SUCCESS IN THE INDUSTRY
WORDS BY SCOTT BISHOP
We’re all aware of Australian riders overseas — Chad Reed, Michael Byrne, Brett Metcalfe, Todd Waters and Dean Ferris — but do you know how many Australians have made very successful careers working in the motorcycle industry in Europe and the US?
If you ever see Eli Tomac in the press or digital media, take a good look in the background and you’ll more than likely see Ricki Gilmore. Ten years ago, Gilmore was a Queensland-based racer who was known more for his big crashes then his outright speed. Ricki could ride fine but he could crash better.
When Daniel Reardon was in the US, Ricki went over to visit and basically hasn’t returned. After getting to know some people in the industry, he started working with the Factory Connection Honda team (now Geico) doing things around the race shop and assisting the suspension guys. That led to a role working with Andrew Short in a Honda team and now he works fulltime with Eli Tomac as his practice mechanic and general suspension and chassis guy.
Gilmore left Australia with some dirtbike knowledge, some machining skills and a good attitude and turned it into a dream job that’s lasted for nearly a decade so far.
In the late 1980s, Dave Feeney was punting around motocross in the Hunter Valley wanting to be the next Stephen Gall. That was every rider’s goal at that time. When some US riders visited Australia, Feeney got friendly with them and took up an opportunity to visit his new friends in the US, which then led to a 20-year stint working for the highest-profile teams in the AMA.
After finding his feet with some of the better privateers at the time and then working for startup teams, Feeney moved into the major teams, taking up roles with Factory Connection Honda and Pro Circuit Kawasaki. He now works with Rockstar Husqvarna on the tools for Zack Osborne.
He has family in the US now and still rides as often as possible, given his busy AMA schedule. It’s a long way from the backblocks of the Hunter Valley to the bright lights of AMA Supercross but Feeney is now one of the most experienced and respected mechanics on the tour.
Regular readers of DIRT ACTION will recall a recent interview with Chris Kibby, now one of the main players at Geico Honda. Kibby was a rider who then became a mechanic here in Australia, working for Jay Foreman’s Suzuki team, before jetting off to the US. He’s climbed the ladder in the Honda program and now is one of their go-to guys, taking care of their fleet of riders.
Byron was a North Queensland resident racing around the state and enjoying himself. He knew he was never going to be a world beater but enjoyed racing and liked the dirtbike lifestyle. To stay involved, Byron took up a role with the Staintune Yamaha team at the team before moving into a position with Team Kawasaki Australia. He worked alongside Paul Broomfield during his time at Kawi.
He then turned his attention to Europe after attending the Motocross Of Nations with the Australian team. He took up jobs with Suzuki in motocross and Ducati in road racing before securing a position with suspension giant Öhlins.
There are several more Australians flying the flag in championships around the world. It’s pretty cool to think that such a small local industry can not only produce top-quality riders but also mechanics who can cut it on the world stage.
I went to check out the off-road version of supercross recently at the opening round of the Australian Enduro-X championship held here in Brisbane. I know they don’t have emotions and can’t feel pain, but I came away from that event feeling sorry for every motorcycle on the track that night.
Damn, they take a beating. Slamming logs, bouncing off rocks, cartwheeling in the rock pool — not to mention the crashes every rider has at some stage during the night. Enduro-X isn’t easy and it pounds your body as much as it pounds your bike. As I walked through the pits during the night show, it was a sea of swinging hammers and flying tools with teams and riders desperately trying to straighten out bent-up motorbikes.
Three rounds of this and I say just put these bikes out of their misery and lay them peacefully to rest. I could never race Enduro-X as I’d be too scared to injure my bike. I can handle copping a rock to the head in a race but a dinged pipe and square wheels would have me on suicide watch. I best leave this stadium rock-slamming fest to those cold and heartless off-road riders.