Interview: James Marsh reflects on his career – 13 years racing GP’s!

James Marsh has a wealth of experience in the Motocross world racing GP’s for a total number of 13 years – the Brit also has fund memories of racing in the UK scene where he was very successful. After his Motocross career, instead of staying in the UK, Marsh decided to make the move to New Zealand and now lives in Australia so he’s done his fair share of travelling.

We caught up with Marsh to discuss his Motocross career, what took him oversea’s to live and much more.

Gatedrop: Initially, how did you get involved in the sport and when did you think you’d be able to make a career out of it?

Marsh: I got involved in motocross at the age of 6. My dad brought home a bike that he had bought off a guy in the pub. Dad used to take me down to the old airfield in Portsmouth where we lived to ride. One day we saw some other kids riding around and Dad spoke to the parents and found out there were some local clubs to race at. We joined Portsmouth Schoolboy scramble club and it all started from there.

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The first time I realised I could possibly make a career out of motocross would have been around 1985, I had attended a Roger Harvey training camp and after the camp was finished Roger sat me down for a bit of a chat and he said that if i worked hard I could make a career out of the sport I loved. I never forgot that conversation and I managed to race at the highest level.

Gatedrop: Since you retired, away from Motocross what sort of things have you been doing with your life? I believe you now live in Australia?

Marsh: The first job I had after retiring was working ATM cylinder technics in Holland, we would basically repair broken cylinder heads, take care of any welding, reboring and reline. We also supplied and tested big bore kits for CRF450. At that time I was living in Belgium with my wife and two children. In 2004 we moved back to the UK and I was running my own truck doing deliveries from Portsmouth or Southampton all over the country. My father had a trucking company for around 40 years and had stopped a few years before I returned to the UK due to illness.

After 4 years I realised that this wasn’t for me and wanted to move to a place where my kids could really enjoy their childhood. So in 2008 we moved to New Zealand, where I worked for a motorcycle clothing importer and Ohlins suspension. After a few years I moved into the oil and gas sector after one of my GP mechanics called to say he was working for this company and was keen to come across. In total we lived in New Zealand for 7 years and really enjoyed such a beautiful country. We have now been living in Australia for 5 years and I’m still working in the oil and gas sector as a Project superintendent for the same company I worked for in NZ.

Gatedrop: Can you remind us all of some of your achievements whilst in the Motocross world?

Marsh: I competed at all the major national championships as a schoolboy, both BSMA and ACU events. Paul Malin and James Dobb picked up a lot of the championships at that time but there was a lot for us knocking on the door trying to snatch a championship away from them. I’ve finished in 4th in both British and German championships and competed in the World championship for 13 years. I achieved 11th place in the 500cc championship in 1998 on a KTM 380 and spent most of my world championship racing days inside the top 25. Never made it onto the podium, but picked up a few 4th overalls and a lot of top ten finishes.

Pic: Martyn Petts

Gatedrop: Being a young Motocross rider, what’s the toughest thing trying to make it in the Motocross world?

Marsh: The toughest thing is trying to get good backing. I’ve been very lucky that I always had the support of my parents that love the sport as much as I do. In the early days I had the backing from Alex Wright and the team green up until 1992 when I switched to a privateer on Honda. I moved to Belgium in 1995 and Jacky Martins took me around for the day to visit some potential sponsors. Which I found totally amazing that he took the time to do this with no benefit to himself. Out of that day I met Jos Dolphjin who became not only a sponsor but family really and the backing and support helped make things easier throughout the rest of my career.

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Gatedrop: When you look back on your career, what races stand out the most and why?

Marsh: Some of the stand out races I remember would be leading both motos in France in 1994. Again leading both moto’s on Finland in 1998. Any time you holeshot a race and lead for as long as possible with some truly amazing riders, it is something you always remember. All the years I raced at Namur stood out as the crowd and atmosphere was unreal. It is a shame riders today will never get to experience the atmosphere and a truly unique circuit. Loved it!

Gatedrop: You rode for a number of team’s, what team(s) did you feel most comfortable with and why?

Marsh: Definitely the years I was with KTM. We were one big family and all the relationships with the guys at the factory were awesome. Great people that were invested in producing the very best bike they could. When we were in Austria at the factory the guys would take us over to their houses for dinner and meet their families. Many special people were involved at that time that all added to the family feel.

Pic: Martyn Petts

Gatedrop: You had a number of fast team mates, what teammates did you learn the most from and what kind of things did you learn from others?

Marsh: The main thing I learned from being around some very fast guys was how hard they trained. This set the benchmark for my own fitness and preparation.

Gatedrop: Who would you say were the toughest competitors you raced against and why?

Marsh: To many to say really. Obviously Jamie Dobb and Paul Malin in schoolboys. But once you get to GP level everyone on the start line fought for every position so it was always tough.

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Gatedrop: When you look back on your career, are you happy with what you achieved – is there anything you’d go back and do differently?

Marsh: Yes, very happy with my career, I gave it everything and totally enjoyed it. If I had to change anything I probably would have moved to Belgium sooner. More tracks and less travel times to get there etc.

Gatedrop: Do you still keep in contact with some of the riders you competed against, if so, who?

Marsh: Keep in contact with some of the guys, mainly just on Dacebook. Brain Wheeler, Paul Cooper, Warren Edwards, Danny Smith, Joel Smets, Johan Boonen, Bernd Eckenbach and Didi Lacher.

Gatedrop: Do you still keep up with the sport – what’s your thoughts on it these days? Things have changed!

Marsh: Yes I still follow and try to keep up to date with results in both the USA and Europe. For me I think the sport has changed a lot, it’s very hard to be a privateer to compete at GP level. We used to have 100 plus riders trying to qualify for 40 spots on the start gate and competition for these spots was tough. Nowadays you barely get a full line up at some GP’s and unless you are on a team you have no chance of getting an entry. Unfortunately in my opinion the standard of rider has dropped due to the lack of competition for places on the start gate.

Thank you Gatedrop for the interview.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Martyn Petts