Interview: Martin Barr
Martin Barr has come out swinging in 2015 and he is doing it with his own team! The BRT KTM team is only a couple of months old but Barr has been on the podium in the MX Nationals, MX Masters and battling with the best in the British championship were he currently lies fifth overall.
After a couple of years ruined by injury, Barr has came into the 2015 season healthy, raring to go and loving the 350 KTM. The smooth, stylish rider from Ballyclare seems to have found the perfect bike and his confidence is soaring.
Gatedrop caught up with the always friendly Northern Irishman to discuss his good results, why he made his own team and about racing a couple of MXGP races this season!
Gatedrop: How did the team come about and why did you choose to go 350?
Martin Barr: Basically last year after I got injured I had a 350 from one of my sponsors and I rode it once I came back from injury and I got on really well with it. Obviously I rode it in 2011 and it has come on leaps and bounds since then. The new 350 is absolutely fantastic so that is what I wanted to ride. I got good results at the last round of the British championship and at the Des Nations and KTM noticed it and came on board with me, so I’m officially with KTM UK.
I was with KTM the last two years and Graeme Vigors was helping me but now this is my own team. The BRT – Barr racing team. It is something I have always wanted to do, so that when the time comes and I have to hang up the boots, I can still be involved in the sport.
Obviously it is hard, trying to do the team side of things, get sponsors in and get product sorted. Lucky enough I had a few sponsors from last year who stayed with me and new people have came on board. It has all kind of kicked into place but behind the scenes there was a lot of work to be down. So I have been trying to fit my practising in, my training and trying to get everything up and running as well, it took a lot of time but I have enjoyed it.
I think the bike looks really well and a lot of people have been commenting on it. My speed is good and the bike is working fantastic with my dad doing the engines again (MB racing performance), it’s flying and I have Scott back on board with Planet Advanced Racing suspension, he has the bike handling really well, so the whole package is really good. Everyone that has been helping me is really good as well, there is a good atmosphere about the team, we are all there to get the job down. It has been hard but it’s been enjoyable.
Gatedrop: You results have been good straight away from the beginning of the season, is that something you were expecting from the way you were riding over the winter?
Martin Barr: I went to Spain at the start of the year and things went really good, then I got back home and went to Magilligan and all the rest of it and I was feeling good. I went to the Hawkstone International knowing that I probably wasn’t right on pace but at the same time I didn’t want to be. I just wanted to get on the start gate and get a race out of the way and bang bars the first couple of laps because it is something you can never practice.
Hawkstone went good, obviously I could have had a lot better results but I only went to blow the cobwebs out and that was a really good test for me. I knew where I was and what I needed to do with two weeks before the first round of the British.
Everything clicked into place and I got a good two weeks at SINI with my physio and trainer there. Then to go top five at the first round of the British I was quite happy, I still think I should have had a podium result, only I fell in the second race and finished sixth in that one. To walk away with a good result especially with the way the first rounds had went the previous two years, it showed I still had it.
I have been about a fair while now and people think because you are getting older your drive goes, that you don’t want it as much. But that’s not the case, I want it even more and I want to prove to people I can still do it. The start of the season has went really good, I am fifth in the British Championship, second in the MX Nationals and leading the Pirelli British Masters. I have been consistent and been on the podium at the MX Nationals and British Masters but I want to get back on the podium at British Championship level as well and try and chase down the front runners.
Shaun is riding really well at the minute, with doing the GPs his speed is always going to be up, Tanel Leok, with the experience he has and the talent he has, he is always going to be there. The way Kristian Whatley is riding, he is on a high and nearly back to the level he was at a couple of years ago when he was winning everything. So, it’s not going to be easy, Graeme is coming back on form as well, there are a lot of good guys there and it’s about being consistent and being on form every week, and get as many podium results as I can.
Gatedrop: It seems the starts in the Maxxis are crucial this year, you need to get away in the top five to run with the leaders, starting just in the top ten and the top guys are gone and your fighting for seventh or eighth.
Martin Barr: Yeah exactly that, if you don’t get a start it’s going to be hard work. Those guys are going so fast, with the short races it’s hard to get back up with them unless they make a mistake. But my bike has been working fantastic, I nearly holeshot the last two races at Lyng, it is a pretty long start straight there so it just shows how good the bike is. You have the likes of Shaun Simpson there and he is holeshotting GPs and stuff.
Gatedrop: To be winning races and be back on the podium regularly and up front, it must feel good to be getting the results that you always knew you were capable of the last couple of years.
Martin Barr: That’s where I want to be, but to be running my own team and doing it all myself and getting those results, it’s really pleasing. I’m doing all the driving myself back and forward to England, I have had five trips on the trot and it’s a one thousand mile round trip each time. So it is tough and then I have to do my training, practising, maintain the bike and make sure we have all the parts and stuff ordered for the team. It’s full time but I am enjoying it, I will keep putting the working and doing what I’m doing and show a lot of people I have still got it.
I am doing the Valkenswaard GP next weekend and I just can’t wait for it. It’s been a few years since I did a GP and thanks to Dave Sheridan from RSR my friend Mick from BCL, they are helping me out brilliantly to give me the opportunity to do the World Championship again with BRT KTM. I know it’s going to be very hard, I will be racing the best riders in the World, but it is a track I know and have had good results before. I just want to go there and learn some stuff, I hope it will bring on my pace and bit and that will help me in the British Championship.
Gatedrop: You had good results there in 2011, this season is maybe the deepest field in motocross history, Villopoto is there and anyone who is anyone is on the gate and there hasn’t been too many injuries yet. I guess it is good to bring you own team into that exposure and as an experience you couldn’t have picked a better year to go back to MXGP?
Martin Barr: Definitely not, with Villopoto there it definitely makes for good viewing. I think a lot of people are more interested now, for a year or two it was very flat and it was the same people winning, now there seems to be a bit of hype again with Villopoto over. It is absolutely brilliant, it’s what it needed but it’s something I’m looking forward to it.
I want to be there and do the best I can for myself, BRT KTM and all the people that are supporting me. I know it’s going to be hard to go straight out there and be on the pace but it is something I’m looking forward too, I’ve been there before and I know what it’s all about. I am satisfied with what am doing, SINI are putting me through my paces, I am getting my motos in and all the rest of it. I can’t wait and hopefully everything goes well and hopefully I get to do a couple of more GPs throughout the year.
Gatedrop: You are usually good around Matterly Basin is that one you are pencilling in as well?
Martin Barr: Yeah I would like to do Matterly, it is obviously a lot closer for us and won’t cost as much. The track there is brilliant with all the jumps, the fans are great for the local guys and they always get behind us. So all being well I will get an entry for it and be on the start line there as well.
Gatedrop: You are wearing James Stewart’s gear and giving it pretty good exposure in the UK, how did that come about?
Martin Barr: The Seven stuff is really nice, really comfortable and really light. I got it through CI Sports and Stuart Millar there, I have worked with him before and we get on really well. He offered me a really good deal and everything worked out. The gear is working fantastic and I call myself Bubba Barr! It’s pretty cool to be wearing something that not a lot of people are wearing at the minute and it’s nice to be different, they have some cool colour schemes and all the rest of it.
Gatedrop: With regards to the Maxxis championship are happy with where you are at the minute and have you higher goals?
Martin Barr: I want to be back on the podium in the Maxxis , it’s just about getting three strong starts and putting three strong motos together. I feel I have the pace for it, we aren’t far away with two fifth overalls. There are a couple of little things I need to work on which I’m doing at the minute and hopefully with doing Valkenswaard that will help me and hopefully by the end of the year I will be on the podium and chasing moto wins. Shaun is going to be hard to beat but I am excited for the rest of the year, keep things going and give it 100% every time I am out, that’s all I can do.
Gatedrop: Do you feel, maybe already, you have proved people wrong? You’ve sometime struggled to get a ride and things have been last minute some years. This year you got everything sorted early and you were prepared, maybe a lot of people counted you out but your results are showing them otherwise!
Martin Barr: Yeah, everyone needs results and the way my last two years went with injury it has been a bit of a bummer. Breaking my thumb in 2013, dislocating my shoulder in 2014, in 2012 I was on Kawasaki and we split and we went to Suzuki, so it has been a hard couple of years with the way everything has been going. Thankfully Shaun Sisterson from KTM showed faith in me and all the people behind me, they still believe in me, they know I’m putting the work and all in. Being injured is part of the sport unfortunately and to try and come back and ride through injury is tough when everyone is at the top of their game.
But it’s good to be getting these results I know I can, and to prove people wrong who have doubted me in the past, it is always nice to do that. But I want to go out there and get the results for myself and all my sponsors so it’s just about getting the job done, and the way the season has started I am really happy and hopefully I will get stronger as the season goes on.
Gatedrop: I’m sure it is mentally pretty hard to keep getting injured, but this year you seem to be really loving the sport, does it give you extra satisfaction to be doing this with your own team?
Martin Barr: Definitely, when injuries happen you do go to an all time low. We put so much work and effort it with practicing, the gym and sacrifice so much and when you go out and get injured two years in a row at the first round it was hard to take in. But at the end of the day when I left school I chose motocross, I didn’t get a trade behind me, so it is the only thing I know. I have to keep at it, I love motocross no matter what and I would be lost without it.
What’s kept me going really is all the people who have supported me over the years, my mum and dad have put so much effort it for me. I want to repay them with success, it’s a tough sport but I am still driven to succeed and put everything on the line to go and do it.
I sacrifice a lot, everybody does, it’s just about how much you want it and getting the results is very satisfying when I am setting it up and sorting everything out and doing the driving myself.
I would just like to thank all my sponsors for their support in 2015; BRT KTM, BCL, RSR, MB performance racing, Ci sports, Seven, Oakley, Alpinestar, Pod, Leatt, Renthal, Doma, Planet suspension, Pirelli, Mud Buster, Putoline, Polisport, Nutt Travel, Brenta, LR designs, Hilfofiltro, JT chains, JT sprockets, Talon, Robinson NISA extra, Isaac Agnew van centre, Agnew recovery, The factory pink. Balance leisure.
Interview: Jonathan McCready
Images: Leo Haxton