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Interview: Gordon Crockard through the years part two (2002 – 2013)

Interview: Gordon Crockard through the years part two (2002 – 2013)
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This is the second part of a revealing interview with Gordon Crockard, you can read part one here. In part two Gordon talks about riding with factory KTM and a quite unbelievable stint doing GNCC in America. He also touches on nearly losing his life in a crash at Hawkstone Park in 2009.

Enjoy some priceless insight by a legendary rider and character of the sport!

2002

We left 01 with options. Suzuki, Kawasaki and KTM were all offering me good deals as were Honda but Honda weren’t offering any factory support and if it hadn’t of been for Nick Moores, we ran ’93 cylinders and that’s because he spent so many hours going through the options and on the dyno, he spent so much time making the bike. We had our little network of people making stuff for us but we weren’t factory by any means and we were against Chad Reed on a factory Kawasaki, Pichon on a factory Suzuki, Bolley was going to factory Yamaha.

We just felt we needed a factory team, it was Nick and I, that was our team. Wherever I was going Nick was going with me and he was very loyal to me which I am very grateful for and he knows that.

We left CAS Honda and went to KTM. The KTM hadn’t been built so we didn’t get to try it and unfortunately the ink was on the paper before the bike was made.

At that point KTM had concentrated on the 125 and were dominant, they concentrated on the open class with the 520 and dominated and Kurt Nicoll said to me, ‘we are going to win the 250 World Championship, that is our goal and we want you to be a rider.’ Dobby had just won the 125 world championship with them and he talked me into it as well so on paper it looked like it was going to work.

But it didn’t, the bike was crap and they aborted the project. The project failed and they quit it after Beirer got paralysed. McGrath retired, it destroyed careers, I came out lucky the way I look at it!

It was a very difficult to go from being a contender and winning races to really struggling to be on the pace. It wasn’t fun, you just felt like a failure. It was hard to convince KTM that it wasn’t me – that was the hard thing. It was hard to tell them the problem wasn’t me and the problem was the motorbike, it was super frustrating. Nick and I were there and going,’ no offence, you should listen to us, we nearly won the world championship on standard bikes we have modified, you are factory, you have endless resources here. Just listen to what we are actually telling you what is needed.’

It was a difficult year n 2003. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

It was a difficult year n 2003. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

My conclusion is that they didn’t understand what a good 250 two stroke was. They didn’t understand the sort of power it needs to be, they didn’t know what they were trying to create. Their opinion of what a good 250 was isn’t good.

When I say they the whole of KTM isn’t to blame, it gets narrowed down to one man, that one man is basically the project leader for that bike. What they did was, they had an old guy called Sepp, and Sepp had brought KTM all their two stroke championships right back to Trampas Parker on the 125, Shayne King on the 380. He had made every engine but he was really old and they wanted new guys and they brought in new young guys at the time of the 250 two stroke. I wanted to work with Sepp but he wasn’t assigned to it, it was really frustrating.

There was a young guy called Alex and he didn’t even know what it was like to ride a bike, why I have that idea is at the very first test at Beucaire there was a traditional second gear u-bend corner and when I dropped the bike into the turn and opened the throttle the power was flat and then just when you don’t want it, it came in with this massive explosion of power.

I stopped with the Kurt Nicoll, Nick Moore and Alex and said this bike has no power. Whenever I lean the bike over there is no power. Then Alex took the throttle and rolled it all the way to full open and then back to a quarter and said, ‘here this is where the power is, 56HP.’ And I’m laughing because he thought this was awesome. Our GP winning bikes were 50, you don’t need more than 50HP! I said I want it off the bottom when I open the throttle, not when I am at the top.

That’s what I was up against all year, him not understanding what it’s like to lean a bike over and open the throttle and nothing be there. They must have been sick listening to me because I just kept saying I needed bottom end power.
Dobb wanted the opposite and said to him it isn’t going to work and halfway through the year he ended running the same stuff as me – frames and everything.

It’s dead easy to produce a bike with top end power, dead easy, and Jamie was revving the bike all the time, he had an exaggerated 125 but with a 250 you can’t ride it like that. I wanted nothing like what Jamie wanted and I was an inconvenience. It’s a nightmare to try and create a strong bottom end powered bike. I constantly wanted it to have more bottom end and they were having a hard time making it. They didn’t know how to do it, we worked all the way through.

The longer it didn’t happen and didn’t work the less enthusiasm everyone had and less confidence everyone had. Results are a way of measuring how you are performing and whenever you finish sixth and seventh in GPs when you had been finishing first and second you feel you are going the wrong direction.

If I had been finishing first and second and saying I needed more bottom end they are all going to work for you. It was a revolutionary bike that was going into production the following year and they start that work building those production bikes really early. We went to the KTM festival and I think it was maybe in June time. So they have all the factory riders and invite every KTM owner to come – it’s mega.

Pic: Paul McCready

Pic: Paul McCready

You can ride any bike you want, I rode the entire range and I went out on the KTM stock 250 which I had never rode before and I came in and stopped at Kurt Nicoll’s feet and he just said,’no.’ I said it’s better (than the factory bike) and he said, ‘ I know but no.’ And that pissed me off so much. They changed the angle of the engine in the factory bike it was really upright but in the production it was forward and that changes a lot of characteristics of the bike.

I remember at the end of 02 I was still trying to do the British championship and I was doing the British championship out of my own pocket because KTM weren’t supporting me they just wanted the World championship.

As soon as the last GP was over we still had two British championship round left and I borrowed Justin Reid’s 520KTM. I borrowed a pipe and a shock off Ricky Watt and went to Hawkstone and won the races. To prove a point I went to Polesworth and won again. That was me getting on to four strokes then.

2003

I knew at the end of 02 that it was simple. I needed to get on the best bike that was available to me. Honda had really good bike and I wanted to ride it. I tested the bike and I was over the moon on it. I did a deal with Harry but Nick had unfortunately stayed with KTM, they had promised him the world and he didn’t want all the travel and wanted settled.

I had an Australian mechanic, a guy called Maddix. 2003 went really well except I had a lot of injuries in GP. I was really dominant in British and won despite missing a full round in Lyng. I think I won nearly every race it only maybe Culham I think that I got beat.

In the GPs they merged the MX3 and MX open. I had gone to Spain in Bellpuig at the first round and set the fast lap of the race and it’s a funny sentence to say but if I could have passed Stefan Everts I probably could have won it but Everts was in third and he was riddled with arm pump and going dead slow but I couldn’t get by him and ended up fourth. I remember thinking I can win these races because I had the fastest lap of the race.

I went to Valkenswaard and first corner was involved in a pile up and dislocated my shoulder. I sat at home for three weeks really pissed off. So I ran every day and that helped, I stayed off the bike and had a cortisone injection in my shoulder but it was very unstable, I rode down at the field for one half hour session with my dad and he said, ‘what do you think?’ and I said, ‘it doesn’t feel great but it’s good enough to go and try.’

So we got it heavily strapped in Belfast and wore it all weekend. I nearly won the GP after a tight race with Pichon and nobody had challenged Pichon that year so far. But the way that year went, little injuries like that kept me out of contention. I was quick, the bike was good but little things happened like i hit a post at Culham and broke my finger and that kept me off the bike just small injuries. I had a broken arm because I got heat exhaustion in Lierop, I was third on the last lap and got heat exhaustion passed out and crashed and broke my arm.

gc (13)

I can’t remember where I ended up in the championship it was maybe seventh or something like that. I had a brilliant Des Nations at Zolder and was fourth, it was Carmichael, Everts, Smets, me. It was one of the best rides I ever had at the Nations, it was really good.

2004

I got Nick Moores back and we had a great pre-season over there. We found a tuner there who was great, he was a quad tuner and gave me a motor I was really, really happy with. We came back and at the first race of the British championship it was a really muddy race and my foot came off the peg and went into a rut on the face of a jump and twisted it, totally rotated 180 and wrecked my knee.

That was me out for four months. That changed my career in a big, big way. That could have been a phenomenal year for me, it is so easy to say that but I was so happy with the bike, Nick was back with me and I had showed in GPs and at the Nations my speed was good at the end of 2003. There was a lot of stuff that was really positive because we had more factory help as well.

I fell out with the team, they hadn’t been paying my wages, there was a lot of money owed, there as £68,000 owed. There was a big problem with the team, I had Red Bull as a personal sponsor with Reb Bull for seven years. We had a really detailed contract with them and CAS where quite loose with their professionalism in terms of sticking to their contracts. And what happened was I was sat at home watching the British championship on TV and I saw all this Sobe sponsorship all over their bikes and podium hats and I was going, ‘what is all this , I am sponsored by Red Bull where do I fit into this?’ I was sitting at home just after knee surgery and the team weren’t paying my wages.

gc (1)

I had meeting after meeting after meeting with them and just got told lies, I mean Harry was a liar and just got told more and more lies. I didn’t get paid any money that year and lost my Red Bull sponsorship which was worth £13,000 because of them and I had had a really good relationship with Red Bull. It really annoyed me the way they (CAS Honda) treated me and I left the team at the end of ’04. I took CAS to court and that was the end of the good times.

2005

The only option was to go somewhere else and Steve Dixon got me Stefan Everts’ engines and I did a deal with Dixon Yamaha. The big problem was I had to use Ohlins fork which I think are absolutely terrible and I hated riding the bike. I was very scared riding the bike and I crashed in Portugal in Agueda and broke my scaphoid and that was again four months off the bike because I had to get a screw in the wrist.

That was really hard to come back from again. I had a disastrous year and things were going downhill. You lose self belief, you just half to look at the results page. You can’t trick your brain to being confident, you either have it or you don’t and you have it after a series of things that happen to you. It was tough. You have to have confidence and when your results are going downhill it is really hard to turn it around.

Trophies and MXDN helmets galore! Pic: Paul McCready

Trophies and MXDN helmets galore! Pic: Paul McCready

2006

In 06 I wanted to get back on a Honda. We went with Roger Magee on Hondas and we were going good. I really tried to turn it around.

British championships were going well, we had De Dycker and Coppins to deal with plus Mackenzie on the Factory Kawasaki but it was alright. GPS weren’t bad and I was getting some fourths and fifths.

We had some problems within the team but there are always problems within team I had difficulties with my mechanic and stuff and things were hard then.
I also got knocked out at the Des Nations when Frieburgs landed on me.

2007

I felt bad in 2007 because I thought I was going to win the British championship again but a broken chain played a part in that, I was lying second in the points but the chain broke at Landrake. I was up against Mackenzie and De Dycker but we were very much privateers just working out of my blue van with some help from PAR.
PAR did me bike and British but no assistance for GPs. I had raised I think about £20,000 in personal sponsors, local sponsors and we paid for our GP efforts. I had some decent GPs fourths and fifths.

Paul Maguire talked me into going to Japan going to the GP as you do. The top fifteen got an allowance to go but I was 16th by a point. Paul made me believe in myself and I spent my own money to go and it really annoyed me.

The track was really bumpy and the transponder on the fork turned and jammed the steering and I crashed in the first race. My glove came off in the crash but I rode on and blistered my hand quite badly. For the second race I was really annoyed about these blisters on my hand because it was going to make the second race really hard.

Then Youthstream came in and said I needed to pay them 200 Euros for a new transponder. I said I’m in Japan and I don’t have 200 Euros. They said I wasn’t racing until I payed them 200 Euros and I just flipped! I was going to start and make the biggest song and dance in the world. I had come all this way and spent £5000 of my own money. Then a flag marshall found the transponder and I got to race the second race. I can’t even remember how I did but I remember getting pissed off with what I was doing and spending my own money.

I remember thinking, ‘this is pointless, what is the end goal here?’ Nobody is going to ring and say, here is £20,000 to race next year. But I was still enjoying it and having great experiences and having a lot of fun.

I realised making money in GP motocross wasn’t going to happen. There are limited seats (that pay well). Let’s face it, at that stage I was has-been, they are looking for fresh up and coming riders with potential. I was very much a GP winner going down, although I was trying to turn it around back into it but nobody wanted a part of that.

Pic: Paul McCready

Pic: Paul McCready

So I was 28 and my days of making money at motocross were over and that is a fact, that is what it came down too. Just because of the results I was getting and because the sport had changed, there was no prize money, no qualifying money and sponsorship had tailed off.

I needed to look at Enduro and there was a lot riders doing that and making good money. BMW offered me a really good contract for two years to race GNCC so I took it.

2008
Going enduro riding was a good option for me and GNCC riding in the states was what BMW wanted me to do.

But the project failed. Scott Summers was given a contract with BMW and he is mad, he is in an asylum now – that is a fact. His family sectioned him. I was there when he started losing his mind.

BMW terminated the contract in that summer. I loved the bikes, I did all their testing in Spain and loved working with BMW, I thought it was brilliant. I went to America and the bikes weren’t showing up, there was no sign of them. Scott sued BMW for breaking the contract, so KTM provided Huskies.

It was mental, I was sitting in a Little Chef going to do the first round of British enduro championship for GAS GAS, I had a loophole contract with them (summers) because the Americans think there isn’t anywhere outside of the United States I said, ’so can I ride other bikes in Europe? I can ride some GP motocross on a Honda and you are fine with that?’ Summers said yes, and I was fine with that!

The way the GNCCs work is you have five rounds and then you get a summer break for two months because it gets too hot in June and July. So I thought I would come back and race a few GPs or British’s in the summer and have some fun.

In preparation for riding enduro over there I did a bunch of British enduros, The Tough One, the first round of the British Enduro, I did enduros in Spain. It was great, I was so excited about it, I thought it was going to be brilliant! It was too good to be true.

Lot of memorabilia! Pic: Paul McCready

Lot of memorabilia! Pic: Paul McCready

So I was in Thetford forest at the first round of the British enduro and the phone rings – it is Scott, he had a nervous cough. He said the first round was next week and I needed to get there – and we were riding Husqvarnas!

So I did the British that day for Gas Gas then flew the next day to America for the year! We rode Huskies and Scott got every Husky delivered, he had 250 two strokes, 300 two strokes, 450s, 510s, he ordered everything!

He said to me to pick which one was the best. I tried them all but I didn’t know – I had never done a GNCC! But I settled for the 450, it was totally stock. A GNCC is three hour races but you stop once at half way to re-fill your petrol tank, you are in and out in nine seconds. But I had a standard tank so I was stopping every lap – I was in and out six times! I finished eighth with stock everything.

It was awful. He decided the money BMW had given him was his money. He tried to get out having to pay me anything by saying he couldn’t because I didn’t have my visa. My visa was in the process, but he was caught by my attorney trying to slow the whole process up. He didn’t want me to get my visa because he knew that when I got my visa that by law he would have to pay me.

I was seven months in with him and I wasn’t getting paid. He was caught doing things to slow it up. He was hoping he would piss me off enough that I would have to go home before he would have to pay me anything.

When I got to the second round he had taken my bike apart. I arrived and it was in bits, the frame, triple clamps, foot pegs and everything else was in boxes. I had just got off a flight from Dublin to Atlanta and drove to South Carolina and got there and night and the race was the next day. He said he didn’t have time to build my bike, I said, ‘why did you take it apart?! The least I was expecting was that it was still dirty from Daytona!’

He said I was complaining about the gearbox but I had just said it was notchy because it was a new bike. Basically he was trying to piss me off to make me go home and every week he would do new things to annoy me to make me go home. But I didn’t and I stayed. I got my visa and I got payed, and the day I got payed I was gone!

I had been living there, I had an apartment, a van, everything and I was committed to being there for two years. We were in Kentucky in Cincinnati. I liked America, I think it is a great place. But that was it, my GNCC career was over. In the races I was doing I was on a bad bike, I had no motivation to ride for him under those circumstances so the results I was getting in that market were pathetic, I was getting eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and in the teens, so nobody else was going to go, ‘let’s get him.’

So I came back and did a deal with Paul Rowlands own PAR Honda’s doing British championship and we had some good results. I did the Irish GP at Fairyhouse. I did the Des Nations at Donnington, but got knocked out after a piece of wood went through the front sprocket on the first lap of morning practice!

2009

In 2009 I nearly got killed at Hawkstone.

After that I was scared, I remember thinking I am going to have a fear of getting on a bike, and I loved riding bikes. I was worried, I thought if I am scared I am going to have to stop, you can’t ride a bike if you are scared because you can’t concentrate.

Once I got on one again I was scared, but it went away and everything was fine!
In 09 nothing much happened but I got back out and did a bit of racing (that bit of racing included the MXDN where Gordon got Ireland into the A final with a stunning come from behind ride in the B Final).

2010

John Hellam contacted me about doing the UK Endurocross so I did that and ended up finishing fourth in the last final. Paul Bird was running David Knight at the time so his mechanic rang me up to see if I wanted to do World Enduro for him, but I wasn’t really!

But we went and had a chat but we agreed to do the British supercross championship which I won. He made me a special bike for it was brilliant. Then I talked Birdy into doing a full British motocross championship and we were going really well.
We had a good season with some race wins. I won a Red Bull Pro national at Canada Heights and nearly ended up riding for the Kawasaki factory GP team in replacement for Jonathan Barragan, we had flights and everything booked but I pissed them off because I wanted to use my bike, my engine and suspension because we had it working really well. But they didn’t go with it and they took on Xavier Boog instead.

Pic: Paul McCready

Pic: Paul McCready

2011-2013

In 2011 I did a deal with Philip Neil for Red Bulls and British but I struggled on the Suzuki, I couldn’t ride it. It has different steering and I couldn’t get it to work for me. We had some good runs like at the international at Downpatrick against Barragan and Pichon.

At the end of 2011 I went to Australia to ride the supercross championship for Craig Anderson on a Honda, it was awesome I loved it. He then called me up to do the Nationals the following year, I did some Nationals for him in 2012 and he offered me a full ride to do the rest of the year but I priced myself out of a job!

I asked him for $10,000 with is about £6,000 just to cover my flights and accommodation and everything but he couldn’t find the money at that stage of the year. I almost regret it, maybe I should have just spent that money myself because it was a market where I could have got a ride probably for the following year.

I think I could have got good results and I loved it there. The standard was good you had Coppins, Mackenzie, Anderson – all the British boys! So I thought I could do something there. Josh was winning but it was local for Josh where with Mackenzie and Anderson it was culture shock, a long way from home, but I certainly thought I could have been a contender.

Then 2013 I got a job with Honda doing the EMX150 races but I had planned on doing races myself until I had a farm accident with a circular saw and nearly cut my thumb off!

O'Mara v GC?! Pic: Paul McCready

O’Mara v GC?! Pic: Paul McCready

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Pics by Paul McCready and Nigel McKinstry

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