Grant Langston interview - AMA and FIM Champion
Interview Wednesday 11th July 2012 By Geoff Meyer
Three riders who come to mind are Jean Michel Bayle, Greg Albertyn and Grant Langston. All three achieved the seeingly impossible task of winning both FIM World Motocross championships and AMA Motocross championships.
Sure Everts, Carmichael and De Coster could have also reached for the stars and taken the plunge into unknown waters, although they didn't, instead remaining in the comfort zone of their own domain.
Bayle, Albertyn and Langston did it the hard way, taking the risk of the unknown and going with it. While Bayle and Albertyn are long gone from the sport Langston remains, recovering from an eye injury and hopefully looking to add another AMA 250cc title to his 2007 victory. I for one sure hope to see Grant Langston race again.
Looking back in time
It's one of the memories that seem to remain in my mind from the last 15 years of Grand Prix Motocross. The image of this brash young South African kid standing in the waiting zone of the 1998 Brazilian Motocross Grand Prix, an unknown rider watching as defending World Motocross champion Alessio Chiodi prepared his gate pick.
It was as though this kid wanted to learn everything possible, even the matter of how many times he should jump up and down on his start blocks, how much dirt to remove from the surface, and which gate to pick in these conditions.
The kid would one day become a World Motocross champion, although on this occasion he was just a bystander in the tough World of Grand Prix racing.
"He (Chiodi) was at his best at that time," Grant Langston smiled. "Anything he did was important, he knew what to do, and I knew I had a lot to learn. I could sit and watch those guy's for so long, just taking in whatever I could. Those first Grand Prix experiences were so important to my development, and how quickly I could reach my dream of taking Chiod's place amongst the elite of the sport."
Of course Chiodi made a great start in Brazil, took the GP victory with 1-2 results and moved on to the next Grand Prix, and the next, until the Italian hero wrapped up the championship in the final round, beating of the challenge from the sensational French youngster named David Vuillemin.
Langston on the other hand was buried in the pack, failing to score any points in Brazil, and remained one of the back-markers for the remainder of the season. It took Grant Langston the complete series before he would take a Grand Prix point, finishing with seven points in the final round of the championship in France, then scoring another three points in the final round in Germany.
With 35th place in the championship in place, one position behind a youngster by the name of Jussi-Pekka Vehvilainen and one place ahead of England's Craig Pratley. Not too many took notice of the teenager, although his resolve remained the same, there was too much on the line to give up.
"My father had sold everything before the season started." Langston said. "He sold the family house and we came to Europe with our pockets full. That first season was really important for me to get tough, racing in Europe was so difficult after racing in South Africa."
Unlike so many others before him the 15-year-old had turned heads before even making his Grand Prix debut. Racing the end of season Coupe de I'Avenir an event, which pits the fastest young rider of the World against each other in two thrilling heats, and usually turns out a bright performance or two.
Langston couldn't cut a place in the top three of that years Coupe de I'Avenir, although his dogfight with two other young chargers could attract the attention of former World 125cc and 250cc Motocross champion Harry Everts. Everts was looking for riders to start his own Kawasaki backed Motocross team for the 1998 season.
Langston went bar to bar with an Irish kid named Gordon Crockard and another rider by the name of Steve Ramon. Langston wouldn't get the better of the two, crashing out and lodging himself under a fence.
"It was my first big race in Europe," Langston said. "I remember getting an 8th or something in the first moto, then Crockard, Ramon and I went at it in the second moto. We were really racing hard; it was a lot of fun until I crashed. What did come out of that race was that Harry Everts saw me and we made a deal that I would come to Europe the following year for the World 125cc championships."
Langston would be teamed with young Belgian sensation Steve Ramon, the same rider who he had battled at the Coupe de I'Avenir a few months earlier. For both riders the 1998 season would not be what they had hoped, and by the end of the year they moved from the Harry Everts team, Langston going to the Kees Van Der Ven KTM team, and Ramon to the Jan De Groot Kawasaki outfit.
The battle between Ramon and Langston would continue in 1999 as Ramon finished in sixth position in the point's standings, and Langston in 10th place. Both would claim Grand Prix glory with Ramon taking a moto win ahead of Chiodi at the Dutch Grand Prix and Langston going 1-1 at the German Grand Prix.
Langston's first GP overall came as a huge surprise as the South Africans best results prior to Germany had been a 6-3 in Slovenia a month earlier, and prior to that he had failed to show anything special, scoring just 10 points in the first six Grand Prix.
Still though neither could stop the Italian stallion Alessio Chiodi from taking his third consecutive World 125cc championship. How different 2000 World Motocross championship would be.