Roger DeCoster rules the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team with years of experience and cunning, but is it a good move to put his East Coast 250 rider in the ealy 450 rounds and risk injury?
Roger DeCoster has proven that he’s willing to take risks as the manager of Rockstar Makita Suzuki
. With Ryan Dungey leading the 450 Supercross class, there’s a lot of focus on his choice to hire the phenom rider when he was just an intermediate racer. We talked to him about it in an interview
this season, but that tune has been played. DeCoster takes huge risks every week in the 450 class and it's with a rider who’s outside the top-15 in points, Austin Stroupe.
The Man picked up Stroupe in the offseason from Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki
and slapped the sophomore pro racer on his RM-Z250
. The North Carolina native had a rough couple years with injuries plaguing his efforts. Now that Roger has him, Stroupe is trying to prove himself once again and get as much racing seat time as possible, hence signing up for the 450 class out West. You hear it all the time about how important getting actual race time is. Riders can pound all the laps they want at their practice tracks, but there’s nothing that can compare to actually lining up and dropping the clutch with 19 other dead-serious racers with thousands of screaming fans spilling beer and popcorn on the sidelines. But, the big question is, does that race time justify potentially ruining the 250F season.
The factory racers are the ones benefitting from this class-shifting operation, and since Rockstar Makita Suzuki is the only squad that has 250 and 450 riders combined (not including Geico Honda since Kevin Windham was basically grandfathered in), Suzuki is the only one practicing this little trick. It’s like reverse cherry-picking.
Learning to race with the big boys has a steep learning curve. Suzuki's young rider put himself front and center at Anaheim 1 with an incidental run-in with Chad Reed that left Kawasaki's title hopeful with a DNF to start the season.
Stroupe made his unnecessary presence felt immediately when he came together with Chad Reed during the rush to Turn 1 at the Anaheim opener
. It could be said that Stroupe ruined the season for Kawasaki’s big-money title hopeful in the blink of an eye when his footpeg demolished Reed’s front wheel, forcing a DNF – sayonara 25 potential points. Racing is racing, it could just as well have been a different rider’s footpeg, not to mention, Reedy broke his hand in the next round which is what really killed his season. Regardless, Reed didn’t seem to harbor any personal ill-will.
“I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Reed. “The pace is really high right now, and there was nothing that I could do. I was trying to pass another rider and our lines came together.”
Stroupe’s next big impact was at the Phoenix
round where he tangled with Josh Hill, the San Manuel Yamaha
rider currently in second place. It was his second big crash of the night which followed a scary trip through the whoops courtesy of big-bike power and handling. At Anaheim 2
, Stroupe nailed the holeshot before fading to dead last. Last weekend at San Francisco
, he didn’t show up.
Stroupe had some close calls in his first three rounds, but he also showed flashes of speed. Now it's time to focus on the real reason he was hired - the 250 East championship.
From Suzuki’s standpoint, it’s preferable that Stroupe gets these growing pains out of his system now rather than when he makes a full-time move to the 450 class and is expected to challenge for a title. Just look at Ryan Dungey, he’s a perfect example of how it works to the Rockstar Makita squad’s benefit. The difference is that Dungey was racing the West Coast series, which meant his season was pretty much wrapped up by the time he jumped onto the Supercross starting gate. Those practice rounds for Ryan proved to be pure genius as he went on to win the Motocross des Nations on a RM-Z450
and has since made a seamless transition in to the 2010 Supercross series with two wins in four races. This is how it’s supposed to work. Stroupe, on the other hand, is walking a much smaller balance beam of risk vs. reward.
Daniel Blair is a perfect example of what Suzuki needs to be afraid of. He was focused on the 250 East division and tried to take advantage of the early 450 rounds. Now he’s banged up, having surgery and has blown his entire purpose for 2010 Supercross racing. It’s a calculated risk, but one that can bite riders in the ass. So far Roger-Dodger has been dodging bullets after watching Stroupe wad it up. But, there’s a big difference between lucky and stupid, and they don’t call Mr. DeCoster, The Man for no reason.