Since 2006, the Ecuadorian born Martin Davalos has been racing professional motocross and supercross in the US so it doesn’t quite feel right calling him a rookie no matter what the engine displacement under his butt might be. Despite that, 2020 is his first year in the 450SX class of Monster Energy Supercross so the 33-year-old is quite possibly the oldest 450 rookie in the history of the sport.

In his 14 previous seasons as a professional, Martin won five 250SX main events and was always under a factory tent because of his ability to win on any given night, but for his freshman year on the 450, he is getting his feet wet with the privateer Tedder Racing / Monster Energy / KTM team with some much-needed help with parts and engines from KTM Factory Racing. It was a slow start for the #37, but he and everyone else on the gate are quickly realizing he is one of the best SX riders in the world no matter what class he lines up in.

Over the first four rounds, Marty has shown elite speed and is actually the only rider all year other than Adam Cianciarulo to finish a qualifying session with the fastest overall 450 lap time, although, that raw speed has not translated into results. Not yet at least. His results scorecard over the first four rounds reads 15-22-13-11, but in the final main event of the “Triple Crown” on Saturday night he finally put together a consistent main event and came away with a top-five finish. Unfortunately, his first two mains of the “Triple Crown” were rough, but that 5th could be just the shot in the arm Marty needs to start finding the top ten on a consistent basis.

After his 10-16-5 night for 11th overall in Glendale, I caught up with Martin at the Tedder Racing rig and talked to him about his night and his rookie season thus far.

Some fans gave Marty shit for staying in the 250 class as long as he did, but if they met the guy they’d realize he was just doing what was best for his career and family and that he is literally one of the nicest human beings on the planet.

Martin, 10-16-5 tonight for 11th overall. A decent night for you and your last main event of the night went really well for you. Can you talk about your night a little bit?

It was good. In the first main event, I felt like I rode decent. I made some good passes at the end and was able to come out with a 10th. In the second main event I got a decent start and was riding inside the top ten, but just made a dumb mistake man. I threw it away running 10th. I went off the track, landed on a tough block, crashed and got 16th. In the last main event, I actually got the holeshot before they threw out the red flag. I was running up front and it felt good to be up front. I was able to come back again and get a decent start—running top five. I felt like I rode well tonight. I deserved to be there in the top five at the end. I felt great, but there’s just a lot of learning to be done. It was good to be able to run with the top guys.

 

In that last main event you grabbed the holeshot and finally had a great shot to see that pace at the front but then came the red flag. It’s always a bummer when someone is down, but what goes through your mind when you finally get that start you want?

Getting a start just makes things a lot easier. I know that I’m capable of running up front. I worked really hard in the offseason. Mainly, when you can get a start, there’s just so much going on behind you. I can’t even begin to explain it to you. When you’re top ten or top fifteen, it’s just a mess back there. To have a clear track and be able to jump all the obstacles you want to jump the first lap, it makes like a lot easier.

Learning the 450 power in SX can be a steep and painful learning curve. So far the #37 is patiently progressing and avoiding the painful part.

In that last main—even after the restart—you were frisky. You were going after established 450 guys and even made a real run at Cooper Webb there at the end. How badly did you want to get him?

I respect Cooper and am really good friends with him. I tried giving it a run at the end of the whoops. I felt like I was faster than him there, but he closed the door. He’s a very smart rider and a Champion for a reason. I gave it a shot, he closed the door and we were able to get 5th. That was really good for me.

 

Were the whoops really the only spot you had marked to make that move?

Yeah, definitely! I felt I was gaining on him a little bit—he was also quicker in a few spots—but I did feel like if I was close enough going into the whoop section, maybe my line would work a little better. But I didn’t have the chance. It didn’t work this time, but it felt good to run with him.

 

We’ve had a couple of years of these “Triple Crown” format races now—your first on the 450—and you’ve now seen how bad the tracks get after a regular 20-minute 450 main event, but how bad was it tonight after having six motos run on it?

It was really slick. The guys did a really good job this week with maintaining it. They cleaned up a few turns to open up the racing, ’cause when it becomes really rutted everything becomes real slow motion and basically you’re just trying to get out of the ruts. But when they groom all the turns, you’re able to come in, charge and move around. You can make some good passes. They did a good job and the track held up pretty good besides being super-super slick.

This might be a stretch, but I would not be surprised to see the #37 become the first Ecuadorian to make a 450SX podium before the end of the ’20 season.

We’re now four races into your rookie 450 season. While you’re called a rookie on the 450, you’re definitely more a veteran than a rookie, but how would you rate your first four 450 SX races this year? How do you think it’s going so far?

I’m happy with my riding tonight. I think I made some really bad mistakes over the first three rounds, though. I think I just need to settle in. It finally felt good to put a really good solid last moto together and be able to ride to the level I’m capable of. Like you said, I’m not a rookie, I just need to learn how to ride this motorcycle, that’s all. I think I want to get top tens, be consistent with that and hope for the best.

 

All photos by Octopi and courtesy of Monster Energy