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Red Bull KTM SX and MX Behind the scenes 1: Engine builder

Leighton Rice won an FIM World Championship with Jamie Dobb in 2001 and a year later moved to California to become one of the staple parts of KTM’s attempts to crack the AMA Supercross and Motocross scenes. The Welsh engine technician has moved through SX125, 250, 250SX-F, 350F and 450F technology in the fourteen years with the company, and a decade in the United States. The 40 year old is one of an eclectic crew in Murrieta with several nationalities all working under the orange roof of the high-profile three rider squad of Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin. Always good company and retainer of his British sense of humour despite the fine Californian lifestyle, Leighton gave us five minutes of his time to shed some light on his role for the Red Bull KTM crew…


The need for power…
It has always been about motors. I came over here to work on the 125s for the 2003 season and then we progressed to the four-strokes in 2005. The job has been an on-going thing between development and also the week-to-week building and maintenance. We’ve always had a rapport with Austria and there have been times when we’ve had stuff that was a bit different to what they were running in Europe but nowadays it is like one big team. Whatever they come up with then we are also on the same page and it is just about fine-tuning from there.

Some travelling, sometimes…
The last couple of years have involved more travel and I’ve been a regular again at the races. I try to simmer down but each year is about the same! Once the season starts then you are excited and you want to get out to the track but there is obviously a lot of races! It goes from week to week.

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On working in direct link with Mattighofen…
It is a lot more along Austria’s guidelines. Ian Harrison [Technical Director] and myself both work on things and we bump ideas off each other here and, compared to when I first came here, there is much more manpower at hand. We can follow through on our ideas quite quickly even with the likes of Roger [De Coster] forging special tools to make our lives easier.
If we’ve had an idea and toyed around with it then the technicians in Mattighofen are open to hearing what we’ve got or what we’ve done. Something I’m quite proud of is coming up with the push rod, and now it is on production I can talk about it! We wanted more RPM from the engines and went through some consultation with another company but I had a variation on their proposal and it ended up being something good for the motorcycle.

The best part of the job…
Having one of those ideas and seeing it applied into the build of an engine and then going to the races and watching the guys winning. Not much beats that.