The hunger never fades


Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Cotents - – BY AN­THONY DOMAN

SA’S mo­tocross old-timers go for gold

You’re getting older and it’s getting harder,” says Gavin Wil­liams. He’s been rid­ing since the age of seven. Al­ways mo­tocross, en­duros, tri­als; not su­per-elite or anything. At age 53, Wil­liams says he races more or less at a mod­est Club­mans level. “I’ve ac­cu­mu­lated some bumps and bruises. I’ve bro­ken a leg, I’ve bro­ken a shoul­der.” In be­tween he ran a lot, com­pleted sev­eral ul­tra triathlons, and played golf. An or­bital walker is help­ing build up strength af­ter the leg break.

It’s a Satur­day morn­ing and we’re squeez­ing our way be­tween rows and rows of shrouded shapes parked on one of those you-caneat-off-it floors. “Sorry, the place is a bit of a mess right now,” says Wil­liams. Mess? To me, things look par­tic­u­larly neat and or­derly. More or less in fact the way they would look if you had to keep, say, a cou­ple of hun­dred rac­ing mo­tocross bikes in show­room con­di­tion. But they don’t just look the part: all of th­ese bikes can run, and run in anger. Wil­liams’s pri­vate col­lec­tion, tucked away in a non­de­script Cape Town in­dus­trial es­tate, will once again pro­vide the steeds for this year’s as­sault on the an­nual Vets Mo­tocross des Na­tions. The bikes have to be pre-1989 mod­els and the riders… well, they tend to be of a sim­i­lar vin­tage.

For the past four years, Wil­liams has been pro­vid­ing the na­tional Vet­eran Mo­tocross team with its pre-89 GP MX ma­chines from his col­lec­tion, along with backup sup­port. It helps that Wil­liams is the found­ing share­holder of Global ASP Lim­ited a spe­cial­ist tech­nol­ogy com­pany in­volved in data cen­tre host­ing of mis­sion crit­i­cal fi­nan­cial ap­pli­ca­tions to in­sti­tu­tional clients.

“Last year we went up quite se­ri­ously,” says Wil­liams, who will also act as team man­ager. “We were com­pet­ing against some of the big fac­tory names over­seas and ended fourth. This year… this year, we’ve got our sights set on an over­all win.”

The bikes that will travel from South Africa are pedi­greed Hon­das – three CR 500s and CR 250 – and the riders are mul­ti­ple cham­pi­ons in their own right.

There’s a clue in the hair, which is streaked with grey and the stub­ble that’s pretty much all white. The wrin­kles. And now and then, in the wince that’s the re­sponse to a stab­bing pain erupt­ing from a creaky joint. But al­ways, al­ways, there’s the de­sire that burns like a white-hot flame: beat the other guy. If grow­ing old is not for sissies, mo­tocross is a whole other level of un­sissy. ***

But it’s not just about the bikes. “Lo­gis­tics are a ma­jor is­sue,” Wil­liams says. “My view is that if you’re go­ing to do this thing, you’ve got to do it prop­erly. So I am go­ing to buy a con­tainer and put the bikes in there, make sure that they are ready here.

“Last year we stripped them here and then had to re­build them. It’s a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare. You’ve got to travel and the con- tainer should be de­liv­ered to the track and then we would get the bikes ready.”

For­tu­nately, Rwandair have come on-board to cover all the air­line tick­ets for the SA team; and the ship­ping of the race ma­chines, equip­ment, parts, tyres, tools and ac­ces­sories is be­ing han­dled by World Net Lo­gis­tics. Thanks to rider Ryan Hunt’s con­nec­tions with lead­ing power tools and ac­ces­sories brand Tork Craft, mar­ket­ing, re­port­ing, me­dia com­mu­ni­ca­tion, me­dia and TV li­ais­ing costs are cov­ered.

Farleigh Cas­tle was, orig­i­nally, the mo­tocross holy grail, like the Mas­ters of golf. Af­ter the venue was lost for many years, an en­ter­pris­ing guy by the name of David King un­locked the op­por­tu­nity of us­ing it again. “It started off very low-pro­file in 2009.

But each year it gets big­ger and bet­ter. I think they have 30 000 spec­ta­tors there now.”

The way the team com­pe­ti­tion works is that four riders are al­lowed with only the top three scores count­ing. “Last year our top rider dropped out in the sec­ond heat of four,” he says. “We ride in a cat­e­gory called the In­ter­na­tional Class, which is the premier class. Dur­ing the course of the day, there’s prob­a­bly eight to 12 classes. I rode one year and lined up against 21 for­mer world cham­pi­ons.”

Wil­liams plans to ride again this year, though he’s quick to point out that he’s not in the same class as the oth­ers. “Last year I man­aged the team and my bikes and this year, I thought to my­self, I’m go­ing to see if I can do both.”

When Farleigh Cas­tle started in 2009 it was a bit like ‘call back the past’, but as time went on it just got more and more se­ri­ous” he says. “The Amer­i­cans come out with big names. I mean th­ese guys are se­ri­ous hit­ters, they get paid to ride. We are car­ry­ing our costs.”

Ef­fec­tively the bike he plans to ride in the over-50 class will be the team’s spare. “If I do one heat, I’ll be happy. This is not about me rid­ing, me win­ning. It’s a case of I have been in a for­tu­nate po­si­tion. I have gone there, I have raced on my own, see­ing all the teams, I thought, I’d love to come here and make a mark.”

For the past sev­eral years, Wil­liams has been in­volved with the an­nual event in an­other of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity. “My com­pany, Global ASP has made the bibs that are worn over your kit. I only make enough for the riders. The guys don’t want to give them away any more and they have be­come col­lectable.”

Although mostly con­tested by pri­va­teers, the event will pit South Africans against stern fac­tory sup­port. “They don’t come out and make a noise, but you’ve got Suzuki, you’ve got a lot of sup­port over­seas,” says Wil­liams. What does it take to win against that? “You need to have four good riders who are ca­pa­ble of rid­ing and win­ning and they have to have the de­ter­mi­na­tion to want to do it.”

It’s like the se­niors golf cir­cuit, says Wil­liams (him­self a pretty handy golfer): the hunger never fades. “The guys don’t lose the tal­ent. They may be in­jury-rid­dled, but the guys are gen­er­ally fit. In the con­text of able-bod­ied men, we’ve prob­a­bly got, if not the fittest, then among the fittest prob­a­bly, the teams that are con­sis­tently rac­ing 12 months a year. Th­ese guys all want to win. They don’t lose that com­pet­i­tive spirit. But frus­tra­tion sets in.”

The se­nior mem­bers of this year’s South African team are 55-year-old SA Na­tional Mo­tocross Cham­pion and Spring­bok Tony Rid­dell; 46-year-old Ryan Hunt, Spring­bok and Pro­tea award win­ner and past pre­vi­ous Pro Vet­eran win­ner plus in­ter­na­tional GP rider, and mul­ti­ple SA na­tional cham­pion with four decades of SA Na­tional ti­tles to his name; and 49-year-old Collin Dug­more, Spring­bok and mul­ti­ple SA Na­tional and Ger­man Cham­pion with many years of in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence on the tracks in Europe. Com­plet­ing the team is 39-year-old An­dre David, who was based in the UK for sev­eral years com­pet­ing in the Bri­tish MX2 and MX1 Cham­pi­onship, the Bri­tish two-stroke se­ries, and nu­mer­ous events in Europe. All the race prepa­ra­tion is done out of South African by Paul Sy­mons, who has be­ing do­ing the race prep for the SA team for the past few years and is the race me­chanic at the event.

“This is the tough­est in­ter­na­tional vet­er­ans event for most riders, mainly due to the older ma­chin­ery they have to ride,” says Wil­liams. “Any rider en­ter­ing this event has to get used to rid­ing this ma­chin­ery again. The bikes are dif­fer­ent to mod­ern ma­chines, heav­ier, with less for­giv­ing sus­pen­sion and less ca­pa­ble brakes. “You’ve got to be su­per fit to ride th­ese older heavy­weights on what is con­sid­ered one of the most de­mand­ing cir­cuits in the UK.”

Still, he has plenty of fond mem­o­ries. “Last year when I was at Farleigh Cas­tle, I didn’t ride be­cause I had a bad out­break with my health. My body was too sore.

“I went down to the gatepost and saw th­ese Mr Price hats. So I stood to one side, lis­ten­ing to th­ese guys talk­ing about the South Africans and I prom­ise you, it was one of the fun­ni­est things I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. I didn’t in­tro­duce my­self, I just sat and lis­tened to the story be­ing told. That’s the part I en­joy.”

Like they’ve just come off the pro­duc­tion line, the Honda col­lec­tion (main pic­ture and left) stands proud. Be­low left: ac­tion at Farleigh Cas­tle.

Right: Freshly fet­tled, th­ese Honda and Kawasaki ma­chines are ready to be shipped off to with the SA team. Above: Start of an­other project… Wil­liams is aim­ing to pro­duce a com­plete bike for a vis­it­ing racer by Novem­ber.

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