Coming into the 2015 season Ashley Wilde was a top 20 journeyman with a few top 10 finishes to his name but after quitting his day job and turning full-time racer he’s now running with the big guns…
Motocross can be a peculiar beast at times. One of the gnarliest, toughest, most physically demanding sports on the planet, athletes risk life and limb every time they take to the line. Yet many of the men that do just that at the top level of British motocross race on a part-time basis while holding down full-time jobs.
There’s something we’ve often wondered here at DBR – what if one of these part-time heroes got the opportunity to pack in their day job and focus entirely on their passion? Just how much better would they become?
Luckily, we haven’t had to look very far for an answer because one rider on the British MX1 championship roster who has done exactly that in 2015 is Ashley Wilde. The 25-year-old from Manchester was a full-time plumber during the week and a part-time motocross racer at the weekend but when an opportunity to quit the day job and concentrate on racing presented itself Ash seized it with both hands.
We caught up with him at Doncaster Moto Parc as he prepared for round three of the Maxxis at Canada Heights to talk about his awesome start to the 2015 season and a whole lot more…
DBR: You’ve certainly stepped it up for 2015 – what the hell happened over the winter?
AW: “I’ve never in my career been a ‘professional’. I’ve always worked full-time but when things started going good after working with RMJ over the last two or three years I picked up some great sponsors. Luckily this year I’ve been able to go full-time because of that so that’s been a massive difference.
“Before 2015 I sort of thought I was doing enough you know but when you actually strip it back there is way more to just being good on a bike. You’ve got to be good in the week, you’ve got to be prepared and the bikes have got to be good. Everything has got to be good come Sunday.”
DBR: So when did you pull the trigger?
AW: “I went full time in December and worked really, really hard over the winter. In January I went to Spain with Richard-Mike Jones and his RMJ Pro Academy. It was a hard and brutal boot camp and it wasn’t easy at all. We all put the hammer down. But because of that I felt properly ready for the season. Going into the Hawkstone International I’d never felt so good on a bike or had a bike so good. I’d never even had a mechanic before! Everything was sort of perfect.
“After Hawkstone everyone was saying what a mint result it was but to be honest that was where I expected to be. I ride with Adam [Sterry] a lot so I know I can do it when we train in the week. The biggest thing is just then doing the same thing at the weekend and at Hawkstone something clicked!
“When we were in Spain at the beginning of the year Rich spent a lot of time doing starts with me and we seem to have got that sorted out which is a massive thing and really helped me out so far this year.”
DBR: How did you get started in the sport?
AW: “My dad was an AMCA plodder! I remember he broke his leg quite badly when I was really young but as soon as I was old enough to be on a bike I was on one straight away. It’s quite funny now because every year that goes by my dad somehow seems to get a little bit quicker than he actually was – he still reckons he was the man!
“I remember him taking me to GPs at Foxhill when I was really young so I have pretty much been around bikes for as long as I can remember.”
DBR: Give us a brief Ash Wilde youth MX history…
AW: “I began racing on a 65cc at six years old at local club events. When I reached my last year on a 65cc I seemed to step it up and finished third in the BYMX nationals. After that I picked up a really good sponsor in Sandiford Motorcycles and they supplied me with Hondas.
“In my second year on a small wheel everything was going great – I was winning nationals and leading the British Masters – and then halfway through the year I injured the cruciate ligament in my knee and because I was so young at the time it wasn’t a straight forward thing to sort out. That was pretty much my season over.
“I came back on a big wheel and I did okay but I was still having problems with my knee and I went from being a top guy to being an eighth/ninth/10th place guy. I also grew a lot around that time so I moved up to the schoolboy class on a 250F. I was having a good year when my knee was finally done and I had to get it operated on. My knee operation pretty much finished off my schoolboy career.”
DBR: So it was time to mix it up with the adults…
AW: “I made the move to the adult ranks at 17 after I had my knee sorted. It can take a few years to figure the British championship out unless you’re an Adam Sterry or a Ben Watson – those guys are special talents that seem to pick it up straight away – but if you’re just a normal guy like the rest of us it can take you a few years.
“I had two or three years of doing the British championships and, like I said, figuring it out which took me up to 21 years old. I had the odd good result here and there and I was scoring points but not setting the world on fire.
“Three years ago I hooked up with Richard-Mike Jones and since then things have been snowballing. Over the past three years I have been inside the top 10 in the British championship on one or two occasions, banged in a few good overalls and had been consistently inside the top 18 in the overall championship at the end of the year. That’s where we were coming into 2015…”
DBR: At the end of November I went to one of your training sessions at the University of Birmingham with Alan Milway – five months on there’s a huge difference in your physical shape. You must have been working your ass off…
AW: “Definitely. The years before 2015 I had a life outside of motocross as well. I went to work and you know when you’re working it’s definitely not easy to eat the right food and stuff.
“When you’re working from eight until five and still have to go to the gym when you clock off you’re just not as committed and in the day you end up drinking a lot of fizzy drinks just to give you a bit of a boost. All of that has been stripped back now. My overall programme is so much better in terms of training, eating and taking it a lot more seriously. Now it’s my job.”
DBR: After such a good result at Hawkstone in February you must be looking forward to the Maxxis round there in June? I know you say that it is your favourite track…
AW: “Yeah, I can’t wait. I’ve always done well at Hawkstone, it’s a bit of a local track you know and I always seem to do well there. So when the British championship gets there I’ll definitely be shooting for a good result.”
DBR: What was your original goal for the Maxxis this year and have you now set the bar even higher after such a good start to the season?
AW: “When we came into this year I really, really wanted to be top 10 in the British championship at the end of the year. Sitting seventh now is great but it’ll be hard to stay there. You’ve got riders that have missed rounds coming back and stuff so if I can finish in the top 10 at the end of the year I’ll be very happy and we’ll have something to build on for next year.”
DBR: What other races are you contesting this year?
AW: “The team is doing the Pirelli Masters and the Maxxis. They are our two main championships for 2015. They are both going good so far – I’m currently sitting seventh in the Maxxis third in the Masters which is great!”
DBR: Who is the rider you respect the most?
AW: “When I was a kid I was a massive fan of Jeremy McGrath as he was the man at the time but in terms of respecting people that I’m racing against now there is a general respect for everyone in the British championship. To be honest this is the first year I’ve felt I belong with the top boys – I feel like I’m part of that group now, battling for top sixes.”
DBR: Tell us a little about the Toughsheet Recycling Honda team and the people behind it?
AW: “Toughsheet is a company based in Bolton owned by Dougie Mercer who is a private sponsor of mine. He picked me up last year and helped me out and he has also been a sponsor of Dave Thorpe’s team so that’s how the deal came about. I’m really lucky to have such a good sponsor in Dougie – he helps me out so much and I really can’t thank him enough.”
DBR: Does Thorpey get involved much with you?
AW: “Yeah. He sorts everything out for me. All my bikes and all my spares come through Dave and the boys at the workshop really look after me.”
DBR: What about mentoring?
AW: “He’s there for me if I want it or if I need it but I have such a tight relationship with Rich, I stick with what I’ve got there mainly.”
DBR: How good’s the Honda this year?
AW: “The bike is really, really good. It’s definitely the best bike I have ever had. The tuning is done by Ryan Thorpe – he does all the engine development. The bike has proved itself on many occasions. I’ve had good starts at Hawkstone and Hilton and at Valence I was third into the first corner. So, yeah, the bike is definitely good!”
DBR: Tell us about your role with the RMJ Rookie Academy?
AW: “With Rich taking on the RMJ Pro Academy in 2015 he needed someone to help out with the rookie academy and the younger kids. And that’s sort of where I came in. I enjoy giving back what I’ve had out of the sport and the rookie academy is a great thing to be involved in. I enjoy helping and passing stuff on and I think it helps with my riding too. When you take a step back and watch and explain things to the kids you see some things that you might not have seen before, things that will help me out when I get back on track.”