Kawasaki’s ‘Lone Wolf’ talks about being top American
He’s been called the lone Wolf because he’s the last remaining of a once well-funded enduro effort by Kawasaki, but to Fredette a funny nickname is just a small price to pay for the privilege of riding what you want to ride and doing everything the way you want to do it. He rode his KDX200 in the Qualifier series this year, knowing two things right off the bat: He would be giving up 50cc and a good amount of horsepower to the rest of the field, and staying out of the Husky camp almost assured him that he’d never be on the Trophy team.
‘I felt like I should have been on the Trophy team the first time around. I went to the selection committee meeting and the team was picked before I even got there-‘This is going to be the team, end of discussion.’ The message was, I wasn’t going to be on it because I wasn’t riding the right kind of machine, and I didn’t have enough support. Then we got over to Europe, and Mike Melton and Ed Lojak weren’t going to show, and I figured, hey, I’m a shoo-in!’I asked Hugh Fleming if I was going to get invited to the meeting where the substitute riders were going to be picked, and he basically said they didn’t want any riders at the meeting, but he’d see what he could do. Later on in the day, John Morgan came up and said, ‘Well, this is what we’re going to do. . .’ and I wasn’t on the team. It was tough for them, I guess, but Geoff Ballard and I should have been on the team to begin with, and it turned out to be a choice between the two of us, because they had to pick a 250 rider and a 500 rider.
‘So I asked about the Vase team, about Kevin Brown being on there rather than Jeff Russell (who qualified higher), and they told me it was ‘going to be a motocross’ and that Kevin was faster. I said that it didn’t matter how fast you were, that we had to have four men finishing in order to win the Vase, but their minds were made up.’That’s when the Lone Wolf took over again, and Jeff figured that if things weren’t going to go his way, he’d just go that way alone.
‘From that point on, I just did everything myself. I didn’t want to know what was going on with everybody else, and I actually felt better doing it that way. I had total concentration. I avoided every one of the sup-port meetings except one-they had that one in the restaurant, and I happened to be eating at the time. But at the meetings they talk about what the weather was going to be like, what the course was going to be like, the schedule-and, at least last year, most of the time they were wrong. Last year, we were told at the first meeting that the course was going to be ‘vanilla’ on the first day, but instead it was a struggle even staying close to your minute. I had my two ‘sup-port riders’-gear bags with parts in the mat the start/finish and the farthest check-and that was all I needed to get the job done.’
It was an odd tactic, but it apparently worked like a rabbit’s foot, because he rode that little green 200 to a top American placing and eighth in the 250 class, and was the top scorer in the sixth-place Vase Team. Top American is not something you can normally take to the bank, but for Jeff it turned out to be more valuable than he originally imagined.
‘Top American isn’t an official title or award or anything, and at the time it was going on, and even right afterwards, it was really nothing. But I went to a local race after I got back, and I was shocked. People were coming over and congratulating me, making a big deal out of it, and all that was starting to have an effect. I started thinking, ‘Wow, this is starting to feel really good!’
‘Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I really feel honored about the whole thing, about being able to do what I did and being able to prove the point that the other guys could have all their support riders and everything, and it really doesn’t matter how much support you have, your bike can still break down in the wrong place, and you’re out. You have to have a sound machine before you even start, and that way you. don’t even have to worry about it. It speaks well for Kawasaki, and I feel good about it-and I’m not about to go out bragging about it either, but even some of the Husky riders came up to me after the ISDE and congratulated me and went so far as to say it was a good thing, because it shows that it isn’t always going to be Husky at the top. And that made me feel even better!’
It’s obvious that Jeff has pretty strong feelings about the American effort-and some definite opinions on what would make a good Trophy team. We asked him about next year-what the AMA should do, and what he plans to do for the Spanish ISDE.’
The way I see it, consistency is where it’s at for a Trophy team. They can put the fastest guys on there every year, and they’re not going to do any good unless they have all six guys there at the finish. I hope that what I did this year gets me on the Trophy team next year, and that could turn into a problem. I know I can’t be on a Vase team next year because the FIM has set an age limit of 21 years old for that team, so it’s the Trophy team or I’m not going-and I’m not going to qualify on a Kawasaki and then ride a Husky just to be on the team. Next year, I’ll ride a Kawasaki on the Trophy team, or I won’t be there.’