Photo by: Doc Weedon
These “Privateer Showcase” interviews presented by Race Tech Suspension at MotoXAddicts tell the stories of the guys in the trenches week in and week out trying to chase their dream of racing professional motocross and Supercross. While the riders at the front of the pack get the money, the T.V. time and the glory that goes with it, there’s a huge pack of guys just hoping to get a spot inside a factory semi. The privateer is the lifeblood of SX and MX and the true MotoXAddicts. We tell their stories.
When the gate drops on the first 450SX main event of the year at the Monster Energy Supercross season opener in Anaheim, the list of privateers on the line is generally pretty scarce. Everyone is healthy and hyped to start the year, and with eighteen 450 riders pitted out of a semi truck on factory-backed machines, the window for privateers to get in is merely cracked open. TPJ / Fly Racing / Race Tech / Honda’s Ben Lamay was one of the riders that slipped in through that cracked window and lined up for the main at the Anaheim 1 SX.
In the Alaskan’s first SX main event of 2018, he rode his privateer Honda to a 17th place finish—3rd amongst true privateers on the gate—and heads to his current home state of Texas for round two with six Championship points on the board. Since Ben has been away from Supercross for a minute, we decided give him a call and find out what his program is like, his thoughts on A1 and his plans for the 2018 SX season.
First, I wanted to ask you a random question. A mutual friend of ours from Alaska calls you “Benny” and I was wondering, do all your friends from up there call you that instead of Ben?
It is kind of funny. Almost all of the Alaska guys call me Benny. I don’t know why.
(laughs) How have you been?
I’m doing good. I’m back home in Dallas [Texas] regrouping from last weekend.
I know you’ve been there for a while, but what brought you to Texas?
I don’t know. Quite a while ago I moved here. I went to California for about a year or so and kind of bounced around, but it’s nice here. I enjoy it because it’s more free to do what you want here. You don’t have to worry about traffic, the other riders and all the other drama that goes on. Also, it’s nice for travel because it’s right in the center of the country. Whether you’re going east or west, it’s all about the same flight.
Where are you riding and training during the week?
Ted Parks—who owns TPJ [The Privateer Journey], the team that I’m racing for—has a track at his house. I ride there whenever I need to.
Very cool. Who do you have doing your suspension and motor work for Honda in ’18?
Race Tech actually is doing my suspension and motors this year. They’ve been doing my suspension for quite a while. I’ve always loved their stuff. Rob’s always hands on and knows exactly what I want. Just the week before A1, they said, “Hey, do you want a good engine?” I was like, “Yeah, sure.” I didn’t really want to because the bike had plenty of power, but I decided to let them have it. I told them kind of what I wanted and was looking for in horsepower, and they made it happen for Anaheim.
Did it end up being better?
Yeah, it was really nice, because I didn’t want any more bottom end hit. The Honda already had quite a bit of that. I wanted more mid and top without changing gearing, and they got that exactly for me. It worked awesome. I loved it. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and how it works out.
In qualifying at A1, you were on or near the top of the board in both the B sessions and went to the night show with 18th overall fastest lap time. How did you feel timed qualifying went?
In qualifying, I actually didn’t feel that good, especially in the first practice. Every time I went out there I felt better, more comfortable. I changed a few clickers on the suspension and did some gearing changes. When you’re riding at home, you feel like you have a good setup, but then you go to the race and everything is different. I was happy with 18th, though. It gave me a good gate pick for the heat race, and I just did my thing, That’s all I was focused on.
You qualified 7th out of your heat which is solid. You were as high as 6th, but ended up crossing the line with Chad Reed.
The heat was good. It was kind of where I expect myself to be. I rode pretty well the first five or six laps and didn’t know anybody was behind me. I was just focused on hitting my marks. With two laps to go, I knew I was 6th or 7th and I started thinking about qualifying and positions, and I tightened up. My lap times dropped like three-seconds and I rode like a goon. Everyone caught up to my rear tire, and then J-Mart [Jeremy Martin] got me in the last corner. That’s what happens when you ride tight and think backwards.
You ended up 17th in the main event. Solid ride for the first round. Was that about where you expected to be coming into A1 or were you looking for a little more?
For the first race, that’s what I expected. I think we raced for like twenty-two minutes. It was like twenty-four laps. I haven’t done a long race like that like….
Probably ever? (laughs)
Yeah, ever! In Arenacross, we do two fifteen lap main events, and a fifteen lap main is about seven or eight minutes. Then we have a thirty-minute break in between and we do it again. Where this, the race is longer, the track’s longer and there’s faster riders, more competitive. It was difficult for me after about 3/4 of the main event to keep pushing the way I had the first ten laps. I was right up there with [Vince] Friese, and [Broc] Tickle was just ahead of him for the first little bit. I was holding on to them for quite a while, but then I messed a few little rhythms up and they got away. After that it was kind of game over.
Will we see you at all 17 rounds this year?
Yep, I’m doing all 17 rounds. I have a long season ahead.
Anyone helping you get to the races as far as expenses?
There’s some sponsors that are helping out in that area, but a lot of it is based on my performance, so I’m focusing on my riding my race and my job at hand?
You did well at AX. Was that ever an option in your head or was it always the plan to take another serious shot at SX?
I was leaning towards AX again. I enjoy it a lot. It’s fun racing and a fun atmosphere to be around. All the crew there—the team, the riders—everyone has a good time there. It’s a lifestyle. At the end of the day, the deal just wasn’t what I was looking for so I started reaching out into SX. Then I found this ride with TPJ and it was exactly what I wanted.
It’s got to be nice to be in contention for wins and podiums every weekend over at AX, but you’re only young enough to go after SX once and you can always go back to AX.
That was one thing I liked about AX. You get TV time. You get on the podium and you get a decent check when you’re on the podium. SX is what you need to do and if you can make it happen. I think I can. That’s the ultimate goal.
Last thing I wanted to ask you was about repping Alaska with the #907 [Alaska area code]. Was that ever your amateur number or are you just repping the home state?
426 was my amateur number and I wanted to run that, but somebody had it. I had a few other backup numbers, but those were also taken. I thought we’ll just run 907 and rep for Alaska.
You’re kind of an MX superhero in Alaska, and I know you have a huge fan base up there. There are probably more people up there than you think pumped on the #907.
That’s another reason I did it. I’m hoping to create a better following up there and maybe open up some eyes of some potential Alaska sponsors that might want to get on board. I think it’s good for me and Alaska too.