Interview: Jamie Dobb – racing World Vets MX 2024 Farleigh Castle

British motocross legend James Dobb is one of only five World motocross champions to come out of Great Britain, and the likeable 2001 World 125cc champion joins the likes of Jeff Smith, Graham Noyce, Neil Hudsen, and Dave Thorpe. With his championship in 2001, the Dobber is the last of this special group of riders.

In 1989, he won his first major adult title, the British 125cc Motocross championship, winning the 250cc category in 1990. In 1992, he was offered the chance to race in America, for the Pro-Circuit Kawasaki team, headed by Mitch Payton. During his five-year stint in America, Dobb would race for Pro-Circuit Kawasaki, Suzuki America and the Honda of Troy team. Whilst not winning any major titles, he was one of the series’ top riders, winning an AMA National at Southwick.

Unfortunately, injury affected his 1996 season, and he was left without a ride for 1997. Disenchanted with the sport, he briefly pursued a modelling career in New York, before receiving an offer to return to Europe, competing for the Suzuki UK team. Dobb excelled on his return to Europe, winning the 1998 British 125cc Motocross championship, and a best finish of fifth in the World 125cc Motocross championship in 1999.

His good form saw him move to the factory KTM team in 2000, a move which gave him the momentum to challenge for the 125cc world title. He was second to fellow KTM rider Grant Langston in 2000, before dominating the 2001 championship, securing his, and Great Britain’s, first title in the 125cc World Championship. Dobb’s title victory was a welcome relief for British motocross in 2001, with much of the domestic season cancelled due to the country’s foot and mouth outbreak.

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He moved to the premier MX1 class in 2002, but injury, and an uncompetitive KTM 250 machine, meant that he was unable to challenge Stefan Everts for the title. After a lacklustre 2003 season, he returned to MX2, with the RWJ Honda team for 2004. However, unable to mount a serious title challenge, Dobb retired from professional motocross midway through the 2004 season.

Fortunately for British or even other European fans, Dobb will be racing in the 2024 World Vets Motocross, at Farleigh Castle on July 20 and 21. Having retired some 20 years ago, his return to Farleigh will be a huge chance for his fans, those spectators maybe a little older now, but with their memories of the Dobb vs Langston vs Brown battles of the past.

Geoff Meyer caught up with him and asked about how he feels about dusting off the riding gear and putting his name on the line against riders like Jeff Emig, Mike Brown, Doug Henry, Rob Herring and so many more.

MXlarge: I spoke to Sebastien this week and he said it will be a lot of fun and he looks forward to seeing everyone again. I assume it is a similar situation for you. You haven’t raced much in recent years, have you?

Dobb: Basically, I am in the plus 50 class and Seb is in the plus 40s. In my class, there will be Mike Brown, Jeff Emig, Rob Herring, Doug Henry (riding a Stark Future with a roll-cage), Billy Mackenzie is in the class with Tortelli, Tommy Searle will race the younger class. The thing is, some people are still serious, and there are others, like me, I just ride for fun. Because of my hands, I can’t push like I want to push, because my hands freeze up and I ride at a safe pace.

MXLarge: I think most people that go there, will be older people, in general, they might take their kids or grandkids along, but many will just want to see guys like yourself, Tortelli, Emig, Nicol, Mackenzie, Searle, Brown and others racing, or even just riding. It is a very relaxed atmosphere I understand and not an all our, balls out racing event, like some of the other veteran races. Kurt Nicol still races pretty hard I understand, what class is he in?

Dobb: Yes, he does, and he is in the 60 plus class, he 60 this year. Kurt still rides on a daily basis, and he does ride days and testing.

MXLarge: I know you have a lot to do with Rob Hering with the stunt work, but does he ride much, and he is still fast?

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Dobb: He is probably still a bit like me. I don’t know how fast he will be, but he does ride a bit and it is just a nice day out. Don’t get me wrong, when you get on the start gate, you want to go as fast as you can, but the weekend is a fun weekend, with a lot of old names getting back together. It is serious, but it will be a lot of family and friends having a bit of a giggle. It will be a really nice time to get together.

MXlarge: Obviously it all started with the World Vets at Glen Helen which started in the mid-1980s, and then those races in Italy, the TransBorgaro, which started in the 1970s,  Mammoth Mountain, the VMXdN in the UK, which started I guess a decade ago, there are so many cool veteran races now, it really has become a bit of a movement in our sport and I understand that, because if you look at a Grand Prix or British championship spectator turn-out, there are a lot of old faces wanting to revisit the past.

Dobb: People our age wants to race people of a similar age and its safer and you can have some fun. Then you go to a place like Farleigh Castle, such an iconic track in British motocross, or World motocross history. It makes for a really special weekend.

MXlarge: Did you race at Farleigh as a pro?

Dobb: Yes, I raced the support class in 1989 and I won that. Then, I never raced a GP there, but they had British champion rounds there. I won a couple, got second in a couple. It hasn’t changed too much. People have come in before us and in my eyes ruined it a bit, taking the steps out the back and tried to make it a more traditions set-up, but I liked the old steps. The fundamentals are pretty much the same, the historical first turn around the tree.

MXLarge: I know some of you are going there for some fun and catching up with old friends, but Mike Brown will be hard to beat in his age group. It amazing how he stays so competitive still?

Dobb: Yes, I think the good thing about Mike, he rides all the time and is super-fast, but at his age group, he doesn’t need to push it to his limit, so he can enjoy it, but because he is so fit still and fast, he can not take too many risks, which to be honest, that is how it should be at his age. Motocross is a dangerous sport, and you don’t want to be taking silly risks.

Dobb: You know Geoff, the riders will be hanging out, they won’t be hidden away anywhere. It will be friends hanging out and the spectators will also be hanging out with us. Our title sponsor is Briggs Commercials, and they have a big tent, with their old bikes on display and everyone is welcome there. They have some historical factory bikes to look at. People like Jeff (Emig) will be in the beer tent at night, he likes a beer. Even when Chad (Reed) was here last year, he was just hanging out with everyone, and he was really popular. You have the old school vibe and then you think about all the former World champions and National champions coming, it will be really exciting for not only us the riders, but also for the fans.

MXLarge: Seb coming on the Stark is big news. The Stark Future is really something that is hugely interesting to everyone.

Dobb: I mean, it is great to have them involved and new things in our sport. Will it ever race against the combustion bike, and everything has its place, and they look like fun bikes to run around on. You think that the Stark is the future, because if you look at Belgium all the tracks are close. Seeing Sebastien racing again, a champion is always a champion and I think he will be really a big deal for the fans. He will find out on the Saturday what he needs to do on the Sunday, because I remember last year when Chad came and he said to me on Saturday night, how he needed to get switched on for the Sunday races, because he didn’t realize how quick some of these veteran riders were. He was a different rider the second day and much quicker. You have Doug (Henry) coming over and I don’t think he has raced in the UK since the 1998 MXdN at Foxhills, so he will be a popular rider on the weekend. It will be fun to see him ride after what he has been to and to be in his position and still want to get on a bike and run around. What is great, a lot of these events, it’s the same riders, while this one, people who went to watch these guys, like Kurt Nicol, Seb Tortelli, Jeff Emig, Mike Brown, a lot of these guys who watched these legends, get to start on the same start line, as long as they are in the same age bracket, that is just great.

Interview: Geoff Meyer