Josh Gilbert has broken through in Britain this year, following some great results in both the Maxxis British Championship and Michelin MX Nationals. It was this past weekend that Gilbert, a former MXY2 champion, really made a name for himself though, as he romped to a commanding victory at the annual Coupe de l'Avenir event and beat a handful of MXGP stars.
MX Vice: Just recap your season for us quickly and how you thought it all went. What were the highlights and disappointments?
Josh Gilbert: The whole season has been awesome! A massive improvement compared to my first two years in the MX2 class. The MX2 class in the British Championship is tough and to come away with seventh was a good achievement. I also finished second in the MX Nationals and now winning the Coupe de l'Avenir against some top GP riders has topped my year off. I feel that I have been quite consistent this year, which has helped a lot as the field is so stacked. I was on the podium at every round of the MX Nationals and in the British Championship I scored a top fifteen at least in every race.
Was that what you expected to do or did you overachieve? Was there one thing that you wanted to do this year that you did not quite manage?
I feel I've achieved my goals this year! The only thing that I would have liked to have done this year was a few EMX250 rounds, but we just could not afford to do it. Hopefully if everything works out good for next year then I'll be able to do them!
After seeing what you did at the Coupe de l'Avenir, you must be even more disappointed that you did not get to any EMX250 rounds this year? You clearly could have achieved a lot.
Yeah, I am a little. After winning at the weekend, it has given me a lot of confidence and, after a good winter of training, I should be able to carry that momentum into next season.
What about the Coupe de l'Avenir? Just run us through your weekend there and how you felt each race went.
I went there with the goal of a top five really, I mean after looking at the names that were doing it. I came in after free practice and was fastest, but I just thought that they were holding back for the qualifying. Then after qualifying I came in and I was fastest again, so I knew I had the pace. I just needed to put it all together in the race. In the qualifying race I didn't get a very good start and came from quite a way down, but got to fifth. With Liam [Knight] having a fourth and Charlie [Cole] finishing twenty-fourth, it gave us the second gate pick.
In free practice on Sunday I was the quickest again by over one second, which gave me some confidence. In the first race I gated third and made my way up to the lead, but then had a close battle with Jago Geerts and managed to beat him by four tenths of a second! Then in the second race I got the holeshot, put some good laps in and was two seconds a lap quicker. Once I got a reasonable gap I just held it until the chequered flag.
In the last moto I took the holeshot again and was leading with three laps to go when I hit my handlebars and winded myself, so [Karel] Kutsar ended up taking the win and I settled for second. I tried to not think about the overall throughout the race, because when you start to do that you start making mistakes!
When you lined up next to someone like Jago Geerts, were you already mentally beaten a little bit? Did you think you would be able to beat him? He is obviously one of the greatest talents in MXGP.
I suppose I was a little before the weekend, but once I got free practice and qualifying out of the way I definitely had more confidence. Then to go out and beat him fair and square in the opening moto was a big confidence booster for me!
What did you think of the event as a whole? Did you feel more pressure than at a British race?
The event was really good. I'd like to thank Dave Garland for picking me to represent Great Britain; he was such a good team manager! He made it such a good, friendly atmosphere and we just went out and had fun! I didn't really feel too much pressure.
What are your plans for next year? Do you have everything in place?
Yeah, I'm pretty much all sorted for next year. I'm going to ride for Dave [Thorpe] again, which is great for me. They are such a well-organised team and not based too far from me. I'll be doing the British Championship, MX Nationals and Europeans.
In an ideal world, what kind of results do you want next year? Would the ultimate goal be to lock up a full-time ride European ride for the next year?
I think top five in the British next year and push for podiums if I have a good winter of training. I'd also like to go one better at the MX Nationals and take the championship. Ultimately I would like to get to GP level and the only way to get there is to go through the EMX250 class. Pretty much all of the MX2 world riders have come up through the EMX250 class.
I'd like to thank everyone who have helped me out this year, as I wouldn't have achieved this much without them! Thanks to Dave Thorpe's Honda Off-road Centre, 4Power Engines, Honda UK, Amped, RaceFX, Rip ‘n' Roll Goggles, Bell helmets, Seven MX UK, Planet Suspension, Duck Smart, Talon Engineering, Henry Orchard & Sons Ltd, SCB Groundworks, Steve Hoskin Construction, Kernow Strength and Conditioning, Atlantic Reach, Andy Gilbert Plant Hire, Bridgestone Tyres and the mechanics (Ryan, Will and Rob) from Buildbase.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: MPS Images