DEAN WILSON’S FIREPOWER HONDA CRF450R
Dean Wilson ended with Factory Husqvarna last year and decided to race the World Supercross overseas. He linked up with FIREPOWER Honda during this period and has been with them ever since. Martin Davalos is managing the team and it is based in Cairo, Georgia at MTF. MTF was home for Davalos during his pro career. Dirt Bike Magazine met up with mechanic Craig Brown to see what’s under the hood of a FIREPOWER Honda CRF450R. Let’s get into it.
Dean is using Neken handlebars on his FIREPOWER Honda CRF450R . He has them slightly rolled back and they are a lower bend which we found interesting to see on a taller rider’s bike. He does have taller bar risers to offset the low bar seen in the photo above.
You can get a better look at the taller risers Dean is using on the Honda. Neken triple clamps are used with a stock offset. Neken does offer a split design version of these clamps but it looks like Dean or the team has decided on the solid mounted versions. We noticed when putting his bike on the stand that the steering races were ultra tight. Barcia runs his loose and he likes it that way for scrubbing/whips. Craig said that over the past few months the team has slowly been making the races tighter and Dean hasn’t complained about it. It’s obvious the team is trying to keep the front end straight at speed and maybe trying to avoid head shake. The 2023 chassis in stock trim is very sensitive to set up and can feel uneasy at times, especially at higher speeds. Craig did say that one of the goals with this was to keep the front end straight while Dean is in the whoops. Around the steering stem nut you can see that it has safety wire. This is to keep the nut on tight and from spinning off during a race. Preventative maintenance is the #1 priority around the factory paddock of Supercross.
FIREPOWER Honda has simplified the handlebars. On Dean Wilson’s bike you will only find a start switch on the right and a kill switch on the left. We aren’t 100% positive but the kill switch resembles what came on the 2016-2021 KTMs. The large map suite buttons have been removed and Craig explained to us that the team has set maps in the bikes and there is no need for Dean to be switching during a race. The last thing a rider wants is to hit their legs or hands on the wrong button while racing. All the race teams in the paddock simplify their handlebars as much as they can to avoid any problems that may occur. You can also see the kill switch wire has been beefed up a little with some sheathing.
The two photos are some parts that aren’t change. That is the master cylinders and front brake rotor. As time has gone by the parts on oem motorcycles are being used more at the professional level. They are good enough to race on, there’s typically an abundance of them, and they don’t cost a fortune. Dean is running the OEM master cylinders and front brake rotor that you can find on any 2023 Honda CRF450R at the dealership.
Another cautionary measure taken by the team is wire tying the spokes. You see this a lot in offroad. If a spoke does break loose for some reason the rider can still finish with this system. The spoke will remain in place and won’t wrap its way around the hub or into the front brake rotor.
You can see the carbon fiber front rotor guard in this photo. The guard obviously protects the front brake system but also serves another purpose. The guard wraps around to the front brake caliper as well. This can act like a ski in deep ruts. The front end can slide through the rut without getting hung up on the fork lugs or front brake caliper. We saw at Anaheim 1 how deep the ruts can get! In years past we have seen ruts go all the way to the wood base that Feld puts on the fields.
The front axle is stock. Pro riders in the paddock dance around with material like titanium to find a front end feel they prefer. From what we understand the steel axles in the front provide a “dead” feeling that certain riders like. Alex Martin liked this on his YZ450F. EZE hubs are used on Dean’s bike. They are an Australian company that has been brought over to the states. FROTH is another team sponsor that is from Australia.
Again, the front brake master is stock. Dean does reel in the front brake lever closer to the handlebars. You can see he is using ODI grips with a grip donut. Don’t quote us on this but we don’t remember him using donuts on his Husqvarna FC450 last year. Maybe this is a new preference of his in 2023. Subtle changes to the feel of a bike can increase the comfort for a rider. Works Connection supplies the bling parts littered across the bike like the master cylinder cap shown above. The throttle tube is billet and used for durability purposes. The throttle cable is an oem unit.
All of the riders have their holeshot device extremely low since the introduction of metal gates on the starting line. The forks are under a heavy load before releasing in the first corner. To insure that the fork guards don’t explode or break off these straps are added to increase durability. These fork straps are made by Works Connection for the team.
SHOWA A-Kit or Factory front forks are used on Dean’s Honda CRF450R. You can see the coated lowers that help with friction and durability on the forks. Dean has tested with Showa and the team on ride height. We didn’t get any more specifics on this topic but know he has found a height that he likes and is sticking with it. Excel A-60 rims with a spec Dunlop tire in the front. Dean has done testing with Dunlop and will try to stick to this pattern all season. Daytona and Atlanta he will probably be on something different as the track is more of a hybrid than your typical Supercross.
A Works Connection holeshot device is used on the front forks. Testing was done to find a happy place for the start button to be positioned. 180mm is where Dean’s button will sit. That is extremely deep in the stroke! Some teams have a two button system that gives their rider an opportunity to have some sort of range on where they would like to be.
The radiators on Dean’s bike are braced. The spigots are welded, the edges are welded, and a 1.8 radiator cap from Twin Air is used. The 2023 Honda CRF450R comes with a 1.1 cap. You can also see that the cap is wire tied. Riders have their legs in this area quite often in corners and the team doesn’t want to take the chance of Dean spinning off the cap during a race. Jason Anderson had this problem at Anaheim 1 in 2022. It cost him the race win and possibly the championship.
The motor is done in house at FIREPOWER Honda in Cairo, Georgia. A great asset to the team is their team manager Martin Davalos. Davalos is known for being a good test rider and has years of experience racing Supercross. He can still ride a dirt bike at a very high level. With Davalos and a track like MTF, the team has more than enough to do testing and find an engine package for racing. This year Dean asked for a little bit more bottom end out of the bike. The team delivered but had to back it off a smidge. Dean wanted more bottom end but it also had to be very usable. No sense in having a monster in your hands that rips your arms off. Roczen dialed down his Honda CRF450R at the factory level last year as well. Makes you think, if a rider of that caliber doesn’t need a 60hp dirt bike do you need it either?
HGS exhaust is used on the #15 bike of Dean Wilson. The exhaust is custom to match and enhance the power curve the team is trying to achieve.
Like many of the factory bikes in the paddock you will find that Dean has a back up start switch mounted to the smaller frame spar. In the event of a first turn crash or even later in the race where the start switch is damaged on the handlebars, Dean can still get the bike going with this back up button. The last thing a team wants to do is call it a night because they can’t get the bike started. These buttons started showing up once the electric start came along and the kickstarts were completely removed from oem motorcycles. The only kickstart bike left in the class is the Suzuki RMZ250 and RMZ450.
A Hinson clutch is used on the motorcycle. Dean is using standard springs, Hinson pressure plates, and basket. The cover is added for durability in comparison to the oem model. It also doesn’t scuff up as bad as stock does.
The engine mounts are provided to the team by Works Chassis Lab . You can see there are holes drilled in the middle and the material is different with the mounting hardware (titanium). This will change the flex characteristic of the motorcycle. The Honda in stock trim is a pretty rigid bike to begin with so we are assuming that Dean is trying to find some more comfort in the bike and flex out of the frame.
You can see the inner cases and ignition covers are coated. This adds durability to the engine and can help with heat dispersion.
A stock shifter is used on Dean’s bike but the hole is filled up to keep dirt and debris from packing in.
THE REAR END
Ankor tape is used on the sides of the frame and partially on the number plates. There is a limited surface area that the team will run on the side plates. After testing with Dean, the grip tape was ripping his pants up when they used too much of the material. This little bit of tape adds grip but doesn’t affect his riding gear while on the track. Dean likes to feel locked into the bike and has tailored the entire set up around that.
You can see on Dean Wilson’s footpegs that the pins are in backwards. Why backwards? That is so Craig (mechanic) can easily pull the pins out and remove the peg during racing. If the peg or peg mount is damaged they need to be able to remove it as fast as possible. The rear brake pedal on the right side of the bike makes it difficult to get to and this is what the team has come up with to help make it easier. Our first thought was wondering how much Dean’s foot rests on top of the pin there and if that was any concern. The pegs are also custom tailored for Dean. It is a stock peg but the teeth are welded on to be taller. You can see at the half way point on the teeth where the welds are. This goes back to us talking about Dean liking to be locked into the motorcycle. These teeth add more grip and give him a firmer grasp onto the bike.
Out back you will find a SHOWA A-Kit rear shock. Along with the shock is a Factory HRC linkage. You can tell when privateer efforts are taken more seriously when the factory parts start to trickle down to those teams. It is really cool to see HRC working with FIREPOWER Honda on some parts for their riders. Lars Lindstrom is team manager for Factory Honda and was working with Davalos the day we filmed Dean’s bike. We didn’t get any dimensions on the pull rod or linkage but we can assume this is tailored to Dean’s set up with the rear shock.
The rear brake pedal is a little bit higher than normal. You can see the tip is modified slightly as well.
A 13/49 sprocket combination is used on Wilson’s Honda. The sprockets are provided by FIREPOWER which is a WPS brand located in Boise,Idaho. You can see the chain has riveted links on it and no master link. The teams don’t want to take the chance of a master link falling off and the chain to derail during racing. The sprocket combination puts the rear wheel in the center of the adjustment. The rear wheel isn’t super far forward or super far back like we have seen on some of the other bikes in the pits. Depending on position it can change how a bike handles and corners.
SKDA provides the graphics to the team. Again, Dean likes to feel locked in so the seat pleats used on his bike are the strongest SKDA offers. It is actually lined with rope in each pleat. Craig did tell us it takes some getting used to and for a rider that hasn’t ridden with something like this before can be a little bit harsh on their toushie. Dean likes to be extremely locked in off the start and doesn’t want to slide back. The seat is crucial for this part of racing.