5 Minutes with ... Shane Drew
FEBRUARY 28, 2007
Thunder Bay native Shane Drew has worked his way up the factory food chain.
James Lissimore photo
By Steve Matthes
Not many people even realize that Shane Drew is Canadian. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native has been at it down here for a long time. After quitting a very successful Canadian racing career, he travelled south in 1995 and worked his way up the factory food chain. He is also very much responsible for getting me my first job as a mechanic, so for that I rewarded him with an interview...
RXC: Shane, what are your current duties at Honda, besides holding a clipboard at the test track?
Shane Drew: I am the supervisor of the chassis department for the racing team. Everything that has to do with the chassis, I have input into, from the suspension to the linkage and clamps. Really, everything but the motor.
What do you think is the major difference between the factory bikes and a bike that say Moto XXX races?
The biggest thing about having a factory bike is the ability to go and test and test for days on end. We can change anything on the bike to suit the rider; we can make it however he wants. Another thing is weight; we have the ability to shave 10 pounds off of a production bike, which helps a lot as well.
Give me some background on your career.
In 1995 and 1996, I worked for Larry Brooks and Kyle Lewis at Team Noleen. Lewis managed to get top privateer outdoors in 1996. Then I started at Honda in 1997, I was actually Jeremy McGrath's mechanic for a week and a half before he left for Suzuki that year. I might have been the reason he quit, he told me I wasn't though! [Laughs] Then I became a test mechanic for the team for a few years. In 1999, I was Sebastien Tortelli's mechanic for four years, then I became Mike LaRocco's mechanic for a year, and now I have been in the chassis department with the race team for three years.
Drew was Jeremy McGrath's mechanic ... briefly.
Allison Kennedy photo
Do you see yourself doing this job at Honda for a while? You are travelling to every race now.
Yeah, for sure. Well I was always supposed to go to every race as a mechanic but when my riders got hurt, I stayed home. With Sebastien, that was quite a bit! I do like going to every race, that's what they want me to do. It's better than a mechanics schedule as I fly out Friday and return on Sunday.
Were you bummed out to see Sebastien retire? I thought he still had some years left.
No, not at all. It was the right thing to do. He had some good races left in him, I'm not sure he had good years though! He was at a point where he was always getting injured and coming back from an injury, then getting hurt again.
What was your best national number up in Canada?
I was number six twice. I actually tied for fifth one year with Don Formo but for some reason, that I still haven't figured out, they gave him fifth. I really wanted to get a new number.
What was your best finish at a national?
I never won but I did get second a few times. I got second at Austin, Manitoba on a 125 and on a 500, and also in Quebec, I believe I got a second.
I remember you being one of the first guys to have an outside sponsor: Karcher pressure washers. How did that come about?
I met a guy in Holland when I was at a beach race, he introduced me to some guys over there. That led to me being hooked up with the local Karcher guy in Winnipeg. It went from there, it wasn't a really big deal but it helped out with the expenses.
You also did a lot of racing down in the U.S., what were some of your finishes?
In supercross, I pretty much sucked most of the time. I made the main in Daytona a couple of times but that was because they took thirty in those. My best national finish was an eleventh in a moto at Millville, Minnesota. I was national number 87 down here for a couple of years.
Give me a Rollerball story.
Man, I raced a lot of races with Rollerball. Actually I got into a shoving match with him one time. We were at an arenacross in Quebec City; he tried to knock me over.
If it wasn't him, Jim Holley would try and hit me all the time also. I knocked him back and we started shoving each other, then we realized there was a race going on and picked up our bikes and finished the race. After the shoving match, he was my best buddy in the world, I remember that. He wouldn't ever say hi to me before that or anything, then he started talking to me and stuff. I think he gained some respect for me for standing up to him.
When I met you, you lived and raced in Manitoba, how was that for you?
Yeah, that was good, the racing was fun. Most of the people were pretty nice and I still have a lot of friends there; it was a good time. Honda also paid contingency and it was pretty good back then. There was no money to be made where I was from, Thunder Bay, so I had to travel to make good money. There was no money to be made at home.
When you were number six in Canada, was it financially rewarding for you?
Oh I was lucky if I made $25,000 at the end of the year. That was just the way it was. Back then there was only two or three guys making any money. I was just below that and breaking even basically. I was too late and too early to make the big money! In the late 70s, the guys were making good salaries and now they are doing the same.
You also did a lot of races in Europe right?
Yeah, I probably did a dozen or so over my time, along with a couple of beach races. I finished eighth at the Veronica Beach race. here were 650 riders and it was the most fun I've ever had riding a motorcycle, scary but fun. Sometimes er were going 105 or 110 miles an hour, right in the water if you wanted to be.
What was your career highlight as a mechanic?
Winning nationals with Tortelli, specifically Glen Helen in 1999. His first national over here, we got our butts kicked in supercross all year, and then he went out and came from 35th to win both motos. We led the championship every round until he broke his wrist at Unadilla when Doug Henry landed on him.
Thank you. Some guys in the shop were talking and we have decided that you are a better writer than you were a mechanic.
Well thanks…..I think.