This is the first of four articles about pro ATV racer Keith Little's year-long test to determine precisely what it takes to make pro-caliber machines out of the current 450s on the market, while simultaneously breathing new life into the industry, his sponsors and his career.
Like most pro racers coming into the 2010 season, Keith Little had been left scrambling for a ride by the extensive cuts that blasted sponsorship and rider support budgets into oblivion across our industry. But unlike most of his peers, Keith has seized the opportunity presented by the lack of support and turned an otherwise crummy situation into something pretty spectacular. What opportunity, you ask? The opportunity to do things his way, ride what he wants to ride and think completely out of the box for the first time in his professional racing career. Luckily for you (and us), he's doing it all under our banner; you see, Keith's unconventional idea is a perfect fit for us as a magazine. For starters, just about every sport quad build in any magazine boasts of "pro class readiness," and the chance of having our machines really, actually raced in the pro class was too good to pass up. Secondly, we're all about testing products, and having access to Keith's stable of machinery in order to research how components mesh with each other as well as with the different machines is a goldmine for us not only as a magazine, but as avid ATV enthusiasts. Lastly, Keith Little is a class act, and passing on this would've just been wrong. His reputation as a world-class tester and stickler for details raised the stakes when choosing components and defining their worth. Who could blame us for wanting to live vicariously through one of the fastest and most experienced ATV racers on the planet, all while breaking new ground.
Keith Little 101
"I felt I needed to do something...
"I felt I needed to do something different, something to turn heads, and something that would allow me to use the knowledge I've gained throughout my career to set me apart from the rest of the pro class."
First off, let us introduce you to Keith Little. He's been racing ATVs professionally at the National level for 13 years. During which time he has enjoyed 16 pro class wins, won a pro class National Championship (2004 GNC TT), amassed 44 podium finishes, 56 top fives and built a very large and loyal fan base. Viewed by most as one of the most approachable racers in the pro pits, Keith has put in all of the work to be a fan favorite; from his appearances in video games (Rainbow Studios' best-selling Xbox and PlayStation titles MX vs. ATV Unleashed and MX vs. ATV Untamed), to his stints with three factory teams (factory Yamaha, factory Honda and most recently Monster Energy/Kawasaki). Keith is a professional in every sense of the word. Widely considered as one of the best TT racers in the sport, he has managed to remain a serious contender in just about every race he enters. During his 13-year pro class tenure, Keith has steadily improved every aspect of his game, from results to exposure. In recent years, he managed to put the #12 machine out front in MX as well with wins at the popular Lake Whitney circuit in 2005, and Steel City and Mill Creek in '06. Most recently, Keith landed a highly coveted spot on the 2008 Monster Energy/Kawasaki factory team where he helped transform the KFX450 into a race-winning machine. Keith's 2009 program left a bit to be desired, as just plain tough luck seemed to find him at every outing. Injuries, mechanical failures and pure flukes conspired to remove him from the championship chase in '09. When you factor in the influx of fast rookies half of Keith's age into the pro class, it made for a rough season. Bouncing back in a sport where you're literally only deemed as good as your last race in this economic climate would require something fresh and innovative, which is where the MX-Periment comes into play.
A great action shot from Keith's...
A great action shot from Keith's days as a factory Kawasaki racer.
This shot was taken on a visit...
This shot was taken on a visit to Keith's shop last year. It's packed with Kawis.