Velospitty (Speed Talk): Hayden Statt – British EMX85 talent

Tinus Nel recently caught up with young British talent, Hayden Statt who is racing the EMX85 championship this year.

You can watch or read the transcript below:

Nel: You jumped to attention in a big, big way this year with the European Championship qualifier, so we’ll start at the end, not the beginning, and particularly so the most recent race at Valkenswaard, where you won overall, and I mean, there was nobody really even in your postal code, so tell us a bit about that event.

This article continues below

Statt: Yeah, it was a good weekend, I just got my head down and put my laps in, tried my hardest, and came home with a win.

Nel: Now, Valkenswaard, of course, it’s not the deepest sand track in Holland. You’re going to meet one of the deepest sand tracks late in the year in the Junior Worlds at Heerde, but what did you think? Of course, it’s a historic track, an iconic track, and many Grands Prix have happened there, so what were your feelings about Valkenswaard?

Statt: I was kind of mixed feelings, as it was sand on top and hard underneath, so every lap I was coming around and I was kind of sliding out everywhere, so it was just having a stay on.

Nel: Right, what tyres did you use? Did you use scoops or normals?

Statt: Scoops.

Nel: All right, so yeah, we’ve had, my team has had, I had a GP team before, I told you, and we had a great history at Valkenswaard. It was actually just down the road from where I stayed, where my team was in Belgium, because it’s just across the border, and the first GP I did with Ben Townley in my team, he finished second, and he was 16 years old at the time, so that was quite a day, and the KTM people were my friends in a big way immediately. Now, going into Valkenswaard, all right, let’s pull back a little bit. The first Euro, you just missed the podium, so tell us about that event.

Statt: (Embarrassed) I pulled off a lap earlier, because the finish man put the last lap board out, two laps in a row, and I thought the race was over, so I pulled off.  Had to spin round, pulled back on, and I crashed a few corners off the finish.

Nel: Oh man, that’s crazy. It’s one of those stories you won’t ever forget, and one of the first lessons is don’t stop racing until you see the actual flag, right? Because I’ve seen that in, actually, in road racing as well.

All right, so you came into Valkenswaard knowing that you’ve got the speed of these guys, but not sure exactly how it went in the sand, and what did you expect might happen at Valkenswaard going into the race? What did you think?

This article continues below

Statt:  I expected to be top three, but I didn’t really expect to have that great of a pace to be, obviously, 10 seconds ahead by the end of the race.

Nel: All right, yeah, so, and what was the reaction? I mean, the people in the paddock, and the press, and everybody, did they make quite a big fuss of you after you’d won the race?

Statt: Just my dad.

Nel:  Just your dad, but it was the good kind of fuss, right? Because dads can have like a bad kind of fuss as well, when things don’t go so well on the day, right? So that was, and did dad expect something like this, that you would win?

Statt: Yeah, my dad expected us to win, because he’s always got faith in us, but I knew I was going to be somewhere around there, but not as at pace I was.

Nel: Well, all right, at least you met up with these expectations, so you came away with a win, and now you’ve got one round left of the Euros. Where is the next round?

Statt: It’s in Germany, I’m not sure of the track.

Nel: Have you raced in Germany before?

This article continues below

Statt: Yeah, I raced last year in Germany for the 2023 EMX.

Nel: Right, right, and when you look at tracks, you’ve now raced on hardpack, you’ve raced on hilly tracks, you’ve raced on flat tracks, you’ve raced on sand tracks. What is your favourite kind of track?

Statt: Of course, the sand. I love the deep sand.

Nel: Oh, you love the deep sand. So we’re going to get back to this, because here, where the Junior Worlds is, is deep, deep, deep sand, and sorry about the parrot, because he feels that he must make a contribution there. I’ll go and get him down in a minute and have him close, you know? All right, so we’ve now covered what’s happened in this year, and you’ve now definitely made your name as a top contender in European Championships.

Now, let’s take the clock back to the beginning. How did it all start, and when did it all start for you?

Statt:  It all started in 2014. I started on a Osset, I believe, and my dad got as into it as he used to ride back in his day.  Yeah, he put me on a bike, and I loved it ever since.

Nel: All right, now you say dad put you on a bike, and you say you didn’t have to knack for a bike here, which makes you very fortunate. And did dad ride bikes before, or something like that?

Statt: Yeah, he used to ride.

Nel: Did he race also, or not?

Statt: Yeah, yeah, just club level though. He’s been out in Belgium a few times and done the odd club event.

Nel: All right, so it didn’t take long for you to be faster than dad, right? Or you shouldn’t answer that, because you might lose your sponsorship.

The thing is, well, if you have a dad like Liam Everts, whose dad is Stefan Everts, who’s got 10 world titles, then it’s another story, of course. It took him a long while to get up to the dad level. By the way, speaking of that, I missed telling you about one of the races, and that’s the AMA Supercross tonight.

I think it’s in Nashville. Do you follow AMA?

Statt: Yeah, I watch it every weekend.

Nel: All right, do you have a favorite rider there?

Statt: Jett Lawrence.

Nel: Oh yeah, Jett. Well, of course, Jett spent quite a lot of time in Europe as well. I guess you would have been too young to have caught that, because he came first and did some Euros and spent some time.

Actually, in Stefan Everts’ team, with Suzuki at that time. All right, and I had a look at the first qualifying this evening, and I saw that Casey Cochran, who’s one of the riders that we interviewed before, when he was still riding Loretta Lynns and Mini O’s. He did his first Supercross last weekend. He had to come through the B qualifying and then qualified, scored points, despite crashing twice.

I saw he qualified 11th today, but I think tonight is an East-West shootout, so that’s going to be interesting. Do you watch the Supercross or what?

Statt: Yeah, every weekend it’s what I watch.

Nel: All right, do you have a link to watch it live, or do you watch it after the time?

Statt: Yeah, I watch it on Moto World TV.

Nel: All right, okay, all right, well that’s great. All right, then we’ll get to more of what you watch and so on. Now, you’re based in Manchester, right?

Statt: No.

Nel: Where about in England are you?

Statt: Durham, close to here.

Nel: Oh, in Durham. All right, okay, there’s a song about Durham, but I think that was an American Durham.

All right, but to get to Europe, it’s quite a bit of travel for you, right?

Statt: Yeah.

Nel: All right, now that goes to my next question, because that makes it difficult for you to participate in events like ADAC, especially ADAC, because that’s quite far, and Dutch Masters, but did you ever consider doing races like that? Because, of course, you meet up then with all the top riders in the classes. Is that something that you’re considering?

Statt:  I would like to.

The first year we did EMX, we considered doing ADAC and a few others, but we ended up doing the EMX, of course.

Nel: All right, now let’s get back to international racing, and we’re going to, firstly, the Euro final, which is always in Loket, and then also the Junior World Championships in Heerde. Now, how do you look forward to these things? What are your thoughts about these events?

Statt:  It’s obviously a lot of pressure to qualify to get to Loket, but as long as I qualify and get into them races, I’ll just put my head down and I’ll try my hardest.

Nel: Yeah, yeah, that’s good, and of course, you’ve got some experience of that, because you were in the World Championships last year in Romania, right, and you came away with points in both heats, so tell us how it went at that event.

Statt: Not the result I was wanting, but it’s good enough for that year.

Nel:  Yeah, what was last year, your first year on 85 or what?

Statt: No, last year was my first year Big Wheel, but my third year on 85.

Nel: Okay, now talk about Big Wheel, you’ve not just raced internationally, obviously you’ve raced a lot at home, and I know the shelf of the trophy cabinet is like bending under all the trophies, so tell me what all have you achieved at home?

Statt: I’ve achieved two British Championships, so two-time British Champion, and I’ve also Master Kids twice in a row, I think, and I’m not too sure because they all lead back to the old, old days, and it’s a long way back.

Nel: Yeah, in the old days when you were still a dancer, I mean, I remember those old days really. All right, now when you speak to me about Master Kids, is that the Master Kids in England, not the French Master Kids?

Statt: Yeah, Master Kids in England.

Nel: Have you ever raced the French Master Kids?

Statt: I did one round, I believe in 2017.

Nel: And how did it go there, because that’s a huge event, that’s like hundreds of riders, it’s really huge, so how did it go for you there?

Statt:  I had a broken toe before I went, so I can’t really remember how I resulted.

Nel:  Right, now speaking of Master Kids, there’s also an event in Belgium every year, the CoupeDe l’Avenir, did you do that? Have you done that before?

Statt: Last year.

Nel: All right, and how did it go?

Statt: It was quite good.

Nel: Quite good? Yeah, because it’s like a mini motocross of nations, so you have, it’s an individual event, but also a team event, and also you get quite a lot of the international riders, and you get to see who you’re gonna meet up again in the next season, because the Coupe de LÁvenir is towards the end of the year. All right, now with the Euro final in Loket, have you been to Loket? Have you raced there before?

Statt: Yeah, I qualified for the finals at Loket last year, but I wasn’t able to qualify to get into Loket, because of my bike problem.

Nel: Oh, jeez, that’s a bummer, yeah.

And what do you think of that track, because that’s a very technical track, and an up-and-down track, right?

Statt: Yeah, considering, like, sand, well, I prefer sand more. I enjoyed the track, but obviously, bike problem wasn’t given the result.

Nel: Yeah, yeah, and now with, I don’t think you would have seen here yet where the Junior World Championship is going to be, but that’s a deep sand track, it’s like Lierop or something like that, so you say that will fall in your favor, right?

Statt: Yeah, I raced Heerde before, I’m not sure of the club, but I raced it just a few rounds before there.

Nel: Oh, really? Oh, okay, so it’s not an unfamiliar track to you, so you know it, right?

Statt: I’ve ridden it once.

Nel: Yeah, and what do you know about the riders that you’re going to be up against in the World Finals? Because, okay, a lot of the riders from last year have moved up, and so on, so which riders do you know that are good and that you’ve raced against?

Statt: Obviously, Moritz Ernecker, Ryan Oppliger, I’m not too sure if Ricardo Bauer’s doing it?

Nel: Ricardo Bauer, yeah, he’s at the ADAC today, he had, I think, a bad start and he came back to ninth, so he would be there, yes, so you know Ricardo Bauer, but do you know anyone else?

Statt: Leppällä, who won his first EMX.

Nel: Yeah, yeah, Leppällä, Victor Leppällä, from Finland, right? And then, yeah, Lucas Leok, of course, he’s always there, and then a rider that I’ve interviewed before, Jekabs Hudolejs, from Latvia, he won the last round of the Dutch Masters of Motocross, he had some problems in the first round, so he’s second in the series, and with a very much an outside chance to become champion tomorrow, but we’ll see, we’ll see how it goes.

So there’s none of these riders that you are really intimidated by, these are all riders that you’ve seen riding and you know what their speed is, right?

Statt: Yeah, obviously Moritz Ernecker, I’m not too sure if he was off the pace at the first EMX, but I believe he’ll be top pace and will have a good race.

Nel:  Yeah, Moritz, today in the race with the ADAC, he actually, he was chasing Lukas and then he fell back for some reason, he actually lost a couple, I don’t know if there was a problem or whatever, he lost a few positions. Oh, there’s, let’s get some comments here, I don’t know who was it. “You have my respect, Hayden”, so there’s some comments, you know, I can’t really see who posted those, because maybe they didn’t let their Facebook link properly, but in any case, yeah, I think you have many people’s respect, you know, you’ve done really, really well for yourself.

Now, this season has now proven to you and to everybody that you are on international standards, so what are your objectives, where do you want to go to with your motocross?

Statt: Well, I want to obviously make a pro and make a professional. This year, I’m hoping to be, obviously, world champion, qualify for Loket, hopefully win that, and that’ll be the dream season.

Nel: Yeah, and that’s good, that’s good that you have your aspirations high, you know, so that you aim high with that, and of course, like I said, you know your top opposition is, in the old days now, I don’t want to sound like a guy with a cardigan and a pipe, talking about in my day, but in my day, when we came with the rider from South Africa to Europe, we had no idea, we, you know, we received faxes with the results, but you had no idea how fast or what the rider even looked like or whatever, you know, for all intents, it could have been a dragon with eight arms, you know, we didn’t really know anything about the rider, so I think you have a benefit now that you can study the opposition, you can study lap times, you can, you know, you’ve ridden against most of them, so that’s pretty, pretty cool.

Now, you’ve gotten to a very high level, and who’s helped you, have you got a trainer who’s helped you with your skills and your fitness and your nutrition and everything like that?

Statt: My dad is my bike trainer, I’ve had a few coaching days throughout other riders in Great Britain, but it’s my dad who’s helped us the whole time. Also, training during the week, I got my fitness trainer, Martin Nugent’s performance, and I’ll have a session there and I’ll do two, three cycles a week.

Nel: All right, and you said you had some training with riders, which riders have you trained with, is it well-known riders?

Statt: He’s no longer riding now during an injury. Femur.  Jay Hauge, he was a British level rider, that’s the main one.

Nel: Yeah, and look, England is looking for – my friend Dave Lawson that I spoke to you about with a shirt, you know, he started following motocross in the days of Dave Thorpe and those and they were huge names in British motocross with multiple titles, and now it’s kind of petered out a bit, you know, but we’re still with respect to all the riders that are there, and I know Mark Chamberlain has done very, very well with the British team in the motocross of nations and got them on podiums and so on, but there’s time for a new generation, and in Valkenswaard, it wasn’t only you, it was Cohen Jajielski,  also that won, two riders coming from England to win, and that was actually the story that caught my eye, and I’m actually interviewing Cohen on Monday, so you know, that was an interesting story about that. So, do you get, does the ACU support you, or is it easy to get some support from England at all?

Statt:  Not really, the ACU don’t support me at all, it’s all my dad, working hard and then getting us to the tracks.

Nel: Yeah, it’s always, you know, you can’t have enough gratitude for dad and mom and grandma and uncles and aunts and everybody that, like, for them it was a fun thing in the beginning, and then it starts getting really serious, and you know, and they say, wow, we’ve got something on our hands here, and you said you had an older sister, right, and she rides horses, right? And the horses are more expensive than the bikes, I’m sure.

Statt: Nearly.

Nel: Nearly, yeah, okay, you don’t need to change the pistons, but if something eats hay, it’s, you’re looking for trouble, and, but it’s a funny thing, I told you that it’s so many times where I’ve seen where the boy rides motocross, that the daughter does ponies or horses, it seems like it’s just something that matches, you know, so I don’t know, you know, why parents would have two kids with expensive sports, you know, if one of them could play darts or snooker, that would be great, you know, for the, for the budget, at least, you know.

All right, now, apart from the motocross, what do you enjoy doing? What hobbies do you have? What, what, how do you spend your time?

Statt: Bikes, really, mountain bikes, I have a Sur Ron, I’ll go down the woods with my friends with and build jumps, and obviously cycling, I like to cycle a lot, and that’s pretty much it.

Nel: All right, well, there you go, and your school friends, what do they, do they know what you’re doing, and what do they think about it?

Statt:  Yeah, they know what I do, but they don’t know what to the, what extent I go to ride, and they all think football’s better, so.

Nel: Yeah, I know, yeah, it’s true and they say “Oh, you just sit on the bike, and turn the throttle, there’s nothing …”   I know, I know, I’ve been there. But in any case, such is life.

What music do you listen to? Just for interest’s sake…

Statt:  I like a bit of a few English rappers. Dave, (indistinct) and UK drill rap.

Nel: What sponsors have you got that, have helped you out along the way?

Statt: Manchester Motorcycles, obviously he helps with my bikes and also Barry McNichol, um, Algas, that’s Barry McNichol, uh, Robert Dove, he also helps, Rapid Military, Armor vision, for others, there’s so many, RFX as well, I couldn’t do it without them.