You came up racing against some guys who became well known racers. Who were your biggest rivals as a junior?
It has to be “Goey” (Anthony Gobert), but in saying that there were many other guys I don’t want to disrespect who didn’t necessarily go onto seniors. Guys like Josh Donald, Jason Andrews, Cameron Taylor, Paul Grant and Craig Andrews. Craig and I battled a fair bit on 125s. I actually landed on him at a supercross; he cased a triple in front of me and I landed on him and broke his leg, which sucked. As for the longest and fiercest rivalry, it was definitely Goey. We hated each other but always had enough respect for each other to shake hands if we had a good race. Shit, as juniors nowdays from what I’m seeing, they’d disqualify you for half the crap we used to do to each other. Knocking each other down and taking each other out deliberately, but we would always shake after a race.
What made Anthony such a tough rival?
His skill and pure natural ability. I was such an awkward young rider and he was stocky, strong and had oodles of natural ability. I was the opposite: skinny, weak and not much natural ability.
Did you have heroes as a young racer?
Probably the first two riders were just a couple of fast juniors on 80s. Chris Hill who was one of the first “factory” juniors in Australia and he also made the fluoro pink Go The Rat gear cool. The other was Buddy Antunez from the USA. Then as far as the pro ranks go it would be Gally (Stephen Gall), my old man was his mechanic when he won the four Mr Motocross championships. I also looked up to David Thorpe from Europe and Rick Johnson from the USA.
When did you receive your first income from racing?
It was the start of 1990 and John Warrien from Silkolene walked up to me at the Summercross in Grafton. Goey and I had been battling it out as usual and I’d just won the first 125 moto and he come over and asked me what racing I was doing that year. I turned senior later that year and was going to race 125 and 250. He asked me a million and one questions and then asked: “Do you have an oil sponsor?” I said no. He said: “I’ll give you $1000 up front and $250 every time you race in Queensland because Silkolene was based there. Because of that I raced the Queensland Motocross Championship and all the John Fenton supercross races up there.
When did you first start to really believe you could make a career out of motocross?
That’s a good question. As much as I used to look up to Gally, as a kid it’s not really thinking it of it as a job, just that it’s so cool and I want to be like that. So it probably wasn’t until I was about 12 or 13 and I had won a couple of Australian championships. I was also racing the junior class at Mr Motocross and at those races I think we got $8.00 per point in prizemoney, which was good coin compared to milk and paper runs! I also got to see the pros and the race teams up close, and that’s when I really started to think about trying to do it for a living.
What was the most professional team?
It would have to be between Peter Jackson Yamaha and Primal Impulse Honda in the USA, and I’d have to say Primal Impulse Honda. The USA was a lot further ahead at that point; the gap has closed these days, but back then they were ahead. The team did everything for you: your flights, accommodation, and all that kind of stuff. All I had to do on that team was ride.
Who was your toughest competitor at the professional level?
That’s a hard one because I have raced through so many eras of the sport. I’ll just list some of the names: Craig Dack, Eddie Warren, Glen Bell, Steven Andrews, and Peter Melton in the early days. The next period would be Lee Hogan, Craig Anderson, Andrew McFarlane and then Chad Reed and Michael Byrne. It’s hard, I’ve raced as a senior since 1990 so it’s kind of three generations I’ve been there for.
Anyone who wasn’t necessarily consistent, but someone you could never count out?
Again a few crossovers through the years, but it would probably have to be Steven Andrews and Rodney Hamilton. After that it seemed the sport evolved and there weren’t really too many flashes in the pan so to speak. You had to be consistently there week-in week-out.
Did you ever have any dramas with “Sick” Mick Cook (a notoriously tough racer)?
Ha ha! Nah, and you know what we have always had absolute respect for each other. The thing I always respected about Mick was that he respected me. He knew I would never take him out, but if he knocked me down I had no problem lining him up. We both knew that and never had a drama. One funny story was when we rode for Dacka, it was at the Adelaide indoor. It was the Friday night team’s event and we were having the worst night ever. We were riding like C-graders. Dacka was just over us, pulling his hair out. In one of the heats I got out of shape in the stutters, he was right behind me and I had to park myself up in the berm to stop. Anyway Cooky had gotten loose too and he hit me in the corner and we both went down. We come in and Dacka just lost it! Cooky and I were just looking at each other shakin’ our heads with a smirk. That’s probably the closest we ever came to taking each other out.
Is there anyone along the way you didn’t necessarily get along with but you think helped you with your career?
Yeah. Dacka (Craig Dack), for sure. One hundred per cent. On every level, to be honest. I hated him as a rival when we were racing. I felt he never gave me the respect of knowing me since I was a little kid. It was like he hated the fact that I was as fast as him and was going to beat him. So that really aggravated me. Then to ride for him I took an $18,000 pay cut from ’93 to ’94 to get away from my father because of the bad blood and the bad relationship we had there with Suzuki. I would have ridden Suzuki my whole career if it wasn’t for my father and that’s no word of a lie. So I went to my next enemy, being Dacka, but in terms of teams I had nowhere else to go. Mark Luksich (Team Honda manager) and I tried for years to work something out, but because of “Belly” (Glen Bell) being on the team there was never any budget left to have two top-level riders. It’s a shame because he is someone I always wanted to work with. Anyway, I did a last-minute deal with Dacka and that was it. When I rode for him I think he realised I was determined and I didn’t need an eye kept on me all the time. I could do my own thing away from the races and it worked. There was always that bit of tension — had it been four or five years later it probably wouldn’t have been there. But it was only two years after we were racing each other as bitter rivals so we still had a bit of it, but it helped keep both of us motivated I think.
Could you possibly have a favourite race bike?My KX125 I won the 2000 Australian Motocross Championship on. The reason I loved that bike was because it was the first time in my career that I chose the people to do every specific thing on that bike that I wanted. I had no restrictions and it was exactly how I wanted it, and I think it showed with how I rode that year.
How did it feel to finish third in the 1996 AMA West Coast Supercross Championship, earning two podiums along the way?
Deflating, honestly. Because after that I got offered $10,000 to stay for the next year. Most people would say why didn’t you stay? Well I estimated my rent would be $12,000 for the year. I thought they are now going to expect me to finish top three and be a challenger to win. I would have been racing guys on minimums of 60-70K. How the hell would I get gym memberships; my van was just about clackered by then, so I’d need a new van too; and just general day-to-day living, paying to ride, blah, blah, blah. I thought I’m never going to be able to compete at that level with the expectation and pressure on $10,000. So that’s why I felt deflated, as far as just purely on the result it was unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable.