Catching Up with…JSR
By Billy Rainford
Every sport has its fair share of superstars – athletes who immediately pop into your mind when the topic of ‘greats’ is raised. Hockey has Gretzky and Lemieux, car racing has Andretti and Senna, boxing has Ali and Leonard. In Canadian motocross, at or very near the top of the list would be JSR. Jean-Sebastien Roy was at the top of the game for many years. He did all the things bench-racers complain that more don’t do these days: he raced in Europe, he raced AMA Supercross, he raced in the off-season, and he won titles…lots of them!
In 2015, you’re going to see JSR at the races more than you have in the past few, since he retired from Pro racing. He is now the Race Team Manager at KTM Canada and will concern himself with all things related to trying to wrestle the MX1 championship from the past champions returning this summer, as well as help MX2 champion Kaven Benoit defend and retain his title.
We caught up with the friendly Frenchman to get up to date on what this new position entails as well as do some reminiscing about his career. Check it out:
Direct Motocross: Hello, JSR. A lot has changed in your world recently. We haven’t spoken about it yet, so I figured we should let everyone know what you’ve been up to and what your new gig entails. You’ve been everywhere and done pretty much everything in this sport! As time moves on and the moto crowd gets younger, maybe we could start off by asking you what your most memorable racing memory is? Was it the time I stayed at your place and we drank beer in the thunderstorm?
That was a good time for sure …except I couldn’t find a couch in the house long enough to fit your body! I raced during 2 decades so to tell you my best moments would be almost impossible. Overall, racing the USA MX Nationals was an important time of my career. European races between 1995 – 2007 was amazing. I still have friends over there and I keep great memories from the traveling I did in the old country.
There was a time when the record books were pretty much 3 letters only: JSR. How do you think the motocross industry is looking lately?
I believe Canadian MX / Offroad is doing good. Over the last 10 years there is a comparable number of racers competing, and a lot of riders riding on the weekends at MX parks across the country. At KTM we see growth year after year, but especially with the small size motorcycles. The under 85cc market is solid; there are a lot of young racers coming up!
[Rockstar Energy Drink MX] nationals are doing good. Now that all manufacturers are involved in the series it makes more serious and attractive venue for outside sponsors
What has been keeping you busy since you quit racing at the Professional level?
Let’s say from 2008 through the end of 2013 was a bit mellower compared to the previous decades. I stayed with Blackfoot Racing until 2010 as a coach / riders’ manager / helper at the track. I also spend some time in Florida / Georgia during winter with the riders at the time (Kyle Beaton, Tyler Medaglia, Colton Facciotti, Aron Harvey, etc.) to make sure they did the right things to be ready for round #1.
I did a lot of riding schools at my place in the summer and hosted many riders. I’ve also spent a lot of time getting my rental apartment business going by buying more units and fixing old ones that I bought when I first started to invest in 1999.
In 2011 I started working for KTM part-time as a consultant, coach and helper in many situations. I helped out racing in different aspects. I participated in building the demo MX program for 2 seasons, and helped KTM Canada with many other projects.
…and last but not least, I’ve ‘produced’ 2 beautiful children!!!
You’ve been involved with rider development over at the KTM team and now you’re the main guy for the racing team. Can you tell us all how that transition came about?
The job became available in late 2014 and it was the perfect fit for the position to ensure the continued growth of the race program.
I would be remiss if I didn’t get you to talk about Andy White and his contribution to the development of the brand. He was ‘the guy’ for 10 years. Are you stepping into a smooth-running program left by Andy? What are your plans for the team?
As far as I can remember, KTM‘s presence in Canada at the races has continued to grow each year with better products, better riders and better results at the track. If you ask me though, running a race program is a lot like racing – it’s a challenge but we all want it to be a smooth ride.
KTM has been the only Factory MX Team on the Canadian series for a long time and we are very proud of this. KTM Canada has a solid MX team this year and we are looking forward to great things.
Let’s say that we are staying busy. We are a motorcycle company and we all enjoy it!
I’ve also heard that KTM Canada is stepping up its support of amateur racing with a new sponsorship/development package with young Tanner Ward. Can you tell us what that entails?
Many reasons here with Tanner. First, this rider can ride a motorcycle fast and has a great attitude and has a great reputation on and off the track. There was a need for a rider in his age group and class in Ontario. We want to push the Ontario market more. We want a greater presence at the races.
Will this amateur program be extending to more young rider support?
We have plans in 2016 to have more riders with full support.
Your riders are going to be Cole Thompson and Kaven Benoit for 2015. What are your expectations going in?
MX2 with Kaven will be an important one again. It’s one thing to win a #1 plate but it’s another challenge to defend it. He will be defending his title like you all know and also, it is his last season in the MX2 class. After this, it’s the ‘real world.’ In 2016 he will be moving on to the big bikes!
Cole…well, he proved that he can be a champion. He can confidently say he has beaten each of the riders who will be on the gate May 31st. Now, will he beat them at all 10 rounds? KTM wouldn’t have signed him for 2 years if we didn’t think so!
Will Cole be lining up for any East Coast SX races with KTM Canada support?
At the beginning, this was the plan. It was part of Cole’s contract to help him out with bikes for east coast SX. Cole made the call to not participate because he wants to focus 100% on Canadian races.
Cole has spent his entire life in the USA racing against those guys. He is by far our top Canadian rider in the last 5 years who has raced on US soil. His Supercross skills are excellent and we understand that he wants to give it a shot while he’s still young.
Kaven will be on a 2-stroke-only for this summer, right? 😉
We have not made a final decision yet. We like both options.
Are you guys upset with the new CMRC ruling on that?
Not really. We understand the other manufacturers want to ‘moderate’ the mods on the 2-strokes and it’s ok with us! We don’t just think for ourselves. We believe there are riders / racers out there who preferred a 2-strokes for different reasons and we are proud to be able to propose more MX models than the others OEM.
Out of the crate, the KTM 250 SX is a great bike and needs only minor mods to make a ‘championship‘ bike. It’s affordable and fun to ride!
I also hear you guys are stepping up your support of the Redemption Racing team this summer. Can you talk about what that means?
It’s again about more presence in the Ontario market and the fact that they are a solid team with a very professional attitude. The Jefferys have proven to be very serious in their program and KTM is very happy that they have chosen us as a brand to live their dream through.
And finally, Nathan Bles has a #10 plate, and he is Canadian. There are not many Canadians with a top 10 number plate these days at the CMRC Nationals.
Will you be heading south to help the guys with winter training? Where will you/they be riding?
Maybe. Looking at the schedule as we speak.
What is your bike of choice for riding these days?
Since 2011, when I first rode a KTM, I’ve picked the 350 SX-F! It’s a very fun bike.
What’s your favourite band?
I always hung out with older dudes when I was a teenager and I got my ears blown apart at some concerts like, Ozzy, Bad Religion, Nirvana, Metallica, Guns N Roses, Suicidal Tendencies, Danzig and all these others crazy bands from the ‘hair/spray net era.’ But I have also listened to Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Madonna and yes, I have been to a PINK concert…so I am sometimes quite ‘lost’ in my music.
If you add all the music my 7-year-old daughter makes me listen to at her gymnastics class each week…I’m totally wasted as far as music style goes.
If I’m listing to the radio and there is Metallica coming after the commercial, I won’t change station right away.
What was your all-time favourite track?
Calgary, Walton, Ulverton, Deschambault , Joliette, Moncton and Morden ALL had their moments. Also, depending on the season, they have all also been my worst tracks!
In the USA, Red Bud, Budd’s Creek, Binghamton, Steel City were some of the best tracks I’ve raced on in my entire career.
Who was your toughest competitor?
Blair (Morgan) is the one I refer to most often. He always got better and better through the seasons, and I’m not scared to say that I was lucky that he spent most of his winters freezing his balls on a Skidoo while, during that period, I was busting mine on a dirt bike racing all over the world.
Do you have and Ross Pederson stories?
Hey, I’m not that old! I started racing and Ross retired a year or 2 after! The only funny story I can remember was my first AX in Riviere du Loup when I was 17. Saturday morning I passed Ross during the early practice like he was totally off pace and ‘out of balance.’ I told my parents that I believe I can beat him tonight, no problem. When it was time for the main event, 10 hours later, he ended up beating me so bad.
Years went by and then I realized/found out he was a ‘good partier’ during the last few seasons of his career. This morning-time practice was probably more of an ‘evening’ for him and then he probably just woke up before the night program around 8 PM.
Which rider impresses you most these days? (ANY rider, US, Canada, MXGP)
Let’s say that the new generation who follows (Ricky) Carmichael impresses me the most. I watch AMA SX in 2015 and I can’t believe the intensity of the riders. Not just the top 3 but top 15 or 20. If I remember right, Anaheim 1, only 2 seconds separated the top 12 or 15. This is crazy!
Euros have been also stepping up during the last decade and the ‘(Ryan) Villopoto test’ will be interesting to watch.
OK, last question. Who is going to win the MXGP title this summer?