Interview: Martin Barr – winning at Sherwood!
Martin Barr’s season has been a busy one already in 2019 wih four Arenacross rounds, the Hawkstone Park International and a win at last weekend’s opening round of the MX Nationals at Sherwood.
Amongst all that action, Barr has also had to recover from a broken finger sustained in Belfast and still try to prepare as best he can for the UK outdoor season that is now upon us.
We caught up with the Crescent Yamaha rider after his MX Nationals win on the eve of the Maxxis British championship opener at FacCat.
You’ve had a busy season already but the first outdoor championship round of the year and you came away with the win – some nice preparation for the British championship this weekend!
Yeah it worked out pretty good, the off-season had been going pretty decent but I hadn’t felt as prepared as I had done the year before. I have been about for such a long time, I know what is working and what’s not.
Going into Sherwood I was feeling pretty confident, my dad is going my engines which I am really happy about and he is doing the mechanicing during the week as well. For me that’s a big bonus and I know on the start line everything is 100% and I’m ready to rock and roll.
The weekend started good and I was third in qualifying it set me up nicely with a good gate position for the day. Race one I made a pretty decent start and was behind Josh Gilbert until maybe halfway but I opted to go with the scoop tyre and then once the rain came on the ground got really hard in places and I was losing rear grip and made a few mistakes. I just used my head, championships can’t be won in the first round but they can be lost so I just used my head and backed off and let him get on with it and I brought it home for second.
Race two I made another really good start, I was lying second behind Josh and he made a mistake and went down so again I used my head, it was hammering it down with rain and the track got really sketchy, there was a lot of square edged bumps. A lot of people were going upside down but I knew I just needed to keep it on two wheels, I knew I was in front of Josh but I didn’t actually know I was leading MX2! It’s just me and my dad going to the races, I didn’t have anybody on the pit board or anything so I didn’t know I had won the race, when I came in I knew I would have the overall because I was in front of Josh.
It was really special with the week we had leading up to it, my good friend and sponsor Stephen Agnew, his wife Julie passing away. First off I wanted to do that for her and dedicate that win to Julie. It was nice to get that win and come away with the red plate going into Hawkstone for round two is good for me.
Me and my dad do everything ourselves, I am on the tools as well getting everything sorted and stuff, it’s busy during the week trying too fit everything in and get it done. It is what it is, we just have to crack on with it and when you get wins like that, it’s very satisfying knowing we are such a small fish in a big pond with all the big teams and all the rest of it. It’s nice standing on top of the podium knowing the hard work we put in has been paying off.
But I am not counting my chickens yet, it’s the first round and yeah it’s nice leading the championship but my main focus is to be leading the championship after the last round and bring it home but a lot can happen between now and then and I will just keep doing my preparation during the week on and off the bike and as you say it sets me up nicely going into round one of the British championship at Fatcats.
I know it’s going to be a lot tougher, there are going to be a lot of fast guys there coming back from the first round of the world championship. A lot of the guys showed a lot of good speed out there. Conrad Mewse winning the championship last year, he’s going to be the title favourite and everybody knows when Conrad is on his day, no one can touch him. For me it’s long season and I just want to go there and give it my best shot and hopefully we will be there or thereabouts, I know it’s a long season and I won’t be doing anything stupid but you have Walsh, Alvin Östlund, so many guys that can win races,
It’s not going to be easy one bit, I am well up for the challenge and I still feel there’s a British championship in me and that’s our main focus for Yamaha UK and Crescent. They have a brand new bike out this year so to go out last weekend and get a win on it, they are really happy with that for the new model. It’s nice to do that and for them to have faith in me to get the results, I know the British championship is going to be tougher but we are well geared up for it.
At Hawkstone you showed good speed in that first moto, you must have come from about 15th into the top ten until a late-race crash, you must have been pleased with you pace there against against a lot of the guys you will be racing this weekend, Walsh, Mewse and those guys?
Hawkstone was tough, I had just done two nights of Arenacross before it, I arrived at Hawkstone at 2am parked in the lane then at half 6 they were up knocking on the door to get me to move my camper. In saying that I knew going into into it I wasn’t as prepared as last year where I ran with Pauls Jonass the reigning world champion, it was obviously a lot better than what went on this year.
But I know in qualifying I never really got a lap in and qualified 14th or so. The front guys, the top eight or so, were all building their gate up with a foot of sand and I was starting on the concrete and getting wheelspin so that’s why my stats were really poor. But it was nice to get racing, the first corner action, the roost, all the rest of it and get used to it again.
As you said I came from outside the top 15 to running a comfortable eighth, Conrad was just about five or ten seconds in front of me, I could see him and he wasn’t pulling away so much but I made a little silly mistake, it was actually the same crash Adam Sterry had in race two, I got stuck at the side of the bomb hole and couldn’t get the bike out. It was nothing major, yeah it cost me some places and stuff but for me knowing myself the first part of the race was really good, the pace I was running and how I was feeling on the bike was a good indication of where I’m at.
I’m looking forward to getting racing, you do so much practicing and stuff it’s nice to get racing again and get into a routine and get things going,
And just touching on the Arenacross, you had a great first round getting into the Superfinal but then had that crash on the Saturday night breaking your finger and came back and did the final two rounds before driving to Hawakstone. Hw did you find the series?
I loved being part of the Arenacross again, it was five years since I had last done anything like that, and how much it’s came on, the riders, the pace they are running, the French guys are just on a different level, they do that week-in, week-out, it’s to be expected.
The first round, you couldn’t get anymore of a buzz, the atmosphere in the arena, it was my first race for Crescent Yamaha, the first time the home boys had done it in the pro class for quite a few years. The reception we got was absolutely fantastic, I’ll never forget it, getting introduced to the crowd, me and Glenn McCormick, it wa definitely an amazing feeling.
For me to go out on the Friday night, the first Arenacross without any testing or set up to qualify straight from my two finals from MX2, I was buzzing about it to get into the Superfinal with all those guys, I was over the moon and to finish eighth in that was absolutely fantastic.
It was a busy night, after that I got changed in the SSE arena car park and had to go round to the motorcycle awards and won the off-road rider of the year.
Then on Saturday morning things were going better, started to feel more of the flow of Arenacross then just unfortunately in the first final me and another rider came together, just a racing incident. I broke my finger and tore all the tendons off and broke the bone off the little finger, it was very disappointing, it was from cloud nine the night before to being brought back down to earth – the joys of motorbikes! Luckily there was nothing too major because I drove into the finish line jump quite heavy with my shoulder, I done my AC joint in my shoulder as well but my hand, it’s fine now, as long as I can grip, I’ll just never have a straight finger but it’s not the end of the world, as long as I still have the grip on the bike.
That’s why I opted out of round two and three in Birmingham just with my shoulder more than my finger, to go to that level you need to be 100%. Even when I was 100% I wasn’t winning, I was half a second to a second off the pace so to go there injured it was pointless.
I gave it another week and a half rest and went to Sheffield then for the final two rounds just because I enjoyed it all so much and being part of it again, it keeps you sharp on the bike and I really enjoyed doing it so who knows what can happen next year, maybe we can do it again.
All in all things have been going quite good, I’m really happy with the bike and everything with it and I am just looking for a strong performance this weekend to kick-start the British championship.
And any chance of riding the 450 at the British GP?
I would love to do it but I only have one 450 and it’s just one stock motor. For me to go to the British Grand Prix I would need to have a back up for it. We are going to be struggling as it is with the MX2 budget, it’s going be a tough year financially , I’m not making a wage or anything, it’s all coming out of my own pocket so to go and do a GP with a 1000 euro entry it all adds up. I would love to do to it but at the minute I won’t be at the British GP unfortunately. I will see how things are going later in the year, I would love to do Lommel or something but we will see how things are going and take it from there.
Just a wider question, the British championship, especially if you are British only (non gp team) it seems hard to get support even with teams. The Australian series, which is a similar level, seems to be like a mini US almost factory level Kawasai, Yamaha support etc. What do you feel is holding the British industry back from being able to give more quality riders good support?
I’m not too sure. I had a deal with Revo Husqvarna for two years and I got shafted at the end of it but for teams that were maybe interested they thought I was on a two year deal and not available. So by the time that all happened a lot of the rides had already gone, so that’s how I am kind of in the position I am in. But overall, yeah it’s a tough one.
Even trying to get personal sponsors on board, a lot of big businesses don’t know what way Brexit is going so it’s hard for people that maybe have a few quid, they are scared to spend it because they don’t know where they are going to be which is 100% understandable.
As you said Australia seem to be on a bit more of a level playing field with America and stuff like that, I don’t know, it’s a tough question but hopefully in a year or two time and this whole Brexit thing settles down and everyone knows where they are at things will start to pick up again and we can actually make a few quid again instead of spending money to go to work!