Gareth Hockey, Director of RHL Activities, is undoubtedly a man with vision and one who is working hard to help develop young talent in the UK motocross scene. In the last seven years since RHL took up the reins of the British Youth National Championship, the series has gone from strength-to-strength with 39 riders in the first round RHL organised to being a nearly full gate in each class with 200 or so riders this season. The goal is clear; to make the Judd KTM British Youth National Championship the best junior series in Europe.
Having previously organised the British Motocross Grand Prix in 2008 and 2009, as well as many years being behind the biggest off-road event in the UK – the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race – Hockey has a lot of experience in running high-class events and from the word go has put these strong foundations into the youth of the sport once he took on the ACU junior series.
”When we took over the BYN it had lost its way shall we say a little bit. RHL felt that there needed to be a focus on investing in our own country and our own sport having previously run the Grand Prix events – it’s taken us seven years to get it to where I want it to be with riders and for people to see how we operate. Yes, it’s a junior series, but within our organisation it’s seen as no different to running a Grand Prix or the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race – the structure and set-up is the same. There’s 12 people working on it every day of the week now,” said Hockey.
It’s an exciting time for the Abergavenny-based outfit, as industry support for the Judd KTM British Youth National Championship has really begun to build and Hockey believes this is due to the hard work and dedication of all involved – including dedicated sponsors who have supported the series from the start. It’s now RHL’s time to step up the game and take the championship to the next level.
“It’s taken a long time to get to this point – motocross people are generally quite old-school and it takes time for people to accept, trust and embrace change. We are in a world driven by technology and at RHL we are also pushing forwards with the use of technology, for example on our website. When it comes to our operation we’re also quite black and white, perhaps sometimes too much, but we don’t mess about with rules and regulations, they are what they are. For us it’s all about the families involved and to keep moving forward in all areas.”
“To be part of the next generation of talent is quite exciting – I’ve never been all about the business side and you can ask our financial department about that, but now we’re seeing the riders from our championship stepping into the pro ranks. Lewis Hall, Dylan Woodcock and Eddie Jay Wade have raced with us and are making that step – it’s fantastic for us to see that. The likes of Charlie Heyman, Alfie Jones and around 10 or 12 other kids I believe can be successful at World Championship with the right help – that’s part of our job, to find the right help and to build good foundations.”
Hockey explains that it’s not just about the top riders though, with the vast array of jobs in the sport he wants to see juniors from the Judd KTM British Youth National Championship evolve into other roles, whether it’s on the media side, as mechanics, or in management. An all-inclusive series is his vision to help all riders develop as racers and as people.
“The tracks have been subject to a lot of conversation – if you’re a good rider and you’re at GP level you’ll be sent to Thailand or wherever. It doesn’t matter what Youthstream put you on, you need to be able to ride it. When we went to Estonia (for the FIM Junior Motocross World Championship) it was quite daunting for our juniors to see the difference with other riders. We need to inspire the kids to believe they are as good as they are.”
“It was eye-opening, as you can think you are the best, but at Estonia we realised we were just average – it was surprising and it can make you re-evaluate what you’re doing. (Gareth is also the team manager of the junior Team GB). We know the juniors can ride – we need the mental and physical training that can be delivered by RHL from some of the best people in the sport. In the UK we just don’t have that yet, the other countries have.”
“Whatever level the rider, I want riders to feel they have access to our vision to give the riders the best out of it the best we can. Even if they don’t end up riding a bike they could go on to be a mechanic, work with the media or management in the sport, which offers such a great life, and the BYN is a good foundation for that.”
Talking about the planned British Motocross Festival championship on Easter weekend Hockey explains how he sees this developing into something much bigger in future. In the past youngsters, and in the day Hockey himself rode, it was possible to talk to the likes of Dave Thorpe or even Roger Harvey, who were always happy to give their time. The idea is that the British Motocross Festival gives that access to the BYN riders, to be seen by the teams and to talk to the likes of Tommy Searle, who is perhaps in the position they want to be in 10 years’ time.
Hockey believes there is more help out there to bring to BYN riders, perhaps even with the likes of Sport England, and he, along with his RHL Activities team, is passionate about helping the next generation of talent along the way. In addition, the infrastructure at the Judd KTM British Youth National Championship is ever-improving – sponsorship funds are being put back into the championship to continue its development.
“Motorsport is a big business in the UK as it generates a lot for the economy, we should be embracing that more from grass roots level upwards. We should also offer more support to our junior athletes. We are working towards that and looking down each avenue to achieve that.”
“We are also building infrastructure all of the time. We have our own timing truck now, and we’re building our medical unit, so we have continuity between events. It’s multi-purpose, so it can be used at BYN to Grand Prix level, the only difference being how many people work out of it. That’s the plan, and that’s where the sponsorship money goes. We invest our money back into it to grow it. We have a lot of plans and we are motivated.”
To see the young-guns in action check-out www.rhlactivities.com for the Judd KTM British Youth National Championship. Alternatively, head to the British Motocross Festival, which incorporates both the junior series and the Maxxis British Motocross Championship on March 30 – April 1 in Culham, Oxford – more details on the RHL website.
Words and pic: RHL Activities