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Crew Chief for Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki Team - Robbie Petersen

This week, we recap the week and discuss last weekend's Red Bull Straight Rhythm. Then, guest Robbie Petersen joins us and shares details about his life as a road racer growing up in South Africa, balancing being a father to Superbike racer Cam Petersen, and his current role as a crew chief for Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider, Ty Scott.

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This episode is brought to you by MotoAmerica. Moto America is the home of AMA Superbike and North America's premier motorcycle road racing series, with some of the best motorcycle road racing on two wheels. Rewatch every round of the 2022 series – and catch all the action from each race – with the MotoAmerica Live+ video-on-demand streaming service. Or visit the MotoAmerica YouTube Channel for race highlights and original video content. Look for a complete 2023 schedule coming soon at

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Pit Pass Moto is a production of Evergreen Podcasts and Wessler Media. A special thank you to Tommy Boy Halverson.

Note: This transcript is machine generated and may contain spelling and grammar errors.

[00:00:16.960] - Dave

Hello everyone. Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that keeps you up to speed on the latest in motorcycling and brings the biggest names in the motorcycle industry right to you. I'm Dave Sulecki.

[00:00:26.950] - Dale

I'm Dale Spangler. And this week our guest is Robbie Petersen, a former racer himself and the father of Moto America super bike racer, Cam Petersen. This episode, it is brought to you by Moto America. Moto America is the home of AMA Superbike, and North America's premier motorcycle road racing series, with some of the best motorcycle racing on two wheels. Rewatch every rounds of the 2022 series and catch all the action from each race with the Moto America Live Plus video on demand streaming service. Or visit the Moto America YouTube channel for race highlights and original video content. Look for a complete 2023 schedule coming [email protected] And be sure to follow Moto America on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for real time series updates. Well, David, looks like the riding season might be officially over for you there in Ohio because I was looking at the weather this morning and I saw that you're going to get snow. What is up with that? The strange weather continues.

[00:01:30.790] - Dave

Yeah, we're going to wait and see because actually I was at the race track this last weekend again, which was great, riding with some buddies, and most of the tracks are going to continue to be open. So we'll watch the weather. It'll be probably touch and go and yeah, if we get snow and real wet and it warms up again, it's back on the track again. So a lot of street bikes out over the weekend because we had 60, 70 degree weather. It was pretty nice actually. Here, how about out your way?

[00:01:55.800] - Dale

It's been amazing. It's been such a beautiful October, probably the best I can recall on record. We've been mid 70s all month. The sun shining, so it's been great. Unfortunately, my Himalayan is in the shop at the moment getting its first service. And I just found out this morning that I'm like, shouldn't it be done by now? I dropped it off last Thursday and they're like, well, we had to order a part for the oil change. I'm like, really? Apart for the oil change. So, yeah, I should get it back hopefully tomorrow. And I'm definitely going to get a couple more rides in because it looks like our weather is going to change this coming Saturday. And then it's going to be like mid 50 is the rest of the month. So I got to get those rides in while I can.

[00:02:33.840] - Dave

Yeah, it's a good sign that you got your first service. That means you got the miles in. So good on you. And hopefully the weather holds in. You guys can get some more time in the saddle.

[00:02:42.210] - Dale

Yeah, like I said before, I think I'm definitely going to start working on some heated gear and kind of just testing some fun different products that I've never used before. Like, I'm trying out these new motorcycle specific earplugs, which I don't know if you've ever used them, but supposedly they're tuned to kind of like blackout wind noise, but you still are able to hear the engine noises because when I ride with earplugs, I don't know about you, but I just lose. Like, I feel like I'm completely disoriented because I can't hear the bike and I'm getting different vibrations. And so I'm interested to see how these things work. They kind of just they're reusable, they push in and supposedly they let some sound through, but they block about 20 decibels. And so it'll be interesting to see how they work.

[00:03:20.940] - Dave

Yeah, definitely. Report back here after the trial run. I'll be kind of curious also about what you find out about the best gloves and jackets to kind of fend off some of that 50 deg weather.

[00:03:31.740] - Dale

Absolutely. So what do you think of the Red Bull straight rhythm? Did you get a chance to catch that this past weekend? Man, I thought it was amazing. I wish it would have been televised live. Of course, if you go on YouTube, you wait maybe an hour, you'll find something that somebody uploaded up there. Probably pirated, but I was able to watch it via YouTube. And such a cool environment out there at the beach, though. I don't know about what would you think overall?

[00:03:56.970] - Dave

Yeah, it sounded like just reading some posts of some of the people that attended, it was quite the party vibe. And you can imagine in Huntington Beach on the water like that, that you would probably have that kind of a set up. But the action on the track was, for my money, was worth watching because those guys you can't deny the talent it takes to go down that street and do that consistently and fast. Just amazing to watch the talent on the track.

[00:04:23.580] - Dale

It's so unique, too, because I feel like there's some riders that unexpected, riders that do really well, that we all know have talent, like a Josh Hansen and a Justin Hill who went up against each other. And it was a great battle. But I tell you, Hanson, I mean, every time he gets on the bike, his body position, his form, everybody says he just is oozing talent, but he just can't seem to put it together for the finals. But he did make it into the semifinals. And let's see, I think he went up against was it Roxanne? I can't remember if we went up against Marvor or Roxton, but he ended up losing. And of course, Moosegan and Roxanne went head to head in the final. And I'll tell you, like, that scrub of Roxton to beat Barcia in the semifinals, to me, is going to go down as one of those viral moments that we're going to be seeing for years. Him scrubbing and passing him. It was incredible.

[00:05:14.440] - Dave

Yeah, it was all about getting those wheels on the ground. He was probably 6ft below baria on that scrub because he couldn't have been a couple of feet off the top of that jump and got his wheels down and driving. And that was the difference maker in that run and carried him to the finish line. And like I said, these guys just know how to downside a jump. That's the amazing thing about guys like you mentioned, Josh Hanson, who just seems to have that just innate ability to do that and do it consistently. And I think, honestly, the two guys that one separated themselves from the field. I think Roxanne and Muskin in the 250 class. Muskin just looks so effortless and smooth. Just a typical French rider. Just always got the head in one position and driving just amazing to watch.

[00:06:02.410] - Dale

He just seemed like he had that swagger. Like, you could tell for me when I see a rider and just the way that they carry themselves and the way they're speaking and even their shoulders and everything, you could just tell when they're confident and they're bristling with confidence. And that's the way he was. Like, every time he lined up, he was on it. I expected with that scrub from Roxin, I'm like, man, there's no way Marvin is going to beat Roxan with his whoop speed and the way he keeps the bike so low to the ground. But gosh, it was like a different Marv, man. He just was on it. And then I heard I watched an interview this morning and he's like, yeah, I rode the bike, like twice this week. And I'm like and he's one of those guys where it's like I feel like he's primarily a four stroke era guy as opposed to two stroke. And so made it all the more impressive that what he did.

[00:06:44.020] - Dave

So what do you think about the two strokes, Dale? They kind of feature that in Red Bull. It's been kind of their thing since they started. I don't think it's since it started, but they evolved to that. And we want to have that debate about twostroke versus four stroke, but just seems like what's the purpose of a twostroke in our world today? In dirt bikes in general, they've got their little niche applications, but other than that, what's the role of a twostroke?

[00:07:12.490] - Dale

Nostalgia. Yeah.

[00:07:15.260] - Dave

Hearing that sound, you love it, don't you?

[00:07:17.860] - Dale


[00:07:18.250] - Dave

There's nothing like a gate full of 252 strokes or 125 two strokes hit in the first turn.

[00:07:23.590] - Dale

I mean, sadly, though, my emotional appeal to it is like yes. But I think, like, thinking about it from the business side of it, I don't even know if it really makes that much of a difference to the people that go watch the straight rhythm, you know?

[00:07:35.310] - Dave

Do they even know the difference? And I was thinking about that because a lot of the riders today may have never even ridden the two stroke. If they started late in their late teens and didn't come up through the minis in the 80s, they would have never wrote a two stroke, probably. So we're dealing with a generation. That what we're talking about last week. How are you going to explain to a young engineer what clockwise means? How you can explain to a rider coming up today that just started on a four stroke what a twostroke is?

[00:08:04.470] - Dave


[00:08:05.050] - Dale

It's definitely cost savings. It's easy to work on, but I don't even think that matters anymore. I just think the new generation doesn't really even cross their mind, right.

[00:08:14.040] - Dave

Because they don't know what it means. So therefore, the only thing that exists is what's there in front of them. So, yeah, I wonder. They've got their niches. You've got the off road guys swear by the 300s. That's a killer machine if you've ever ridden one. They are so much fun.

[00:08:29.700] - Dale

I think if you take the competitive element out of it and just purely fun, that's another place with a two stroke because it's just flicking around.

[00:08:36.660] - Dave

I was just thinking about it. I was at the track yesterday, and there's a few guys out there still riding them and hardcore guys that won't ever leave them. And then there's the rest of us. Right. I'm fully committed. I'm all in on four strokes. I love it. And it's just interesting to watch and kind of wonder what the young kids think, too. I should probably ask them some questions.

[00:08:56.710] - Dale

Yeah, it's kind of counterintuitive when you think about it, because a lot of the older guys are the ones riding the two strokes. I'm like, you're working twice as hard.

[00:09:03.490] - Dave

I know. I was thinking about that, too. I think I let somebody who rides a two stroke he rode my bike yesterday, and he goes, wow. He goes, is this what I'm missing?

[00:09:12.430] - Dale


[00:09:12.870] - Dave

It's like, Dude, why work so hard? At my age? I won't say what my age is, but at my age, this is way easier to ride, dude. And you can go faster. Not just as fast. You'll go faster.

[00:09:27.190] - Dale

My experience on four strokes, which isn't that much, is that I feel like the slower I go, the faster I go. Because you just want to rev those things so they'll rev to the moon. You're not used to that on a two stroke. Two stroke, you've got everything perfect. Don't let the bike bog down. Whatever.

[00:09:44.080] - Dave

There was a jump at Trevor's yesterday that you had to nail this corner just right. Even on the four stroke, you had to come out smooth seat bounce. This jump, it was probably about a 25 foot gap. It wasn't that big. But God, in a two stroke, you had to be letter perfect every lap to clear it. And I don't know how this guy could do it. Most of them couldn't. You know, it's just then they're working so much harder to get around the track. I miss that, but I don't miss it.

[00:10:08.890] - Dale

Yeah, it's cool. I appreciate it and respect it because I know how difficult I think about a section at Troy, you know, like Kenworthy's, where, like there's that Dirty Dozen where you jump three out of the corner. Like it was so tight and we would just barely make it on a two stroke. Right. Imagine how easy that would be on a four stroke now. Like, nothing.

[00:10:29.020] - Dave

It is nothing. I mean, just to come out of a corner and gap something, 30ft, piece of cake, second gear, boom, boom, I'm gone. It's so easy now.

[00:10:37.320] - Dale

Yeah. 125, two stroke. You're just cobbed as hard as you can. Just pray second perfect, I'll barely make it.

[00:10:46.120] - Dave

Yeah. And hopefully get the attitude of the bike. Right. You don't screw that up. It's just so much easier now. Just one of those observations I had at the track yesterday was thinking about these young kids that may have never ridden two stroke.

[00:10:59.500] - Dale

Yeah. I also wonder, like I mean, for a guy like Roxson, it's probably not as bad because at least they're riding the same frame and everything. The geometry, the bikes, they're just stuffing a two stroke motor in it, right? In some case. Well, not the YZ he was riding. But that's all modern, though.

[00:11:15.060] - Dave

He also grew up in the minis. I mean, he came through two strokes, so he understands the bikes. I think he rode the Honda Twostroke at Red Bull a couple of years ago. They built him a Cr 250.

[00:11:25.860] - Dale

Oh, yeah.

[00:11:26.670] - Dave

Guys at that level, that's a whole another talent. They just understand power and speed.

[00:11:31.980] - Dale

Confidence is a huge thing in our sport, isn't it?

[00:11:34.470] - Dave


[00:11:35.250] - Dale

If you feel off at all. Like, I remember telling my mom this story because she wasn't there. It was an indoor arena race that we did, tiny little podunk arena. And it was a cold winter race, so it was cold. Bikes are always running lean. My dad's messed with the jetting, and he jetted it way too lean. So I go off some double jump sit, jump it, and I go over the bars. I step off in midair and I'm like, I thought I was going to pull it off. I was, like, running down the downside of this jump, but then my feet just couldn't keep up and I just face planted and just destroyed my chest and my upper, like, towards my neck. I was messed up for, like, three weeks after that, but I'm so pissed.

[00:12:16.560] - Dave

Officially yard saled it. Yeah.

[00:12:19.030] - Dale

He didn't tell me either. He's like, I leaned it out. I'm like. Oh, okay.

[00:12:23.010] - Dave


[00:12:23.850] - Dale

A big old bog off.

[00:12:26.360] - Dave

I think your observation about Marvin was dead on. It doesn't matter if he's on two stroke or four stroke. He just knows what the bike's going to do. And he's got such confidence. Yeah. I just started riding this a couple of days ago and I went out here and won it. So that just blows my mind. Marvin, he's undefeated in straight rhythm and that's just an amazing stat that seems unfathomable, it just doesn't seem possible. But when you think about his writing style and effective, he's a super cross only rider now in his contract. That's the type of obstacle he's just so smooth and good at. And he proved it and I was kind of blown away and I think you were too. Is this Carson Brown taking the win in the 125 class? He just looks smooth and consistent. But one interesting fact I saw that leading up to the final, or actually as the event unfolded, is he brought two bikes to the event. He brought a 125 and a 150 CC. And he ultimately settled on the 150, I guess ain't no replacement for displacement. So I think that was probably a wise move on his part, for sure.

[00:13:31.710] - Dale

I was super impressed with him. He's just one of those guys where he's another one of those guys that has so much talent, he can ride just about any bike. If you follow his social media, like his Instagram, he's always doing fun videos of him and riding in his backyard and like a complete rainstorm. One of my favorite videos of him is ripping like an old KDX 200, jumping all the jumps just wide open, pinned on the thing. And so he's always fun to watch. And so it's been cool for him lately to one win, the 2022 Pit Bike of nations. And then now he wins this straight rhythm and he's got World Supercross going out. So he's been a super busy man and I think he's always been, like as we've said, he's always been a talented guy and it's just good to see him doing really well. And I hope he carries it into the Supercross season if he ends up doing the US Supercross season.

[00:14:17.130] - Dave

Yeah, I agree. I like to see him at this next round. It's coming up this weekend, World Supercross in Melbourne, Australia. So that will be the second race and final event for that series. And I imagine Roxton is on the airplane also and they're all heading over there right now.

[00:14:31.780] - Dale

Yeah, that's coming up. And it's been nice to have some of these off season races because Supercross is the 2023 Supercross season is not that far away. In fact, I just saw where, like, for our listeners out there, the tickets are now on sale for that 2023 Monster Energy a May Supercross season. And so you could go to Supercross live and buy those now. And round one is January 7, so it's not that far away. It's as traditional Angel Stadium start in Anaheim, California. So looking forward to that. And as you said, the World Supercast coming up. But I had a couple more observations to go back to the straight rhythm, though, that I wanted to kind of bring up that I thought were fun. But how about Nico? Is he coming back out of nowhere? I mean, this guy's had a rough time in his life, and he actually beat Barcia in one of his races. So Barcia advanced with the two wins over one, but, wow, where did he come from? Like, all of a sudden, Nico Izzy is racing, and I think, if I'm not mistaken, he spent some time in jail and he's had a rough time in his life.

[00:15:32.890] - Dale

So good to see him back and race in an event like this.

[00:15:36.840] - Dave

Yeah, I'd like to see this be a springboard for Nico to get back on the Motocross track and kind of resurrect his career because a lot of people felt it was cut short after what he went through. So to see a guy bring himself back, everybody loves a comeback story, and he was definitely one of the most talented guys on that Suzuki team back in the day. So I'd love to see him kind of turn it around and maybe this is a springboard. This kind of success could possibly lead to other things, possibly a ride, maybe some help for the season. You never know.

[00:16:06.790] - Dale

Yeah, supposedly he's committed to a full Supercross season next year. At least that's what I read. And we'll see if he shows up. But good on him. Like you said, everybody likes to see a good comeback story. So one of their last observation before we wrap up and get onto our interview with Robbie Petersen today, how about O'Neill. Gear? What happened with O'Neill.

[00:16:29.610] - Dale

All of a sudden they have some money because Marv Wins just signed a deal with O'Neill Gear. Josfariz finished second and Derek Kelly was third, all wearing O'Neill gear. And on top of that, I saw where they just signed new HRC signee, Colt Nickels. So all of a sudden, it seems like O'Neill. Is making a comeback.

[00:16:49.150] - Dave

Kind of an old school brand, I think, for you and I back in the day. I know in the brands to be in this last race season, supercross and Motocross, I think they only had Dean Wilson, or if the other riders were out there, I didn't notice them. But cool story. I've always been a fan of the Gear longtime privately owned business and just been in it for a long, long time. It's cool to see.

[00:17:13.420] - Dale

Yeah, it's one of the few brands I feel like left that hasn't been scooped up by some outside capital. So, definitely cool to see, like you said, a lot of history there. And I have a feeling that maybe Dean Wilson signing with another team, because I think that probably freed up some O'Neill money right there since he's now wearing fly. And so that might be some of it, but yeah, good for them. Great to see. And yeah, that's about it. I guess I have for this week, probably about time to get on to our interview for this week, which I'm really looking forward to. That Robbie Petersen seems like a guy with a lot of history and just a lot of impressive stats about him that I saw when I was doing my research. So looking forward to speaking with him here in a moment.

[00:17:57.600] - Dave

Yeah, a long time old school racer who moved to the USA. So, yeah, definitely looking forward to talking to him and learning his story. All right, we'd like to welcome the Pit Pass Moto today, Robbie Petersen. He is a retired racer, father to Cam Petersen, also crew chief for the Vision Wheels m four X star Suzuki super sport rider Tyler Scott. Robbie, we really appreciate you taking the time to spend with us today, and you got to be excited about your season with Tyler. Just the young man was spectacular this year.

[00:18:39.430] - Robbie

No, thank you, Dave. Thanks for having on. Really, when I got in touch with Tyler, I didn't know what to expect. Obviously, he's really young, and the truth is he used to compete against Ben Glottey in the junior cup, and Ben Glottie used to work with us at American SuperCam. So I was kind of like a Bengaladyty fan and then got working with Tyler. And from the first race at Atlanta, I was like because you see something in his kid, in his eyes and his demeanor, and obviously he's got unreal skills. So built up a really good relationship, became a fan of his honest truth and just had a great time working with him, for sure.

[00:19:17.440] - Dave

And you guys had a breakthrough in moto America. What kind of led up to that when in Wisconsin, I mean, was it just everything kind of came together or just systematic preparation? And that led up to that weekend.

[00:19:32.650] - Robbie

We did a good test at Pittsburgh just before that and found a little bit of stuff. So keep in mind, he had never seen a 650. The first race at Atlanta, we showed up there. We got our bike on the Thursday. He had never even seen it. So Atlanta was a big learning curve. We did a test on a 750 at Barber, and straight off, he was quick, did some more stuff, dir. I thought he was really impressive. A test at Pittsburgh, really impressive. And like you said, everything just kind of clicked at Road America. There's no question that track kind of suited our bike. And then we made some changes. We've got a big picture. Obviously, we try to make this thing better and better. And from the ridge onwards, we actually struggled a little bit with some set up stuff more with electronics and touch setup. The Ridge Laguna weren't great. I got reasonable results. I made a couple of bad choices with tired choice at the ridge. We went for the soft, and it just didn't last. And then, you know, I think he came back into his own again. New Jersey was strong, barbara was strong.

[00:20:37.530] - Robbie

So once again, Barbara was a little bit of a bad Thai choice. And there was a joint choice. We discussed that and we made a bad tie choice, probably in race one. But I tried to take every positive away. And even when he was struggling a little bit, like New Jersey, for instance, he was really struggling to sector four, I think it was. But sector one, two, three, he was unreal, you know, so wherever we can, we just try to take some positives. And I think going forward, he's going to have a better base to start with, obviously for next year. And I think he can be consistently.

[00:21:12.240] - Dave

Running up front, so kind of help us understand. I know they allowed the 750 with some modifications in that class, which I thought was great because it really helps grow the class and bring other writers into it. Obviously, you made the decision because you had good success in testing, and it led to that. But what are some of the modifications that they perform to allow the 750 in the Super Sport class?

[00:21:36.040] - Robbie

Well, the main thing is that they converted it to flyby wire so that they can basically control our throttle openings. So although Tyler might be going to 100%, or any rider on the Simf might be going to 100% on the throttle, it's limiting how much the blades will actually open. So all they're doing is basically reducing the horsepower. So the goal is obviously to create parity between all the bikes. So a simple way to look at it as well, we'll probably be able to do the same job on the 600 because the bikes effectively are going to be the same. But I guess from a marketing point of view and going forward, it just kind of makes sense. People don't really want to ride six hundreds anymore. So I think marketing the 750 was just better for everybody, better for the sports. The 750 might have a couple of advantages in some areas, and at the moment it's got some disadvantages, which we're working on. But not america. The FM, they keep a real close eye. I mean, they've got some very clever algorithms in terms of making sure that nobody has too much of an advantage.

[00:22:38.800] - Robbie

And I'm not very good with it in general, or technology, but I'm really impressed with the way of monitoring performance on all the bikes. They download our data all the time. They're keeping an eye on Rachel acceleration and so on. And I think they've got a graph.

[00:22:55.980] - Dale

It's almost like they're bringing a little bit of that Formula One technology aspect into it. And it definitely keeps it interesting, that's for sure. One of the things I wanted to ask you, your position in the paddock, I feel like you have a unique perspective, as we've kind of talked about a little bit already. You're the father of Cam Petersen, who rides for the fresh and lean Yamaha team. And you're a crew chief. You're a former racer yourself. Is it tough to kind of separate the two of being a crew chief and a father to a professional racer?

[00:23:25.080] - Robbie

It's actually not Dale. So probably up until about 2020 or 2019, I probably watched almost every single lap that Cameron had done on a motorcycle since he was five years old. And to be honest with you, it just got harder and harder as the stakes got sort of higher. It was seriously nerveracking for me to the point I was so desperate for him just to get some kind of opportunity. I've always believed that he had incredible talent and we had a bit of a rough ride. We got to this country in 2015 and some ups and downs, and at one stage he was done. Probably at the end of 2019, there were no options. It was like, he doesn't have a ride. I've got no more money to pay for a ride for him and a chance meeting. We just happened to go to the San Diego Supercross, and by some miracle, Chris Orbitz was sitting behind me. We get into a discussion and he goes, So what's can be? And I said, Chris, at the moment, I think he's done, you know? So a minute later, I get this tap on my shoulder and it's, Chris, you need to get a hold of this guy.

[00:24:21.040] - Robbie

George Mosseni from Walters. That chance meeting led to where Cam is right now. So what I'm trying to get at, it's so much better for me now to have this big distraction. I don't want to call it a distraction, but at the racetrack, I hardly get to even watch cam very, very solid, you know, like, most of the time. I get back on Monday and watch all the racing on the live clubs. Tyler will come in and we're just planning for the next session and debriefs and looking at data and, you know, the deal. So it's just nice to know that Cam is in the best possible hands. I mean, we couldn't wish for him to be in a better situation than he is right now. And for myself, I'm really enjoying my program, so it's just all worked out.

[00:25:05.980] - Dale

Yeah, I mean, that to me, just makes it all the more impressive. It's a story of perseverance from what I've seen, because I remember reading that story you talked about where camp was ready to walk away, and a lot of it was to do with the financial burden. And so, wow, what a story of perseverance. And especially coming from Africa, even more difficult coming to the States to race. And speaking of that, I'd love to hear more about a family from a Zimbabwe in and South African family of motorcycle racers. I'd love to hear more about that.

[00:25:36.760] - Robbie

Yeah. My playground as a kid was the race tracks. My. Dad was like the chairman of the Susan Hubbard, used to be called Rhodesia. He was kind of in charge of the federation there. And I mean, we had some big, big names, late 50s, early 60s, like IRA Am, Jim Redmond, Gary Hawking, and they were all family friends, pretty much. So my first ride on a motorcycle, I think I was three months old at the beginning of 1962, gary Hawking, who was the 1961 world champion, put me on the tank on his factory MV and did a lapper on the racetrack. And I was three months old. So just a culture. I had three brothers who all raced. I had an older cousin who went and raced in Europe late sixty s, and it was just what we were going to do. We were going to race motorcycles. Then we got sanctioned. The country kind of fell into hard times and there was a war going on and we got sanctioned. So racing almost died. But I was going to be a road racer. Come, how would I was going to be a road racer?

[00:26:37.650] - Robbie

I mean, I was 16 years old at school telling my friends, I'm going to be a South African champion. Now, for most people there was a huge difference between Rhodesia and South Africa. South Africa was like almost for us, almost like a world championship, and I'm going to race it internationally. And honestly, my friends just have asked me, what's this guy thinking? And then we went out to emigrate from the country and probably done military service, did my military service, went south to South Africa, started racing by that stage. My brothers were really well established there anyway, and kind of winning races and championships and the ball started rolling and pretty quick. I won a championship within about two years and always wanted to rest. Obviously, world championship was our goal. As a kid I used to read Cycle News or Cycle Weekly, whatever it was called. I knew all the names, Agastini, Fury, Ivy, whoever. And then later on, obviously, kenny Roberts. Kenny was probably my first real hero. Hero like, man, this Kenny Roberts, he's incredible. So I couldn't go to Europe because we couldn't get a license as a South African competitor with apartheid and stuff.

[00:27:41.470] - Robbie

We couldn't get licenses to come to Europe, so got welcomed in America. Cork Bellington at that stage was racing over here and Cork kind of gave me an opportunity to come over and write it to Speed 250, and loved it. From the first time I stepped out of the airport at Daytona, I was like, this is where I want to be, and had a reasonable career, I think in America. Few sort of good races and obviously writing for, being, getting to write for Kenya Roberts, who was my absolute hero, was just surreal. Just like, how can this be happening? So it's a bit of a fairy tale, it truly is. I mean, it's just a simple kid. I was just a simple kid who had no idea what the wide world was about. But growing up in a little isolated country in the middle of Africa, I wanted to be an international motor soccer racer.

[00:28:32.580] - Dave

And eventually that pretty much sent you around the world, I would say. I've seen some interviews and read some things that you've even spent some time in Malaysia, in Indonesia, racing, and I wanted to kind of ask your opinion about that region in particular, because you did spend some time there. I think you managed some race teams there.

[00:28:51.720] - Robbie

I did, dave so as I said, I got your race for kenny on the Marlborough team. Then Marlborough pulled out at the end of 91 and things kind of went downhill. So I rode for a private team in 92 and didn't really ride. I thought I was riding badly, but it turned out later in the season I found out my bike actually wasn't that great. Long story. In 92 I thought I had a pretty good option in America to ride 250 and maybe possibly a super bike as well. Went back to cyclone holiday and track accident, who used to manage all kenny's affairs, calls me and goes up, kenny thinks you should give up racing and come and the kenny was starting with the team in Spain. Kenny jr. Was going over there and he had some big ideas about developing teams and the riding school and so on, so I wasn't really ready to give up. But next thing, January of 93, I was in Spain setting up a team for kenny to compete in the spanish domestic series with kenny jr. We then took on sette juvenile as well, which is another story which I think you might find intriguing.

[00:29:52.330] - Robbie

I mean, I got to Spain and I didn't know anybody, like, literally no one. So somebody had said to me, hey, there's this kid setojuana, he speaks really good english and he'll help you out. So I get there, I caught up. Sette, he was racing at that stage, a little bit like him. He was senior Bilto from bull taco's grandson. But they were also struggling a little bit and settle. Just didn't have anything going on. So I called him up, he helped me find a workshop, get stuff and all that kind of stuff. And we were painting the workshop one day about three weeks before the first race, and he's helping me paint the workshop, and kenny calls me up and he goes, you know, molbra kind of want a spanish rider. And I'd watch Tete. I mean, this sounds ridiculous, but I watched him playing around on the scooters that we used to use wobbling around the streets of seaches in Spain on it and asked if you can't, what about sette? This is sette a go, you know, so it's a little bit of a cam story there's. The San Diego supercross CETA was helping me paint the wall in the workshop, and a couple of years later he's writing a Valentino Rossi.

[00:30:50.320] - Robbie

So got to Spain, set up that deal. It was fun. It was like a little racing community in the place we were living in, noric Albert lived there and Randy Mamola and a whole bunch of other guys. That was 93, 94. Kenny started talking about setting up the riding school in Spain, and that was sort of my responsibility in 95. So we got that going. But I had a pretty serious back injury. I fractured my back really badly at the first camp, Marlborough wanted to really promote racing in Southeast Asia, so they bought a group of Malaysians through, and I took toll for one of the cars, rode into me and brought my back. And I was lying in hospital and I said, I want to go home, I just want to go fishing and hopefully I can play golf one day. And so we packed up and went back to Africa. So Camp was born in Spain in 94 and we went back to Zimbabwe in 95. But at the same time, Kenny was now setting up another deal to put Melbourne in Southeast Asia to run what they called ASEAN Series. And it was similar to the Spanish thing, okay, if you go to Kuala Lumpur and go set up a team for us.

[00:31:56.080] - Robbie

So I landed in Kale, didn't know anybody, made some contacts, and next thing we had this race team and might be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It was only two years, but the Asian economy took a huge end of 97. I think it was dead. We would have big plans more, but we're going to have this whole team like a nursery for them in Europe, european Championship on June, the GP and so on. By the end of 98, it was dead. The economy took that much of a hit. So if I went back to Zimbabwe and at that stage, I had not raced for a long time, since 92. So Yamaha in South Africa called me up in 98 and go, hey, why don't you come and have a ride on one of my bikes? And at that stage it was all just 600s, everything was 600 racing in South Africa. And got back on, I think I was 37, maybe, something like that, and didn't go bad and then got hooked again and had a really good sort of second career back in South Africa. It was strong, probably one of the strongest domestic series I've ever seen in the world at that stage.

[00:33:00.510] - Robbie

A lot of money, a lot of manufacturers support, good level of riders and so on. So I had another little sort of encore to my career before a motocross crash. I used to train quite a bit of motocross, and I wasn't very good, but I just thought it was great training and a guy jumped on top of me and destroyed my shoulder. So that was the end of the racing.

[00:33:18.480] - Dave

It can happen to a lot of us, I think, unfortunately. And that is a reality of the sport, but I think they went to you because you had that experience and knowledge and you could start up a team from scratch, it seems like out of thin air. But I have this theory that each region of the world has its turn for top riders. And you mentioned Spain spending time there with the top riders. And eventually Spain became the powerhouse in all forms of road racing, it seems like. And now that they've moved MotoGPs to Malaysia and Indonesia, and they've taken super bike there, there's kind of an underground movement. Again, it seems like it's growing out of that region. Is it possible that we're going to see somebody on the world stage from that region coming out of Indonesia? Do you think that's possible?

[00:34:01.450] - Robbie

So the whole Spanish thing really did start with a guy, Hani Agaswari, I think, from Solo Motor magazine. And he convinced Kenny to get involved. And his idea was they wanted to create MotoGP stars. I mean, Spain had a lot of 125 and 50 stars, aka Neato and so on, but they wanted to dominate the world for the benefit of their market. They just sort of help their domestic market, help sell motorcycles. Malaysia had a similar view, mob, honestly mobile with the driving force behind a lot of this and then Petronus as well. The difference was they were able to create all these nurseries, which is just so difficult in this country, in America. America is just so big and vast. And I think it's just hard to coordinate a concerted effort to groom our talent in this country. There's some kids in the New Jersey area that are great and a couple in Southern California and all of this show, but like I said, to have some kind of concerted effort to groom our young talent. Now I'm going back to South Africa. We've got Brad and Darren Binder. We've got Sherry Morris, who finished second at the Baldwin a while ago, a guy called Stephen Gongdoll who won the Baldor.

[00:35:05.850] - Robbie

And they came from a little nursery as well. Some guy created a CBR 150 class. The bikes cost nothing. They were really strict on keeping them all standard. So, like you said, it does kind of seem to go from area to area. But I think Spain and Italy right now, it's going to be hard to beat those guys. They are so well established. They've got such a nursery system bringing the kids through. It's going to be hard to ever beat those guys.

[00:35:34.180] - Dale

Before you finish today's episode, first we have a word from our sponsor. So kind of change of direction. Actually, back to what you're talking about with the Marlboro Yamaha that you wrote for Kenny Roberts. I have to ask, what was that beast like? Because I think that was the 502 stroke back then, and I think you were teammates with Rich Oliver, and that was during that period when there's that weird Weiraformula USA runwichabung format.

[00:35:58.530] - Robbie

Honestly, the first time I wrote that thing was actually at Indy, not at the Speedway, whatever, the little track, Indian IRP, whatever it used to be called. And it was an eye opener. I'd only ever really ridden 252 strokes and some super bike stuff. When I jumped on that thing, it was an eye opener. I remember coming out of there's this quick food right hand corner, like, at the back of the track, and thing was just wheeling and getting out of control. I obviously never wrote it at the level that Wayne, Eddie, Kevin Schwarz, all those kind of guys wrote it. You could write it 2 seconds off the pace. That thing was really comfortable to write. That extra second was like, oh, hang on, this thing is becoming a beast. And the honest truth, I don't even know how Wayne and Garlic, I don't know how they rode those things the way they did. I didn't have that in me. Every time I sat on that bike, even if I wasn't moving, just sitting in the pits, you just got this feeling like, this is the best thing in the world. And it's something that I'll obviously always be grateful for.

[00:36:57.730] - Robbie

And honestly, I've sort of forgotten about that. It was almost like a different part of my life. It was just that it never really happened. Only when I came back to the States in 2010. I was Ben Bostrom's crew chief in 2010, and I used to bump into people. Oh, yeah, we remember from that 500. Then it conjured up all those memories, and it was good times. Really lucky.

[00:37:19.120] - Dale

Yeah. And then you have the Laguna 2nd 91 US GP, where I saw this really cool photo, kind of an iconic looking photo from Henry Ray Abrams of you and Wayne Rainey walking together at that US GP. And I think I saw where you finished 12th and earn points. So, I mean, that's got to be a pretty special feeling, too, because how many people can say they earn points in a MotoGP?

[00:37:40.770] - Robbie

It was a tough weekend, though, that's honest truth. We had tested there a little bit before, probably about two or three weeks before the event. And Reggie and I were going we weren't in Wayne and Kevin's lead, but I could run with, like, one gouriga. And it's a long story, but when we got back for the race, and for whatever reason, they gave us the worst tires you could imagine. We got production superbike tires to use. So there were like four grades of tires, grade A for Wayne, Kevin, Schwarz, whoever, the team at Kasinski. And then there was a grade beer tire, which was like a riga. Doug Chandler, grade three, which was the private tiers, I think. Eddie Lacock and production superbike Tires. And it was a miserable event. That's honest to your thing. And I had some bike issues, but I actually led Doug Chandler for maybe three or four laps. And so once again, just trying to take some positives out of it, walk away, going, okay, well, great experience, but just one of those what ifs if the bike had been running in Good tires, I think maybe 7th, 8th, 9th was on the card.

[00:38:41.590] - Dale

So, one more two part question here before we start wrapping up here for this episode is what are your thoughts on the level of competition right now in Moto America, and what's next for Robbie Petersen going into 2023?

[00:38:56.310] - Robbie

Like you said earlier, Moto America have done a remarkable job in this country, honestly. And I'm not saying that because our friends of mine, every time I go to event, it's so well run. They've got the best intentions, they've tried so hard. Without the manufacturer's support, it's always going to be an uphill battle for them. So the level of competition, we don't have the depth we can't get ourselves. We don't have the depth of BSB or Superbike. Obviously, we had high hopes for Jake Ghana going over to Portugal and going, okay, well, let's see. On the face of it, the results were horribly disappointing. When you look Jake was like 15th and 17th. And then but then you start looking at top speeds and I'm going, Well, Top Rack did 317K an hour, and Jake did sorry, 319. And Jake did like, high 290s. So his bike was like 19 km an hour slower than Top Wrecks. What I'm trying to get at, I think Jake Gunier right now, given the perfect opportunity in Europe, can shine. I've got no doubt in my mind. I think. Cam. Obviously I'm biased. I think Cam, Matthew Scolds, obviously, and Patricia came over here and didn't set the world on fire.

[00:40:01.560] - Robbie

He did okay. And same with Laura Bazz. Loris Baz went back to Europe at the end of last year and got on the podium first race back, World Super Bikes. So it's the same story. I think our top four or five guys are great. And then there's some guys sitting in the wings who I wish were still on bikes, you know, JD Beach and there's a few others. Car we're in, but there's some kids coming up. You know, I work with Danny Walker, American SuperCamp, and I get to see some of the we work with the mini cup kids. And man, there's some talent coming up, so I think there's some hope. I still believe Garret goulof. I think, once again, given that there was some stuff that went on last year, which was unfortunate, but I don't think we've seen the end of Garrett. I think we're going to see some good stuff from himstore. And I'm 60 years old, so I forgot what the second part of the question was I was just going to.

[00:40:48.010] - Dale

Say what's next for Robbie Petersen going into 2023? What's on the agenda going forward?

[00:40:55.390] - Robbie

We just did the weekend at Daytona with Tyler. I'm really hoping to keep that going. I still work with the American Super camp. Probably just a little bit more of the same. I would like to maybe just get a little bit more involved with Tyler in terms of the writer coach side of it. So, yeah, hopefully a little bit more of the same for next year.

[00:41:16.900] - Dale

Well, we look forward to following your path going into next year. And we welcome you to come back on because we could talk for hours. There's so many good stories that you have and so much history there. But at this time, though, if you want to give a shout out to any websites or social media followings places people can find you on the web and contact you.

[00:41:35.640] - Robbie

We've got a family Facebook page because as I mentioned to you, and I had three brothers who are all South African champions. And my one brother wrote in Europe, he actually wrote to the Sakura Suzuki team, so I think it's called South African Racing Petersen Saga, a Facebook page on there. There's some good stories in there, but that's pretty much it tend to keep a fairly low profile.

[00:41:54.150] - Dale

But we really appreciate your time today, Robbie, and so much history, like I said, and great stories there. So we just really appreciate your time today.

[00:42:02.250] - Robbie

No, thank you, Dale. Thanks, Dave. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

[00:42:17.810] - Dave

If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to follow Pit Pass Moto on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. If you have a moment, please rate and review our show. We'd really appreciate it. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and visit, where you can check out our blog, listen to past episodes, and purchase your own Pit Pass Moto swag.

[00:42:39.960] - Dale

This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Tommy Halverson and the production team at Wessler Media. I'm Dale Spangler.

[00:42:49.540] - Dave

And I'm Dave Sulecki. See you next week on Pit Pass Moto.

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The Team

Dave Sulecki

Dave Sulecki is a 37 year industry veteran, and a lifetime motorcycle rider, racer, builder, restorer, and enthusiast.

Dale Spangler

Dale Spangler is a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, former racer, and powersports industry marketing specialist, writer, and content creator.

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