Former World champion and AMA 250 Supercross Champion Ben Townley was one of the names in the gate at last weekend’s sweltering Monster Energy MXGP of USA as the decorated and articulate Kiwi readies himself to lead Team New Zealand at the 69th Motocross of Nations this weekend.
Townley has come out of retirement to wear the black of his country and at the same French circuit of Ernee where he made such an impact battling with Ricky Carmichael exactly a decade ago. “Glen Helen was about getting ready for this weekend,” the 30-year-old explained.
“I retired at the beginning of 2013 and didn’t race for a year then I did one International in Australia and then another in March and really enjoyed it. I put my hand up then to be selected for the Nations and they picked me. I thought I’d better get my arse into gear and this was preparation. I enjoyed it but the heat was just…[too much]. I can ride much better than I did. I’ve just come over from frosty conditions in the mornings! It was a huge culture shock. Mentally I am pretty tough but I could not handle it.”
The fact that the 2015 edition of the Nations takes place at Ernee and where he won the Open category and went 1-2 was not a factor in his decision to compete at the highest level again. “It is maybe a bit of a coincidence,” he says. “It is a special place for me for sure. I did the third round of the New Zealand Championship and that’s what ignited it for me. I got very close to winning a moto. I stopped racing because I hadn’t been racing. It was: injury-recovery-preparation-injury. I was healthy in New Zealand and I am still one of the best in New Zealand so I expected to be picked. I genuinely enjoy riding a motorcycle and I am clearly still very good at it. In the past 24 months I have raced four times and this GP was the fifth. So I still have the skill.”
Townley, now a father of three and coach/mentor to riders like 125 EMX star Josiah Natzke as well as filling a similar role for HRC in Japan, had been the subject of recent rumours about a return to MXGP.
Several manufacturers spoke of being contacted by ‘BT’ about a ride but the former champ himself says resumption of a life based in Europe is not on the cards. “It would be highly unlikely,” he states. “I am set up in New Zealand and I am enjoying my life after racing. As much as I enjoyed the GP at Glen Helen I will not enjoy tomorrow! Tuesday I will be a little bit better and Wednesday I will be okay.
“There is so much to being an athlete and your body loses it really quickly and it takes a lot to regain it. As much as there are rumours swirling around I am happy doing what I am. As a professional you want to do it to a high level and have that desire for success, now it is from a different perspective firstly in the way you prepare for an event and then when you go to the startline. It is a lot different.”