Photos by: Octopi

Monster Energy / Pro Circuit / Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy is a hard rider to figure out. At times the kid is simply untouchable, but then there are times where you barely know he is in the race. Heading into Thunder Valley last weekend his 2018 outdoor season has been mostly the latter, but he was definitely looking to turn that around at the mile high circuit that he has won at the last two years in a row.

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At the 2018 edition of the Thunder Valley National, the number 17 qualified on top of the board, and after getting a second place start in the opening moto and stalking the rookie Justin Cooper for ten laps, he took the lead and began walking away from the field. Joey led the next five laps and took the two-lap card with a semi-comfortable lead, but a half lap later, his Monster Energy / Kawasaki coasted down the biggest hill on the track and just quit on him.

The DNF put Joey on the far outside gate for moto two, but he still went for it and he and others paid the price for it. The Thunder Valley start is not one where you can pull off a good start from the outside without holding it wide open and just banzai’ing into the first turn. That’s exactly what Joey tried to do, but when he got there, he was met with chaos and a huge first turn pile up. The crash took Joey down for a minute, but it took Zach Osborne out for the rest of the year with a torn labrum.

Joey (17) followed Justin Cooper (62) for ten laps before making a pass stick for the lead. Cooper ended up winning his first-ever moto when Joey’s bike let go.

In the end, Joey was able to salvage a 12th in moto two. After the day was over, we caught up with Joey to talk about his day at Thunder Valley, his DNF, the first turn crash and his season as a whole so far.

I seem to always interview you after Thunder Valley, but usually on better terms. It was almost the third year in a row that I interviewed you after a win at Thunder Valley. You won the last two and before your bike let go in moto one, it looked like you were on your way to three. You ended up going DNF-12—the 12th being after a gnarly first turn crash—can you talk about your Thunder Valley a little?

All in all, the results didn’t show the improvements I feel like we made. Obviously in that first moto we had the lead, only a lap and a half left and a cushion so—you never count it until you cross the checkered flag—in my mind that was going to be our first moto win of the year.

 

I think in everyone’s mind you were on your way to winning moto one.

Yeah, it’s unfortunate, but I had the 34th gate pick in the second moto and I didn’t really have any choice; I kind of had to go for it. I got towards the top of the hill, started to make the cut and I guess Zach [Osborne] and a couple of those guys must have tangled bars because they weren’t making the corner. As I was leaning in to make the corner, the next thing you know that whole pack was going almost the opposite way. If you watch it in slo-mo, you can tell that, that was obviously not my intention. I wouldn’t want to put myself in harm’s way. I’d never want to put anyone in harm, let alone myself. As I started to make the cut—as I said if you’re watching it in slo-mo—I start to lean and then you see Zach and a couple of the other guys get tangled and start to go straight or almost left. At that point, there’s nothing I could really do. I tried to swerve out of the way, but the momentum was too much.

 

This year ended up being one you would like to forget, but in general and for 30 minutes of moto one this year, it’s a great track for you. What is it about Thunder Valley that you like so much? The minute you show up, you always look like you know you’re winning.

I definitely have confidence when I come here, but honestly, it just suits my style. It’s very technique type track. The more patient and perfect you are, the faster you go. You can make a lot of mistakes like dabbing your leg, a lot of mistakes that at regular altitude might not be a big deal, but at this altitude, if you make one of those mistakes before the big uphill, you’re losing a full second almost. The mile per hour difference is so off. I love the place. Obviously the results have helped, but I like the whole idea of being down on power. You gotta keep the momentum and miles per hour up in the corners to be fast. That suits my style. I like the more-mistakes-you-make-the-slower-you-go tracks. You have to ride a perfect clean race. That’s where I thrive.

A frustrated Joey Savatgy walking back to his pits amongst the crowd after his bike quit in moto 1.

The track seemed more hard packed than it normally is this year.

It wasn’t as rutty or rough as normal. For me, that almost made it worse for me. When it gets those deeper ruts and rougher is when people tend to make mistakes and you can make up more time. All in all, though, I love the place. I always do well and I enjoy it. We didn’t have the greatest results this time, but all in all I still enjoyed it and had fun.

 

Were you told or did they figure out what happened to your bike in the first moto?

I don’t know; I haven’t heard anything. I haven’t even asked to be honest. I just tried to regroup, get myself into the right mindset and get ready for the second moto.

 

We’re now three races in and a week off before High Point. Obviously without the DNF, today could have been a day that turned your season around so that’s a bummer, but after three races what are your thoughts on your outdoor season so far?

It’s been sub par, absolutely, with the exception of today. We struggled a lot at the first round. Then we made some changes in between the first round and the second round, but at Glen Helen it was really had to pass.

 

I’ve heard the words “impossible to pass” by more than one rider. (laughs)

Dude, it was tough to pass. That didn’t help, but I felt like we rode a lot better in the second moto there. We started to catch Zach and that group in front of us. I started to catch them a little bit, but I made a few mistakes at the end. I think we ended up 4th or 5th, and it was a step in the right direction. I don’t think the results there really reflected how much improvement I made personally. I’m excited man! Unfortunately in that first moto today we would have made up nine points on Zach and ten on Aaron [Plessinger]. That’s a big swing for one moto. Man, that would have taken me from 30 [points] back down to 20. That’s a nice swing. As it turns out, I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season. We’re starting to figure some things out and we’re clicking. All I can I do is show up every weekend. Irregardless of what happens, it’s up to me to put in the effort.

While the result was horrible for Joey at Lakewood, there was a lot of good he can take from the race.

One thing I want to point out is that it is said a lot about you that you went back to your bike and pushed it back instead of just throwing it down, leaving it and walking back to the pits without the bike.

I know I was frustrated and mad, but at the end of the day it’s not like the team did it on purpose. At the end of the day, for the public eye, you still gotta be respectful. I would have loved to have just kicked it and left it there, but in my mind, that’s a sign of disrespect to the team. They bust their balls and put in hours and hours on the bike. So we have a mechanical, at least have the decency to try to push it back until someone else gets to you. That’s at least my thought process on that.