BTO Sports KTM’s Justin Brayton Exclusive Interview
In October, BTO Sports/KTM/WPS signed Justin Brayton for the 2015 and 2016 racing season. The rider from Iowa, who was crowned “King of Bercy” during 2009 Bercy Supercross, will pilot the 450 SX-F next to teammate Andrew Short in the AMA Supercross and Motocross championships. He debuted with the team at Red Bull Straight Rhythm 2014, where he made it to the final showdown but was beaten by Suzuki’s James Stewart.
Ultimate MotorCycling’s Andrew Oldar: You made the switch from the JGR/Yamaha squad over to the BTO Sports/KTM team. What is the biggest difference you have noticed between the bikes so far?
BTO Sports/KTM’s Justin Brayton: There’s tons of differences between the bikes. The main one being the aluminum frame on the Yamaha and the steel frame on the KTM. For me, there has always been one bike. Even in 2009 when I rode KTMs, I searched for some of the feelings that I had felt then.
I have been searching for those characteristics for five years. After recently riding the KTM again, I was a little bit nervous to ride it for the first time because I was questioning whether those feelings were real or if it was just something that I was making up in my mind. They were definitely real.
The first day that I rode it, I was relieved. In my mind, it was so good to know that I wouldn’t search for it for that long if those feelings were not real. But I did and I am super happy to be back with them. It’s not just the bike though, the people and everything are awesome. KTM is really one big family. I know a lot of people have said that about them, but they truly want to win and treat people the right way, which is really cool.
UMC: You had some great success in Supercross last year nearly winning the Phoenix round. What was it that clicked for you that night?
JB: First off, I got a great start. With the Yamaha, the track really had to match the bike and that track did. It was hard packed and slick. The bike works really well in those conditions. There was also a big set of whoops that night and I have always kind of prided myself on being good in the whoops. It just all added up.
It was the night where the bike met the track that it could really do well on and I took advantage of it. Obviously, I wish I could have won that night, but I feel that it was a really good night for the whole team and myself. It is a night that I look back on that I am happy about. But I also watch the race now and think that I might have done a couple things different and hopefully won the race. Honestly, I think everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that I am going to win some races this year. Of all the hardships that I have been through, I couldn’t think of a better team and a better manufacturer to win some races for.
UMC: What do you feel that it is going to take for you to win races this year?
JB: You have to be fit, fast, and have your starts dialed. Starts are so crucial now, it’s unbelievable. If you look at practice times after Anaheim 1, I’m sure the top ten guys are going to be within a half of a second of each other. You have to be consistently a good starter. You have to start out in the top three to even think about being in the hunt for the championship. If I come in prepared, confident, and have my starts figured out, I think I will be fine.
UMC: The JGR team is based in North Carolina, whereas KTM has their headquarters here in Southern California. Do you enjoy training here in California more or do you prefer to be away from it all in North Carolina?
JB: I really enjoy North Carolina. It is where my wife is from and where I would say home is now. I actually have a house about a mile away from KTM that I bought in 2007 that we still have. So we live there and will be part-time back and forth between California and North Carolina.
However, I would say that we will be spending about eighty-five percent of the time in California and some times in North Carolina during the summer. The main reason for that is the travel. Traveling from the east coast is so nice with all of the direct flights. After some nationals, you can be home and in bed by nine or ten o’clock, which I was able to do three or four times last year.
That is very cool, especially when you have a family. You can get recovered more quickly and relax on Sunday. I enjoy both places though. Right now, I think the spot to be is California just because of the consistent days of riding and training. But during the summer, I love North Carolina as well.
UMC: You ascended through the ranks of Arenacross on your way to racing Supercross. Do you feel that gives you an advantage on the tighter tracks?
JB: I feel like a few years ago, I would have said that was an advantage for me. But now I go ride tight tracks and I feel like I’m not as good at them anymore. I won X Games last year on a really tight track but I feel like three or four years ago, I was better on them. I like the more open, technical tracks now because fitness can come into play a lot more and you have to have your bike dialed in a lot more. There are a lot more factors. I really enjoyed my time racing Arenacross. I’d like to go win some races or maybe even a championship someday in Arenacross, but that’s a little ways out. I love Arenacross and I think what they are doing with the Road to Supercross is really cool. I hope to be able to go watch a few this year.
UMC: You and your teammate Andrew Short are both veterans of the sport. What is it like having him as a teammate? Are you able to learn from one another?
JB: Yeah, it’s awesome to have such a cool guy as a teammate. We can ask each other questions and there is so much respect between us. I think that is the main thing. He’s been at the top of the sport for many years, so I can learn a lot from him and he can maybe learn a little bit from me. Neither of us have egos either, which is hard to come by on a team. I think we are going to really work together well and I’m looking forward to it. That was a huge thing in me signing with the team was having him as a teammate. I’m looking forward to getting the ball rolling. We’ve spent a few days at the track together. He is going to be out here more consistently as he and his family just drove out. So we will be hanging out more and I’m looking forward to going racing with him.
UMC: Do you have any goals set for yourself for 2015?
JB: Not really. I need to sit down and start making some. I am going to set them pretty high this year. I think every year I just aim to be a top five guy. So many people say that. I don’t want to be a top five guy anymore. I feel like I did that last year and I was a top five guy pretty much every race until I got hurt. We are going to set our goals high this year and see if we can go achieve them.