There are a lot of real cool mechanics that work behind the scenes and recieve no credit for doing what most people would never do. One of the funniest guys that has been around for a while is Frank Latham. Latham was IT9's mechanic the last few years and recently made a career change. Read on for more info.
Me: Frankie, what’s going on with you, I heard you made a big career change?
Frank Latham: Yeah big career change for sure. Last week I moved over to Valli Yamaha team to work for Ivan Tedesco.
Y’know, you were at Factory Honda and some would say that you might be crazy to leave a factory team for a second year privateer team. Talk about the decision you made.
Ivan and I have a great relationship and I enjoy working for him. Honda kept me but didn’t have a rider for me to work with. I was working in house the last two months and they were really good to me and everything but I just decided that I wanted to work with Ivan at Valli.
How’s the Valli team so far?
It’s good, we just got a shop the last couple of weeks here in Corona. Everything’s coming together and we’re starting from the ground up. We’re getting some help from Yamaha and starting to get some laps under our belts and get ready for A1.
You guys are building a super-team over there with John Mitchef from Factory Kawasaki, Todd Brown from GEICO Honda doing the suspension and is there anyone else I missed?
Yeah, we have Keith Burns from the Yamaha of Troy team or J-Law team. We have a really great group of guys.
Cool, I know it’s early but compare where you came from to where you are right now.
It’s really different as you can probably guess as one is a major corporation and one is a small racing team. It’s really hard to compare them in any way, they are so different. There are a lot less roles here, and this one is just starting up and Honda has been there for a long time. It’s really hard for me Matthes.
I spoke to Eric Kehoe from Honda at the US Open and they were all about keeping you, they wanted to have you on the team and keep working there but thinking back to my experience that when Ferry got hurt and I became test guy- it’s really tough. It’s not the same as having a guy right?
No, it’s really not. If Honda was located in Corona, California which is close to my house then I’d probably still be there. But as the test guy, you have to do the commute from Corona to Torrance everyday and that’s tough. It may sound a little greedy or whatever but having your own goals is a little different than just hoping the whole team does well.
As you know, one person doesn’t make a team it takes a whole bunch of people behind the scenes to make something happen. They have a great group of guys over there and they’re going to do well.
Frankie expecting rain last summer. Carl Stone shot
Are you going to miss Gothic Jay the most?
(Laughs) No, all those guys are my friends and I’m going to miss all of them. Double D, Carlos, Jay-all of them I’m going to miss and I’ll still talk to them.
Gothic Jay was bummed on me because I had a tool of his and he thought I took it when I left but I didn’t and he was so pumped. It made me laugh at how happy he was.
Tough deal with Dave Chase passing away, did that affect your decision in any way?
Yeah, that was really tough. In some ways that was the final straw in the decision for me. People ask me why I left Honda but when you see a guy that’s perfectly healthy and joking around two weeks before he passes away, that really makes you think. Everyone gets caught up in this sport and takes it so seriously, but that made me think about how you only live once so why not take some chances?
Who are all the riders that you’ve worked for Frankie?
Oh man, a lot of guys. Tyler Evans in 1999, AM Leonard KTM in 2000 for Ryan Terlecki then it was Travis Preston at Husky. Well, I worked for Evans again at Plant Honda before Preston but then he got fired and I went to Husky. That was cool, we won a race. And it was on a Husky! Then the last eight years I worked on Hondas, first at Plano Honda for Billy Payne and then Pingree. Chris Gosselaar and Tommy Hahn at Factory Connection and Tommy Hahn and Preston again at Factory Honda. And of course, last couple of years, Ivan Tedesco.
So you worked for Tyler Evans and Travis Preston, two riders that probably couldn’t be any more different.
Yeah, for sure. Opposite personalities.
Give me your best Evans story.
Oh man, there are so many. He’s a good guy. I don’t really know.
What about when he stuck a toothpick in your neck?
(Laughs) Yeah, you want to go there and cause trouble. I was young and dumb then. We had some good times together and I really miss those days on the road back then. The sport has changed so much now that you miss those life experiences that you get on the road. It’s so business like now, these kids nowadays don’t really have to rough it. I think you understand what I’m talking about, I didn’t even really have to do it that long to be honest. It was at the beginning of the semi-truck stages when I got into it. How long did you drive the series for?
I drove the complete series on the road for five years.
Yeah, I think it was only one or two for me but still, you learn so much about yourself when you’re on your own like that.
This year has been weird huh? Your guy Tedesco was out of a ride for a long time and he’s one of the best we have.
I don’t know how everything works but I think there are going to be more guys next year that will be in the shoes that Ivan was this year. Next year the guys won’t get hired back as I don’t think too many guys whose contracts were up this year got re-hired. There was Ryan Dungey but not many others. The companies are going younger and cheaper. Next year there will be some more guys out on the street I think.
What about Ivan’s attitude? Is he bummed out or using this as motivation to get back to the factory level?
I think he’s good now, I think he had a chip on his shoulder until he got his deal done but it’s turned around now. I’m sure he dug himself into a little bit of a hole but it is what it is and you can’t cry over spilled milk.
It’s great that you’re still with Ivan so you can tell him when I write bad things about him. Thanks.
Yeah, for sure. I’ll be there watching and reading. I’ve got to get him fired up every now and then.