Episode 5: Talent of Tomorrow

Following the training camp in Albaida, Spain on 14-15 March, where the 11-14-year-old hopefuls experienced a comprehensive training programme with expert tuition from Gordon Crockard and guidance from FIM Europe, Jean-Michel Bayle (Team HRC Sporting Manager), Gautier Paulin (Team HRC MXGP rider) and Kyle Smith (Pata Honda World SuperSport rider). Episode Five looks at the new aspiring racers and how the Honda Racing Family come together to encourage the next generation.

Crockard to replace Irwin

Graeme Irwin stated that he will not be contesting the Motocross of Nations for Team Ireland last night, as the Irish federation would not give him a pass for his fiancé.  Now, most fans have differing few on this topics, but the Irish contingent were all hoping that the issue would be resolved, but it seems that it will not, as the rider that will replace him has been named as Gordon Crockard! Yep, the veteran will be making a comeback at the biggest race of the year with the hope of helping his nation make it into the A Final. We’ll have more on this developing story when it becomes available.

Image: 24MX Honda/CDS

Catching Up with: Gordon Crockard

Honda’s EMX150 academy coach Gordon Crockard was a surprise entry for 24MX Honda at the Belgian National championship at Kester last weekend. The former GP winner was hoping to spring a surprise and show some speed on a wonderful old school circuit, but the rain had other ideas and turned the event into a survival race. Consequently Crockard never really got to prove his speed to himself or the team, but is hopeful of getting another chance somewhere along the line.

We caught up with Gordon to find out how the opportunity came about, if he will get any more rides with the team and what he thought about riding with MX2 world champion Jeffrey Herlings. 

MX Vice: How did the ride with 24MX Honda come about for Kester?

Gordon Crockard: At 24MX Honda their number two rider Jens Getteman, a tall Belgian guy, unfortunately broke his scaphoid at the first race of the year but he continued to ride with it. He was struggling with pain and function, and it wasn’t getting better. So after the Spanish GP at Talavera he decided he would go for surgery and he wasn’t going to continue any more. At that point the team really wanted a replacement rider and I was mentioned.

The team rang me and asked what my position was in terms of would I race for them. I said yes I would race, because they offered me to do the last eight Grand Prix so I didn’t even need to think about it, I said yes immediately. They said ok that they would get back to me because they wanted to talk to other riders as well. One stipulation I had was I couldn’t see how I could do my role with the EMX150 series and race on the MXGP class on the same day. I probably could do it but it wouldn’t be smart and both would suffer.

The British GP was the next round and I was doing EMX150 race, and as it turned out they went with a Belgian guy Jeremy Delince and he did well for them at the British GP. So I thought ok, my chance of riding at GP level is dead in the water, but I was happy they got a guy and that was ok. At that event the team spoke to me again and said there are other races they would like to do with me, such as Kester, Everts and Friends, the ADAC German championship races and Mettet for the supermoto. So we started discussing it more and I thought it would be good to do on an informal level and have some fun.

But at the next round Xavier Boog broke his neck in France and they rang me again to see how I would feel about racing in Kester. We negotiated a fee to do it and the club actually paid me the start money, so the team, myself and the organisers were happy. I thought it was ideal because it gave me a chance to go and do well to give me the opportunity to come out of retirement, get a good result against the GP riders and be of value to the Honda family as an available guy if anyone gets hurt.

I only had two weeks to get ready so I went into professional motocross rider mode and I was leaning on favours left, right and centre to get practicing on some tracks. I got frustrated because I thought if I was trying to be a GP rider again I thought I wouldn’t be able to be based here in Northern Ireland. It was just so hard to get out, but I got enough riding. I went to Belgium and had a good days testing on the Thursday before the race and I was happy.

We went to the race and practice in the morning was dry but then it just emptied and the race was a total bog. So I didn’t get out of it what I wanted. I wanted to have a race situation to gauge how far away I was and how much work I needed to do to get on the pace. I wanted to see if I enjoyed racing or feel dissatisfied at going from winning races to maybe being a top ten guy. I had a lot of things I wanted to learn but I didn’t get the chance. It wasn’t a race for me it was just nonsense. It’s a shame I was looking forward to getting in there and having a good adrenaline fuelled race. I suppose that was the opportunity to show a bit of form gone.

MX Vice: So there is nothing coming from that race in terms of other rides or a GP ride?

Gordon Crockard: No that was a suspicion I had, if I had gone to Kester and it was dry and had ran fourth of fifth in the race ahead of some GP riders that is a way for any team to notice and the phone would have rang. Maybe I could have got to race Sweden, but that didn’t happen and that’s the way it was.

I didn’t go there and ride sh*t, it was just really muddy! I remember in the second race Davide Guaneri was only two positions ahead of me and I was catching him, but the reality of it was that the race was crazy mud. I know the fast guys still went 1-2-3 in the races but my view would be if I had finished third in the mud then people would think it was just because it was a mud race and I’m Irish!

Overall I didn’t think it was a fair test to get any type of measurement from, so I’m disappointed because I wanted to know how I would do. But everything else about it was fun, it was great to be back on the line and back amongst it, I was just very disappointed it was a mud race.

MX Vice: How did you find the training and preparation as a professional rider for those two weeks again?

Gordon Crockard: It was ok, the dynamic changed for me, it adds a bit more pressure. You just don’t ride your bike for fun, as long as you can and stop when you get a bit tired. You have to have objectives, keep pushing to get faster and fitter. The main think I noticed was crashing! I still ride the bike two or three times every week for fun and for my own pleasure, it’s part of my life and I always enjoy it.

But what I noticed was when I was preparing to race at International level I had to push hard, I was putting fresh tyres on. I was leaving the practice track knackered because I was putting everything I could into it and I was taking big crashes. But that just comes from pushing hard and trying to find the limit, trying to improve what your limit is. That’s the difference between a rider that rides to make a living out of it and a guy that rides for fun at the weekends and hopes it goes well.

MX Vice: Did you enjoy having that goal and reason to push again?

Gordon Crockard: I have always found motocross tracks a challenge. Recently I built a motocross track at my own place and built a new whoops section and new jumps so it was a good challenge to try and find the quickest way of riding it and being good at it – that’s the the great thing about motocross for me. Preparing for an event means you have to push, it means you have to be more disciplined, I still love riding fast. But I won’t put myself through a rigorous training and riding program just to be a practice rider, there needs to be a purpose.

MX Vice: How did you find riding with Herlings the day you tested in Belgium, and how did the speed compare to back in your era?

Gordon Crockard: It’s hard to relate to back then. I can only relate to how I was riding that day and how he was riding. He was fast, he was a lot faster than me which is normal – I didn’t expect anything else. But I was really impressed with his consistency. The track wasn’t bumpy and there was a lot of hobby riders but I was so impressed how fast he was, he did thirty minutes plus two laps both motos at exactly the same speed. I was impressed with how good he was.

You don’t realise how fast he is until you ride against him, I have watched him at a lot of the GPs this year but you can’t relate to how quick he is until you are on the track with him, riding against him. He definitely impressed me.

MX Vice: Are you still up for doing more races or even the odd GP this year?

Gordon Crockard: I am yeah, it’s purely for the enjoyment, provided that I am given the opportunity to race on a good bike, a good team and on a good track I am all for it. I would see it as a great opportunity to enjoy if the circumstances work out ok in terms of having enough time to getting the preparation done.

MX Vice: Do you still believe you can be competitive at GP level or British Championship level?

Gordon Crockard: The only thing is motivation and you can’t measure that until the going gets tough and you have to take a bit of pain and take a few risks.  That’s when you discover how motivated you are and whether your heart is in it or not. I will prepare myself the best and I do believe I will get stuck in and have a go. There is no question in terms of talent, the history books prove it.  I guess the question is motivation and am I willing to take the pain and I guess the answer is I am willing to do it for personal satisfaction because of the challenge.

A few years ago a rode a 1991 CR500 at Bells hills and I wanted to beat all the top Irish guys on that old bike, that’s what motivated me (Gordon won by the way!).  If there is a twist in the challenge then I am up for it and if I was to do GP racing now it would be the challenge to see how I would perform against these guys. I was always impressed with riders who used to come out of retirement and be as fast as they always were, it was cool. If I was given the opportunity to test myself in that situation I would definitely take it.

MX Vice: Just on the EMX150 series, Wilkie and Haavisto have had some good races and the points are getting pretty close between them.

Gordon Crockard: Yeah, they are two totally different dynamics. They are both bigger and larger than most of the others in the class, they are both fast riders and both want to win. They have two different approaches completely, you have the very solid, logical, non-emotional Finnish approach from Haavisto, which is a very standard Finnish mentality. Then you have Albie Wilkie and you can see with him and his family, it means so much to them if they get a win and how disapppinted they are when they don’t win. It’s hilarious to see Haavisto if he wins or doesn’t win, it is the same reaction. I think it’s great and I love that side of it.

It’s a big prize to win that series and a huge opportunity. I am pretty sure they both realise what they are riding for and they are so close to that dangling carrot, they are going to try so hard. Albie was a good example of that at Matterley Basin, he crashed three times and still got it across the line first. Jerre Haavisto rode the last race in Germany with a serious injury, he suffered, he took a lot of pain. I had a Finnish teammate Jussi Vehviläinen and I know how hard the Finnish people are, they are very, very hard people. To see a kid of that age take so much pain, he has obviously got desire there.

It is tight between those two and it’s a two horse race for the championship.  They are making it exciting and we have two more rounds. I think in the Czech Republic there won’t be any advantages to anyone. Albie is good technically with the jumps and things and Haavisto is pretty good at everything, he doesn’t stand out exceptionally at any point on the track but he is good everywhere and that might win him the championship overall, but you don’t know.

Lommel will be interesting, Albie wasn’t strong at Valkenswaard at the first race and Lommel is going to be even deeper sand, so Haavisto might have an advantage with that. I am quite sure Albie Wilkie has considered this already and I would hope he is making preparations to be a better sand rider, if he isn’t he might have a big price to pay when it comes to Lommel.

It’s going to be a tough test in the sand, you have to preserve you bike and your energy – you have to ride with a style that is fast but also efficient.

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Image: 24MX Honda/CDS

For a detailed look at Gordon Crockard’s career, check out the second issue of the MX Vice magazine.

Crockard survives Kester mudbath

Monday 30 June, 2014 — The 49th motocross in Kester, round three of the Belgian Masters of MotoX brought together a world-class field of riders. Unfortunately the event also suffered terrible weather conditions. Home rider Kevin Strijbos won both motos over Jeffrey Herlings (3-2) and Jeremy Van Horebeek (2-3).

A cool surprise for the Belgian fans was the return to Kester by former World number three Gordon Crockard. On his last visit to the Kesterheide, 14 years ago, the ‘Crockstar’ rode his Honda to a podium finish. The most successful Irish motocrosser of all time had a difficult day in the mud.

Perfect track conditions in the morning gave Gordon the opportunity to get used to the track again. However, regular showers throughout the day turned the natural track into a sodden mess for both motos. 24MX Honda’s guest rider struggled with a bad start in the first race. Crockard bounced back from 21st after the opening lap to finish 16th. Plagued by setup issues this was all Gordon could muster.

The coach of the Honda 150 Championship showed his experience by making excellent adjustments to his CRF450R for the final moto. Crockard immediately felt more at home and carved his way through the pack to 10th. He looked set for a strong finish until he made a mistake. Gordon’s bike almost got stuck in the mud and he decided to retire.

Gordon Crockard: “The objective was to learn how I currently rank against the top GP riders. In spite of the rain the previous night the track was amazing in the morning. It was in great shape and I enjoyed riding it. Once it started to rain it turned into a complete mud race! People assume that I enjoy that because I’m from Ireland where it rains all the time but, really I don’t! For the first race the bike was set up too low and too soft for the size of the ruts and the weight of the mud. I raised the bike for the second moto and watched the track before going out. In spite of losing my goggles in the second corner, my pace was a lot better. When I crashed it took forever to pick up the bike and with the position I was in at that point it made no sense to continue. All in all a terrible shame that the weather spoiled the fun because I was looking forward to some fast bumpy racing.

The good thing was that I always enjoy visiting Belgium, there’s so much passion for motocross here. So it was cool to see many familiar faces again and the people from the club made me feel as welcome as ever. Hopefully I can find another cool race to do where it doesn’t rain!”

Image: CDS

Wilkie takes EMX150 lead!

Albie Wilkie took the overall win in Teutschenthal and with it the lead of the Honda 150 European Championship after taking the chequered flag in race two on Sunday.

Jere Haavisto was forced to settle for fourth overall after crashing from first on lap seven, but the flying Fin must be given credit for his courage having cracked his shoulder blade just three weeks ago.

In near-perfect conditions in East Germany, the Teutschenthal crowd were again treated to close and competitive racing as Europe’s finest young motocross riders did battle.

Wilkie led the field away and although he momentarily lost the lead to Haavisto, the young Brit held his nerve to make it back-to-back Grand Prix wins.

Albin Larsen finished second overall after another strong ride aboard his CRF150R, while Eric Schwella took the final place on the rostrum having chosen to compete in the four-stroke series for the first time this year.

The fight for the Honda 150 European Championship title will resume in the Czech Republic on July 26.

Albie Wilkie #51
“The race went really well, I got a good start and thought I was going to win but then Jere came and challenged me in the middle of the race. It was tough but I was pleased I kept my cool. I saw Jere fall and it’s never nice seeing things like that but it happens in racing and I hope he’s ok. I’m over the moon to be leading the championship now as well, I’m speechless.”

Davy Dousselaere, Honda Europe Off-Road Manager 
“The new riders really impressed me and it’s been another fantastic weekend of close racing throughout the field. It’s great to see top riders from the European 85cc series like Filip Olsson, who got the holeshot, come over to the Honda 150 European Championship because they see how we mix with the professional riders in the same paddock, on the same track and part of the same weekend. I was also pleased that the range of lap times was smaller than ever as the riders continue to improve under the tuition of Gordon Crockard.”

MX Vice Magazine: Issue 2

Featured

It feels like only yesterday we were celebrating the first issue of the MX Vice magazine, but the second issue is already here! After being read more than fifteen-thousand times, the first issue is unofficially the UK’s most read motocross magazine. The second issue has been extended, and with a new editor onboard in the guise of Lewis Phillips, we expect this issue to break last month’s great stats!

Have a read, and let us know what you think in the comments box below. So, grab yourself a cuppa, sit down and enjoy -you deserve it.

Huge amount of respect goes to the MX Vice team and Jon Bolton for turning this around so quickly!

Throwback: MXGP in 2003

Yes, the newly named MXGP was actually branded under the same name in 2003! That was the year the 250 and 500 classes had been combined and, for the first time ever, we saw all the best riders in one class. It was Smets vs. Pichon vs. Everts, and the tension was high for round one in Bellpuig, Spain. No-one knew what would happen, or who was the fastest, especially since the reigning 500 world champion, Everts, was on a 450 and Pichon, the reigning 250 world champion, was still on his 250 Suzuki!

It was also a one race format, so everything was on the line at an intense first round:

Catching up with: Gordon Crockard

Gordon Crockard is into his second year of being a riding coach for the successful EMX150 series run by Honda.

With Grand Prix wins and three British Championships to his name, plus running his own training camps in Spain the last few years, Gordon is more than qualified for the role of bringing young talented kids through to international stardom.

We sat down with Gordon to discuss the recent EMX150 training camp in Spain as well looking forward to the five rounds of EMX150 racing that beings in a month’s time in Valkenswaard in Holland.

We also discovered he is keen to do more racing himself if a suitable opportunity arises!

MX Vice: The Honda EMX150 is starting in a month’s time…

Gordon Crockard: We are into our second year and it is a three year commitment from Honda to do this 150 job, we have five rounds and we had a training camp just last week in Spain.

We have a full grid plus reserves which is a big improvement over last year. Last year it was difficult due to rule changes, advertising and things like that. Last year was pretty much a case of showing and now a lot of guys are pushing to get it.  Of course we just don’t want full grids we want full grids of good riders and we want the best kids in the world to try and win this.

MX Vice: Is the standard higher this year than last year?

Gordon Crockard: The standard is higher, the top guys, Albie Wilkie won at Matterley Basin last year and he is in it again so I don’t think there is anyone a lot better than Albie but there are some guys that could take it to him. I think the standard of the winner is going to be the same as last year, which I think is a high standard but we have a lot more depth now with a lot of guys that speed.

We have five rounds with two races at each round which is a ten race championship whereas last year it was three rounds with only one race at each. So there is a lot more this year in terms of what the riders get out of a weekend, they get their two races and all the normal practice and qualifying, we have Valkenswaard which will be the first time they will have been in sand, they have Matterley Basin at the end of May, we have Teutschenthal which is of course a great circuit, we have Sweden in Uddevella which is great it’s going to Scandinavia.

Scandinavians’ have a great develop development system, they do a lot with the younger riders and the federation really are involved in coaching their riders. Sandinavian’s are very proactive with applying themselves to being better riders so it’s great that it’s going to Scandanavia. Then we have the final round in the Czech Republic in Loket.

So five rounds and we have already done a training camp we have full grids and 2015 there is already another series planned and we would look to expand the rounds and again we are always looking to attract the best riders from around the world.

MX Vice: How do you go about choosing the riders?

Gordon Crockard: It went through the federations. For instance the Dutch had their own selection day where they had five or six of our 150s and they invited who they thought were going to be good and then they selected out of who showed up who they wanted to be put forward to us. My boss Gerry is involved in that end of it, you have to submit an application and you fill out your CV so to speak and your accomplishments. 

I didn’t have to do a selection this year but it isn’t something I’m scared of because it’s quite obvious who you select, it’s the fast guys, it’s easy! It’s laptimes and of course you look at their technique and the way they ride the bike, because you might have a kid who is fast but is at his limit, because of his style he is just fast because he has the throttle open. Then maybe there are other kids who have a lot of ability and a lot of room to improve but they are just not opening the throttle enough. So you have to take that into consideration as well.

MX Vice: How did the training camp go? It seemed very professional in the video.

Gordon Crockard: The training weekend was brilliant. There was a lot of structure and great opportunity for the riders to get some bike time on that bike prior to the first race.  A lot of them had never rode a 150 before so putting them in a non race situation gives them some track time to get familiar with the bike.  We give them options on harder fork and shock springs or lighter or fork and shock springs. We give them options on bar raisers so all those things can be done in a non time pressure situation when it’s on a training camp.

What I thought was brilliant was that I got to ride a 150 for two days and I am quite happy to say I was faster than all of them! Why that is brilliant is not to flex my ego, but for those kids they might actually sit up and listen to what I am saying to them. Let’s remember the age of the them, they are age 11-15, well some of them kids were two years old when I was winning GPs, so they maybe don’t care what I say! So in terms of me instructing, coaching and teaching, they need to value what I am saying so they have to a level of appreciation of what I can do and that I am qualified enough to tell them.

So riding the 150 was awesome it is a really fun bike to ride. It took me minute to get used to the size of because it is obviously really small and we were doing some massive jumps and big whoop sections. It was a great exercise for me to do as well in terms of knowing the capability of the bike. So when we were doing track walks I was able to say to them, ’this is the maximum you can do with this thing, you can make that step up.’

So the camp was good from that side of things and it gave all of the dad a chance to get familiar with the bike because they have a role of being mechanic on the bike over the weekend and it gave them a chance to understand the structure of who’s in charge, who to go to for technical assistants. We have three mechanics there, two Kiwi’s and a guy from Northern Ireland, Michael Gibson. Michael has been a mechanic for me so he is working for them as well.

The parents that are looking after the kids bikes are familiar with knowing who to communicate to if they need a filter, chain lube or spare parts. They know the system.

It was education for riders and parents and also for me because I have learnt how kids prepare in different ways to help them. If you can understand their personality you are able to them more. It’s a competition at the end of the day and these boys are finding their feet. They all want to know who is faster and where they stand. So they are really competitive and although it is a training camp I was constantly policing them from racing each other! We didn’t want danger, we didn’t want them racing.

MX Vice: Were you working more with technique and lines?

Gordon Crockard: Yes technique and lines, just navigating the track, brake application, stand up, sit down all the methods to be fast and safe and preserving the bike as well. A lot of them aren’t mechanically minded because they are too young and they are on the limiter, revving and clutching. It is totally unnecessary, you have to teach them that if the bike breaks you don’t get any points!

It’s easy I find not because I know it all but because I have been through all the steps they are doing. I enjoy it.

MX Vice: The tracks are quite varied too.

Gordon Crockard: Yeah that’s a good thing actually, I support that because I think it’s fair, the same guys still win and it’s a much better test for them. The opportunity to ride on GP tracks- the more variety they have the better.  They are going to develop into international riders much faster if they have that variety.

We teach them everything, we teach them how to do interviews, to represent themselves in a professional manner for your sponsors in the paddock. I just keep telling them to watch the pros, because that is top level and that is what you are aspiring to get too. Don’t have your work area like a  helicopter crash, have your tools in one area, your oils in another and your bike facing the same direction as everyone else. Act like you are an actual pro because you are representing Honda, you are representing yourself in the world view – the media is watching.

We teach them all these things because they have never had to think about that before.

MX Vice: What about translators?

Gordon Crockard: We have translators although the main language is English and they know that because that is pretty standard in motocross anyway. But we have French translators Dutch and Flemish translators, Spanish , German so we do have them amongst the group and it’s successful.

MX Vice: Are you planning on doing any racing this year?

Gordon Crockard: I am, I want to race because I enjoy it, if there is a track I like I will go and ride. I am practicing loads, I have my practice track back so I am riding loads now which is great and if opportunities come up – it happened last year when Nagl got injured I was asked to ride the GPs, but my thumb was in no condition to do it but it taught me to be ready. I still train pretty much every day and I have the same lifestyle as I always have.

I ride bikes because they are fun and I train because I like being fit. Josh Brookes is living here so we are always training anyway so I am going to be ready to ride bikes but I am not going to get sucked into going every weekend just because there is a race on.

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Picture: Nigel McKinstry