Interview: Jimmy Button reflects on his career & discusses AMA SX and MXGP

Jimmy Button is one former rider who has plenty of experience racing at the highest level. Not only did the American win in America but he also spent a year racing the World Championship in the 125cc class so he rode plenty of different conditions.

In 2000, Button was then involved in a big crash which had serious consequences as broke his neck and caused temporary paralysis. After months of rehabilitation he was able to have a normal life and make a very good recovery.

Button is still also involved in the sport as he represents riders as an agent. We decided to catch up with Button to discuss the sport and much more.

GateDrop: You had one season in the world championship having been a factory Suzuki rising star in the USA – a big change! But you adapted well at a time when it was harder to adapt than nowadays. You had some tough competition too with Chiodi, Puzar and an emerging Tortelli! How was that year for you after showing promise in the States but then leaving everything you knew?

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Button: In looking back at that year riding for the Magic Bike Honda team, I take a lot of great memories. I think my results were okay given the competition and the transition to GP racing. I feel I made a few too many mistakes early in the season to have a real shot at the championship. With that, 4th in the series was all I could accomplish. At that point I wanted to continue my SX career in the US, so I left, which I think now was probably a bad idea. But at the time I was young and wanted to continue the SX chase. Racing against Alex, Chico, and Seb, as well as the others like Strijbos, Vialle, and Maschio was awesome. I learned a lot about being a man over there, which helped when I got home.

GateDrop: You went back to the States and eventually ended up being teammates with Jeremy McGrath your friend but also the king of Supercross! How much were you able to learn from him technically but also mentally? You went to maybe your best level then?

Button: Riding and being teammates with MC was great. He helped me to become a better rider 100% and we had some great times on and off the track. That really propelled me to my Factory Yamaha ride.

GateDrop: You then went to factory Yamaha and had to adapt to the four-stroke – How was that process?

Button: Very difficult. The bike at that point wasn’t any good on a regular SX track. You must remember the tracks were built much more technical than versus today which is more about speed. The tracks then were made for 250 two stroke bikes and not 450’s. For MX it was good when the bike was working well, but we were still very deep in the learning process. The carburation of the bike was always the most difficult thing to get right. But the experience of building something that changed the face of racing was very cool to be a part of.

GateDrop: Then you had the accident that changed your life. That must have been extremely difficult physically but also mentally to deal with and accept?

Button: Yes, physically and emotionally was difficult, but I am so very blessed to have had the recovery I have. I am so lucky. I think beyond the obvious of not feeling great and dealing with the day to day issues, I think I am most frustrated with not being able to continue developing the bike, because we had made so much progress with it from 99 to the 2000 season. I think for the MX championship that year that I could have been in it for the win. But we will never know. And, that’s life. It doesn’t always go as planned.

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GateDrop: What was the best memories of your career?

Button: Winning Daytona SX and my first 250 MX overall win.

GateDrop: You are still very much involved in the sport today but in the business end – how enjoyable is that?

Button: I do like it. I get to live through my clients a bit and get to experience their success alongside of them. It’s also fun to see a young athlete mature into a successful professional. That’s very rewarding.

GateDrop: You are the agent of Justin Bogle who clearly has speed but injuries have hindered his career lately. How did the deal for him come around with HEP Suzuki and what’s your goals for him in 2022?

Button: I want to see Justin stay healthy and have a season progressing with his team and to help them become a better operation. A consistent top 10 rider would be a great season, along with no injuries.

GateDrop: Riders salaries are big at the top of MXGP and US racing but seem to drop after the top 10-15. What needs to change to allow the top 20 to all be well paid because they are still riding at such a high level!

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Button: I honestly don’t think it will change. It is the same in every sport. The driver in F1 not scoring any points is not making even a small percentage of what Hamilton makes. Regardless of where you finish you are doing the work and putting yourself at risk. But, like every business, you must succeed to make a big amount of money.

GateDrop: What were your thoughts on the MXGP series this year? An amazing title battle with 5 guys for a while that went down to the last round with two tied!

Button: I really enjoyed watching the series. I am glad Jeffrey won as I feel he was not only the fastest all year, but when you win that much you should win the championship.

GateDrop: Antonio Cairoli retired this year and still won a GP at 36 – but might race some races still next year including some US Nationals. What are your thoughts on him?

Button: I have so much respect for Tony. He is an incredible rider and ambassador for the sport. I think the American fans would love to see him over here racing a few events. He would be great for the series over here. I really hope KTM can make it happen for him.

GateDrop: And your thoughts on the 2022 Supercross season? Can Ferrandis contend, will Tomac be better on Yamaha? Will Webb be better without Aldon or can Ken finally get the title?

Button: I think that Dylan will be in there, and I also think Eli will be hungry for wins. We know Webb will be awesome, and Kenny will be very fast. I think there are others like Anderson who is re-inspired with his new team. 2022 has the makings to be a great season, and time will tell who will be the champion. For me, I hope it is Dylan.

GateDrop: Is there anyone else you think can contend for the title? Cianciarulo/Sexton/Anderson?

Button: Anderson is the only one who has had a lot of success on the 450. AC and Chase still need to get to that level.

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