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Interview: Jason Garrett discusses his career – successful youth career, injuries and more

Interview: Jason Garrett discusses his career – successful youth career, injuries and more
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There’s no doubt that Jason Garrett was blessed with a lot of talent as he had a very promising youth career. Unfortunately, for Garrett when he made the move up to adult racing things didn’t go as expected due to a number of reason’s but he still has an Irish Championship title to his name.

We caught up with Garrett to reflect on his career and much much more.

Gatedrop: Jason, since you stopped racing Motocross, what sort of things have you been up to?

Garrett: I played Golf for about 18 months but quickly realised I didn’t have the right temperament so I started riding a Mountain bike. It gives me something to try and keep fit for, very easy to put on weight when there’s no reason to go to the gym. There’s a lot of similarities to motocross so I do really enjoy it. I have a good group of guys I go out with every week and there are a lot of ex motocross riders about too so there’s always plenty to talk about. It’s a different kind of racing where your racing the clock for an overall time but it’s still very competitive.

Gatedrop: I’ll start with the difficult moment for you at Seaforde where you had a high speed crash which forced you to retire. Can you remind everyone of the injuries you sustained and what you remember from the crash – if anything?

Garrett: The only bone I broke was my C1 in my neck but it was the impact on my head that took the longest to heal. It was explained to me like when you turn a computer off at the plug without shutting it down, when you turn it on again it takes a while to catch up. So for 2-3 months I was awake as normal but had little to no memory. As for the crash, I know what happened from what I’ve been told but still have no memory of the day, being in hospital or the weeks after getting out. It was worse for my now Wife and Family, I hadn’t got a clue.

Gatedrop: How long did it take you to fully recover from that crash?

Garrett: I crashed on May day Monday, I wasn’t allowed to work again full time until January but had memory and all back and felt fine by August but was told that your brain is a fragile thing. I did race for another 2 years but I think it took me that length of time to convince myself it was over.

Gatedrop: After quitting, where you ever tempted to return to racing Motocross after it or is that enough for you?

Garrett: I still take a real notion from time to time. I would like a bike but the reality is, the time, money and effort required I just wouldn’t have it. I’m confident I’ll have another bike but couldn’t see me racing again but who knows?

Pic: Nigel McKinstry

 

Gatedrop: You raced BYMX for 7 years in a row and showed some great results, what’s your best memories from those years and what sort of top talents did you race against/beat?

Garrett: Tommy Searle and Jake Nicholls where the 2 that went on to do well in the GP’s. 2 real nice guys that I was happy to watch on TV do well at the highest level. There was a lot of other guys went on to compete well in the adult British Championship also. I always enjoyed the BYMX round at Desertmartin, I won there 2 years and always had good results at it. I got to ride some of best tracks in the UK over many years, I won some races and it was always a good weekend when we where away, so have lots of good memories.

Gatedrop: When you moved up to the adults at home you won quite a lot of races but only one title to your name, that must be pretty frustrating? But how did it feel to win the Irish Championship?

Garrett: Yes, very frustrating, I came out of the youth with the potential of doing well, I finished 3rd in the Irish MX2 Championship my first year in Grade A, this was when the majority of the top riders rode both classes, I was 16/17 but I just seemed to get to a level at a young age then for one reason or another I just wasn’t able to keep getting faster and better. It’s always a good feeling to win, after a long season for myself and everyone involved with team AJ it was nice to have something to show for it.

Garrett and Gorman locked together. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Myself and Davy Gorman had rode pretty well that year in 2010 and the Team put a massive effort in going into 2011. We where as big of a team as anyone in the paddock, so we had no excuse as to why we couldn’t have progressed to another level, everything was in place for us, we all trained together with Phillip and started the season with 5 riders. Me and Andrew MX2, Davy and Phillip MX1 and Jordan Campbell Semi Expert. Davy was the only rider finished the season. AOB broke a bone in his back and retired, Phillip hurt his knee I think and didn’t race much, Jordan Campbell quit racing and I broke my neck.

Gatedrop: You have a lot of talent, did you get frustrated not landing a good ride and support in England which you deserved?

Garrett: Coming from Northern Ireland is always going to be difficult but it’s not impossible. At the end of 2003 I had finished 3rd in the BYMX, I was moving into the 125 class and we where talking to Team Green Kawasaki. Tommy Searle always rode for Team Green so his seat was never in question, the other seat went to Ray Rowson who finished behind me in 4th. I can’t remember the guy in charge we where speaking to but he had said it was between the 2 of us and they went with Ray. He stayed with them right through to Molsen Kawasaki in the Adult British Championship.

Martin Barr and Graeme Irwin made it work out, so there’s no excuses. It is possible if you are good enough and want it enough! Roger Magee started Team Lizard Honda around the time I was going into the Adults, there was talk with Roger and my uncle Gilbert but not sure why that never happened. Looking at how the team evolved over the years it would have been worth doing everything possible to make it happen. A team I was meant to ride for in 2006 before Spence racing was Moto One KTM, that was the reason Wayne was #33 I was #44 and Phillip was #55. My uncle Gilbert ended up in hospital and I didn’t know how well or if he would recover. With Gilbert being my biggest financial backing I didn’t know where that would leave me come the start of the season. That was when Laurance had said if I got a bike he would maintain it, he took me practising and to the racing as I wasn’t old enough to drive. Phillip had offered me a real good deal but it just wasn’t possible that year.

Before the gate drop. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: How difficult was it to get yourself a ride in England?

Garrett: We found it difficult. I rode for TAS Suzuki for first 2 years, 2004 and 2005 on a 125cc which from my point of view (at 14) looked good, but in reality and understandably, BYMX was not something TAS Suzuki where focused on. Tommy Merton and Neil Mckeown where my team mates, I don’t recall ever being out practising, testing or setting bike up with either of them! I might as well of been riding for myself. Another massive factor I feel, one that Martin (Barr) and I debate to this day is. After my first year on a 125 everything was going 4 Stroke and I stayed on a 2 stroke for a second year, I feel that was a massive year at 15/16 that was wasted, I didn’t progress anywhere near enough to get into a big team going into the adults.

Looking back, at the end of my first 125cc year in 04, I can’t understand why I wasn’t given for example, Tommys RMZ 250 practise bike to see what I thought of a 4 stroke. However, the year that decision was being made Martin had just won the BYMX Premier class on a 125, so that was a big thing to support staying 2 stroke but knowing what I know now there is no comparison. If the World Championship had stayed 2 stroke Gordon Crockard would have been World Champion. 4 strokes evened out ability!

A young Jason Garrett! Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: When you look back at your career what races stand out and why?

Garrett: My first ever race win in the Adults stands out. It was at Dundalk and back when MX1 and MX2 ran separately, I had only turned 17 riding a CRF 250 for Laurence Spence. Philip Mcc had won the 3 MX1 races and the first 2 MX2 races fairly easily so I wasn’t really expecting to win. I got away, #55 was in 2nd and he chased me down the whole race. He closed the gap down to a few seconds but thankfully ran out of time. I even got praise from Laurence that day, well it was more like, “that was a bit better bai, means you can do it every week now”. Which to me that was a big compliment from him.

Gatedrop: When you were racing the Ulster and Irish MX2 Championships, you never really did many British Championship races, why was that?

Garrett: When your riding for someone like Laurence you take his advice. He always said to me, there isn’t much point going over to race the British whenever your not winning at home every week. I then started riding for Jim O’Brien, AJ Plumbing and switched to KTM from 2007 but always kept that in my head so never forced the issue to ride the British. It’s very costly, even to go over and do well, let alone to be fighting for a couple of points.

Gatedrop: Who was the toughest competitor would you say you ever competed for a championship and why?

Garrett: The toughest/roughest with me would have been Wayne! My Dad used to say if he showed the same aggression towards everyone else that he showed to me it would make more sense. But in the Ulster MX2 Championship you would of had, Wayne, Stuart Edmonds, Robert Hamilton, Richard Bird, Tommy Merton, Gary Gibson, Graeme Irwin (for a while), Davy Gorman, Michael Mccammond and a few others so it was a very tough and competitive championship for many years.

Gatedrop: Having your brother Wayne always at the front as well, was that tough and cause any tension when you both raced? One thing you have in common is both of you had a lot of bad luck with injuries..

Garrett: Injuries are something every rider has to deal with, I had plenty of broken bones and 1 big injury, but any time Wayne crashed his injuries where big. 2011 in particular I think we would have won all 4 domestic championships, I had addressed my fitness issues training with Phillip McCullough and Wayne was riding a 350 KTM very well, but If is a massive word, in the end neither of us won anything!

My relationship with Wayne is a strange one, the age difference is 4 years and I always looked at that as loads but then at 16 I was supposed to look at him as an opponent after spending my whole life just trying to catch up. I think mentally I felt it was okay if he beat me cause he’s older. Which was completely wrong. There’s no doubt Wayne helped my youth career progress, anything he could do on a 125 that he classed easy, if I didn’t do it on an 85 I was a chicken!

Although I also think, even if he’d never admit it, I was an added motivation for him to do well in the Adults, as he is very competitive and my Dad would have made “jokes with a jag” about if I started beating him. My first year in Grade A was Wayne’s first year riding for Moto One KTM and training with Phillip which transformed Wayne’s adult racing career. With regards to tension, not as such, as I’ve said previously, Wayne would have been very aggressive with me, as a big brother and I would have been too soft with him but there was only ever 3 or 4 moves that where a bit questionable. Dundalk 2009 was the worst, he had a gap in the lead, I got into 2nd and caught him within a few laps, which was very rare so I thought there was something wrong. Coming into the last tight right hand corner I was on the outside but he looked over and braked, so I thought he was letting me pass but then he put the power back on and completely T-boned me! Which he denied and told my dad I tucked the front end, until I got sent photos of the crash a few days later.

Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: You were mostly an MX2 rider, did you ever consider stepping up to the MX1 class earlier? I remember at day at Tinkerhill you were flying on the 250cc and nearly won the race – if you had that little bit more power..

Garrett: My last 2 years racing I rode a 350 KTM. I really liked it at times and after not riding a bike for 10 months, by the mid point of the 2012 season I thought I was riding okay, I finished 3rd in Ulster MX1 and was hoping for a good 2013 season. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Most of 2012 was spent trying to get the suspension handling well which we done towards the end, but for 2013, KTM changed the linkage on the bike so the 2012 settings where irrelevant. Don’t ask me why we weren’t able to get things handling better but we never got it anywhere near good. It went from absolutely awful to bad and that was it.

I wish I had known more myself to have been able to play about with settings. There was a day I went practising and I spoke to Scott Gardner around May time but I didn’t have the money to spend and Jim had already paid for the suspension and a pipe as well as everything else, so with my results being as poor as they where I wouldn’t even have suggested it to the Team so I had to just try with what I had. That was the point I started thinking that’s me finished at the end of the year, hopefully I get there in 1 piece. I remember a wet day at Desertmartin, a track that used to be a favourite of mine, thinking I hoped the last race was cancelled so I didn’t have to go out with the track getting rough. To any young rider offered Factory Suspension or a Factory Engine, pick the suspension, it doesn’t matter how fast your bike is if you can’t ride it, if it doesn’t turn or if it doesn’t stay in a straight line! Confidence is key to everything.

Gatedrop: You spent most of your career with AJ Plumbing KTM, you must be grateful to them for your support and I’m sure you’ve got a lot of good/funny stories with them..

Garrett: There’s no doubt that I couldn’t have rode for a nicer family. Jim was the boss, Jonny was Team Manager and Andrew was rider/team organiser. We had a great set up and always had the best laugh doing the southern rounds of the Irish championship when we all travelled down together in Jim’s Camper. The whole team always wanted me to do well but never got cross or put pressure on me to do so.

Whenever I decided my time was up racing, I found telling Jim O’Brien harder than anyone because he had done so much for me over the years. Andrew and I are still the best of friends, I talk to Andrew more now than I did when I was racing. I do let him beat me occasionally when we play Golf just because he practises so hard. I maybe didn’t achieve what I could have done, but at the end of the day, I’m fit, healthy and met plenty of good people along the way.

Gatedrop: You represented Ireland at the Coupe de l’Avenir – you must have good memories from that event?

Garrett: I never got the opportunity to ride in the senior Des Nations team but I rode the youth Des Nations in 2004 and I was picked three times for the Under 21 (Coupe de l’Avenir) team in 2006 (team ended up not going), 2007 and 2009.

The youth event was held in France, I can’t remember what the track was called. My class was won by Christophe Pourcel who was unbelievably fast, he crashed on lap one of the last race and caught me with a few laps to go, I tried to follow him but after half a lap he was gone. I ended up tied for 3rd overall.

During the first year of under 21 (Coupe de l’Avenir) in 2007 the team was Stuart Edmonds, Graeme Irwin and myself. I broke my wrist in race 1 so had to ride the rest of the weekend just to try get points, so I didn’t do so good. Jeremy Van Horebeek won the event.

In 2009 it was Graeme, Michael Mahon and myself. My starts were great all weekend and I was top 3 around first corner in every race. Not sure on overall results (Jason finished seventeenth overall), my first race was the best as I finished around 12th. Harry Kullas won the event.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nigel McKinstry

 

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