After the tragic loss of one of the UK’s brightest motocross talents last weekend, Mark Morris has put together a heartfelt tribute to his son, Jude.
Where do you start when you lose a child? It’s just not the natural sequence of events. Yet here we are at the twilight of summer trying to remember him, and there are so many great and happy memories.
I’m not from a motocross family, many of my school friends were. MX has always been expensive and that was long before everyone needed four bikes, a 100k motorhome, a coach and a mechanic – it was still an expensive sport that was beyond my parents’ budget.
In my thirties I bought an off road Enduro bike and wobbled around on a Sunday at Hare and Hounds. I wasn’t very good, but that buzz is infectious I was always competitive and wanted to win.
Since Jude was small, I had a bike, and he would come to the race meetings. He would wear a race kit and walk around the pits like a full kit wanker!
At five we bought him the very first Oset. I remember that Christmas Day when on his first go he was halfway up a tree, whoops! He did hundreds of hours on that bike and went through countless sets of batteries and at the end was jumping stuff way beyond what the bike was built for.
Jude’s love for Enduro continued and every year we bought him the “Duke” WEC videos, at the time the WEC was dominated by British rider David Knight. Jude and I spent many a wet weekend in Wales on some bleak hillside watching David and the rest of the riders. Jude adopted the #101 from David and rode with it until the end.
A KTM mini came next, followed by a 2009 SX65 which actually came with a 101 number board. His first ever race was at a very local track called Rogers Hill I think he came fourth or fifth overall he was nine ,while young, many had been riding since they were six. His race career had begun.
We did one season on that bike, spent no money on it at all, and at the end of the season decided to buy him an 85cc. I made a deal with Jude, he would get a new bike and in return he had to train and get race fit. He did.
Jude was a short arse, and to be fair chunky, results started to come, Club Championship for South Somerset and West of England Championship MCF grand slam winner.
In his last year on a small wheel, we took a 1-2-1 training session with Richard Mike Jones the man behind RMJ, Ash Wilde who was at the time a British Championship Racer was about to coach full time. Rich Mike to the Pros and Ash took the Rookie Academy.
Our Journey with Ash and RMJ was amazing. Jude had so much respect for Ash, he always wanted to do well, for himself and Ash. He listened and we would then practice what we’d learnt, we travelled hundreds of miles for training, and we loved it. It was a different level.
Ash was the biggest influence on Jude as a rider, I know at times it was frustrating, at practice Jude would show great pace, but he struggled on race days to recreate that form.
My relationship with Jude changed at this point. I was a typical MX dad, after bad races I would say: “That was shit.”
If he fell off I bollocked him or say he was never fast enough or didn’t do this as good as other riders etc.
We went to see a sports coach and that was the biggest turning point in our journey. I realised what a knob I had been, no kid crashes on purpose, all they want to do is please their dad.
That all changed, Jude and I would laugh at other dads shouting at the kids or pointing to the rider in front of them in races – like their child doesn’t know he needs to catch and pass him! Those dads who do the twist throttle sign! We laughed. He said to me, ‘you ever do that to me and I’ll stop right there’. I used to do it at a club meeting for a laugh with a huge smile on my face as he went by.
Sorry mate, yes, I did think it was funny!
I learnt to work with Jude, talk to him correctly, give him the confidence, all my pit board messages had a smiley face on them.
They would be:
UR Fast Pace Good
Keep this pace we are all good
P2 u can P1 if you want?
Everything must be positive, if it doesn’t work talk it through, don’t shout and scream.
I’m not perfect and sometimes I slipped and shouted, but that was never the norm and that’s why we were such a great team. We both had a job to do, and we had each other and that worked.
In Jude’s last year at school, he was allowed to use the gym at lunchtime, and this is where his transformation into an athlete began. It’s hard to express how hard he trained. He pushed himself every day. We would do a day at FatCat, drive four hours home and he would do an hour recover ride on his static bike. He ran, he cycled, he did weights, core, and balance exercise.
Jude was a practical lad, and soon with the help of a good friend was fixing his 125 full top end – re-builds, chains, sprockets, bearings, air filters, seat covers – Jude did it all. He washed his bikes, his boots, he loaded the van, unloaded the van. He helped pack up and unpack, he never went with his mates at races until everything was set.
We encouraged Jude to seek all his own sponsors, of course we helped, but as parents this was something we believed was a great business skill set and to his credit he built up a huge support network which helped us race.
Jude took great care over his sponsors and did over and above for them. He built his social channels, and his bike and kit always presented his sponsors as professionally as he could. Hence his #Factor Jude Morris title.
Cutting to this season and it was clear that Jude was one of the main title contenders. He and Alfie Jones at times have been in their own race. They are fierce rivals on the track and great friends off the track, nether would give and inch and bars definitely banged. Alfie Jones is a credit to Rod and his family, and he is a racer, if you beat Alfie you deserve it and at the point of writing this Jude had beaten Alfie more than any other rider – it was that close as they went to Duns.
We know sadly how this ends, our journey is over, and I will miss that. I was so proud of Jude, I got to tell him that every week. He would still say to me ‘how did I look out there’ and I would say ‘mate you don’t need to ask me you were awesome’. I told him every time he rode how good he was and how proud I was, and I was so proud.
My last words to Jude were ‘mate you can win this, you know you can, and everyone here knows it, go do your thing’, he nodded and went to the gate.
What we have learnt since that sad day is how many people Jude reached and inspired. People always say good things when something like this happens, but the amount of people who have messaged us directly to tell us their son or daughter had messaged Jude and Jude had replied with tips on riding, or how he stopped to talk to people in the pits with advice, has been just staggering.
There has been an outpouring of affection for Jude, he’s been called a role model, an inspiration, polite, well mannered. He was a credit to himself, to his family and his sport.
Jude worked hard for everything he achieved, he never stopped. He never moaned, he always smiled. He was not just an amazing talent he was my son and I’m proud to say he was my best friend. He’ll missed by Lucy and me.
I hope what Jude achieved can inspire younger riders. We didn’t have a massive budget, just a great work ethic and team bond.
Love you, Dad
PC – Architech media