KTM has made key acquisitions over the past two autumn seasons. The Austrian company has long been looking for the right rider to put their brand on the top in AMA Supercross but last year they took a different road -- they hired Roger DeCoster, a former world champion and extraordinarily successful team consultant and team manager. Then one year later, they were able to hire his most recent protégé, Ryan Dungey. Was it coincidence? Was it by design? Nothing Roger DeCoster does is by coincidence and Dungey, who was a couple of bike problems away from defending his SX and MX crowns in 2011, didn't make this decision lightly.
When ESPN spoke with Dungey at the moment of his announcement to KTM, he was confident in his decision and hopeful of the brand. Three months later, on the eve of the 2012 Supercross season, his feelings remain positive to bring the company its first AMA Supercross podium, victory, and possibly championship.
ESPN.com: Are you happy with your new team? How are things going?
Dungey: Everything is going really well. From getting on the bike until now I think we have a solid setup and a good package. We're just trying to put everything together, all the right tools. From getting the bike set up right to getting laps in and getting comfortable. It's a quick turn around.
I'll ask you the same question that I did in October -- can you win on this motorcycle?
Absolutely. The bike is really great. From the time I got on it I never felt that it was uncomfortable in the any way. I adapted to it quickly, which I'd wondered about because it's a completely different bike. Everything went smoothly and going forward we worked on engine and suspension and getting it to suit my style. Is it capable of winning? Absolutely. We have a great bike and it's capable of being right there on top. I was never going to go in a direction where I didn't think I could win.
Give us one thing about this bike that is better. Something that you hadn't had before.
The one thing to me that is a noticeable difference is that it's a steel frame. I hadn't ridden on one of those since 2005. We've had aluminum frames, which are good, but the steel frames tend to absorb the bumps a little bit better and soak up the edges of the track. That's been the one change that I've liked and have adapted to really well. It's a calmer chassis, a little bit better and we can get a better overall package set up with it and it's really comfortable.
What about one thing that led you to look at your team and say, "We're going to have work on this one guys."
In any situation, when you get on a new bike that you've never ridden before, it's going to take time. We're figuring out suspension settings to motor settings to chassis settings. If anything, it was saying, "Let's dig deep and get started." You want to work out all the bugs before you get to the races. Everything adapted nice and I can't take credit for that because we have a great group of people who help move that process along quicker than normal.
Has this adaptation been easier or harder?
I didn't know what to expect but I was willing to do whatever it took. I guess making the change and getting on the bike and adapting to it surprised me a little bit for sure. I didn't expect things to go as well as they did in my first couple of weeks on it and then racing on it. But we're going to have to go racing and that's where the real test is going to start and that's where you can tell who did their homework. When you expect things to be good and they turn out to be better than you think, that's always good for moving forward.
It must make you feel good that you have a team manager who always seems to know how much is enough.
I think we have a lot of knowledge on our side. Practice and racing are two completely different things. I'm confident in my team. They signed me up to win races and championships and if we didn't believe in each other or work well with each other, then things wouldn't work right. It's good to have people like that on my side because it makes for a good atmosphere.
KTM is a nimble company. How impressed were you by their ability to make quick decisions ad fulfill requests?
That's the commitment that impressed me a lot. If you looked at lot of other manufacturers it would take longer to do what KTM has done in such a short amount of time. I think they're really hard working and driven. If there is something that they need to get done they're on it. If there is something that we need to make better they're on it. For a rider and racer, on the track you're expected to give it 110% and nothing less. When you do that everyday it's nice to have a group of people that is working day and night and it's non-stop trying to improve. That's amazing, the turn around and how quickly they can get something done, from making it to testing it, to racing it. I was impressed.
Do you wish Anaheim was tomorrow or do you still need a couple of weeks?
[Laughs] I'm definitely looking forward to the season but we're taking this time and using it wisely and preparing. It will be great. It's right around the corner and I'm excited to go racing. It will be nice to lineup.