Star Yamaha’s Christian Craig shocked the motocross world on Saturday night when the veteran racer stole the show in the 250 class, dominating both his heat race and the main event with a display of aggressive and forceful riding.
The 29-year-old took his first race win in over five years in what was his debut ride for the Star Racing Monster Energy Yamaha team.
“I’ve had so many of these days. Everyone kind of knows my story, I can qualify good, I can win heat races but then something happens in the main, I make a mistake, I get a bad start, I tip over, sometimes it’s something I can’t control,” said Craig, speaking at the track.
“It was kind of like I had a chip on my shoulder today, and I think I still do, I don’t think I’ve gotten rid of it. I think I needed to prove some things to myself. I do believe in myself but after the offseason we had there was just like this chip on my shoulder.”
The likeable and immensely popular rider has had some difficult times in recent years: “If only people knew what I’d been through the past two years.
“This is the most weight lifted off my shoulders I‘ve ever had. I never gave up, that is the biggest thing. I’ve been down to the lowest of lows, to the bottom, and I still kept going. So many people wrote me off, but I kept driving. This is what I dream of. I dream of this at night. I am so happy to have this.
“When I crossed that finish line there was so much emotion and it kind of just took me back a few years to when I was going through that whole FIM thing. It could’ve been so easy for me to just give up and call it a career, but I’m happy I stuck with it and I’m just going to try and keep this up.
“I’m all for this new schedule. We’ll probably chill for a few days, just do some Zwifts, nothing too crazy. It’ll just be about recovery. I’ll chill and hangout with the kids tomorrow and get back to it Tuesday. I’m excited about the schedule.”
The fairly simple track layout on Saturday night resulted in some aggressive racing, which Craig was involved in on multiple occasions.
“Hopefully they’ll make the track a little more technical on Tuesday. It was a little basic tonight. You had to be aggressive to make passes. I was aggressive with RJ in that heat but that was kind of the only way around with two laps to go.”
One of the most controversial moments of the 2020 season was the takeout incident at Anaheim 2 between Dylan Ferrandis and Christian Craig. As the elder statesman of the class Craig is determined to make sure that isn’t the case again this season.
“Last year I got pushed around a lot. I’m older in the class so that shouldn’t be happening. I should be taking advantage of these kids and their mistakes and be smarter than them. I made an aggressive pass in the heat race, I didn’t mean to hit RJ but I had to get through.”
When asked about the differences between 250 and 450 class racing, and the aggressive moves he had to make to get around RJ Hampshire in the main event Craig didn’t pull any punches: “You can’t compare the 250 and 450 class. The riders are a lot smarter in the 450s, they set up passes. You know when you’re going to make a pass and you know when you’re going to get passed. Whereas the 250 class is a little more wild… You’ve got the young bucks out there that have a hard time dealing with getting passed.
“I knew RJ was going to be tough, he’s been fast for years, so I had to make quick work and break away as fast as possible because I knew he was looking at the 29 machine after that heat race.
“I feel like I got written off last year, and to be honest my results weren’t that great. But that lit a fire under me.”