Irish MXoN stories: Mark Farrelly

Mark Farrelly might have stopped his Motocross career at a young age of 24 years old but he still has plenty of good memories and was able to represent Ireland at the highest level during the 1993 Motocross Des Nations in Austria.  We caught up with Farrelly to discuss the event with him and the memories he has.

Gatedrop: What year(s) did you represent Ireland at the Motocross Des Nations and at what tracks/countries?

Farrelly: The year I got picked for the Motocross Des Nations was in 1993 and the track was in Schawnenstadt in Austria. The next time I got close to representing Ireland was when I was reserve rider in 1996 but unfortunately I didn’t get to go.

Gatedrop: The first time you got the call to represent Ireland at this event, how did it feel to get selected?

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Farrelly: When I started racing in 1983 at 9 it was a sport right at the pinnacle with top Irish GP riders. This gave me the incentive to do well, do GP’s and represent my country. So when I got the call in 1993 it was a proud time for me.

Gatedrop: What top riders where you up against from other countries to give people an idea of the level – do you remember which nation and individual riders that won (also who were your Irish team mates)?

Farrelly: My Irish team mates were Brian Steele and Philip Neill. The riders at that Des Nations, USA had Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Emig and Mike Kedrowski. There was Belgium with Stefan Everts, Marnicq Bervoets and Kurt Nicholl. Rob Herring from the UK, Fredric Bolley from France, Andrea Bartolini from Italy as well as Greg albertyn and Colin Dugmore from South Africa.

Gatedrop: What were the tracks like at the MXoN you rode and did you feel you were well enough prepared for them?

Farrelly: The Schawnenstadt track was a rough soil type ground, grassy and located on the side of a hill with lots of trees and good viewing set on a stunning Austrian countryside.

Gatedrop: How did Ireland do at the events you represented them for?

Farrelly: In Schawnenstadt we didn’t do as well as I had a big crash in the first race.

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Gatedrop: Individually how did you do and where you happy with your results?

Farrelly: The Des Nations in 1993 was quite controversial as Belgium got piped by the USA to win the event by just one point. The thing was I contributed to Belgium not winning by taking out their 125cc rider Werner Dewitt who was tipped to win the 125cc class. Basically I was all fired up at the start of the first race, I got the holeshot off the gate of two rows of riders and got into the corner in about 3rd place and continued in the top 10. About a minute into the race I went down this long straight alongside this Suzuki bike and at the bottom of the straight was a hairpin corner and when you turned you came back up alongside that track you came down and over a tabletop jump. So we both went over the jump elbow to elbow and I basically kept my ground and managed to give him a good shoulder. This caused us both to crash he went one way and I kept it pinned and went 20 ft into the air at a right angle to the jump, took out a marshal with my back wheel and jumped over the fence and back onto the long straight I just came down.

With 60 odd riders in the race I was lucky not to have landed on bikes coming down the track and barely missed landing on one but I ended up in a heap. Obviously I crashed big and when I got up and I looked up there was Werner just getting going and the marshal completely knocked out with the bang he got from my bike. I didn’t know at the time but I got a good headline in the DBR magazine the following week that said the fact I took out Werner helped the USA to win their 13th Des Nations in a row.

Gatedrop: When you look at the Motocross Des Nations now, do you still think it’s still as special as it used to be?

Farrelly: Obviously, I didn’t do well on this Des Nations but the occasion always stayed with me and still was one of my proudest moments to represent Ireland. I believe if I had another opportunity I would have done better because experience is all you need at these events. As I see the current Des Nations it is a huge event and probably the best event on the calendar of any sport.

Gatedrop: What advice would you give to any young rider who might be lucky enough to get selected for the event for the first time?

Farrelly: If you’re an upcoming rider in Ireland the Des Nations is probably the only platform you have to ride at the highest level with the best riders. Obviously you need to be fast and tough mentally but my advice to these type of young Irish riders would be to train hard and practice lots but you need to practice with the intensity a top race demands. This is key to prepare right and your race results will come but I also know this fine line of staying healthy. Also, a good attitude will stand to you.

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Gatedrop: At a domestic level, what were your biggest achievements and what good memories do you have outside the Motocross Des Nations?

Farrelly: I didn’t have a long mx career and rolled all of my achievements into 1993, and at domestic level at 19 I became Irish and Ulster 125cc champion the first time it was done by a southern rider and 2nd in the Irish and Ulster 250cc in the same year just a few points behind Philip Neill so I nearly got the double double. Because of this I got nominated behind Joey Dunlop as motorcycling sportsperson for that year. I got to hang with him at the ceremony which was awesome as he was childhood idol of mine.

My other biggest achievements were in the three GP’s I did also in 1993, I rode Foxhills in the UK. It was my first 250cc GP where I qualified and got 22nd and 24th. These were 40 mins plus 2 lap races which I never rode a race this long before. Then the next weekend I did the Cork GP where I was lapping the fastest time in practice eventually qualifying 8th. Then in the first race I kept 12th position for most of the race until I eventually got 17th and 19th in the second race. Then obviously I was picked for the Des Nations team.

Then in 1996 on a borrowed 500cc Honda I did the 500cc GP again in Cork. I love Vernonmount and this was my first ride on the big bike where I got 9th in the first race and was in the top ten in the second until the bike just gave up. These points from 9th gave me enough to finish 37th in the world standings that year. Then in 1997 I did the Manjimup 15000 which is the biggest International race in the Southern Hemisphere coming in at 8th overall. So, this was an experience I’ll never forget. Then I stopped racing after this at 24.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Main pic: Farrelly #35 around the first corner of the MXoN race in Austria.