Photo by: Mark Lester

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.

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Over the first three rounds of the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross we talked to the top 450SX privateers for our Privateer Showcase interviews, but this week we decided to call the top non-factory rider in the 250 class: 51FIFTY Energy Drink / Yamaha’s Kyle Chisholm. With the top eight riders having the speed to podium or win on any given night in the 250SX West, it is a tough time for privateer teams, but Chisholm is doing all he can to get into that mix.

Kyle is currently 9th in the 250SX West standings, but to convey how deep this field is, in 9th he is just five points behind the defending Champion of the class, Justin Hill. From 1st to 10th, there is not much separating this class. There are literally uninjured riders on factory bikes as far back as 13th, so what Kyle is pulling of on his 51FIFTY Energy Drink / Yamaha is impressive.

After the Glendale SX, we gave Kyle a call to talk about his move down to the 250, his 2018 season thus far, how his preparation to ride the 450 in the east is going and what it will take to get his 250F into that top five.

Kyle has been hovering just inside the top 10 at every round. All it takes is one breakout ride to change that. Photo by: Mark Lester

Hey, Kyle. You said you were riding today. Where are you doing most of your riding during the week?

Just out at Lake Elsinore. I just got back. I ride the public supercross track they have there. It hasn’t been very good, not that fun riding, but it’s alright.

 

Who do you normally ride with during the week? Are you just out there with yourself and a mechanic or do you have guys you’re riding with?

Yeah, just me and the mechanic pretty much. Obviously there’s other guys riding, but usually just me and my mechanic. The team manager Craig [Monty] is usually out there too. I also got to ride the 450 today. I’m trying to get a little bit of time on that thing before some of the east coast races. We messed around with that a little bit today.

 

What is the plan for the 450 this year? Do you plan on doing all the east rounds on it?

I want to do most of them. The plan is–as long as I’m comfortable–after San Diego I want to do Dallas [Arlington], Tampa, Atlanta, Daytona and St. Louis. After that, it’s Indy, and I’ll be back on the 250 because it’s an East/West Shootout. Those five I would like to do, and then after Seattle, I think it’s Minneapolis and Foxborough. I could do them on the 450 as well, but I might take those couple of weeks to start riding outdoors. The team isn’t going to go to the East Coast ones. They’re still going to help me a little bit, but I kind of have to do them on my own. I’ll be back in Florida, so the first five won’t be too hard to get to, but I don’t really want to drive all the way to Minneapolis and then all the way to Boston, unless we figure something out or get someone to take the bike for us. We’ll just see how it goes.

Kyle fought hard to get back to the 250’s after losing eligibility. Photo by: 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha

Let’s talk about Glendale. You were pretty much on par with what you’ve been doing all year, but you qualified a little better, had a good heat race with a fifth and matched your best finish on the year with a 9th in the main. How did you feel about your day there?

It was okay. The setup was a lot better. I liked the track a lot. We did a little suspension testing last week, and we got it to what I thought was better. It’s hard to tell until you get it into race conditions, but it actually felt really good. I liked the track because it was more technical and more of a normal SX track. I felt pretty good all day, I just struggled a little in the main event. I felt good in the beginning, but then I started making a few mistakes and tightened up a little bit. [Justin] Hill, [Mitchell] Harrison and [Phil] Nicoletti got by me, but then Nicoletti fell over and I got back by him. I’m a little bummed on my mistakes and didn’t ride my best. I thought we could have gotten a 6th or 7th, but it wasn’t a bad race. My starts were good again–I’m happy about that–and the bike is working good. The team does a great job and the Yamaha is a great bike to start with, so I’m happy about that. We got the suspension better, so at least I’m at a point where I’m happy and we can stick with that and just ride instead of every week changing this or changing that to get it better for me.

 

The West is super talented this year and there are at least six guys who can win. You are just behind those guys right now at 8th in the points. You have a ton of experience and know what it’s going to take, but what do you think you need to get up a few spots to get into that mix for top fives and possible podiums?

Just ride like myself on the weekend. I need to be comfortable, flowing good, not riding tight and feeling good. For me, that’s all comfort and confidence in my bike. I’m saying that and not saying the bike’s not good, so I’m not comfortable and confident. It’s just knowing the bike and being one with the bike and knowing everything it’s going to do. Being able to get on a new track every week, under race conditions and getting it dialed it in quickly. That’s all just a combination of being comfortable, and that comes with time. I think that’ll come. I need to have my best stuff at the race. My goal is to be top five. We’ve been in the top ten every week, but we probably should of be 6th, 7th or 8th more often than maybe the 9th’s or 10th’s. We still wouldn’t be top five, but a little closer. The top six or seven guys are going fast and can probably podium on any weekend. We’re working hard, the team’s working hard and I think we’re making progress. I’d like to nail down a top five before the break.

 

You fought pretty hard to be able to move back down to the 250’s and we talked about it quite a bit before it actually happened. Now that you’ve done it and have a little more than a season under your belt, how would you say the move to 250’s has gone for you?

I really enjoy riding the 250. I like the 450 as well and raced them the majority of my career. It comes more naturally to me, but that’s why I said more time on the 250 is what I need. Overall, though, I’ve been happy on the 250. I really enjoy it. The only thing I will say about the whole thing, in the two years I’ve been on the 250, is that I was super limited on time before the season to get ready. If I was to do it again next year on the 250, I would hope I would get something worked out by maybe October so I have a good solid two or three months on the bike before the season starts. I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve gotten on the 250. I’m having fun and enjoying riding my dirt bike for a living.

Kyle Chisholm and Hayden Mellross make up the 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha roster. Photo by: 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha

With being away form the 250 class as long as you were, did the speed of the class surprise you at all?

Not really. I watched those guys when I was on the 450 and there’s some tracks where the 250 is a better bike to ride. Then there’s some tracks where the 450 is better, but those guys are good. The guys that win on the 250 usually move up and are competitive on the 450. If you look at the lap times, the times are pretty close. They’re all fast. Every year I feel like it gets harder and harder and I’m getting older. (laughs)

 

We head to Oakland this weekend and it was your best race on the 250 last year with a 7th. Do you like the soft dirt and ruts there or was it just one of those nights that clicked last year?

I think it was one of those nights. I liked the track. The track was super gnarly, super soft and rutted. Typically, the tougher and more technical the track, the better I do. Houston wasn’t my best finish this year, but I rode pretty good there and the track was pretty rutty, soft and similar conditions. Like at Anaheim 2 at the “Triple Crown,” the track was easy and that was my worst race of the year so far. When it’s technical and you have to slow down and think, I’m typically better. Oakland is a little more similar to a Florida dirt. The city, I wouldn’t say is the best area, but I do enjoy it. There’s always a good vibe for me.

 

Thanks for doing this interview, and I’ll see you this weekend in Oakland.

Sounds good. I appreciate it.