Interview: Javier Garcia Vico – Reflects on his career

In the past it’s been difficult for Motocross talents to make it from Spain but Javier Garcia Vico is one Spaniard that did have great results in the Motocross World Championship. Vico might not have been world champion but in 2002 he finished third in the world behind Stefan Everts and Joel Smets, two riders that don’t need any introduction.

He did one better in 2003 as he finished second in the world in the 650cc class again losing out to Joel Smets but Vico had a good career and has a European title to his name as well.

We caught up with Vico to discuss his career and much more.

Gatedrop: Javier, it’s been a number of years since you’ve hung up your Motocross boots. What sort of things have you been up to since stepping away from the sport?

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Vico: I’ve been working with Honda Spain and owning/managing the Team Honda Vico with talented riders for 10 years. In 2018, I decided to close the team to dedicate more time to manage my investments. Nowadays I am still riding and managing and counselling young riders.

Gatedrop: When you were racing, was there a lot of interest from the Spanish media in you and what you were doing in Motocross or did you get ignored because MotoGP was so big? 

Vico: Well, to be honest it was kind of the opposite way. When Dorna stepped into the world championship along with Telefonica Movistar as the main sponsor for the championship I did get a lot of media coverage and interest in our sport and how we were doing it at the time. It was able to mate the sport grow in Spain due to all the media involved.

Gatedrop: Over the past few years there’s been a number of young Spaniards but back in your day it was hard to make it in the Motocross world from Spain. Did you find it hard to get to the level you were at coming from Spain? 

Vico: Yeah definitely, it was so hard because we didn’t have all the information and facilities we have now to make a step in the right direction and move to the centre of Europe. And for sure it wasn’t easy for me to make that first step of moving to Italy back in 1997 to race the world championship with team RZ Yamaha later on 1998. I made a big movement to discover the sport outside of my country in 1996 to do the European Championship and get the crown.

Vico in action at a KWS International at Seaforde, N.Ireland, 2003. Lapping local rider, Neil Thompson. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: I believe you moved to Italy when you were 21 years old. When you first made the move was that difficult having to adapt to a new country and being away from your family? 

Vico: It was hard because I was working as a mechanic in a workshop right before I moved there, because in the years prior I was both working and racing. My dad always showed me that hard work would always pay off and so it did. In Italy the first year I was living in a RV right beside the team’s workshop, it wasn’t easy but in the end it worked out well.

Gatedrop: In 1996 you won the EMX250 title, who where your competitors that year and it must have felt amazing to win that title? 

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Vico: I was riding against Lazzarini, Zanni, Justin Morris and more riders that later on they were top 15 in the world championship. It was a stacked class with up to more than 100 riders trying to qualify. It didn’t help much the fact that I was my own mechanic during the races because I didn’t have a big budget, just to cover the expenses of travelling from race to race.

When I won the title I was super satisfied with it because I did sacrifice a lot and it fulfilled me big time. That crown has a special place in my heart.

Gatedrop: 2002 was a great year for you finishing third in the world behind Everts and Smets. At the final round in Russia you won your only GP overall. How did that race go for  you? It must be amazing for you to look back at that weekend..

Vico: Yeah 2002 was a good year, I was fighting for the 3rd position in the overall championship standings. It was a nice fight against Stefan Everts and Joel Smets. With the win in Russia I get the points I needed to achieve the goal and I got to give Smets some credit because we had team orders that day and I was able to win. It was an amazing day, and history for the Spanish motocross.

Gatedrop: You also won a moto that year at the Motocross Des Nations in front of you home crowd at Bellpuig, can you take me through that moto and your feelings when you think back to that race?

Vico: Well, in Foxhill 1998 I almost won against Doug Henry so long after in Bellpuig I won the overall as an individual and Team Spain was 4th Overall after that, the best result of the Team still today. I felt good during the whole weekend, the crowd was pushing and cheering a lot. My goal for the MXoN that year was to win the overall as an individual and so I did. It was an amazing day and feeling.

Gatedrop: In 2003 you finished second in the World 650cc Championship, you must be proud of that season but at the same time was it frustrating up against Smets that year? He was only beat in two moto’s! What was it like competing with him? 

Vico: Joel won 5 world championships so it says everything about him. 2003 was a good year for me, but Smets did everything the right way, I did learn a lot from him, I fought hard to win it but I wasn’t able too. He was a tough guy to beat. It’s less frustrating when you are competing against someone like him, who made history in the sport. 

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Vico entertains the Irish crowd. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: When you look at the sport these days, Infront/Youthstream have made some big chances since your day with the age rule and formats. What’s your thoughts on the job they’re doing running MXGP? 

Vico: Infront are doing a good job, because after 2008 the gates were down-drafting and today the gates are full and the EMX125 and EMX250 classes they have to qualify due the amount of riders – up to 80 plus. The organisation is professional and looks great between the Moto-clubs and Infront, you just need to check out the pits with all the factory rigs and everything.

Gatedrop: When you look at the sport now compared to your days, what would you say the biggest changes are?

Vico: They made a lot of changes, I’m informed of everything because I’m up with everything about the sport still. One of the main changes is the contingency bonus we had for heats and races, back in the day you could make a living from it. Nowadays it’s more professional and they have changed the way the races are broadcasted on the TV, which I think it was better in the Dorna days. Back in my era, with talent you could make it to the top and as matter of fact today money have beaten talent making young talented riders not able to complete their goals and seasons because of the expensiveness

Gatedrop: Jorge Prado, as a fellow Spaniard you must be super proud of him. Has he helped raise Motocross in your home country and what’s your thoughts on him as a rider and his technique? 

Vico: He was a talented rider even as a little kid and his riding technique has been developing at the same speed as his successful career! Dope riding technique, clean, smooth and freaky fast. He is a hard worker and that’s why KTM gave him that well deserved opportunity and the step his family made moving to Belgium and supporting him have worked out well.  It’s also bringing a lot of credit to the Spanish Motocross industry alongside myself, Jonathan Barragan and Jose Butron with our results.

Gatedrop: Riders like Everts (who you competed against), Cairoli and Herlings. They will all go down as Motocross greats! How would you describe them and they’re mentalities? 

Vico: Well their careers speak for themselves. Everts got 10 titles, Cairoli has 9 and Herlings has 4 titles as well. They have something in common called winners mindset, alongside hard work, dedication and talent.

Gatedrop: Who do you tip as being the next big thing in the future?

Vico: I would love to see Jorge Prado winning titles in MXGP and I see Tom Vialle doing big things in the near future. I would also put Liam Everts on the radar, he is doing great in the EMX125 championship. Definitely I’m looking forward to some good racing.

I want to say thank you to Gatedrop for this interview and all the fans and people. Always wide open!

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nigel McKinstry