‘MY MUM AND DAD TRIED TO STOP ME FROM RACING’

Leon talks youth mo­tocross, in­juries, racing, NSR500S and tour­ing on Har­leys

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

Can you re­call a time be­fore bikes?

No, I can’t re­mem­ber any­thing other than be­ing around racing! I was six weeks old when I was taken to my first Grand Prix. I got my first bike when I was four – a lit­tle Honda QR50 that I rode round the pad­dock on.

When did you first start com­pet­ing?

When my dad came back to race in the UK in 1990 I started do­ing school­boy mo­tocross on a Kawasaki KX60. I lost two Bri­tish cham­pi­onships be­cause of bro­ken legs but I fi­nally be­came Bri­tish Youth Mo­tocross Cham­pion in 1996 be­fore moving to tar­mac and win­ning the Gil­era Scooter Na­tional Cham­pi­onship the fol­low­ing year. I still hold the scooter lap record at Mal­lory with an av­er­age speed of over 90mph!

Did your mum ever worry about you racing?

She still does! Both my mum and dad tried to stop me from racing when I was do­ing mo­tocross be­cause I broke my leg two years run­ning and very nearly lost my leg the sec­ond time. Dad told me he couldn’t af­ford to fund my racing any longer and I got so up­set – de­spite ly­ing in a hospi­tal bed with pins and plates in my leg – that my par­ents fi­nally re­alised that I re­ally wanted it badly. Since then, they’ve both been be­hind me 100%.

What was your first road bike?

As soon as I was 16 I signed a deal to race in 125cc Grand Prix for Ital­jet but I was also at­tend­ing night col­lege to study sports, sci­ence and psy­chol­ogy, and I sat my CBT on a 50cc Honda – I can’t re­mem­ber ex­actly what model it was – and used that to ride to col­lege on. But it only lasted six months be­cause I moved to Italy to be closer to the team. I didn’t ac­tu­ally sit my full li­cence un­til I came back from do­ing Grand Prix racing in 2004.

Do rac­ers ride much on the road while they’re still racing?

Be­tween racing and test­ing and do­ing my dad’s race school, I didn’t feel the need to ride on the road so much in the early years, but now I al­ways have a bike for sum­mer and re­ally en­joy rid­ing with friends, tour­ing around Italy or Ire­land. I’m ac­tu­ally very sen­si­ble on the road. I’ve just picked up a ZX-10R road bike from Kawasaki but I’ve rid­den ev­ery kind of bike on the road. I used to rent a big two-ton Har­ley-david­son when I was liv­ing in Italy. I like my tour­ing bikes too. When I was with BMW I had an R1200GS and when I was at Du­cati I picked a Mon­ster rather than a sports­bike.

What bikes do you cur­rently have?

I’ve got my Kawasaki ZX-10R, a Kawasaki KX250 mo­tocrosser that I use for train­ing, I’ve also got a 450 Honda hy­brid thing that I’ve turned into a flat-tracker – a CRF450 Honda en­gine with a Yamaha R1 front end. I’ve got a cou­ple of tri­als bikes, a Gas Gas and a Mon­tesa, I’ve got two Kawasaki KLX110S, one for the dirt and one that I’ve turned into a Su­per­mo­tard bike that I use a lot for train­ing.

Any bike you’d re­ally love to own above all oth­ers?

One of the lat­est Mo­togp bikes would be the ul­ti­mate, but that’s just from a per­for­mance point of view. You’ve got to con­sider his­tory too. I got to ride my dad’s 1985 Roth­mans Honda NSR500 at Good­wood one year and I’d re­ally love to own one of those.

What’s the best bik­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you’ve had?

I did a three-day tour with Troy Corser on my BMW GS in Aus­tralia in 2011. We did over 1000km, on and off-road, and it ac­tu­ally shocked me how good the bike was. I was get­ting my knee down on the road, Troy was pulling wheel­ies for about five miles at a time, then we’d be in the moun­tains and in the snow – places where I’d nor­mally only take an en­duro bike, but the GS was up to it all. I’m good at my mo­tocross, I’m good at en­duro, and I’m good at road racing and that bike could do the lot. For me, that was a real eye-opener.

Dad Ron was with Leon ev­ery step of the way Four mid­dleweight naked tempters

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