Gary Ford interview - Hawkstone

Posted on January 12, 2018

Gary Ford is the promoter of the long standing Hawkstone Park Pre-Season International, a race visited by just about all the best riders of the last two decades.

He does a great job in making sure the British season gets underway with a quality race, and this year’s event will see a very interesting battle as MXoN hero Max Anstie goes up against sand legend, and three-time world motocross champion, Jeffrey Herlings.

We caught up with Mr. Ford and asked him about this year and the difficulties of running a motocross race so early in the year.

MXLarge: Gary, first up, it’s a great field of riders for this year’s event. No doubt with Herlings and Anstie there that has to be the highlight?

Ford: Yes, it was really good when we signed up Jeffrey and Max especially after their performances at Matterley, both were signed up early on, so it gave us a platform to advertise from and a lot of good riders have now joined the entry list. For the first time ever, I had a full entry list in all classes before Christmas and now we have good riders waiting to see if anyone drops out, so they can go in!!!

MXLarge: Who else are you looking forward to seeing race Hawkstone?

Ford: There has been a lot of riders changing to new teams and on different bikes for 2018 so I am sure that will create a lot of interest, but it will be good to see Evgeny Bobryshev on the Suzuki and Ben Watson on the Yamaha.

MXLarge: It’s been a pre-season race that has had mixed years, sometimes due to rain, sometimes due to the starting time of the GP season. What have you found the most difficult from running this event and what years stood out for better or worse?

Ford: It is always a worry with having to run in early February and you are constantly looking at the various sites on the internet checking all the weather forecasts, obviously the big downer was when we cancelled but all of the others have been OK. You just pray for a mildly cold and clear Saturday evening followed by a nice sunny day on Sunday......not too much to ask.

MXLarge: Obviously the opening round of the GP season is in Argentina, and second round in Valkenswaard. Both sandy type circuits. Do you think that helps when riders decide to come to Hawkstone?

Ford: Certainly, the GP boys consider it to be good practice for the forthcoming races as both are very similar to Hawkstone and with the entry we have put together this time they must find it valuable for bike preparation.

MXLarge: How much work goes into contacting riders. What is the process for doing that?

Ford: Some riders have Managers/Agents and others you can contact direct, I pretty much know who I need to speak to about various riders so that is fairly easy now. You sometimes have emails backwards and forwards but eventually everything falls into place and when you get the likes of Jeffrey and Max it still gives you a buzz after all these years.

MXLarge: Any changes to Hawkstone Park for this year?

Ford: No, we will stick to the same circuit as we have good feedback from the riders and teams and it would be silly to make any major changes when they are happy with it.

MXLarge: How is Hawkstone Park as far as longevity. With so many circuits closing, is it safe for the time being?

Ford: We are fine and as far as I know it’s the same for most circuits within the UK, I cannot believe how bad it is in Belgium and it’s a real shame, so many circuits have now gone, I was flicking through the Sport channels the other day and saw a mountain bike race at Namur with the finish in the Citadel, no noise so I guess they are OK but circuits like that were unique and I miss going there.

MXlarge: Weather isn't great in February in the UK, how much stress does that cause for you, because even on a good day it isn't summer and can have a big influence on the crowd?

Ford: Obviously with the riders we have we pray for a good day and a decent crowd but that is out of our hands, but the British public are a hard bunch and even when the weather has not been so good they have still turned out in their hundreds.

MXlarge: A change of subject. British motocross seems to be reaching a good level at the moment, with some good events, like the VMXdN, the MX Nationals, Arenacross and Maxxis, plus some good young riders coming up. How do you see the state of British motocross?

Ford: I think this year is looking very good and hopefully riders stay injury free and the various Championships are closely fought, I believe the AX had a good crowd at Manchester, so the interest is there, and we just need to keep it going. The rider line up is better for 2018 with the likes of Bobryshev coming in and hopefully when we run our round of the Maxxis in August the points will close and provide some good racing.

MXLarge: What about the world scene. Are you a GP fan? If yes, why and if not, why not?

Ford: I think the GP scene is really good and I am a massive fan, with the TV coverage now it’s easy to keep up with it all and I love watching the live racing which looks like it will be even better now with Eurosport showing more.  Roll on Argentina.