Gordon Crockard’s British GP memories

In part two of our interview with Gordon Crockard, the former Grand Prix winner looks back at his memories of racing the British GP and going as a fan, as well as what it’s like to have a big crowd cheer you on to glory.

(Read part one of our interview with Crockard and his current role in the sport here)

Your own experiences of the British GP was a bit up and down, you didn’t really have a British GP in your prime but you had a good result in a British 500 GP as a guest rider and I think you had a decent result a Matterley Basin when it held its first Grand Prix when your rode for Wulfsport Honda. What are your memories of the British GPs?

What you say is right, I felt a little bit denied of the home Grand Prix experience, even here in Ireland. We raced at Ballykelly in 2004 when I had been injured for a long time, I came back and I think I was seventh. Then we had Grand Prix in 05 and we had serious mechanical issues with my bike and I was also returning from injury and wasn’t in my prime. At the Grand Prix at Desertmartin in 06 I think I finished fifth or something I don’t know, but my best days had passed by that stage and I was struggling with motivation and getting equipment that I wanted to ride.

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The (500cc) wildcard ride at Culham was in the year 2000, that was fantastic, I had a third place and I felt great, I was on the podium, you get the union jacks and the home support blowing the air horns, it was all a little bit, ‘living the dream.’ So yeah, I did get a bit of a touch of it but nothing like it would have been.

The veneues I did win Grand Prix in were Spain, there weren’t any (support from home) there was only Spanish people! Even winning in Belgium you get a few that were over, I won in Sweden too but to lead a home Grand Prix and win a home Grand Prix, I’ve witnessed that as a fan.

I was there numerous occasions when British riders won their home Grand Prix, Paul Malin was one at Foxhill in 1995, it was the air horns and the programmes being waved around the track the whole way. That stuff is just golden. I think the British fans are very patriotic, they like to get behind their man and see a local man win.

I was at Killinchy in the mud when Alan Morrison was third and that was class, I was there when Rob Herring led the races at Killinchy in 1992 – also brilliant. But I didn’t ever get to experience that myself, the closest thing at could get to it would have been the British championship at Desertmartin, that was enough for me, that gave me the feeling of what it would be like to race and win your home Grand Prix, it was as good as that if not better.

So yeah I like the British Grand Prix, from a kid of seven years old right up until I was 17 years old, we went as a family to separate at the British Grand Prix at venues like Farleigh Castle, Hawkstone Park, Froome, I was there as well, I think Jem Whatley led and won, that was 88, right through to racing Matterley Basin (06). I also did the Foxhill British Grand Prix in the 250s in 97 but I was finishing in like 16th/17th just scraping into the points, that was the beginning of my career in Grand Prix.

I think it’s very important for the growth of the sport that there is a home Grand Prix. I think it gives young riders some hope and something to aspire to and try to get into, it’s something that I think matters to the future of the sport.

Crockard had thousands of fans at Desertmartin as he stormed to the win in 2000! Pic: Nigel McKinstry

You mentioned experiencing that fan support at Desertmartin, not to over simplify it, but do they make you faster or is it just easier to have the motivation to push through arm pump or a difficult section?

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I think to put it simply, it gave you hope. Whenever you see the crowd cheering for you, you feel you are actually worth something. If that fan is prepared to hang over a fence, cheer, blast his air horn or wave a flag- whatever it is. If he is prepared to do that, if he thinks you are worth doing that for. He thinks you can win or go faster, and whenever you have got maybe 10,000 people all the way around the track doing that you start to think, ‘shit, maybe I can win!’

It wipes out any lack of confidence that you have and really gives you hope. I think it’s more that way, it doesn’t mean you’re trying harder, you are already at your limit, you are trying your absolute best but it just helps give you confidence and I suppose self-belief, so it affects your mental states when people get behind you and I suppose that helps you make positive decisions. Can I make the double, can I pass this guy, all of those things, you just get inspired.

It happen to me years ago when Herring and Paul Cooper and different riders would come across to the Lisburn events like Ivy Hill that Jimmy Walker would have organised. It would be a brilliant opportunity for me to see how good I was against them, I wasn’t doing British championships at that time so it gave me an insight into the level I was compared to them.

Usual story, I was the local man, nobody wants the English to win! I was trying to beat them, so if I got even close to keeping up with them, never mind catching passing or winning, the crowd really got behind me and that definitely gives you confidence and inspires you when you have got the belief of the crowd, so yeah it works!