GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Chris Douglas

Tuesday Toolbox: Chris Douglas

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 | 7:30 PM
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 | 7:30 PM

Chris Douglas has been part of the GNCC Racin’ Nation for several years. We’ve seen him rise through the ranks of Open A to XC2 and has been competing in the XC1 class this year, where he sits 10th in class points. He was spotted at Unadilla on an all new, yellow, Obermeyer Suzuki RMZ450. caught up with Chris to find out details of his career and new sponsor! Hi Chris. How are things today
Chris Douglas: Doing good! I’m headed to one of my favorite riding spots, so about to be doing even better!

Sounds like something an XC1 pro should be doing! How’s it going in the top class?
It’s competitive! It’s what a premiere class should be. I stepped out of the XC2 ranks last year and finished the last 4 races in the XC1 division. I’ve always liked the big bore bikes; they seem to suit my style. My best season ever was on a 450 in the Open-A class. After that I ran the small bikes in XC2. But the goal has always been to be fighting for position in the premiere class.

We saw that you had a big change over the summer. You’ve always had a variation of an orange bike. But you are now riding a Suzuki with some new logos?!
Yeah, I’ve been on a KTM since about 2010, I think. It’s been a long time. Well, I did that first year in the XC2 on an Italian Husky, before KTM bought the brand. But yeah! Keith Obermeyer, who owns a motorcycle shop in Indiana, called me up with a Suzuki offer. Suzuki is backing his shop and allowing him to help out some riders. He’s already got some fast guys: Jake Froman in the 4-Stroke A Lites and Cole Kirchoff in the 250-A. But Keith called and wanted to put a Suzuki in the XC1 class. I was excited to say “yes!” He’s always been good about helping out.

Chris made the switch to Suzuki over the summer and is loving the bike!
Chris made the switch to Suzuki over the summer and is loving the bike! Photo: Ken Hill

You don’t live too terribly far from Obermeyer Suzuki in Jasper, IN, do you?
No. I’m just outside of Cincinnati. He’s about a 3 hour drive. I do all the local races in that area: IXCR, Midwest, Crossroads. So I’m in his customer base a lot and interact with people that are familiar with the Obermeyer name. 

So how is the new bike for you? It’s a big change. Any major adjustments?
This bike is awesome! I’m not just saying that. We’ve re-valved the suspension, of course. But no other major changes. I think I’m even running the stock bar bend. No risers, weird bends, anything like that. The ergonomics are just a natural fit for me. It made the switch a lot easier. The aluminum frame vs. the steel frame that I’ve become accustomed to is a little bit different. It’s a “good” different, though. The tracks we ride these days are so rough. The aluminum frame has a different flex characteristic. I’m liking it!

What about the new sponsor? Any adjustments there?  
Keith is great! He’s an enthusiast, he loves the sport and helps everybody out. He talks to me, calls me up, asks how he can help. It’s really nice having someone in your corner! I’ve had support from other manufacturers before and I always had to put my own package together. Here, it’s really nice because I can keep the personal sponsors that I’ve built a relationship with, but someone else is putting the program together and doing all the administration. It’s great because I can focus on being the racer!

Part of Tuesday Toolbox is we always want to know where a person came from. What got you started in dirt bikes?
My dad! He rode when he was younger, but took a break and focused on life. When I was about 14 or 15, my mom said “get some trail bikes and go have some fun!” So he bought an XR400 for himself and an XR100 for me. That kind of started it all. We would trail ride and have fun. And then, as the progression always goes, we decided to race. We went to a Mid-South race and I was terrible! [laughs] I think by then, I had a TTR125 but I had no clue what I was into. I only did one lap.

Chris' dad, Jim (in the background) helped to get Chris started racing!
Chris' dad, Jim (in the background) helped to get Chris started racing! Photo: Ken Hill

You’ve come a long ways, then! How did GNCC go?
I started out in the 85 class. I was 15, so front row. I was lined up against guys like Thad Duvall, Cory Buttrick and Kailub Russell. They would lap me like 15 times! Now I’m lining up on the same row as them and not getting lapped at all. Considering where I came from, that’s an accomplishment.

How did you learn so fast? You started way late in life, and now holding your own against some of the fastest guys on the planet!  
I don’t know. I just was quick to pick up the basics. Once I learned how to clutch and shift, then it was on to picking up speed. I went to the “C” class on big bikes and eventually moved up to “B” class. I remember 2008 in Georgia, I won the 200 B class! I was 21 years old and thought, “Sweet! I can do this!” That’s when I got serious about really trying to learn to go fast. I would practice, hit the gym, eat right and just do the things that it takes. There’s no secret. It’s hard work!

Yes, it is hard work. But that’s not all you were focused on at the time, right?
Right! I was a full time college student at University of Cincinnati. I graduated High School in 2006 and then went into a 5-year course for Mechanical Engineering. I graduated in 2012, so it took me 6 years. But, I would always take the winters off to go to Florida and ride and train. I would co-op at Duke Energy every-other-quarter and save my money so that I could train in Florida. It took me longer to graduate, but when I was at school, I was focused. It was a lot to juggle, but I was serious when I needed to be and I still had time for fun.

What was your graduating GPA?
3.1. I messed up my first quarter! I got a 1.7 and so I could never get my overall GPA to rise back up. I was on the Dean’s List for 4 years, and still could only manage a 3.1!

Chris hopes to consistently stay in the top 15 overall through the final 3 rounds and hold onto a top 20 number for 2016.
Chris hopes to consistently stay in the top 15 overall through the final 3 rounds and hold onto a top 20 number for 2016. Photo: Ken Hill

That’s nothing to be ashamed of! That’s a lot of work to get over the 3.0 mark, and you did it while pursuing a dream!
Yeah, I’d like to think I’m evidence that you don’t have to be home-schooled to pursue your dirt bike dreams. There’s so much I learned by going to school with other kids. I developed socially and I had fun. There were sacrifices to make, but I really think it made me a more rounded person. I’m not trying to get down on anyone doing it differently than me, but I would like to encourage any kid that has his heart set on racing that he can do it! I used to ride every day at 3:00 to dark and then do homework.  

That’s great that you are encouraging kids. You seem to have a heart for them. You’ve been an instructor at the FCA Off-Road Camp with me for several years now!
I have a lot of fun doing that. Whatever year that camp started, I was there and been going back every summer since. Those kids are great! I try to be good role model. It’s always fun when kids come up to me at the track and wish me luck or give me a high five. Most of them are the same kids that I see at camp. The little ones are hilarious!

Alright! Last question. What are your goals for the remaining races?
I really want a top 20 number overall, so I need to be in the top 15 when the checker flag flies. I’m top 10 in XC1 right now, but overall there are some XC2 riders that I need to be faster than!

Fair enough! We will be watching for you. Who would you like to thank?
Mom and dad, of course. I have their full support at every race I go to and wouldn’t be the person I am without them! Keith Obermeyer and Obermeyer Honda Yamaha Suzuki. Suzuki Cycles, Yoshimura, Western Powersports, Maxxis Tires, Acerbis USA, Fly Racing, DT1 Filters, FC Suspension, Unabiker, 100% Goggles, Moto Seat, ARC Levers, RK Excel Rims, HBD Motografx, Rekluse Clutches, Motion Pro, DP Brakes, Sunstar, IMS tanks, TM Designworks, Beth Latham at Tomboy Barbie Photos and Suzuki Genuine Parts and Accessories.