Photo by: 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.
This week’s “Privateer Showcase” is one of the top privateer 250SX riders in the Western Regional 250SX class and one of the top finishing privateers in the 450SX main event at the Arlington SX last weekend, Cole Martinez. The AJE Motorsports / Skase’ MX / Husqvarna rider came into 2018 with some serious injuries, but he is now racing everything they put in front of him to help himself get back up to speed. After missing the first two rounds out west, Cole made every main event and has climbed up to 15th in the 250 West points before the break.
In Arlington last weekend, Cole made his 450SX debut on the #59 Husky. Because of some sign up issue, Cole was stuck in the C group for qualifying, but he still managed the 23rd fastest lap in qualifying and later put it into the main event with a 9th in his heat race. In his first-ever 450 main, Cole started 17th and finished 18th, and with one 450 main event under his belt he is expecting even more this weekend in Tampa.
After Arlington, we gave the rider from Arizona a call to talk to him about his season in the 250 West and his 450 debut in Arlington.
Cole, where are you based out of right now for these east rounds on the 450?
I’m out in North Carolina right now, out at Coop’s [Cooper Webb] house. I’m doing the three 450 rounds, so I’ll be out here for two weeks.
Do you and Coop go way back? Have you been buddies for a while?
Yeah, we lived together for a couple of years when he first moved back to California. Then he got a house out here [North Carolina] and he kind of moved out here. Then me and my fiance got more together and that’s kind of how it went. (laughs)
You’re originally from Arizona, right?
I’m originally from Arizona. I kind of spent most of my time in Arizona and Texas growing up, but once I turned Pro and started taking SX and MX more seriously, I moved out to California. I barely get time to go home now with the schedule being so crazy.
It has to be tough racing out there in 120 degree heat. Is it kind of seasonal there with the extreme summers?
Yes and no, they do night races. That helps a lot. When I was younger, the amateur scene was unreal. There was always good guys coming to race. I remember [Eli] Tomac, [Jason] Anderson and a few other guys racing the championships they had there. Now it’s so dead; it’s terrible. It’s nothing like it used to be.
Did you break out of the Arizona scene and chase the amateur nationals early on when you started, like Loretta Lynn’s and all the big ones?
Not so much right when I started. I would say from the 7-11 class on. I raced quite a bit of the amateur nationals and always did pretty good. I had one of the toughest classes. I got 4ths and a lot of 5ths. The age group I grew up with is the age group that’s still racing at the top now. I had [Blake] Baggett, Tomac, Anderson.
If I remember right, you turned Pro around 2012?
I’ve been Pro since then, but I kind of don’t count 2012 because I was so unprepared. I kind of figured a little bit out but got hurt preparing for 2013 and didn’t race one race all of ’13. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be done, but a guy came in and said he would help me for 2014 West SX. I was like, “Alright, I’ll give it one last shot.” I didn’t know if I was good enough, but it kind of took off from there.
Let’s talk about this year. You’re racing the 250SX West, but you missed the first two rounds. Why did that happen and are you still recovering?
I had an injury in November right before Thanksgiving. I missed the first couple, and I’m getting back into it. I feel like it’s been going better and better. I haven’t been comfortable enough yet to show the speed that I have. I’m definitely still recovering. I ended up breaking my C6, L5, my collar bone and my hand. I kind of got pretty messed up. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to race. Everything healed up really good. I only had to get surgery on my collar bone. From there, everything healed itself pretty good. I found out my neck was still broken, but it was nothing to worry about. (laughs) I asked them, “Do I need to be riding?” I told them, “If you tell me I don’t need to ride, I’ll stop racing.” They said it’s nothing you need to worry about. I was like, “Alright, if you say so.” (laughs)
We all hear that every day: “Your neck is still broken, but ah, don’t worry about it.” (laughs)
I was kind of tripped out a little bit. I went to one of the moto doctors the Thursday before A2 to look at my collar bone, and he was like, “Have you been riding? You know your collar bone is still pretty broken.” I’m like, “It feels fine.” I definitely have a few injuries still going on, but they’re healing good.
Do you see yourself getting better during the break and using these 450 races to get yourself into the top 10 or even getting closer to top 5 when the series resumes out west?
Definitely! Our 250s are really good. I kind of just jumped into it without much time on the 250 because I rode 450s the whole offseason. I basically rode the 250 two weeks and jumped in. After Dallas, we figured a lot out with suspension. I think once I get it all sorted out, I should be close to that top 5. I know how good I was riding before I got hurt and realistically, I should be anywhere from 5th to 9th without a question. If I can pick up 1 sec [a lap] in the races, that would transfer me from 12th to anywhere from 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th.
Let’s talk about your 450 ride in Arlington, then we’ll let you go. I wasn’t in Arlington, but is AJE Motorsports giving you full support on the 450?
Yeah, AJE ended up taking the semi out to Arlington. My deal with them is 250 West and the first three 450 races for the East Coast rounds. They took the semi and then my mechanic ended up driving a mini van packed with parts and torn down bikes all the way to North Carolina on Sunday. Now we’re going to use Coop’s van to get to Tampa and Atlanta with help from AJE and SKASE’.
Tell them to get their names on your 450 entry forms. It says “none listed” under sponsors. In Arlington, on the 450 you were 23rd fastest in qualifying and qualified directly from the heat. Were you about where you thought you’d be, or did you surprise yourself at all?
I thought I could be a little better, but I was in the C practice when the track was hammered. I was happy, but in the heat race I was stoked. That was really my first 450 SX I’ve ever raced, besides Monster Cup, so I was pumped. I had a pretty good idea where I could be and I was pumped. I think I can do better than I did in the main event, but that all goes back to comfort and getting the bike set up better. I think we’re in the right direction.
In the main you finished 18th, which is right about where you started. You had a decent pace and didn’t fade much for it being your first 450 main. I think that class is more about starts now than it’s ever been.
Oh, definitely. That class is insane right now. (laughs) There’s a lot of good guys racing.
Just to make the main in that class, especially on your first attempt, is awesome. How was your first-ever 20-minute plus one lap race? That had to be brutal. You guys did 25 laps.
Honestly, it was the longest race of my life. I got some arm pump about 13 minutes in. I thought we had to be at at least 15 minutes, but I was like, “Oh man, we have a long way to go.” After that, I was just trying to tick off laps, looking at the pit board hoping my times were staying close to the same. I was just trying to pull through as good as I could.
Heading to Tampa now on the 450. What would you say your goals are for this weekend on the 450?
My goal is definitely to be in the main event again out of the heat race because you never know what’s going to happen in the LCQ. I would like to be inside the top 15, and I think it’s doable because I ride 450s well. We did two 20-minute motos today, so that’s a start.