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Dave Thorpe - British Motocross

Dave Thorpe - British Motocross

Jun 13

  • Interview

Three time World 500cc motocross champion Dave Thorpe needs no introduction, but for those living under a rock for the last 50 years, Thorpe is one of our legends, the greatest British rider ever, team manager of that 1994 British MXdN team that slayed the yanks and also the current team owner/manager of the top team in British motocross, Crendon Tru7 Honda, which also have the best rider in Britain at the moment, Conrad Mewse.

Thorpe is one former legend who still invests into the sport and with his positive attitude and wealth of experience is one person who can help British motocross continue to climb off the floor and regain its dominance over other national championships in Europe and introduce more British riders on the World scene, which is a situation, currently at an all time low.

With five-time World champion Jeffrey Herlings joining the ACU series, and winning the opening two rounds, it has created a positive situation for the series, but also one that makes life difficult for the locals. As Thorpe mentions below, it is also a chance for the young British riders to watch one of the all-time greats race and understand what it takes to make the move to the Grand Prix level.

We caught up with Thorpe as he was preparing for his day (I might add at 6am in the morning) and he gave us some really good insight into what the ACU might have to do now that they have decided to take over the series from the man who had been doing the job the last few years, Gareth Hockey. Hockey was given the role to run the British motocross championship by the ACU and while the series has shown promise, the ACU have decided Hockey’s time is up as the promoter of the series.

MXlarge: Tell me, what do you think about the whole Herlings doing more and more rounds of the British championship, obviously good for the championship and British fans, but not so great if you have a team and rider like Conrad (Mewse) and you’re trying to win a championship?

Thorpe: I think for the series, we all thought he would do two or three rounds as a wild card, but he has picked up some sponsorship from the title sponsor, which is good for him, and good for the sponsor. Personally, for the series, it is a good thing, for us as a team, it’s a pain in the ass, but you strive to have the best riders in the World in your championship and for Jeffrey to be there, for the promoters, the sponsors and the series, it is a privilege really. There is a part of me though, as one of the best riders in the World, Jeffrey is earning really good money (for doing the rounds he does in the UK) and he should get that money, hopefully the clubs are getting more people through the gate, so they are winning, but I would like to see some of that money given back to the federation for a youth program. As you know Geoff, currently, we are limited on the World stage, it seems like we are a long way behind other federations in that area and you can see the investment from other federations is showing. Unfortunately, Great Britain are a long way behind and those other federations that have invested, do have the best riders in the World.

MXLarge: It is a difficult one, as we know that motocross is a shrinking sport, we see it in Belgium, hardly any tracks left, on the other hand, if I look at the German ADAC championship, with free live streaming, big sponsors, big crowds, good prizemoney, full gates, they have really done a great job to grow that series and many other series don’t have that same investment. The British championship should be doing better than the Germany championship, because I assume the industry in Great Britain is healthier. What is your opinion?

Thorpe: I think with the cost of everything now, the UK is very isolated and to get here by a ferry, that isn’t cheap, travelling in the UK is not cheap, and if you are a European based rider in Europe, Germany or France of Holland are much easier to attend. In saying that, the first two rounds of the British championship, even though the first one was very wet, they have been great. Yes, we have missed live-streaming and that is disappointing, but the way the two rounds have been run, the atmosphere, the crowds, it’s been great. You could argue that is something to do with Jeffrey (Herlings). Our championship is pretty strong right now, you see it will go in a slightly different direction next year and we will wait and see how that goes, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t continue in a good direction. Gareth (Hockey) has done an amazing job and I know he will continue to do that in the future, with whatever he does. As a team, we will support Gareth as we will also support the ACU in their venture. The line-ups have been sometimes disappointing, but in the UK that can because of many reasons. We have a lot of federations in the UK, and they often run on the same day, which is really disappointing and a reason we might be seeing the line-ups at the British less than we would hope.

MXLarge: I mentioned in an article this week about his riding motocross now isn’t as accessible as when we were kids and you just jumped on your bike and rode off into the forest all day long, riding with your mates. Is that a problem in the UK or not really?

Thorpe: I don’t think we have the same problem that Belgium have. They are losing tracks, but in the UK, we still have plenty of tracks, but what you do have now, that we didn’t have 20 years ago, the practice tracks are vibrant. There are a lot of practice tracks, and everyone is looking for value for money and you can ride all day in the UK for 35 quid (pounds). To race motocross, it can be anywhere up to 60 pounds and at that point, you might get three 15-minute races if you are lucky. I do think there are a lot of people that either race or ride motocross in the UK, but they are looking for value for money. Practice tracks are always well groomed and well prepared, and you can generally get a lot of bike time.

MXLarge: What is the fix to get more British riders racing Internationally?

Thorpe: I generally feel we have some great coaches in the UK and a lot of good young riders, but I think those coaches and riders could do with some more funding. We have an amazing rider in Tommy Searle, who is coming towards the end of his career, and he would be the perfect person to help the federation to work with the kids, because let’s not get away from it, we have some good kids. Unfortunately, for many reasons, the kids don’t get to show their skills overseas.

MXlarge: These changes that are coming with the ACU taking the British championship back inhouse. Did you talk with them, do the teams talk with them about this change?

Thorpe: We did have a conversation with the ACU, teams and it was an option for them to go inhouse and personally, I was a bit surprised, that they did it this way. It is difficult, because I am a Gareth Hockey fan and I am an ACU fan and as long as everyone does what they say they are going to do, which in my mind Gareth always did, then everything will be fine. Tim Lightfoot who has taken it on (Chairman of ACU Limited), seems like a genuine guy and only time will tell really.

MXLarge: So, what will Gareth do, run some rounds, his own series?

Thorpe: That isn’t clear yet, but knowing Gareth as I do, if he isn’t part of the British championship, he will run an alternative championship and he will strive to make it bigger and better. In many ways, its win, win, win for the teams in the UK. We have two really strong series, and everybody will be happy.

MXlarge: I remember speaking to Matt when he brought in that Arenacross festival and he said in his opinion, a lot of these big events in the UK, like the Arenacross, VMXdN, World Vets Motocross and many other one off events will make the British calendar more interesting and more successful. What do you think?

Thorpe: I mean, we have in the summer evening races, they started last week, and Matts Arenacross is amazing and gets us through the winter. There is a lot goes on in the UK that is positive. Back in the day, when the Grand Prix was on in England, there were no permits allocated for other races, so everyone who raced, migrated to the Grand Prix, but now, if you look at when the big races are on, there can be three, four or five races on within a one hundred mile radius and then we have the practice tracks that are heavily attended. What the answer is I am not sure, but rest assured, there are a lot of people racing motocross in the UK, we just need to make sure that we make a better job of the racing calendar.

MXlarge: What you mentioned about Tommy and helping the youth scene, is that something you would or could also get into?

Thorpe: It isn’t really for me; I have a lot on my plate as it is, and I have a big commitment to Honda, and we have a lot on. Tommy is still very topical; he is still very fast. Not pushing Tommy out of racing motocross, but in my eyes, he would be ideal to fill those shoes with the current coaches we have to lead our youth into Grand Prix.

MXlarge: Obviously we just heard this week that Paul Irwin will be the series director. That sounds like a great appointment and hopefully that will also see the series have live streaming, which in my opinion is huge for attracting bigger support and sponsors. What is your opinion?

Thorpe: Yes, Paul Irwin, fantastic appointment from the ACU and is highly respected in the motocross community and has worked with all the clubs, so I am excited to see how it all develops.

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