The Thor British Youth Nationals is the premier junior motocross championship in the UK. We took some time out to catch-up with Gareth Hockey, Director of RHL Activities, to find out just what the vision is behind RHL’s involvement in the series, and what the future holds!
What is the overall vision and goal of the Thor British Youth Nationals?
“The goal of the BYN is to educate young riders and turn them into the professionals of the future. We want to give them the best opportunity we can to achieve what they want riding motorcycles and in offroad sport in general.”
Creating the calendar and choosing the tracks is no easy task; what is the thinking behind the venues of the BYN?
“The choice of tracks we use is based around the BYN being a British Championship. Some people question why we go to Desertmartin, which we see as one of the best tracks in Europe, but the reason is simple; the riders need to experience tracks of that level. If you ride and race in Belgium or Holland you are on Grand Prix level tracks, and that’s what we also try to integrate into the calendar – variation in terrain and difficulty for the rider education element. Each round is a British championship event, not a club event, and we have to really consider this.”
What is the biggest challenge for youth riders in the UK?
“The biggest challenge facing riders in the UK is that in the last 20 years many riders have had no other skills other than racing a bike. It’s important to understand that riding the bike is only part of being successful; being a people person, working with the sponsors, promoting yourself as a product is really important. The likes of Shaun Simpson, Dave Thorpe and Paul Malin are and were all very good at this throughout their careers. When we took over the British Youth Nationals five years ago it was clear that the overall attitude was wrong in relation to this, and it’s a challenge to change the mentality.”
We know that previous schoolboy racers have gone on to have a lot of success in the adult ranks. What do you feel is the current status of riders coming from the Thor British Youth Nationals now?
“What’s exciting is that we’re five years into our 10 or 15 year project - if we look right back to the beginning when we took over there’s a couple of names that started in our championship and are now doing reasonably okay in the adult British Championship. Next year with the likes of Dylan Woodcock, Callum Green, Lewis Hall we can expect to see more, but if we work from this point on hopefully we will see the platform that’s been built – we know the British Youth National riders are more professional year on year than some of the current adult ‘pro’ riders. This is from the open class right down to the 65cc championship, and I’m confident for the future.”
What are the benefits of racing with the BYN?
“The biggest benefit for the rider and their family is that it’s very structured. From a rule point of view it’s very black and white, so if they then go onto an FIM event they already have a good understanding of the expectation and regulations. The RHL team is very passionate in what we want to create for riders – sure from my side that stems from being a former-rider, sponsor of Grand Prix riders, and former motorcycle dealer. I’m using the experience and contacts I’ve got to ensure we achieve the best we can, and the team in general is very motivated too. Also we work closely with the ACU, and the BYN is the only championship that gives riders eligibility to race in FIM events; it’s certainly the best grounding and pathway to give experience to the riders to do so.”
What’s involved in the organisation of a BYN event?
“From an RHL point of view we definitely go above and beyond. We’ve previously run Grand Prix events, and we put the same mentality and structures in place for BYN, plus we’re passionate about making our events as safe, fun and correct from a legislation point of view as possible. It frustrates me when we see how other organisers operate, as we all should have a standard to adhere to. RHL is constantly working, reviewing and developing what we’re doing- it’s a big team effort.”
How do you see the importance of industry sponsorship and support?
“We know youth racing is difficult to find sponsorship for. We felt when we took it over the BYN there was little interest due to the lack of passion, and I think at last we have strong engagement from the likes of Madison with Thor, KTM, Husqvarna, Dunlop and so on, who all have the same ethos and they know the young riders are the customers of the future. We also want to bring people from outside of the sport into our world, and we are always looking at those possibilities.”
How is the BYN beneficial to those who may not be a championship contender?
“One thing we tend to forget, if you look at the likes of Adam Sterry, Shaun Simpson and Tommy Searle, you’ll always see a dad, a granddad, members of the family with them at the races and that’s true at all levels. It’s family-orientated, which is one of the sport’s best assets. For example in youth rugby you don’t see the family going along - the kid just gets dropped off and collected, but in our sport the family has to be involved. It’s a great education for a child, it brings families together, and it’s also good for personal development. It’s good for youngsters to have goals to work towards even if it’s to be in the top 10, top 20, top 30, and even if a rider isn’t winning he may still find future career opportunities in the sport such as becoming a mechanic, a journalist or so on, there’s a lot of things that riding can open the doors to.”
What is it going to take to find the next British world champion?
“I think we’ve already found some. If we give the BYN another three to five years we’ve got several European Champions and at the end of that cycle there’s at least three riders capable of making it to being a World Championship contender – obviously I’m not going to name names, but it’s very exciting.”