Interview: Josh Gilbert on signing with Crendon Honda, his AMA experience and Arenacross UK

It’s been a great year for Josh Gilbert as last year he had the opportunity to race selected rounds of the AMA National series alongside the British Championship and MX Nationals UK championships. Starting off this year, Gilbert has signed back with the Crendon Honda team and starting the year by racing the Arenacross UK series – something completely different for him.

After his two nights racing in Belfast, his Arenacross UK debut, we caught up with him to discuss being back with the team, his AMA National experiences last year and more.

GateDrop: Josh, I was speaking to you earlier and you’ve never raced one of these events before so to end up the first night in third was great! In the second night you were kind of in a battle with 5 riders which looked chaotic! Overall, I think you can be happy with how it went for you?

Gilbert: Yeah, actually I felt like I rode the best all weekend in the LCQ and that last main event today when I had to come from last to sixth. I had to make a lot of passes in that one and it is so hard to do that around such a tight track. It sort of took me all weekend to get a flow and actually relax but hopefully I can take that into the next few weeks and build from it. I just need to make life a bit easier and have some smoother heat races to get a better gate pick for the main to give myself a better chance for the start. In this Arenacross, it’s just all about the start and if you don’t get it, you’re on the back foot straight away.

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GateDrop: For this style of racing did you do much to prepare for it? I know you’ve been in Spain but that’s to prepare for the Motocross season so did you get much prep for Arenacross?

Gilbert: I got two days (laughs).

GateDrop: Was the track anything like that out here in Belfast?

Gilbert: We did one day at Gulf MX which I would actually say was quite similar. We then did another day which was quite a lot smaller. We haven’t really had much prep at this but to come away with third the first night, I was pretty shocked with that. I had to go through the head to head which I think was a bit of entertainment for everyone.

The second night I thought I’d be hanging the boots up pretty quickly…

GateDrop: You had a really bad gate pick for the LCQ, I was quite worried for you actually but you got a cracking start…

Gilbert: In my second heat race I holeshotted from gate five but then I threw it down the track, that was my own fault. In the LCQ I was gate seven and still got the holeshot. The bike is unreal out of the start but then for the main I’d have been gate ten so I took the decision to go to the inside. It was okay but didn’t work out as good as it did the first night.

GateDrop: This style of racing, you’ve never done it before but did you enjoy it out there?

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Gilbert: It’s chaos (laughs). I think I just need to get myself in a better position for the heat races and get them a bit better. If I minimise the mistakes it should then hopefully roll from there, I feel like I’ve got the pace to be top three so we’ll build from this weekend.

GateDrop: You’ve signed with Dave Thorpe’s Honda team again after being with Neil Prince who give you the opportunity to race some AMA Nationals… Was it a tough decision to leave that team but on the other side it must be nice back being with a team you know having raced a 250cc for them?

Gilbert: It was a tough decision but there was a couple of reason’s why I decided to make the switch. So far the bike has been amazing and we’ve done two weeks down in Spain like you said. The outdoors is going real well, it’s going a lot smoother than the Arenacross that’s for sure (laughs). Arenacross is just a learning curve but the outdoors is definitely going the right direction.

GateDrop: Just how has Spain been going and how is Conrad looking on the 450cc? It must be good to have him as it can help both of you…

Gilbert: It has definitely brought us both on. We are both just pushing each other and you know that you are going alright when Prado wants to go riding with you (laughs). We will just keep plugging away and hopefully we will get out riding a little bit more and by the time the first outdoor comes we’ll be ready.

GateDrop: Conrad is the king of the practice tracks I would say, you always here he is flying at them – if you are able to keep up with him that should be good when you get to the race days!

Gilbert: Yeah, I’m not going to say too much at the minute, I’m not going to put myself on the pedestal. I’m not going to let too much out but I will keep plugging away and see what comes at the first round.

GateDrop: For this year is it just going to be British Championship races and MX Nationals or is there anything else in the works?

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Gilbert: There’s a couple of GP’s that we sort of plan to do, maybe three. But we will see how the season goes. It would be nice to go back and do a something in America but it’s the travelling, you can’t do it all and that is the problem. If you want to be in America then you have got to be over there full time with the heat, humidity and the tracks. Just riding there week in and week out with those guys. We’ll see but it is sort of looking like three GP’s and then the British Championship and MX Nationals.

Image: Nigel McKinstry

GateDrop: Just on your AMA National experience, how was that? Must be great to experience racing there and not too many American’s probably knew who you were but it didn’t take them long to figure out who Josh Gilbert was!

Gilbert: (laughs), yeah it went well. Especially the first weekend, it was the best weekend. When you are pushing your bike up to the start line and all the factory guys are having a good old look at you. It was definitely cool, it is well run over there and you get prize money from the organisers. The money is all in the right places over there I feel and they’re a lot more rider friendly.

GateDrop: How did you find the format? A one-day format and not much time at all between moto’s which is totally different from a GP…

Gilbert: I definitely prefer the one day format, 100%. To start with and the first weekend at Pala it actually caught me out as I ate too much in between the moto’s and my stomach cramps were unbelievable. Once you know what to prepare yourself for, it’s 40 minutes between the end of the first moto to going back down to the start of moto two. You are also in 35 degree heat…

GateDrop: I was going to ask you about the heat actually and how that was?

Gilbert: Hard. It was really hard and it’s the humidity as well. Over here we are in 15/20 degrees so you can’t prepare for that in Europe. Once you get used to how to prepare like with the helmets and everything is ready. Once you come in you take all our kit off and relax, get a little bit of food in and put it all back on again and then you’re out.

GateDrop: Are you in for Hawkstone International?

Gilbert: No, we aren’t doing Hawkstone. We are sort of looking at Lierop International if we can get to that. I think that is the week before the first MX Nationals.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Images: Nigel McKinstry