Interview: Martin Barr – excited for 2019

Martin Barr is back on blue and rejuvenated after a roller-coaster 2018 season.

The Ballyclare man has returned to the manufacturer he started his pro career with and Barr will make hs Crescent Yamaha debut on home turf at the Belfast Arenacross after signing up for the full indoor season for the first time in a number of years.

We caught up with Barr to get his thoughts on a season that had some big highs but also some lows as well as the prospect of racing back under the lights in Belfast in an Arenacross event he has had memorable success in the past.

You are back on Yamaha and back doing Arenacross, you managed a podium here back in 2005 on a Yamaha in Belfast, it’s likes everything has came full circle for you?

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It’s something I’m really looking forward to, I have wanted to be a part of this for the last few years but teams I was riding for wanted to concentrate on outdoors. The opportunity came along with Crescent Yamaha this year, me and Matt got speaking and got a deal together and I can’t wait. I will be making my competitive debut for Crescent Yamaha at home race here in Belfast in the SSE Arena, it’s going to be fantastic.

As you said in 2005 I was on the podium here (won by Seb Tortelli) and the crowd just went absolutely nuts, it was probably the biggest moment in my career getting third that night in front of Gordon Crockard, Tommy Searle, Billy Mackenzie, all the British guys, it was fantastic

This year I’m setting my sights pretty tame, now all the guys that do it are full-time Arenacross riders whereas we have nowhere to practice for it but I have been in this position before, I’m going out to enjoy it and I know once the start gates drop I’ll be giving my all.

It’s fantastic to bring it back over here again, Matt and his crew put on a fantastic show and I just can’t wait for it now.

The Fench guys all have places to train, how are you going to prepare for the short, intense five to ten minute races?

That preparation is already under way, in the gym I’m doing more intensity training but in the next couple of weeks I’m going to head over to England or France to get some riding done in Indoor tracks just to get some riding in and testing on the new bike so I can be as prepared as much as I can be. It makes it a lot more difficult for us but I’m not the only one in the same boat, it’s the same for the other home guys but it’s something I’m looking forward to being part of again.

Barr leads a group of Irish talent lining up for the Belfast Arenacross. Pic: J McCready

You have always been a good supercross rider, your technique seems to suit it, so it maybe isn’t as big as an adjustment for you as other riders?

I have had quite a lot of success indoor riding but it’s never easy in Arenacross, anything can happen and it’s about getting out of that gate and staying clean for the first lap or two and seeing where you are. It makes it very entertaining for the crowd and hopefully we can put o a good show.

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You have a good year ahead with the Arenacross, British motocross and MX Nationals plus maybe a couple of MXGP races if things go well?

Yeah it’s going to be busy. We will see how the season is going, I would love to do a couple of wildcard rounds in the world championship, we will just have to see how things are going. I am still chasing that British championship title, I feel that is still in me and that will be one of my big focuses this year but as a I said we will take each race as it comes and as long as I am putting the preparation in each week hopefully we won’t be too far away.

How do you find the Yamaha compared to the Husky?

Yeah jumping on a  Japanese bike, it’s hard to beat, the frame and the chassis is much nicer. Overall it is a fantastic package, I was impressed how good it was in stock trim and then having my dad back in my corner and doing my engines is a big, big bonus for me. It’s something I am really looking froward to and we are well on the way with the development of the bike and when racetime comes we will have a good package together.

Does having your ur dad there with you doing your engines help you on race day too because he knows you best, knows what you like and maybe makes raceday communication easier?

Yeah definitely, at the end of the day he’s my dad and wants what’s best for me and he knows how to set up a bike and what way I like it. Other positions I have been in people might add parts to the bike but they might not work. Dad comes from road racing and knows how to get speed out of a bike and keep reliability as well so it’s good to have him back my side and it’s something I’m looking forward too. Hopefully we can go and show eveybody what we are about.

Irwin and Barr AXUK Pic: J McCready

Looking back at the 2018 season on paper it looks quite going won a moto in the EMX and got fourth overall, winning an overall in the British and getting fifth overall, but I know you weren’t overly happy with it?

The way the season started off at Hawkstone Park I expected a lot more, with injuries and a few things going on in the backgrounback, it wasn’t ideal. To finish fourth in the EMX2 after leading it for a long time was very, very disappointing, fourth still isn’t a bad result but it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

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Fifth in the British championship, I had that big injury the haematoma in my leg at round one and it’s very hard to play catch up against guys like Conrad Mewse, Mel and everyone there, it wasn’t going to be easy. So fifth in the British was probably one of my worst years but it is what it is and you just have to overcome it and keep at it.

How much did the injuries affect you? You kept quiet during the year and didn’t cry about anything but you rarely seemed to be fully fit ever since that crash at the first round of the British, it seemed to take your momentum away.

I had a lot of little niggliing injuries, as you said I don’t really say anything because if you do people thing you are looking for excuses, sometimes you have to drink a can of concrete and get on with it!

This year alone I did the ligament in my thumb, had two big haematomas  on my leg and a week before the last round of the Europeans I had a big crash and broke T4 and T5 in my back so the last few rounds were a struggle, Assen being sand, the Motocross of Nations and the last round of the British. But you get what you get from me, I say nothing and try and get on with it and deal with the cards I’m dealt.

I didn’t cry about it, we aren’t football players, you have to bite your toungue at times and ride through that pain barrier. It was a very frustrating year, hopefully that’s all the bad luck out of the way and I will just look forward to 2019 now.

The Nations was a big highlight of your year, you ran with Plessinger and Geerts even held Ben Watson off for a while in the first moto so does that give you confidence and show where where your level still is?

Yeah, each time you get a phone from the team manager it’s great, we wouldn’t have been there this year if it wasn’t for Philip doing the fundraisers to get us there, it was a fantastic atmosphere and a brilliant weekend. To go and get a pretty good job done, with Graeme and Stuart out injured, a lot of people where writing us off but Philip has it all in place with the reserve riders and fair play to Gary Gibson and Richard Bird, they stepped up to the occasion and performed brilliant.

Barr at Red Bud representing team Ireland Pic: Doug Turney

For myself it was my 14th consecutive Des Nations and third time in America, when I’m there I don’t feel the pressure, although there is a lot of pressure there, but you just go about it like any other weekend. In qualifying straight away I was up there on lap times.

Leading up to the event especially Aaron (Plessinger), with what he was saying about the only guy who could do any damage was Ferrandis, and to go there and absolutely get spanked, it shows the level of the world championship and even British championship riders.

Myself to be in there and beating him and I believe with a couple of more laps, I had closed right in on him, I could have passed him and beat him fair and square like the other races. It’s good to know I’m in that category, Jago Geerts had a podium this year in MX2 so it’s nice to know where I’m at but the age rule just mucks everything up really and it’s the same for a lot of people.

But hopefully I can get the phone call again next year and make it the 15th consecutive year!