One of the nicest stories to come from the Motocross of Nations was to see Ireland’s Gordon Crockard back competing at the highest level at the age of 35.
The former 250cc Grand Prix winner has been retired for over two years and has an important managerial role in Honda’s 150 European Championship. He was called and asked to race for in the MXGP class for his country in Kegums after the late withdrawal of Graeme Irwin just days before the event.
After making his debut at the Nations almost 20 years ago and with nearly 15 appearances for Ireland he was asked if he ever imagined racing against the world’s best in 2014. “I couldn’t have imagined being here last Tuesday nevermind any other time!” he said.
“Then I got the call Wednesday and if someone asks you to ride for your country then you don’t even think about it. Very quickly I lent on my network and associates at Honda and they organised two brand new 2015 bikes. I got a licence and a flight. I picked a helmet off the shelf at home. I kept all the Nations helmets and this is the 14th time I have done this race, the first one was in ’96, all the helmets are still dirty from Des Nations mud. I used the one from Lierop , which is quite possibly illegal!”
Along with Martin Barr and Stuart Edmonds, Crockard lent his experience and helped the Irish win the B-Final on Sunday morning to be able to earn a place in the three Nations motos. If the veteran was lacking condition and race-practice then circumstances were made even worse as he flew to Latvia nursing a cold. “The only race I do each year now is the Farleigh Castle Veterans Des Nations and I did 12 fun races over two days with the old 1989 CR500 and CR250,” he explained. “I did it a couple of weeks ago and that’s where I got my cold. I lost my spleen in ’09 so I’m a bit susceptible to illness and it is harder to get rid of it. You always ride to the point of exhaustion no matter how fit you are. You give everything you have. In reality I am now two years retired and I arrived here with a cold – of all things – just to add to my ‘violin moments’.”
“I stopped racing because I got frustrated,” the multi British Champion said. “The best ever result I got at the Nations was a fourth at Zolder , and each year the results got less and less and you go back and back to the point where you are not enjoying it. I wasn’t making any money or was valued [as a Pro]. It was good to come here and have a go but it was hard getting lapped; that was a real disappointment. It is a hard thing to take. I was lapped for the first time in my life yesterday and I didn’t know what to do with all the blue flags coming at me. Whenever someone went by I had this instinct to put them in the hedge and I had to think ‘no, no you cannot screw up global results’. It was weird.”
The Irish would classify 19th overall and, as usual, would benefit from one of the most dedicated and boisterous followings among the large crowd. Crockard was clearly pleased that the team qualified for the Nations motos but exhausted at the same time. Prior to what is undoubtedly his very last major international racing appearance the former factory Honda and KTM star said: “It is great for Stuart and for Martin to race the main event and it is wonderful for all of the team and sponsors. We are going to enjoy the rest of the day. I just want to get the bike over the line and then I can sit back tonight and think ‘that wasn’t expected’. If someone told me last week that I’d be here then I would have said: “you’re crazy”.