Jon Mitcheff is always under pressure to perform because a single mechanical failure can mean disaster for the championship.
Jon Mitcheff probably has more pressure on him than any mechanic in the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Lites class. He's the mechanic for the defending 250F champion and current points leader, Ryan Villopoto, and he's working for the toughest team in the pits - Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki.
Villopoto is leading the Lites championship after five rounds, and his closest rival is on a virtually identical machine, teammate Ben Townley. You won't find anyone in racing that will deny Pro Circuit leads the way in hard work and refinement in supercross and motocross. There isn't much that Pro Circuit doesn't change on their bikes, and if they leave something alone, you can be sure that it was really good to start with.
Pro Circuit uses the slogan "We Race," meaning what they use on the track, you can buy yourself. If you want to chase Villopoto up Mt. Saint Helen, Pro Circuit pretty much makes sure that with enough money, you can have an equal chance. We followed the very busy Mitcheff around for a few weekends until he agreed to answer questions on what's in the series leader's race bike.
Jon Mitcheff and Ryan Villopoto have a good working relationship - Jon gives him a killer bike and RV kicks ass with it.
Pro Circuit's lead engine guy is Zach White, and their suspension is done by the legendary Jim "Bones" Bacon. Each mechanic does their own work on their rider's specific motor, and Bones handles the shocks and forks himself.
"Every mechanic at Pro Circuit disassembles and inspects his engines," said Mitcheff, "and then Zach inspects the valves and balances the cranks, and every mechanic puts their race engines together every week. Zach is our head engine guy."
Pro Circuit also supplies race engines on contract to one of their biggest competitors on the track, the Sobe NoFear/Samsung/Honda Lites team.
Villopoto's bike is a 2007 KX250F, with everything Pro Circuit knows behind it. The transmission is replaced completely, and the clutch, piston, cam, valves, and pipe all get changed. The engine cases, crankshaft, and carb are all production parts from Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI).
The suspension is standard Showa Kit suspension for the Lites class, worked in-house by Bones. Pro Circuit offers a full line of hard parts like suspension linkage and triple clamps, which are used on the team bikes as well.
Who is this guy Villopoto anyway? "He is quiet, he is still a kid," said Mitcheff, "He likes to hunt and fish, and collect guns. He collects too many guns! I worked for Ivan (Tedesco) before this. They both are quiet, train hard and ride hard."
One thing Pro Circuit is known for, besides hard work and winning races, is their joking around. Mitcheff's last prank on his rider involved something in an engine shipping box.
Pro Circuit is pretty tight-lipped about horsepower figures, but you can bet this thing is putting out crazy amounts of HP.
"I sent an engine box back to him the other day; he had been staying at Nick Wey's house. I went to Target and got a bunch of rubber snakes and stapled them all up inside the box so when they opened it the snakes would jump out. We all pull practical jokes on each other."
With the two top riders in points on the same team, you might think things may even get tense between the mechanics, but they don't conflict in that way. "We get along," said Mitcheff, "I actually helped (Townley's mechanic) change that wheel at High Point and get him back into the moto in like 40 seconds so he could get some points. It's a team, and we just race. We don't care who wins as long as it is one of our guys winning."
So, a final question - is Mitch Payton really that tough?
"He can be, there are days I want to push him out of his wheelchair and not let him get back in it! That's the way he is. He wants to win. He pushes you to work hard, twice as hard, until you win."
Making Ryan Villopoto's KX250F:
KHI Rod, crankshaft and crankcases balanced by PC, JE piston, Dale West valves, PC valve springs and seats, camshaft, oil cooler (We added an oil cooler that we had made. You can't buy that one.)
Water Pump -
PC oversized impeller.
Clutch Cover -
Hinson basket, inner and outer plate. KHI clutch plate and fiber plates.
RV's bike gets a trick water collector and oil cooler.
KHI, PC jetting specs.
"The transmission is made through Xtrac. They are out of Indianapolis and their headquarters is in England. They do a lot of Indy car and Formula 1 racing stuff. Mitch has had them building transmissions for a long time."
Clutch and Brake Levers -
Clutch Perch -
PC with hot start lever.
Factory Showa Kit Suspension, titanium spring in the rear.
Rear Linkage -
PC titanium. "Ryan's footpegs are 'plus 5' we cut them and raise them. We raise them up 5mm because he is short legged. That way the seat doesn't hit him in the butt."
Engine Guards -
Light Speed carbon fiber.
Front Brake -
Villopoto's diminutive size creates some special needs on his KX250F. The footpegs are raised 5mm for his short stature and a seat hump is installed to keep his flyweight in place under acceleration.
KHI 270mm front rotor.
Rear Brake Lever -
KHI, titanium pivot bolt.
Triple Clamps -
Handlebars and Grips -
Brake Pads -
Fuel Tank -
Stock. "We line the bottom of the tank (for heat) with a tank shield that we sell at Pro Circuit."
Titanium Fasteners -
Works Racing Parts.
Air Filter -
Holeshot Device -
For more articles, check out our Behind the Bike archive
Tell us what you think about this Bike Feature in the MotoUSA Forum.