Fox Racing Canada Presents MXP Chatter With Derek Schuster

With the opening round of the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Series in the books, we can now take a look back at a few of the storylines that have come out of this epic event. Other than the race action that we all watched on Saturday night, one of the cool things is that multiple Canadian race fans made their way out of our cold winter and down to sunny Anaheim, California. One of those lucky Canadians who travelled to Anaheim this past weekend was Gopher Dunes owner and Honda Canada Fox GDR Racing Team Manager Derek Schuster. It was a very busy 2021 season at Gopher Dunes with multiple AMO Racing events, a total of six national Triple Crown Series events, as well approximately nine months of practice days. If anyone needed a short getaway it was Derek and we were able to catch up with him yesterday as he was back at Gopher Dunes and trying to keep warm.

MXP: Hey Derek, thanks for taking my call. Are you back home now?

DS: Yes, I’m back at Gopher Dunes now. I flew back from Anaheim last night and now I’m just trying to get warm (laughs).

You weren’t gone long, did you think about staying longer and enjoying some more California sun?

I actually thought about changing my flight and staying for a few extra days. Before I left I was just thinking that I’d go down, watch the race, and then fly home and I’d only be gone a few days. But you know what it’s like. You get down there and the sun is shining and you want to stay longer.

For sure, especially this time of the year the California sun is like an addictive chemical. How was your trip overall?

It was great! I was down to not only watch the race but also Fox Racing Canada flew some dealers down for their annual new product launch so the first night I was there we all went to a party at the Fox HQ. It was really cool and the hospitality Fox Racing showed us was unbelievable. It was good to see everyone at Fox Racing and then, of course, it was awesome to go and watch A1.

Was it challenging to travel with everything going on?

No, not at all. There was Covid-19 testing involved on both ends of the trip but other than that it was no problem. I flew to Italy back in September so I kind of knew what to expect. But honestly, this time everything was really easy. Also, it felt so normal to be there and not have to wear a mask or be reminded about Covid-19 every minute. From the moment I arrived at LAX and for my entire trip life felt somewhat normal again. Then you fly back here and as soon as you land in Toronto you’re reminded just how many restrictions we’re still living with. Now, I’m not saying that we still shouldn’t be cautious, but enough is enough, and being in California really cemented that feeling.

There’s no place like the opening round at Angel Stadium. Photo by James Lissimore

A lot of people don’t know this but you have a close relationship with the crew at the HRC Honda Team in the USA, it must have been great to see them at A1 and catch up in person?

Yes, it was for sure. I got to talk to our fellow Canadian Shane Drew who works for the Honda Team. I’m not from the era when Shane was a top rider here so I don’t know him very well, but it was good to chat with him on Saturday. I know Lars really well and now that he’s the Team Manager there it was good to see him again and catch up. Lars actually messaged me before I left for Anaheim and wanted me to bring him a couple of Gopher Dunes hats so that was cool. It was also great to see Ken Roczen win the main event and also Sexton and Lawrence rode well.

Even though the Honda Team in the USA is busy with their racing do they keep an eye on what is going on in Canada with your GDR Team?

They do and they really enjoy hearing about how our team is doing. Another thing that not many people know is that for the past two years Dylan Wright was supposed to go to the USA and race the final Lucas Oil Pro National round, but he got hurt racing SX both times. In September, he was going to race Lakewood and Pala on Sexton’s bike so that would’ve been cool. Hopefully, Dylan can get that same opportunity this year as I think he would do quite well in the Lucas Oil Pro Nationals.

That would’ve been very interesting to watch. Let’s talk about Dylan and your team for 2022. You’re definitely going to have Dylan and Ryder McNabb back as they were already signed, but what about Tanner Ward?

We hope to have Tanner back but as of right now I’m trying to work through those details with Honda. It’s a slow process due to the Covid-19 restrictions that the OEM offices are still dealing with. So, with that being said we’ll try and work through that soon. But yes, as of right now we have Ryder and Dylan ready to go and the plan is to go and try and win both titles this summer.

Derek Schuster hopes to have the same GDR Team in place for the 2022 season. Photo by James Lissimore

Whether it’s with the GDR Team or with another it’s going to be interesting to see Tanner on a 450 this year, I think he’ll be really good on the bigger bike. Ryder won some races last year and held the red plate for a few rounds so with that success under his belt I would assume that he’s going to be even better in 2022. As for Dylan, I think his results last year both here in Canada, as well as overseas, speak for themselves?

I like when riders decide to move up a class and I think Tanner will be motivated to do well. As for Ryder, I think he learned so much last summer and with that added experience he will most certainly be better in 2022. And yes I would agree with you as far as Dylan goes. He battled through a challenging summer and ended up winning his second 450 title in a row. We then saw what he did in the final five MXGP events and the level that he got to with his riding. So I would expect him to be even better this summer.

Let’s talk about Dylan and his 2021 summer for a minute. I know he came into the Triple Crown MXTour Series not 100% and from there things didn’t get any easier for him.

No, it definitely wasn’t easy for him. He did get injured at an AMO race here at Gopher Dunes prior to the MXTour Series and then once the series began he faced some good pressure from Jess Pettis and Marshal Weltin. It was tough but he dug deep and get it done.

Going back to Round 6 in Deschambault. That round was the turning point of the series for Dylan as he suffered multiple crashes throughout the day. Can you take us through that pivotal day?

Well, that particular day started with Dylan taking an off-track excursion over a berm and down into the Deschambault River. That was a little bit of excitement that none of us needed and I’m glad he was okay. It was a far drop and he was pinned under the bike for a bit in the water so it could’ve been very serious. Also, because the bike was completely submerged we had to go to his backup bike for the motos so there was a lot of work to do back at the truck.

GDR Honda rider Dylan Wright put in an incredible championship winning ride at Round 6 in Deschambault. Photo by James Lissimore

That must have been a scary moment for everyone involved. I didn’t see it but I saw all of the Team Managers running towards the river to try and help. Actually, all that aside it was great to see all of the Team Managers coming together to help each other out. Okay, so Dylan recovers from that crash and then goes out and wins the first 450MX moto and all appears good. However, in the opening laps of the second moto disaster strikes again?

He actually went down twice in the opening laps of Moto 2. The first one wasn’t his fault as another rider took him out for no reason at all, but the second crash was a big one and it could’ve cost him the championship. I didn’t know until after the moto but Dylan hit the ground so hard that he said he was knocked out for a few seconds. All he remembers is thinking that he had to crawl off of the track so he wouldn’t get hit by another rider. After a minute or so he finally got up and got going again and he told me that at the time he wasn’t sure if he should continue or head back to the truck. Now, my advice to riders is that if you feel like that you should definitely head back to the truck, and if Dylan had stopped and asked I would’ve told him that. But we didn’t know what he was feeling so he stayed out and charged back to 6th and I think that moto won him the 450 Championship.

That’s an incredible story and I’m glad it all worked out for him. You’ve been fortunate enough to be around riders who are just plain built differently. A couple of years ago we spoke about Colton Facciotti’s mental toughness, you just talked about Dylan, Tanner has proven to be as tough as nails, as has Ryder. I’m guessing that it’s not just a coincidence that all of your riders seem to share this trait?

No, it isn’t as that is one thing I look for when choosing a rider to be a part of our GDR Team. We have a winning culture here and you have to work hard and when it’s needed you have to be mentally strong. No rider wins races or titles without facing some adversity and when that happens you have to know how to deal with it. As they say, you win championships on your bad days and Dylan was proof of that last year at Deschambault. There aren’t many riders that I know who would’ve not only got up from a hard crash like that but also found the strength to charge back to 6th and saved a lot of points.

Thanks to some hours spent inside the new Gopher Dunes gym Derek is looking and feeling better than ever.

Without a doubt Derek! So we’re now into the dog days of winter and when it’s -20 outside spring feels like a long way away. But it always feels like this and before we know spring will be here and Gopher Dunes will be opening for the 2022 riding season. The thought of this must excite you?

For sure! This is always a slow time of the year but since we’re so busy through the spring, summer, and fall a little downtime isn’t too bad. You’re right though, soon it will be riding season, and then hopefully back to a normal Triple Crown Series where we’ll be back to heading out west. It’s going to be an exciting 2022 season!

I agree, I think this year is going to feel more like a normal race season. Okay, I cannot interview you without talking about you’re new and improved appearance. You have obviously been putting in some hours in the gym as you’re looking lean. What have you been doing to get so fit?

Well Palms, first off, thank you for noticing. It’s always nice when one of your buddies tells you that you’re looking good. I think I’ve lost like 40 pounds so far so yeah it’s a bit of a transformation. Since we built the gym above the shop here it’s always been my plan to start working out and get back into shape. So this past fall I started going into the gym and at first I would just stretch and that was it. From there, I started riding the spin bike for 20 minutes and doing more and more. It didn’t take long to get addicted to just going to the gym doing something every day. I also changed a few things with my eating but not as much as you’d think, maybe just making better choices. That’s it really. I want to keep going and even when I was in California on the weekend I couldn’t wait to get back here so I could the gym. It’s been quite the journey and I’ve been really appreciative of all of the support I’ve gotten.

Well, I think it’s just great and good on you for putting in the work. If it was easy then everyone would be walking around in good shape. Final question for you, how was the racing at Anaheim 1?

It was great and it was so cool being there. Obviously, we got the royal treatment from the crew at Fox Racing Canada so that made it even more special. But everyone should try and go to Anaheim 1 at once in their lifetime. There’s nothing like it!

Thank you for the chat Derek. Enjoy the rest of your winter and hopefully, spring will be here soon!

Thanks for calling Palms. I cannot wait for the 2022 riding season to get underway as we have some more exciting things planned for Gopher Dunes. We made some big changes last summer and there’s more to come this year.