STORY DAMIEN ASHENHURST PHOTOGRAPHY WADE LEWIS
Since you’re pretty much always traveling, have you been anywhere interesting since we spoke last mid-way through 2018? Surely you’ve chased some waves somewhere exotic!
The past 12 months are a bit of a blur. I had to dig out that article we did previously just to reflect on what I have done since then. Basically for the 2nd half of 2018 we got to cover some more ground around Europe and then head home to Australia. A few highlights include, snorkelling off the coast of Turkey, E-mountain biking around the foothills of the Italian Dolomites and four wheel drive / camping / surfing at Sunny Coast’s Double Island Point. In between all this, completing the 2018 MXGP’s and switching to DPH Husqvarna for 2019. Jealous yet?
Yes we are!
2018 was a pretty hectic year for you. On a personal note, did you tick off a lot of things you wanted to achieve?
2018 was a huge year for me. It has helped give me closure and finish that chapter of my career. After my contract ended so abruptly at the end of 2015, I had essentially been forced back to racing in Australia. For two years after that I was left with a feeling that I should be grateful for the wonderful life I had, yet at the same time constantly wondering what if? & I should be racing the GP’s. I do believe things happen for a reason, so last year when I got the chance to compete in the World Champs again and say goodbye to everybody properly, in so many ways it was a blessing in disguise.
How do you look back on your most recent MXGP experience?
If I could sum it up in two words (which for those who know me, this is a difficult feat), challenging and adventurous.
It has to be some of the most gruelling and toughest competition I have ever raced. A combination of being overwhelmingly underprepared (after fracturing my collarbone, changing to a different bike setup & not doing the preseason prep required for GP’s), racing against a field stacked with some of the best motocross riders we’ve ever seen to date and tracks / weather conditions that would make most MA officials wet their pants, meant that I got my ass kicked; a difficult concept to get your head around when I’m usually over prepared coming into the first round and happy with the results that follow.
Outside of racing, it was possibly one of the greatest adventures I’ve had so far. I mentioned last article how I was essentially like a backpacker. Living out of a couple of bags and travelling from country to country. Gill (my girlfriend) and I literally put our ‘normal’ Aussie life on standby to live moment to moment on the opposite side of the world. We’ve made lifelong friends during our travels and hopefully one day they either visit us down under or we do another Eurotrip when we’re old and grey.
Can you draw any parallels between the way MXGP works on a day-to-day basis to how the MX Nats works?
You’re riding a motorbike. Besides that they are polar opposites. The volume of riding on a GP weekend is more than double that of a MX National round. Some races you have 20 hours plus travel, racing in a foreign country, with strange food and minimal training equipment vs. two to three hours flight same country, same language, same food. The pits are huge and the team setups are even more impressive. Then there are the small things; your mechanic and girlfriend are on the start line with you, metal start grid, drunk crowds revving chainsaws and letting off fireworks all night long.
If you could bring one thing from MXGP to Australia what would it be?
The rules and atmosphere. There is no better feeling then riding around looking at the track on the sight lap moments before the race begins and you can hardly see the track from different coloured flares, can’t hear your bike from horns, chainsaws and people hanging over the track centimetres from your handle bars. To returning to racing here in Australia, where really we are known as laid back larrikin who just want to have a good time.
I’m forever getting into trouble here in Australia. Can’t ride your bike in the pits, can ride your bike in the pits. Can’t walk there, can’t jump that first lap, fine for landing on hay bale. No riding pushbikes or pit bikes. Hell, in Europe my mechanic rides the race bike up to the line with me following behind on a pit bike with partner Gillian sitting on the back. After the race I pick up my mechanic and return to the truck to see all the girlfriends riding back on the pit bikes including Gill (Todd’s partner Gillian), riding the pit bikes back from the start line in only dresses, weaving in and out of around 50 thousand spectators.
This adds atmosphere and excitement to becoming a professional motocross racer. I just wish things could go back to how they were here in Australia when it was all about everyone having a good time.
You’ve been riding Honda for a long time, why the switch to DPH Husqvarna?
It’s both complicated & simple. Essentially, heading into 2019 I was going to be a privateer and try and do the entire AMA Lucas Oil Motocross Championship. It wasn’t coming together with Honda and after speaking with my support team, it became clear that as a privateer we could choose whatever brand of bike we wanted. That then progressed to looking at the MX Nats and AMA calendar and deciding that I could attempt to do both. DPH Husqvarna had an offer that will enable to race the full MX Nats series, AUS SX and squeeze in a few AMA races. If I was going to join a team, I needed them to be flexible in allowing me to continue the relationship with several personal sponsors I have. Boyd and Dale have been really accommodating and I can’t wait for the season to start.
What are some of the things on the FC 450 that feel completely different to the Honda?
The Husqvarna FC 450 feels very familiar to me because I spent my entire junior career and lots of my professional career on a KTM or Husqvarna. The power delivery is a lot different for me as the Husqvarna has a very strong but smooth power compared to the Honda being quite aggressive once modified.
The clutch is quite different between the two because the Husqvarna has a hydraulic clutch opposed to the cable clutch the Honda uses. Feeling-wise it’s not a massive difference but the Honda cable will stretch during a 30 minute moto, needing to be adjusted with the roller on the clutch perch while racing. The Husqvarna hydraulic clutch never changes. Huge difference with the durability between the two as the Husqvarna hydraulic clutch plates out lasts the Honda cable clutch plates by a mile.
The steel chassis vs alloy – the Husqvarna steel chassis feels comfortable for me. Very stable in the front end and from so many years racing the European bike I have developed a riding style that relies a lot on a stable front end. I find that the steel frame doesn’t really change much between practice and race bike.
The aluminium Honda frame does give a plusher feeling but changes a lot with the number of hours on it. I hated racing with a brand new frame on the Honda as it gave a very hard, stiff, hash feeling opposed to my practice bike that had hours of riding on it and could noticeably feel it was plusher and stretched. This is why you hear a lot of pro riders running-in their race bikes which is mainly to soften up the chassis.
DPH has managed to put in some amazing seasons in recent years. How have you found the attitude in the team compared to what you’ve experienced before?
DPH is a very different team to most for the one simple reason being. Dale and wife Tash run the team as a passion-hobby of theirs. They want to win just like any other team but they don’t put the pressure on the riders. It’s quite simple really; if there are no results then there is no ride.
DPH is there to help the rider win races and give them the best possible chance to do so. The rest in up to the rider and I like this approach best.