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Jeff Emig - World Vets Motocross

Jeff Emig - World Vets Motocross

May 28

  • Interview

One thing we never seem to forget in Europe, are the heroes of our past. Hundreds and hundreds of champions over the last 70 years, from our first ever World motocross champion Bill Nilsson, to the legends of the 1970s, be it AMA or FIM, De Coster, DiStefano, Hallman, Robert, Hannah, Mikkola, then the 80s with Geboers, Thorpe, Glover, Barnett, Malherbe, Johnson, Bailey, Jobe, or those from the 90s, McGrath, Everts, Bayle, Smets, Chiodi, Carmichael, Kiedrowski and Emig.

Of course, names like Villopoto, Stewart, Reed, Cairoli, Herlings, Prado, Gajser and so forth are not that far from our memories, with their careers not long over, or still racing, but those from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are long retired. Many still involved in the sport in some way and their memories should never be forgotten.

The 1990s was a special decade in America and for American motocross. They had held the Motocross of Nations for 13 years straight (from 1981 until 1993), there riders were generally, considered, the best in the World. It was in many ways one of the golden eras of the sport as Jeremy McGrath ruled the AMA supercross. One man though, was a major part in both the MXdN victories and defeats and also a part of that Supermac era, beating the greatest supercross rider of all-time and the only man to do it, when McGrath was in his prime and that man was Jeff Emig, himself a four time AMA champion, three times in Motocross and once in Supercross.

Emig rode for Team USA from 1992 until 1997 and took victory on three occasions. His first time was in Australia in 1992, when America sent a “B-team” and beat the World, of course in 1993 in Austria, he and McGrath again ruled the World and then in 1996, in Spain, McGrath and Emig took out one of the most dominant victories for America in the events long history.

Emig in the 1990s was often close to being the best in the World and that 1997 season, racing with his cool Shift riding gear and with the AMA supercross and AMA motocross title to his name, was generally known as the fastest man on the planet. Taking victories at the Bercy supercross, the World supercross championship (in 1996) and so much more. He was at his best, both AMA indoor and outdoor championships to his name.

The good news for British motocross fans, the American legend is returning to the United Kingdom to race the July 20 and 21 World Vets Motocross event at the legendary Farleigh Castle circuit in the south of England.

After a long chat about Memorial Day in America, the Indy 500, and a bunch of other stuff, I asked Emig about his preparation and goals for this year’s event at Farleigh.

MXLarge: Firstly Jeff, thanks for chatting. Tell me, I know you still race, and you still like to compete, but how would you compare yourself with say Mike Brown, who seems to take the vets racing pretty serious?

Emig: Well, if you gauged it from say one to 10, he is a 10 as he trains guys, has trained top pro riders. He trains at a high level and has never really stopped. Now, I like to drink some whiskey, I like NFL, I go to sporting events, all that. So, about half of my year is that, but then I think to myself, hey, I will race at Loretta Lynns and Farleigh Castle again, because I really love those events. That becomes my main focus, but I take time off and have to get in shape. This year, I started training at the end of March and its now nearly June and I am starting to feel better on the bike. I like to ride when its hot and the summertime is great. Right now, this is the first time in a long time that I have done two years back-to-back, where I have raced Loretta’s, but I hadn’t ridden a bike three times from racing Loretta’s last year until March, but now I am back into it. Its good for my business and I really enjoy riding. I feel fortunate that way, because a lot of other championship level riders lose their desire, and I haven’t lost that.

MXLarge: I assume you also love the travel, so going to these international races must also be nice?

Emig: I love the travel and it’s a shame we can’t craft a good Veterans World championship in some way, which would be so cool. It just isn’t like golf, because there is a lot of risk involved. Going to Farleigh is a circuit that is something like I had never ridden before. I grew up on the mid-west, where you would think there are tracks like that, but Farleigh is tough and the roost hurts like a Moth++++cker. When you put 60 bikes on the track, that place has such an amazing feel about it, really legendary place.

MXlarge: Its funny, because in your prime, you never raced in England, not the MXdN, not anything?

Emig: No, not even some of those supercross races they held back in the 90s. No Arenacross, nothing.

MXLarge: How did you find racing in front of the British fans, because they are some of the best in the World right?

Emig: They are, and it is a crowd that really respects and celebrates the history of the races and the racers. They understand it on a historical and deep level. It probably has a lot to do with the decades and decades of motocross or scrambles that was held in that era, from so long ago and over so many years.

MXlarge: I remember Ricky Johnson mentioning that the European fans appreciate you guys more, while in America its different?

Emig: Yes, but the supercross crowd is a much younger crowd, a young sport, and English fans of motocross, they really know about it and see it from a different angle. It isn’t like what we did for you yesterday, they appreciate the events from decades ago.

MXlarge: From what I understand, your age group is a very competitive one. James (Dobb) will race that age group, Mike Brown, and a handful of the other heroes of the sport.

Emig: Well, if Brown is there again, it will be Brown. The interesting thing riding this race, compared to when you are a young kid, back when you were a kid, you had to move up to the more experienced class, with more experienced riders and you were the new kid, now, in the vets racing, I haven’t been in the over-50 class long, so I need to make the most of it, because now I am the young guy, but that’s a good thing in vet racing. Kurt (Nicoll) goes to the 60 class, so he is the young kid in the class and will want to make the most of that.

MXlarge: They will have a beer tent there and James (Dobb) said you might spend some time there, but hearing about your Loretta goals, you will be staying in race mode for the weekend and no beer tent for you?

Emig: I was celebrating last year after we finished Loretta, but this year Farleigh is a week before Loretta, so I am stricter with my training and my lifestyle right now. It has been a few months since I had a beer, let me tell you. The way I think of it, I want to be productive each day and not have a big weekend with my friends and take a few days to feel good on the bike. I am sacrificing a little and trying to stay in shape and keep some weight off.

MXLarge: There will be some fans who don’t remember your career, I mean most of the older people who will attend the World Vets Motocross obviously will, but I wanted to go over a few of your moments in your career, just to jog some memories for people. I remember in 1997, after you won the AMA supercross title from Jeremy (McGrath) and the AMA 250 (now 450) motocross championship and you arrived in Europe, to Bercy, dressed in that cool green Shift gear and it was like you had grown 10 feet, a totally different attitude. Also, the Fastcross was a big one for you guys, or of course the Motocross des Nations events. Can you tell me a little about that time?

Emig: You know, racing Bercy was like nothing we had done before, and I am really grateful I got to race that event at the original location. You cannot explain it, the small stadium and racing down the back tunnel and the crowds were crazy. Some of the des Nations, I attended, were great memories.

MXlarge: Speaking of racing in England, no doubt you don’t just have good memories of Great Britain, that 1994 MXdN for instance?

Emig: No, and those ones are tough. You know, you have the highs of hight and the lows of low and if I reflect on that race in Roggenberg. I look back on why did that happen and why was I so upset with myself afterwards. Now I am older, and I think about how much that race meant to me, and I knew I was the fastest 125cc rider in the World. Now, having raced at Farleigh, that track in 1994 was like Farleigh on steroids, so a guy like Paul (Malin), his instincts to ride that course and the type of terrain it was, it was nothing for him and he excelled in that terrain. I have a lot of pride in my country and our racing and when we were beaten that day, I took it hard, because if I had won my races, we would have won the event. So secondary to my team-mates or any result that they had, I didn’t do the best possible and Paul was better that day and it hit me hard. Being on the first Team USA to lose it after winning for so many years, it wasn’t a good feeling.

MXLarge: In saying that, you were always a great team man for Team USA.

Emig: Yes, I can say, in my class, I was no worse than second, apart from my final moto in Belgium in 1997. Once again, I came in there feeling great and once again, an Englishman, Kurt Nicoll took the first moto from me. I was so pissed and then I realized, after the first and second moto, John Dowd has a terrible moto and going into the final moto, we didn’t have a shot at winning and I told myself, I am going to show these guys who the fastest guy in the World is. So, I get the holeshot, ride my ass off for a few minutes and then I just blew up. The emotion of the event, of not being in contention got to me and I just started thinking too much and the emotions got to me, I ended up finishing 11th. That was the only moto I had finished outside the top two in my class in the Nations.

MXlarge: I know when you go to this event, a lot of these legends are your friends and I assume the bench racing is one of the highlights for you?

Emig: Well, that is the great thing going to the World Vets. We are not these serious professionals, and we do some signing and can’t talk outside of that. We like people coming up now and talking and its much more relaxed. I want to perform well, ride my best and be safe, but win or lose we are all winners at this point. The great thing about having had a great career, the fans don’t remember any of my bad races. They remember the good stuff and want to talk about good stuff and why would you not want to talk about that. Some of the younger guys now complain about having to do the autograph sessions, but these people are waiting in line for an hour to get an autograph and a selfie and they just have positive vibes and imagine Geoff, if every Friday night, you go to a place and there is a line of people wanting to compliment you on your business? Think about what that would do you as a regular person and not a professional racer.

Buy your tickets right here for the World Vets Motocross: World Vets Motocross

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