Since my last blog, there’s been a hell of a lot going on in my world. As you may have read, I parted ways with my long time sponsor KTM, or more to the point, JDR Motorsports. I’ve been with KTM since I was a little kid and with JDR the past few years. I went to the USA with them and achieved a lot, but after a lot of soul searching over the Christmas break, I decided it was time to move on.
There’s nothing in particular that made me leave, more so a bunch of things that have built up over time. At the end of the day, I felt it was in my best interests and the teams if I moved on. I felt like I was stuck in a rut and didn’t want to head into a big year of racing feeling down in the dumps. We’re still on good terms and I thank KTM and the guys at JDR for everything they’ve done over the years. I wish them the best of luck with their entire program both here and in the USA.
So, that brings me to my new ride. A Honda. I tell you what, I couldn’t be happier. After having ridden KTM’s for so long, it’s refreshing to look down and see a different coloured front guard when I’m riding. After we made the call to leave KTM and all the security that came with a factory ride, Dad, uncle Pete and my manager all sat down and discussed how my future was going to pan out. To be honest, I was so excited about the thought of a complete change, that I wasn’t too stressed. I know Dad and the others were worried about income, bikes and everything in between, but at the end of the day, they completely had my back and after a few weeks of non-stop phone calls and deals between all three of them, we’ve got what we need to go racing.
Shift came on as my riding gear sponsor. Pretty pumped on how the gear has come out too. It makes a big difference mentally to roll onto the start line and feel and look the goods.
Red Bull mobile came on board to help out this year and part of the branding was this really cool touch on the radiator sccops. It’s the little details that really make a bike look awesome I reckon.
Yoshimura stepped up as my exhaust sponsor this year. They are the best in the game and actually supply pipes to the American Honda Factory team too, which means a lot of the development they do filters down to the pipes off the shelf. Just like this dual outlet RS-4D exhaust. Where most pipes have just the single outlet, mine has two. It helps with bottom-end power but also looks pretty cool. It was funny the first time we washed it and had to find an extra exhaust plug to keep the water out.
I can’t thank everyone involved enough for the support at the final hour. We were three-weeks out from the start of the season when I made the decision and in that time we’ve managed to pull together a small miracle. Honda stepped up and supplied me bikes to get me through the full year, which is awesome as I really, really like the bikes. Red Bull MOBILE, Serco Motorsports, Fox, Shift, Motorex, Dunlop, Yoshimura, Australian Motorcycle Expo, ARC, Go Pro, Scott, Factory Spec Suspension, Vortex… man, there’s just so many people who have chipped in to get me racing. I’m so grateful.
So that brings us to this past weekend. Round one of the MX Nationals at the iconic Conondale Track near the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland. In comparison to previous years, we were way behind the eight-ball as far as testing and preparation goes, but it didn’t phase me too much. I was so happy with the new program that I was looking at racing in a completely different light. Where it was starting to feel like a chore the past year, I was fresh, excited and genuinely excited about being at the races again. Travelling with Dad and Uncle Pete felt just like when I was a kid. There’s no semi-trailers, no crew chiefs, no pressure… just fun.
Conondale is one of the most iconic tracks in Australia. Set to the natural landscape of the hills, it’s always green the dirt is some of the best in Aus and it usually get’s a big crowd. I love racing here and so glad to see it back on our calendar. One of the bonuses of Conondale is the creek that flows through the side of the property. It’s crystal clear and after a hard days racing, it’s pretty hard to beat a quick dip to wash off all the dust and dirt.
I’d only ridden my race bike for a total of six-laps before racing at Conondale. Our good friend and ex-team manager from KTM a few years back, Ross McWaters, kicked in a built me an incredible engine. So incredible, that the power was too much. Ideally we would have ridden and tested the bike more before coming to the race, but due to the lateness of everything, we were still testing at the race. There were some quirks that needed ironing out, but it’s just a work in progress from this point.
While my results aren’t the most amazing (8th overall), I feel like this race is a massive step forward for not only me as a racer, but as a human, growing up. I had a smile on my dial for the entire day and just had such a good time being there.
We’re working hard on getting the bike sorted and tuned to my liking now. Ross is building me a back up engine and coming to do a bunch of testing later this week.
I truly believe that we’ll be up the front of the class sooner rather than later, which is a feat in itself when you consider most of the other guys have massive budgets, months of testing under their belt and more staff and technology at their disposal than we can dream of right now. We’ll keep chipping away at it though, and together we’ll make this thing work. I can’t wait.
Once again, I really want to thank everyone who has helped me to get here this year. It’s been a massive effort and hopefully I can pay it back with results from here on out. Also, to all the fans who have supported me through this, thank you so much. It was unreal to see a few of you at Conondale and hopefully I’ll see plenty more across the MX series.
We’re heading to Goanna Tracks for the next round of the Nationals, which is basically my home track, so I’m looking forward to a good outing there.