Brandon Paasch Interview
If you’ve been following MotoAmerica, Brandon Paasch is a name that you should be familiar with.
Hailing from Freehold, N.J., the 16-year-old claimed the 2016 KTM RC 390 Cup Championship title, and since then has set his sights on the Supersport title. During the opening rounds of 2017 MotoAmerica Supersport at Circuit of the Americas (7th) and Road Atlanta (5th and 4th),he’s already made headway in moving closer to the leading group, which is nothing to scoff at.
Just before he packed his bags for the third round of the 2017 AMA/FIM MotoAmerica Road Race Championship at Virginia International Raceway, Paasch answered some questions for Ultimate Motorcycling.
UM: Last year you took home the KTM RC Cup Championship, and you’ve now made the jump to the Supersport class. What are some of the main challenges with that transition?
Brandon Paasch: The obvious answer is the power and weight differences. They are probably the biggest challenges I’ve had to adapt to. The Suzuki is insanely fast and I’ve had to do a lot of preparation in the gym this winter in anticipation for that.
BP: First off, there no “main differences.” They are completely different. A low cc bike like the KTM is all about corner speed. If you lose momentum in one corner, it’s tough to recover from. You must remain smooth and precise to make that bike work. The Suzuki has a monster of a motor and the chassis has a lot of upgrades compared to the KTM. We have my bike outfitted with Öhlins suspension that makes it so easy to get in and out of corners. You can kind of muscle the bike into a corner and square it up on the fat part of the tire to get that good drive everyone is chasing.
UM: How did you train for the transition? Were you working with instructors? Did you have a supersport at home that you could get some seat time on during the off-season?
BP: Mike Faillace from MDM built a practice bike for me this winter to train and race club races on. It’s an older model but he got it dialed for me quick. I didn’t start riding on the 600 until February. We did a couple track days and club race weekends; I was feeling good after a couple days on it. I also made a trip out to California and worked with some guys out there.
I did Jason Pridmore’s Star Motorcycle School, then raced Chuckwalla. After the Chuckwalla races, Ken Hill had me work with him and his school for a few days. I’m trying to learn from everyone who has the experience that I don’t, so I can use what works best for me. At home in N.J. my program has always been with Paul Allison, we train almost every day. We try to expose my weaknesses from the year before and work on them.
UM: On the same note, you’ve moved from working with AXcess Racing to Team Hammer M4 Suzuki. Given that Team Hammer M4 Suzuki has been part of the AMA/MotoAmerica paddock for many years, what have you learned from that crew so far?
BP: First, I just want to say how awesome all the people involved with the AXcess Racing program were. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. As for Team Hammer M4 Suzuki, they are unbelievable! They’ve made the transition so easy for me. The only pressure I feel is coming from me. The bikes are unreal to start with and the team and I have been working at a steady pace to get the bike dialed in for me. There’s a lot of adjustment to be made with the chassis and the data systems we have. So, it’s a lot to learn all at once. Rob Silva is my crew chief, Alex Studelska is my mechanic, and Ben Fox is handling the data acquisition. Those guys are all amazing, they work so hard to get me comfortable with the bike.
UM: Having taken part in the KTM RC Cup, you now have some good experience with the MotoAmerica series and its inner workings. How do you think the KTM RC Cup is doing at producing riders for the next generation? What riders do you see coming up in the next season?
BP: I only competed in the KTM series for one full season, but it was a great experience. It taught me a lot about race craft and not to mention how to win a championship. I think MotoAmerica is doing an amazing job of running the series. I wasn’t involved with the series till last year but they listen to the riders and the teams and focus on their wants and needs. Wayne Rainey always takes the time to talk to me every weekend to see how things are going. As for this year’s KTM RC Cup, there’s a lot of good talent in the field but I’d be lying if I didn’t say Jackson Blackmon had a leg up on the others.
UM: What’s your take on the current MotoAmerica field? In regards to your direct Supersport competition, what have you been learned from the veterans of the class? And have you picked up up anything from the Superstock/Superbike riders?
BP: The top guys are on another level. It’s a perfect situation for me, they have all the knowledge that I’m missing and following those guys is the best way for me to learn. I’m doing what I have to for now; staying patient and learning what I can every round. I want to run with those guys this year and I’m working extremely hard on the race weekends and the off days to get there. I’m friends with some of the Superstock and Superbike 1000 riders and they help me out whenever I have a question for them.
UM: Are there any current riders that you look up to or seek advice from?
BP: There’s isn’t anyone in particular. I try to learn what I can from Valentine (Debise) when we’re together. Josh Hayes has always been the rider I’ve looked up to. He was someone I admired when I was young, not because of how fast he was, but how he was off track. He was always a professional and was approachable when I was young.
UM: Do you think you could out-brake Valentine Debise? Also, have you learned how to swear in French yet?
BP: Heck yes, I’m planning on proving it this year! I’m sure I’ve heard more than a few but I wouldn’t know…
UM: What are some of the goals you have as a professional road racer? You’ve just made the leap into Supersport, would you like to continue racing domestically or aim for a seat in the CEV, World Supersport, World Superbike or MotoGP championships?
BP: My goal has always been to get into Moto3. I’ve done some racing in Europe and I think it’s important to get over there early and learn the bikes, tracks, teams, and riders. Racing in CEV would be the next step for me to get into Moto3. Dorna has built that series as a feeder for young riders wanting to move to the world level. I try to take things one year, one race at a time. I am focused on learning all I can this year and at the end of the year, we’ll see.
UM: Where does a formal education fit in with your pursuit of becoming a top-level road racer? For young athletes that might be in your position, what kind of advice can you give? Do you have any academic aspirations outside of racing?
BP: I started doing home school last year and it’s working well for me. It takes some discipline to get it done but it gives me the freedom to train during the day when I would usually be in class. I was missing a lot of school when I was racing in Europe and it was setting me back, this is much easier. I’m interested in social media and business marketing. It’s interesting how the marketing world is changing. I like to think I’m creative with some of my social media “experiments.”
UM: Is there anything you’d like to add?
BP: Just would like to thank everyone that’s believed in me and took a chance on me.
UM: All right, now is your opportunity to thank all your sponsors and plug all your social media channels.
BP: I would like to thank John Ulrich for always being there to give me the right opportunities and believing in me! I also want to thank Chris Ulrich and the entire M4 Suzuki crew, Rob, Alex, and Ben for all their help and welcoming me to the team in every possible way, The 22 Project for all the support, medAge, Ken Hill, Spidi and Arai for the best protection on the market and always making me look great out there! Also, thank you to Mike Faillace at MDM and Andy Reiss for all their support for so many years, but especially helping me with a 600 to train on this year. Paul Allison for all his hard work with getting me to this level and always having my back with what to do. Trina the trainer for her help with my fitness. Scott Rehl, and LuxeStar VIP, Steve Gillman and the Gillman family and Mark Lienhard, and Scott Stump for their help this season too. Last a big thank you to my mom for all that she does so I can do what I love! You can follow me on social media: InstaGram: brandon_paasch, on twitter @paaschbrandon and on Facebook at Brandon Paasch.