Gary Ford interview – Hawkstone Park

Gary Ford works really hard each year to bring us one of the highlights of the pre-season, the Hawkstone Park International. For years Ford has been one of many people who put in hours and hours of work to make the event happen.

Big names like Dave Thorpe, Georges Jobe, Eric Geboers, Stefan Everts, Joel Smets, Jeffrey Herlings and Ben Townley have graced the magnificent circuit, and Gary was kind enough to give us five minutes of his time for this interview.

MXlarge: Firstly, how is it looking for this years event as far as riders are concerned?

Ford: At the moment we are still at the talking stage so I cannot mention any names yet, the top GP teams are now sorting out there pre-season schedule so we should have some riders very soon.

MXlarge: Valence has decided to not run this year. Does that make any difference to your races situation?

Ford: Valence always ran the week after us so it had no effect on our entry, I was told early on that La Capelle intended to take the 12th date so rather than us run a week later and clash with them we stuck to the first weekend in February.

MXlarge: How would you compare Hawkstone Park 2015 to say Hawkstone Park International races when it very first was on the calendar?

Ford: The first one we ran had three classes 125cc, 250cc and 500cc with a couple of GP riders in each one but when the Grand Prix changed to MX1 and MX2 we followed suit and gave them two races each with the combined Superfinal to finish. The event has grown so much over the years and is now an established and well known race meeting throughout Europe. We now have a major sponsor with Be Wiser Insurance continuing there partnership plus the likes of Hawk Plant who give us loads of help and numerous others helping as well and it all adds up to looking good for the next 20 years !!!!

MXlarge: What is the most difficult thing about running an event?

Ford: From my point of view I look after all of the secretarial side so getting all of the paperwork sorted like entry forms and start permissions to making sure all officials are in place. I also look after the welcome centre on the Saturday then trackside all day Sunday. I am just one piece of the jigsaw as we have a good team of people all of whom know what they are doing and just get on with there jobs so that makes life a lot easier. You have to remember the majority of us hold a full time job and all of the work is done at weekends and at night.

MXlarge: Obviously weather plays a part in a race so early in the year. I guess with Hawkstone Park being sand it doesn’t become much of a problem. What has been the most difficult year due to weather?

Ford: 2013 when we had to cancel as the paddock and a lot of the car park was flooded. We arrived early Saturday morning and it took us about 10 minutes to pull the plug even though the track would have been OK, the weather during the week had been alright but it poured down Friday night and the forecast for Sunday was rain and snow and there were warnings on local motorways to stay at home. I drove home Saturday night absolutely gutted as so much work goes into the preparation and then nothing, it leaves you totally flat, a year later the same happened at Valence and I really felt for them.

MXlarge: What has been your favorite Hawkstone Park event in your memory?

Ford: Although it was not one of the biggest events it has to be the first one I did in the mid 90s as secretary on my own, I had a great mentor in the late Tony Johnson and after he passed away I took over the reigns and the first one was a New Years day race, as it happened the track was really frozen and we had to run it as a practice rather than racing so not a good start.

MXlarge: Hawkstone Park has a long history with the sport. How important is the circuits history for you? Do you have a special memory from a GP held there?

Ford: As soon as you are driving down the lanes to the track you know you are coming to a special place, so much has gone on over the years at our famous circuit but the GP of 1984 is the special one. I wasn’t a committee member at the time so there as a spectator but just happened to be at the bomb hole when Jobe jumped over Malherbe during the race, I was watching from the same side as that famous Nick Haskell photo and you could see him lining it up for a couple of laps before the pass, also Thorpey won the GP which was brilliant for the home crowd, great weekend.

MXlarge: Is there a rider you would love to have at the event, but never been able to get?

Ford: From Europe it has to be Toni Cairoli and Tim Gajser then you would look at USA and Ryan Villopoto who I tried to get in 2015 but it didn’t work out. I hope at some point Dean Wilson will be available, I don’t know him personally but he seems a good guy and when he has ridden for Team GB at the Nations has always given 100%.

MXlarge: Favorite rider who has ridden Hawkstone Park?

Ford: Present time it has to be Jeffrey Herlings, he is so quick and makes a difficult circuit look easy, I have never seen anyone as fast and off track he is so good with the spectators and always has time for photos, autographs etc. Going back a few years then I would go for Stefan Everts, a legend in his own right, smooth and stylish and a winner on numerous occasions at Hawkstone. I would put Marc de Reuver here as well, a true entertainer and he ripped the Superfinal on a 125cc machine, the first guy to do it. Then back to the 80s and our very own Dave Thorpe in the 500cc GP’S battling Malherbe, Geboers and Jobe, great Champion and glad we still see him with his race team at Hawkstone.