australasian Safari Interview

March 7, 2011
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

The 2011 Australasian Safari looks to have more American participation and interest than in years past. One of the men putting his bike and body on the line for the seven-day rally race is Bass Lake, California’s Michael Gaynor. The 46-year-old is leading Team USA’s B-Team with a lifetime of motorcycle riding and BMX racing under his belt. Despite his considerable two-wheeled experience, Gaynor is relatively new to off-road racing. In 2008 he started competing in rally races with results that stretched from painful DNFs to overall victories. Next he took it to the desert and last year was his first full season of racing the Best in the Desert series as an ironman. The self-employed residential window cleaner has been using these events as preparation for his first Dakar Rally. But before he takes on the giant, Gaynor will try his hand at something that bridges the gap between a desert race and the world’s most grueling motorsports competition. This will be his first trip to the Aussie Safari held in Perth, Western Australia.

Motorcycle USA is hoping to add our name to the list of Safari entrants this year so we caught up with the B-Team captain to pick his brain on what this event means to him and what he expects.

Michael Gaynor
Michael Gaynor is using the 2011 Australasian Safari as a testing ground for his long-time dream of competing in the Dakar Rally.

MotoUSA: So Michael, you have been tearing it up in some local desert races, but this Australasian Safari is a totally different beast. What made you want to take this thing on?

MG: That is exactly why I have been doing races like the Best in the Desert series – Parker 250, Vegas to Reno and Silver State 300, plus a few others. I have been preparing for this for the last five or six years with long-distance ironman desert racing, competing in single day stage rallies with RallyMoto, and on top of all that I am riding dirt bikes weekly here in the Sierra’s near Yosemite. Since I returned to riding this has been my goal – to compete and complete a multi-day marathon rally. Plus, I’m too old to start Supercross (laughs)!

MotoUSA: What do you plan on doing to prepare for the full seven days of racing? Is there something special or do you think it will just be all about time on the bike?

MG: On top of some big desert races and my usual 100+ mile weekly rides around our family’s cabin, I plan on some high altitude road and mountain biking along with my very aerobic job in my business of high rise and residential window cleaning. I also hope to do some navigation training during the summer as well.

MotoUSA: Rumor has it you will be riding an older LC4 KTM 640. It certainly is a trustworthy machine, but how do you feel about going against the new breed of 4-strokes?

MG: In a rally it isn’t necessary to have the latest kit or newest bike with FI unless you have bottomless pockets. What I want is to be there on Day 7 riding across the finish line – finishing! I don’t think many other bikes can claim so many miles logged during rallies. My bike actually started out as a 625 SXC but was modified basically into a 640 Adventure. My first choice would be a KTM 450 or 690 Rally, but KTM isn’t busting down my door with a contract and mechanic (laughs). The bottom line is the LC4-based bike is ideal for rally with its reliability, carburetion and kick starter. It is a solid choice for a privateer with a minimal budget. Plus, I really know the bike, have lots of spares and won’t miss it while it is in transit as I have a Honda CRF450X to ride and race before and after the Safari. That won’t stop me from turning down a good offer to ride something else newer though (laughs).

MotoUSA: The time difference is pretty big, after all you are going basically halfway round the world. How much of a factor do you think this will be?

MG: My wife has family in Western Australia, including her sister and mother. So, I plan to spend some extra time surfing and sightseeing with them before and after the rally and actually make this a family vacation as our son will be in college in a couple years. With her family’s help I hope to also be more relaxed and focus on the rally itself. 

MotoUSA: As captain of the USA’s “B Team” what do you think you will have to offer or what do you see your role as being while you are Down Under?

Michael Gaynor
Michael Gaynor
Nickname:
Red
Date of Birth: 7/25/1964
Nationality: US
Birthplace: Fresno, California
Current Residence: Bass Lake, California
Height / Weight: 5’10” / 155 lbs.
Family: Wife Shawnessy, Son Mason
Race Class: M2, Class 3, 450+
Mechanic: Self
Race Bike: KTM 640 Adventure
Race: Australasian Safari
Team Role: B-Team Captain
Hobbies: Surfing, snowboarding, fishing
Racing Accomplishments: Winner of 2008 North Nevada Rally, 2008 Gorman Rally contestant, Mt. Hood Rally contestant, 2010 Best in the Desert 5th overall ironman expert.

MG: Being a small business owner I have found that personality, preparation and persistence is key in succeeding. At the same time, you also need to know how to navigate red tape, overcome personal conflicts and put people at ease in any situation. All of these things that I have had to deal with in my business life will also come into play in Australia in September, and hopefully preparation and persistence will pay off. Really if you really think about it, life is a giant rally.

MotoUSA: Can we hope to see you at some events leading up to the Australasian Safari in September?

MG: I am looking at the Cal City Grand Prix in March, a stage rally, the High Desert Trails in Ridgecrest and the Silver State 300 in April. Then in August the longest off-road race in the US, the legendary Vegas to Reno – a race for me to really tune up and get psyched for the Safari.

MotoUSA: Good Luck down there Michael! Is there anyone you want to thank or give a shout out too?

MG: Well first off I want to thank my Dad for teaching me how to ride… that’s what brings us all together! My family, Shawnessy and Mason, and Justin Maley the US Safari Team Ambassador. I also want to thank Kristin at Acerbis, Jenn at FMF, Scott USA, Leatt, Twin Air, Sidi Boots and Jojo at Motonation, photographer Eric Navarez. Also a big thanks to Lonnie Brannan at Oakhurst Tire and Cycle, Kevin Wang at ASI Performance, Javier at Trail Tricks, Sean Estes at Bell Powersports and a really big shout goes to Primo Marotto and Dunlop for believing in my dream and supporting a privateer with my Dunlop D908RR tires. Lastly I want to thank our early supporters that include KleN Laundry for donating a portion of sales to our team, Ricky Johnson, Scott Cox from Resmarket, Octagon and all the organizers and volunteers in Australia, and of course you, Motorcycle USA!