JUNIOR TALENT

Words Scott Bishop

Australian junior racers have again done themselves proud with another top showing at the FIM World Junior Championship held in Belgium recently. Jet Lawrence took out the 65cc crown and Caleb Grothues finished second — agonisingly close to winning the 85cc championship. To all members on the team, congratulations on a job well done.

History shows us that Australia has always been rich in junior talent at a world level. Going back even to the 1970s, starting with Jeff Leisk, Australia’s best junior racers have been world class. So, the obvious question is if we can produce a world junior champion, why is it so hard to have one at a professional level? Yes, we’ve gone close but still no world senior motocross champion.

The power brokers in the sport will look at the racing calendar and try to source some answers there. Part of the reason may well be found in the tracks, the formats and the fact that our industry is so small there are very few professional racers making a living racing at the age of 18 at the moment.

I tend to think it goes a bit deeper than that. At the age of 15 or 16, the life of an Australian teenager is starting to change. School, employment, girls, cars, booze and independence are all becoming factors and it starts to show on the race track. It’s not uncommon for the 13–14-year group at the Australian Junior Motocross championship to be faster than the 15-year group. At 13–14 years old, the school routine is still in place and Dad is still taking Junior riding and racing every weekend. But at 15, the discipline is starting to wane.

Compare that to what happens in the USA. You can’t drink till you’re 21, driver’s licences are 18 and up depending on which state you live in and the racing intensity continues, with even local races paying money to keep the cash flow rolling and the riders on the track until the big dogs come knocking.

So, the 15–21 age bracket is where Australian riders don’t seem to continue the steep learning curve that happens in other motocross countries. Take a look at any rider who’s been successful in leaving Australia and racing overseas: they’ve all left our shores in that age bracket and the majority of them were under 20.

So, I agree with Chad Reed. If you want to race professionally overseas, leave as early as possible and continue to develop as a racer in the right environment where the distractions of the Australian lifestyle aren’t so strong. It won’t be easy and you’ll need to work and train harder than you ever have before, but you only get one shot at it these days. Make the most of the opportunity if it presents itself and give it all you have. No one has ever failed trying their best.

I also look around the country at the moment and see there’s plenty of good talent in the current group of juniors. The top five Under-19 riders in 2014 have been as fast, if not faster, than the MX2 class at several rounds recently. All the riders selected for the junior team, as well as plenty of other juniors racing at the moment, are good and can make it overseas. Maybe that world professional championship isn’t that far away.

PIT TALK

The usual “Who’s on what next year?” talk is starting to gain momentum in the pits, with rumours flying like roost from a CR500. There’s a vacant ride at KTM; one, possibly two at CDR Yamaha; the same for Suzuki and Honda as well as the possible introduction of a factory Husky team. The only team that looks like it will stay the same is Kawasaki.

Matt Moss is said to be shopping himself around and the talk is CDR Yamaha as a likely suitor. The move from the proven success he’s with Suzuki would be a huge call from Matt but stranger things have happened.

Kirk Gibbs is a lock to stay on with the KTM team but who will be on the second team bike? Ford Dale is a long shot after a tough couple of seasons with injury so who else is available to fill the ride? Luke Styke will be back from Europe and has been in contact with several teams, including KTM, and many believe this could happen.

Craig Dack said all his options are open as he wants to get back in championship-winning mode. The Raymond Terrace round did Jacob Wright’s chances a lot of good at securing one seat but Dack has said he will assess the options at the end of the MX Nationals. Styke has been linked to CDR; Mosig is a viable option as well as the Matt Moss rumour.

For Suzuki, I’d be surprised if Moss left. While the excitement of a new team is enticing, walking away from a team and a bike you know you can win on is hard, not to mention that big contingency bonus. I think Matt will stay but he takes up a lot of funding, so the second team ride will be on low money but good equipment. In the past, that has often been a New Zealand-based rider to reduce the costs.

Kawasaki has two riders capable of winning races and another year with the pair of Adam Monea and Jake Moss is likely. The introduction of a Husky-supported team is on the cards with current riders Luke Arbon, Egan Mastin and Nathan Crawford all rumoured to be getting more support.

Honda is the team that needs to get things back on track after some shocking luck in recent times. The injection of some new riders might be the breath of fresh air the team needs.

The bottom line is there are plenty of good rides available in 2015 — so look for plenty of movement.