Catching Up with…Donk
By Jeff McConkey
If your goal is to be so known that people only need to say one name and it’s understood they mean you, then Scott Donkersgoed has arrived. The man known simply as ‘Donk‘ has been around all sides of the sport for years and continues to work for great riders both north and south of the border.
Most recently, he has been spinning wrenches for Cole Thompson and Vicki Golden during the West and East 250 Supercross series. It has been announced that when the Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals start this June he will be the man standing beside 2013 MX1 champion, Brett Metcalfe.
We grabbed him during his busy schedule to talk about all sorts of things. Here’s what he had to say.
Direct Motocross: Hi Scott, How’s it going?
Donk: Hey, buddy, things are going all right, just enjoying the little break in our schedule right now. I took in some Arenacross last couple of nights and went back to say hello to a bunch of old friends and the Babbitts crew.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am originally from a small town in Southwestern Ontario called Listowel, born and raised. I am an only child, two great parents who’ve supported me along this ridiculous journey called life for my 29 years. I have been working on dirt bikes for about 15 years. Growing up, my dad owned his own heavy truck shop and has been a mechanic his entire life, so I grew up turning wrenches at a young age.
OK, so you are now one of the best race mechanics in moto, let’s back up a little. How did you get started in motocross?
Way back, they had a little fair race in Listowel, which was a couple blocks from my house. Being a kid and not knowing a single thing about the races, I was over at the track when Chick (RIP) was building it. The next day, I was in the field when the first few families pulled in to set up their pits for the weekend. It was then I met the Davies and Theissen families. It’s cool because for the following years we all became great friends at the races when I started racing myself. Ken, the older Theissen brother, helped me get in the door at Blackfoot Racing 10 years down the road when we both had stopped racing and became mechanics – I even lived with him in Calgary for a while.
Ever since that little fair race in Listowel, I was hooked on dirt bikes. My dad raced stock cars when I was younger and I always wanted to get into that, and at that time I was begging dad for a go kart, but then I went to that race and something clicked, I wanted to do that! I wonder what life would be like for me if I hadn’t wandered over to the fair grounds that weekend… Because these days, I can sit back and account for so many things in my life, the experiences, the friends, relationships, traveling etc., all because of dirt bikes and motocross. And man, I’m so thankful for all of it
Every motocross kid growing up has dreams of winning races and championships. When did your dream change from winning them as a rider to winning them as a mechanic?
I was, and still am, just a kid who loves being at the races. In 2008, I started to realize I was at “that point” where I had to really commit to racing or figure out some way of earning a living. I was quick, but never won races as an Intermediate/B rider. I was already a few years into working at D4 Performance and took interest in helping my friends out at the races. I had no idea what I was doing, I just made sure the chain was lubed and there was gas in the bike.
I helped Pierce Chamberlain out at the Walton national that year and had a taste of what that scene was all about. That winter, I finished my apprenticeship, wrote the C of Q and became a licensed motorcycle mechanic…which I later found out does absolutely nothing for being a race team mechanic. That next spring, I had spoken to Kenny Theissen, who was already working at Blackfoot, and one of D4’s customers, Brad Coles, who was good friends with Joe Skidd, the team manager, about working for the team.
Somehow, somebody talked somebody into giving me a shot. I say that because I can look back and fully admit I truly had NO IDEA what I was doing, or getting myself into. How I got in there, I don’t know. That team was so far beyond my abilities at the time that I was basically thrown into the deep end and was doing a lot of ‘Donky see, Donky do.’ I am so thankful for that opportunity because I learned so much, in a short amount of time.
There’s nowhere you can go learn how to be a race mechanic, it’s all developed over years of experience and at the time I took it for granted, but being older and much more mature, I can look back and still take things I learned from that first real year and apply to my craft today. I was fortunate to be paired up with Kyle Beaton that year and we had some success immediately. I learned that the passion for racing, myself, could be transferred into winning as a mechanic and that’s when I realized that’s what I wanted to do for a living.
How did your first opportunity to wrench for a Pro rider present itself?
My first opportunity was with Trevor Middleton in 2005 at the Raleigh, North Carolina, Arenacross race. We were down south riding to get ready for the season and I didn’t want to race AX because I had no experience with it, and I helped him out there. At the Canadian nationals the first was Pierce Chamberlain at Walton in 2008.
Is there one certain moment, race, or season, where you thought to yourself, “Yes, I think I have finally made it?”
When I signed on as a full-time employee of Husqvarna USA, with health insurance, benefits, and a solid salary. This industry can be very shady at times and to finally remove that from the equation felt good. Also, to get to the end of a series and not have to worry about a new job after, was a good feeling. Even up to my last days working there, I would still stop and smell the roses so to speak, and take in where I was, and who I was around, and just try and appreciate it all. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for me there but all I can do is learn from the experience. Life goes on and I still maintain a great relationship with all the people I worked with there.
For all of the kids out there who have dreams of being a ‘pro mechanic,’ what’s your best advice?
Stay in school, don’t do drugs, and surround yourself with positive influences. As for being a pro mechanic, it’s hard to not be negative here, on paper, it sounds so bad. In my experience, the hours you work will never reflect the amount of digits on your paycheck, if you even get one at all. There is very little appreciation for you. Even down to your rider, no one will really know how much work actually goes into your bike. You wont have a social life unless it’s an off weekend, or off season, but out of 52 weeks you can expect maybe 3 or 4 weekends off.
Off season is not off season, it’s testing season, and those are long, long days. It’s hard to maintain a relationship due to traveling 4 out of 7 days of the week. You truly have to have a fire that burns deep within and have a true passion for this lifestyle. It’s not for everyone. If you can handle that, milk it, enjoy it for what it is, enjoy the travel, see the world, enjoy meeting new people, do not take a single thing for granted.
What is an average week for you during the race season consist of?
During race season, for Supercross, I am also the practice mechanic. So, we will ride 2 days, either Monday and Tuesday, or Monday/ Wednesday, and fly Thursday. Ride days are just up early, a solid breakfast, load up and usually at the track around 9. Do warm up and sessions, home around 2. Wash and prep the bike for the next day. After prepping the practice bike, I’ll work on things to take with me to the race on the weekend. Fly Thursday and build and prep the race bike Fridays. Race Saturday, fly home early Sunday.
For outdoors, I usually fly home Monday, work on things at the shop, and then fly back Thursday, build Friday and wrap up Saturday, race Sunday. Sometimes, we’ll stay on the road and build during the week and take our time, take care of any spares we used and prep those.
You have been very successful over the years. Can you list a few of your most memorable moments?
My first MX2 Overall with Tyler Sjoberg in 2011 at Riverglade.
Winning Montreal SX with Nick Wey in 2010.
Going to Bercy, France, with Nick Wey in, I think, 2011.
My first 1-1 and Overall victory in the MX1 class with Colton Facciotti in 2013.
Winning both of our hometown national at Walton with Cole Thompson in 2013.
My Arenacross Championship with Tyler Bowers in 2014.
I built both Mike Brown and Colton Haakers bikes for the Husky off-road program. We went to Daytona, France, and then back to Salt Lake City, in 3 weeks and at SLC, Brownie won, and Colton got 2nd. That was a long 5-6 weeks. All the work to prep for the season, for both guys, the trip to France, driving to Daytona, Atlanta to fly out, and then back to SLC. All of it, it was probably the single most fulfilling moment in my career to have both my guys go 1-2.
Over the years you have worked for a pretty impressive list of riders. Can you name a few?
Trevor Middleton, Cody Golem, Pierce Chamberlain, Kyle Beaton, Brady Sheren, Mitch Cooke, Freddy Karrle, Nick Wey, Matt Goerke, Tyler Sjoberg, Bracken Hall, Chris Blose, Justin Sipes, Cole Thompson, Kyle Chisholm, Colton Facciotti, Tyler Bowers, Mike Brown, Colton Haaker, Liam O’Farrell, Vicki Golden.
I’m going to give you a word and I want you to give me a rider’s name and a quick explanation.
-most talented: Colton Haaker. His ability on a motorcycle is just unreal. Google ‘King of The Motos Colton Haaker’ and you’ll see
– most heart: Tyler Bowers. Even broken, he finds a way to win. More than one championship, at that!
-most fun to be around: Nick Wey is pretty hilarious and Kyle Beaton.
-best style: Mitch Cooke and Facciotti. Two of the smoothest riders out there.
-best fitness: Brownie! Hes like 88 and still hangs with the kids! Just kidding, he will be 44 this May. Facciotti’s fitness is unreal, there’s a reason he is a however-many-time champ.
-easiest on bikes: I’ve been pretty lucky, most of them are fairly easy on the bikes.
-hardest on bikes: Haaker, because of all the crazy things he does on top of the Endurocross.
-most drama: No one, all my riders have been awesome, and I truly mean that.
-left too much on the table: I think all my riders have put in 100% effort.
-left it all out on the track: Cole Thompson at Riverglade moto 1, 2013.
-the one guy that could break out with more support: Cole Thompson, the correct kind of support is key.
If you could get the chance to work for any rider in the world, who would it be? Past and Present.
I don’t really know. I’ve been really fortunate to work for some really awesome, talented, and great guys. I am really looking forward to this summer, to be honest. Great group of guys, and a solid rider and person in ‘Metty.’
In 2016, you will be teamed up with Brett Metcalfe. I’m sure race wins, podiums and in the end an MX1 Championship is the goal. On your end, what is it going to take for you and Metty to get that number 1 plate?
Consistency, being there every weekend, every moto. The team has proven they have the ability to do that by having the current Champion under the tent and Brett is a past champion, himself. I think we have the ingredients necessary to do well and have some fun.
Some people might not know this, but in your spare time, you still ride as much as you can. Last season, you lined up for the final MX1 Pro National at Walton, and got in. Tell us how that went.
Well, I also worked for my buddy, Liam O’farrell, that day in the MX2 class. So, needless to say, that was a very tiring day. I only completed the first MX1 moto because I truly have never been so tired riding a dirt bike. The track was very technical and difficult and I felt that after finishing the first moto I reached a goal I set for myself and was happy watching the second moto cheering on my friends. It sure was an absolute surreal feeling going into the first turn with so many guys I’ve worked for, as well as looked up to as a rider in my day. I’m glad I did it! I think I might be the only guy to race a Pro National, and also win the same National a few years prior with Cole.
How much does being a rider / racer that can still get around the track pretty quick, help you when you transition to ‘Donk the mechanic?’
It helps quite a bit actually, mostly with interpreting what the rider is saying, understanding what the bike is doing, could, and or should be doing.
Most people don’t realize how tough mechanics have it. The long hours, the crazy schedule, and worst of all, being away from friends and family 80% of the year. What keeps you coming back to the races year after year?
Dude, I don’t know…After splitting with Husky, moving home from California, taking the summer off-ish, even though I did the east with Liam, I wanted to just step back and take some time away. I tried, hard, but I just couldn’t stay away. It’s in my blood. I changed my perspective last summer and made it just about having fun and enjoying being at the races for the right reasons. I wasn’t being paid to be there, I went to spend time with friends, real friends, and had a blast. This year for Supercross I had the same mindset, just wanted to enjoy my time here. I know this isn’t going to last forever and I think my days are starting to become limited. I am trying my best to just enjoy every day being able to do what I love and earn a living at the same time.
What’s next for Donk the mechanic and Scott the every day guy?
Well, immediately, I will be spending the summer with the OTSFF Rockstar Yamaha team. After the summer I have no idea, to be honest. At some point I need to step back and start a normal life. Ideally, I would like to be able to incorporate a race team program with that, while living at home in Canada. But if that doesn’t work out, I’ve always really enjoyed my time out west. I could see myself living in Kamloops or somewhere in the lower mainland. I’ve been bugging Brady Sheren about working for him for about 4 years now, so maybe he’ll give in soon. He’s going to be a dad soon so maybe he’ll slip up and bring me in (Laughs).
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Is there anybody you would like to thank?
No problem, buddy, thank you! Absolutely, on the business side, I’d really like to thank André and Adam for the great opportunity to be a part of their program this summer. All the riders and people I’ve worked with, I’ve learned something from each of you. On the personal side, Jay Moore from Fox Canada for all the support to allow me to still have fun on the track.