After a turbulent few months, Buildbase Honda and Josiah Natzke announced this week that they had parted company. Natzke is a very likeable Kiwi, with incredible speed but this season hasn’t gone well but the split was still a surprise for many in the paddock. We caught up with Josiah to find out what went wrong.
Dirt Bike Rider: Josiah, we’re at Matterley with the EMX250s out on track, how does it feel to be watching instead of out there racing?
Josiah Natzke: I’m actually gutted, that would be an understatement. I didn’t really think about it but now that I’m here I’m…I won this class before and now I’m stood here, I’m not stoked about it!
DBR: This year you joined a new team at Buildbase Honda, but the season hasn’t gone how you or the team would have wanted. You had a big crash at Redsand, was that the turning point?
JN: The crash at Redsand wasn’t really a turning point – it was just where it started. I hadn’t even raced a lap for the team. I crashed in the first turn of my first race. A lot of what happened there affected me more than I thought, in my head and my body. Nothing was broken but I had a haematoma, I got run over and my body was beat, so it takes time to heal.
That was where it started and then things weren’t going right, things in my home life that I wasn’t happy with. Basically, there’s nothing bad with the team, but everything that could go wrong for me did and I didn’t go about dealing with it the right way. I had different people telling me stuff but I’m 19 and I want to do what I want, which is maybe my downfall.
DBR: You mentioned then that you had problems after the Redsand crash in your head, was that your confidence level?
JN: Yeah, but a lot of it was because I’m far away from home. I really wanted to win that championship – I lived here through the winter and put everything into it, I trained hard, I think I did everything right and I don’t know if I could’ve done anything differently. My fitness was always weak, and I fixed that.
I’m so far from home because I want to race in Europe and when I crashed I couldn’t anymore – I can’t use that as an excuse, but it took a lot of drive away from me. I got told, re-group then go back at Matterley, but I wanted to win that championship and even after the crash I still thought I could – I looked at the points and even after three races they still weren’t on a hundred points so in my head I could come back and win the next two rounds and be up there.
DBR: Was there something that happened in the last couple of weeks that triggered the split from the team?
JN: It was all me. It got worse and worse, I was going around in circles not really knowing what to do and shutting myself off from everyone.
When I do bad I shut myself off which isn’t good, but I didn’t’ know what else to do. I went to Dave [Thorpe, team owner] after Blaxhall. I had a new low there within my personal happiness and I just said I want to go home [New Zealand]. He said, okay, if that’s what you want.
DBR: Have you had a change of heart now?
JN: Well, because I initiated everything, I wasn’t happy and wanted to go home, I didn’t know what else to do and so I acted on it. It wasn’t anything to do with the team. Then a few people spoke to me and said stay, we’ll help you out, but by then it was too late. I still want to be here, I still want to race – I want to be out there now.
DBR: Just turning the clock back, you were a factory KTM 125 rider in 2015 with Prado and Mewse, then you went into EMX250 with them so there’s no doubting your potential. Now that you’ve had time to reflect, is that potential still there and what’s the key to unlocking it?
JN: I think it’s always been there, I’ve got talent but maybe didn’t always work hard enough to get that bit better.
People blossom at different times, so for me to get there might take a bit longer than Prado. On the 125s I was young, I could ride a dirt bike fast and fitness wasn’t that big a deal but on the 250, it was like…’sh*t, these guys are fast!’.
I had a great team, great bike and parts but I didn’t have support or anyone guiding me. I had a mechanic from New Zealand who stayed with me and we figured it out, but we were just winging it.
DBR: You’ve mentioned your fitness a couple of times, is that the key or is your fitness where it needs to be now?
JN: My fitness is good. I injured myself last year before Blaxhall and won the first race by 30 seconds less fit than I am now. This year I went to Blaxhall so much fitter, I didn’t even get tired but I didn’t score points – that’s nothing to do with fitness that’s just me sucking!
DBR: You’re 19 years old but that’s still quite young to be on the opposite side of the world from home. Have you got any more family support now, or friends in England?
JN: I’ve had stages where I feel homesick but that’s minimal, it’s only a short time in my life that I’m here. I never really see my family, I’ve probably seen them for six months in the last four and a half years. I’ve got my brother here now, and I’ve met a lot of good people here. I met Jamie Dobb and he sort of took me into his family and I was living with them and really liked that but I moved down south. Where I live I never saw anyone and I became really isolated. I never saw anyone outside racing and I was really bored and hated life. Not in a depressed way, but I’m 19 and I want to have fun, ride bikes and go out but I was just having a sh*t time.
DBR: Are you talking to any teams now?
JN: There are a few bits going on, but my hands are a bit tied. I’m under contract with Honda so I can only ride Hondas in Europe. Dave’s given me a bike to use but I won’t be able to do it that way.
The team have done everything they can for me, but it just didn’t work out how we wanted it to.
DBR: I hope we see you back on track soon Josiah, good luck.