Back in the fall of 2019 when Derek Schuster announced that he had signed Ryder McNabb to race a 250 as part of the powerful Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing Team, many people in the industry thought that this might be a huge gamble. At the time Ryder was fresh off another Walton TransCan Supermini title and at the time he had just turned 14 years old. The deal with the Honda team not only had Ryder racing a CRF250R but also had him skipping the Junior class completely and moving straight to the Pro/AM class. Well, looking back now and Derek Schuster should be congratulated for seeing something that many didn’t. After getting his feet wet last year in the 250 Pro class, McNabb is now leading the 250 Triple Crown points standings and could be well on his way to becoming the youngest pro-national champion in modern history. As the riders are busy preparing for Round 6 in Deschambault we caught up with Ryder McNabb while he was relaxing in Quebec.
MXP: Hey Ryder, what is going on today?
RM: Right now I’m just in Quebec with my family at the track in Deschambault. We’re going to do some riding on Tuesday and then hang out all week and watch the ECAN.
Did you travel back to Gopher Dunes after the race in SDL or did you just head straight to Quebec?
We came straight to Quebec after SDL and I was going to start riding immediately but I had to wait on some parts for my practice bike. Anyway, I took a couple of days off and then rode all weekend.
This is your first time at the Deschambault track, what are your initial thoughts on it?
I like it a lot so far. The layout is good and the dirt feels a lot like SDL so I felt comfortable on it right away. Also, it’s cool being in Quebec and seeing how different everything looks. It’s a pretty cool Province and I’m happy to be able to spend all week here.
You’re coming off a very successful weekend at SDL where you not only won the 250 class overall but also took over the points lead. You must have felt great after that race?
Yes, it was a great day and obviously, I’m happy with how it turned out. The results were great and taking the points lead was really good, but overall I was just happy with how I rode in general. I felt like I rode really smart in both motos. In the opening moto, I started to get a little tired and when Marco [Cannella] started to pressure me I knew that he was far behind in the points so I didn’t need to battle him at that point. Then in Moto 2, I knew Marco was catching me, and then when he finally did catch me, he went down and I was able to take the win.
That was definitely some smart riding on your part. We’ve seen that a few times this season when riders are battling with you and then they make the mistakes. You would think that with your competition having more experience than you do that they would be able to force you into making mistakes, not the other way around. I find that amazing.
I don’t know why that is other than I just feel comfortable riding at that pace. I don’t feel rushed or anything, I’m just out there racing and feeling good. My bike is working good and my confidence is getting better with each round.
One area you’ve really improved on is with regards to your starts. Last year we saw you buried in the pack on the opening lap in a few motos and then at times, you would compound that mistake by going down. However, this year your starts have been great. Are starts something you worked on a lot during the off-season, is it your bike, or is it just confidence?
Mostly I would say that it’s confidence as now I sit on the gate and just believe that I’m going to get a good start. As you know that makes a big difference in what kind of start you get. Coming into this season I wasn’t really getting consistent good starts in my races. In November at the Mini O’s I had a good start in one moto and then tucked the front end in the first turn and crashed. At Daytona I crashed again off the start, and then last month at the AMO race at Gopher I crashed hard in the first turn. But since the Triple Crown Series has started I’ve been able to nail most of my starts. Also, I have a start setting on my ECU where regardless of how much throttle I use while waiting for the gate to drop it sets it to the perfect RPM. So I can hold it wide open if I want and it only allows the engine to go so high. It takes a lot of guesswork out of it that’s for sure.
Well, whatever has been working I don’t think you should change anything (laughs). Another area where it appears you’ve been better than most is with your racecraft. Even going back to your 85cc and Supermini days you’ve always been good at racing and figuring out the track, the lines, and also where to pass. For a kid that isn’t even allowed to drive a car yet your maturity on the track and your overall racecraft is that of a veteran rider. Why is that?
Good question Palms! I’ve certainly worked hard at it over the years. Even when I was on 85’s I would spend a lot of time training in the USA and riding with fast riders. When you’re in the USA trying to compete at that level and racing at the big amateur events there you have to have good racecraft. If you don’t then you get worked over pretty quick. Also, I think it has to do with training hard and being in good shape. When you\re tired you tend to make bad decisions on the track, which can lead to getting passed or even crashing. Finally, riding so much in the USA has taught me to be aggressive right from the opening lap.
Is this something you still work on in your training?
I don’t work on it much during the season but during the winter I had the opportunity to go and train with Jett Lawrence and one of the things they did was have motos where you didn’t ride at 100% speed, you would ride at like 75% or 80% and you’d just try and take different lines and try and pass each other. It was fun and it allowed you to slow down and think about how and where to pass.
Well, as I said above, whatever you’ve done seems to be working. You also have some great people around you, your dad, Derek, Colton, Newf, your entire team appears to be very supportive?
My team is great and under the tent, we’re like one big family. Newf has been great as my mechanic and hopefully, we can keep this thing going in the final few rounds. Colton obviously has a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work. He’s been great at working with us and showing us what needs to be done if we want to win championships. I’m very lucky to be part of a great team and hopefully we can bring home both titles this summer. If I can’t do it then I hope Tanner wins and obviously we hope that Dylan can repeat as the 450 champion.
Okay Ryder, you’re leading the 250 class by just three points heading into this weekend. What is the plan going into Sunday?
I think my plan is to continue to ride smart and put myself into a good position off of the start. From there, my plan is to not make any mistakes and do my best. I’m confident in my speed so if I can avoid any big mistakes on the opening laps then I should be okay. Obviously, the pressure is going to build here in the coming weeks as we get to the final few motos but all I can do is worry about myself and how I ride. We’ll see what happens! Right now I’m having fun and this weekend is just another race.
It sounds like you have the perfect attitude heading into these final three rounds. Thanks for doing this Ryder and enjoy your time in Quebec.
Thanks Palms! We’ll see you later this week.