Billy comes out all guns blazing and whips some serious ass in his Aussie SX debut…
At least you guys will have some decent photos to look at this month since I finally got back to racing instead of training! Ah, I love racing – especially when it all goes well.
So my first race back was a supercross race, something I ain’t done since, let me think, Belfast 2006 maybe? I’ve always enjoyed supercross from the early days of Exeter in ’99 when I won my first SX ‘championship’ although technically it was just one race. Actually, thinking back further, we used to race supercross in an old horse riding stable in Preston somewhere which was more like a beach race. I’m guessing only the people who were there will remember it but it was pretty funny. I remember convincing Ollie Sandiford Smith’s dad that I could drive a roller at the age of 12 and trying to start the thing up so I could help with building the supercross sand track!
There was also one of the best moments of my life still to this date back in ’97 at Sheffield when McGrath first came over to ride his Chaparral Yamaha. I was riding a 100cc at the time and won the Main Event. Back then they ran the schoolboys during the night programme with the pros in a packed stadium. I remember doing a lap of honour to thousands of screaming fans and airhorns. I think I was 13 at the time and I still remember the goosebumps and the feeling it gave me to get pretty much the same response as McGrath did when he won that night. It was amazing.
So supercross in the past has always been pretty good for me and I like the whole package supercross offers – the jumps, close racing, dry tracks and the atmosphere. Also the fact we race at night! I’ve always been more of a night person ever since I was young. Up til the early hours in the morning watching McGrath and Emig battle it out in ’96, then sleeping in past the alarm until five minutes before I had to catch the bus to school!
Mad how all these memories are cropping up just from talking about racing supercross, seems like supercross has always been something that gets me excited from even an early age.
The lead up to my first supercross in Oz wasn’t the best though – there was a week where everything just went wrong and I didn’t even want to ride. We were all out practising at one of the private supercross tracks round the area, I was out testing some suspension settings and still trying – unsuccessfully – to find my mojo! I was gooning around trying to do the whoops with very limited success and trying to improve my body position and other things. The day was going bad and as I was sat down by the truck we heard a huge panic rev and saw a bike flipping about 15 metres down the track on a triple-triple-triple section.
It was Harley Quinlan, a member of our little riding crew and one of the up-and-coming riding in Oz with s**tloads of natural talent and a hard worker too. He’d mistimed the first triple and endo’d hard into the third jump. I was by the truck and waited patiently to see if he was gonna get up but he didn’t. We all ran over to check on him and he was in a bad way. Without going into details he is now paralysed below the chest. I was there through the whole thing, reassuring him and making sure I was trying to say the right things as the air ambulance came. I was there through the whole realisation for him that he had lost the use of his legs and tried my best to keep him positive. It was seriously messed up and I had a really s**t time trying to deal with it all and do my training and riding the next week. Every time I got to the track I had it in the back of my mind.
Please, anyone at home who understands the scale of these situations, donate and help him raise money to get him through this time in his life. You can do it at…
Harley’s Trust Fund
Bank of Qld
So I had pretty much a week of diabolical riding and my head was all over the place. I tried to just put it to the back of my mind and concentrate on trying to have fun on the bike without putting too much pressure on myself.
Well, the weekend started off a bit sketchy in first practice and if there was ever a most improved rider award from practice until race time then I would have won it by a mile! All my gear fitted this time – well, the shirt was still a bit big and I had to cut the sleeves off so they weren’t getting caught round my handlebars! I quite like the three-quarter length style anyway, I do it for practise during the week too because it’s so hot out here! Lets the sweat drip off too. Actually, saying that, I might start wearing sweatbands so my gloves don’t get so drenched! You heard it here first people, I started the sweatband craze for riding!
So back to practice and in the first 10 minute session I went out just to make sure I got all the jumps down. There was a triple out the corner down a gatorback that looked pretty big but it was pretty easy while the track was groomed. Everything else was pretty standard issue – stuff I had been practising on during the week – so I had no worries about the other things. There was a rhythm section though that had a few combos but I didn’t wanna do anything stupid on my first race so I just did what I had to do which was a double-double-double-single. Turned out to be the safest and nearly fastest way through which suited me. Then there was the big triple! Well, the first time I hit it I OJ’d it by about 10 feet and landed in the corner! Was pretty embarrassing! My mechanic Biggie even got it on film! I ended up fourth on the times and I started to have a good feeling inside.
Timed practice came round and I was starting to feel loads better. The track got rutted up and it was pretty dodgy though. I was trying to carry my corner speed into the jumps but the bike angle meant the footpegs kept catching the ruts. I had a bad time and didn’t feel good. The last lap I got down was the best but I missed the triple before the finish. I ended up sixth which still wasn’t bad.
The races eventually came round and I didn’t know what to expect. I actually said to myself in my head as I was sat on the line just to go with the flow. Whatever position I’m in, just let the race come to me. But the gate drops and everything just goes blank! I just love racing! It gets me fired up. I love making instinctive decisions, making passes and getting the most out of the bike. It’s like a little battle between me and the bike rather than the other riders – I like pushing the tyres until they break traction, getting the power on early, railing corners and that’s all I did, just rode my bike how I like to ride it and it was good enough for the result I got!
The race I finished ninth in I went down at the start trying to push down the inside after missing the drop of the gate. I got tangled with haybales and ended up taking Hansen down too. There is still lots of room for improvement though and after watching the videos you can see here – http://www.superx.com.au/super-x-tv/ – I still need to relax more on the jumps and get a bit more confident over the front end. Gonna work on that this week and fingers crossed have another good one in Brisbane!