I first heard of Austin when watching Motocross Action Magazine's Inside Max Vohland's KTM 250SXF. I was impressed, envious and started to wonder where my life choices lead me astray. Then I wondered how someone ends up in a position like Austin. I know I am not alone as many people aspire to be factory mechanics, especially at KTM. With the power of social media I messaged Austin and he was incredibly receptive, kind and personable. We share a common small town background and both eventually moved to a big city to chase our goals.
I think many will find Austin's backstory interesting and all the steps he took to get to the position that he is at today. I'd like to thank Austin as well for sharing his story and path that got him to his current role. If I would have read something like this as a kid my life probably would have taken a different direction. Check out Austin's story below.
My name is Austin Watterson, I’m 23 years old, and I work at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing for Maximus Vohland. I was originally born in Boise, Idaho but I moved to a small town called Sidney, Montana when I was about 6 years old and that is where I completed all my schooling and graduated high school from. My original plan was to attend a four- year university in Montana but about 3 months prior to going I decided not to. It was then I had to really try and make up my mind on what I wanted to do. I always had a huge passion and interest in motocross. Growing up, I didn’t race a whole lot but more or less rode for fun with my dad and brother and with some buddies. I followed the series super closely and always wanted to be up the date with everything going on in the sport. I had been to a handful of supercross races and always thought to myself, “this would be something so amazing to get into!” So that summer, I looked into programs and schools and that is how I found the school I would attend: Pro SX MX Tech, which was located in Morgantown, West Virginia. Now this is where the fun all begins.
I started off my journey working for a guy named Tanner Basso during the summer of 2017. I had a short stint with him because I was very home sick and not used to being in an upbeat environment with motocross and honestly I gave up way too easily the first time. I ended up going back to Montana and worked at the local car dealership for a while and realized I had made a huge mistake. I was disappointed in myself for being so driven early on and going to school and having this passion to just give it up because I didn’t think I could do it. I actually ended up calling Christien Ducharme (Jett Lawrence’s current mechanic), and he got me in contact with Carson Mumford’s dad, Scott. I flew back down to California and started over again with a new rider at the end of 2017. My time with Carson was also a little short lived because at the time I was still super fresh and not very confident in myself so sometimes I feel I couldn’t give the right answers and at the time I didn’t feel I meshed with him very well. Carson was a super fun kid to be around but I just needed a change. I got in contact with a kid named Jack Fowler and started to work for him in the beginning of 2018. He rode for the BarX Suzuki team while I was with him and he competed in all the amateur nationals that year winning a couple of championships at races like Freestone, Cal Classic, and at Mammoth. I gained a lot of confidence during this year as it was my first time being a race mechanic.
At the end of 2018, I got the opportunity to work for Jo Shimoda as his practice mechanic while he was still an amateur at Geico Honda. I learned a lot during my time with him because I got to work around the Geico crew a lot hand in hand. This carried on into working for him pretty much until the Geico team closed its doors. At that time, I was getting a little burnt out on being a practice mechanic and was really wanting to get back into some kind of a race role. At the end of 2019, I went back to BarX Suzuki to work for Preston Kilroy. My second time at BarX was a little different because I was pretty much helping any rider that needed my help so it was split time from Kilroy, Drake, and a little bit with Schwartz. I ended up helping Sean Cantrell on the east coast during the 2020 series. This is about the time where I started my KTM job.
While I was at BarX, I actually had a little interview with Ian Harrison at KTM along with Carlos and Frankie. This was in December 2019, so I definitely had that playing on my mind for months. Ian was interested but said they really couldn’t guarantee anything they had budget stuff figured out. I got a voicemail in March from Ian and he had said that he got the green flag and was ready to start the hiring process for me. You could say I was super excited with this news! I started at KTM May 10, 2021. My original role was to be the test and practice mechanic so help assist the race mechanics with their testing and also other roles around the shop and to be the extra hand on race weekends. After Pala 1, Ian and Roger called me in and asked if I’d be interested to start working for Max beginning at Lakewood. Of course, I said yes and I was ready for the challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous as hell but at the same time this was my life-long dream to be a factory race mechanic and I couldn’t pass the chance. I was up for the challenge and really excited for the summer!
I would say overall, I thought the season was success. This was my first summer of doing the complete outdoor series, along with doing all of the road builds. I was pretty happy with myself on how the summer went besides the malfunction we had at Ironman moto 2. It was an incident that was completely bad luck. From the summer, I really learned how to try to be as efficient and clean as possible.
Max gifted Austin a helmet as a thank you for both their rookie seasons
Working at KTM is everything I dreamed it would be. I get to learn so many cool things day in and day out from some of the best in the business. Working under Carlos and Frankie has taught me so many valuable lessons within motocross terms and also with everyday life things. They are really all about wanting to help me out and if I do make a mistake here and there, rather than beat me down they want to help me as much as possible and help me grow. Ian tells me how much he has believed in me since the beginning of summer and that gives me so much extra motivation to do my job as perfect as I can every day. They are some of my biggest role models for sure.
It was a little tough in the beginning of the summer because I had to learn a new rider as quickly as I can. I wanted to try and be the best I could be for Max so it just meant trying to be on my A game. Also, I wanted to try and communicate as much as I could with Max so we could try and grow a relationship. I’m very lucky that Max is a super easy kid to work for and he is very easy to understand when he asks for something he wants done with the bike. He is very well spoken and knows what he wants so that definitely makes testing with him pretty easy for the most part. I hope to see myself and Max working together for the long future and hopefully going after some championships!
Thank you for your time and I hope you guys enjoyed the read!
Inside Max Vohland's Factory KTM 250SXF that Austin provides a look into the specs for Motocross Action Magazine.