It is an interesting time to be involved in behind-the-scenes discussions in the Grand Prix paddock. There are countless high-profile riders and former winners who are desperate to find a deal, yet all of the seats on established teams are occupied. There are other options, however, like the JWR Racing outfit from Sweden.
JWR have competed in a handful of FIM Motocross World Championship rounds this year, but have their sights set on every European stop next year. The team has given Filip Bengtsson a great platform to rebuild his career, for instance, as he is currently dominating the premier-division in the Swedish series. Could a guy like Valentin Guillod find a home with the relatively-new team? MX Vice founder James Burfield sat down with Johan Westermark, the team manager, to learn more about his operation.
MX Vice: Johan, you have been in the game for quite a while. Can you tell us a little bit about the JWR team?
Johan Westermark: The team is like a couple of years old, but this is the first time in MXGP. We did four this year and hopefully we are going to do more next year. Hopefully we are going to do the whole series, but we will see.
After doing four rounds this year, what do you think will be your biggest obstacle when tackling the full series next year?
Getting everything working and finding a brand that we can work together with. We have 24MX, but it is about having everything to make the package as good as possible to go to every GP and do the European series to.
You are running as a Yamaha team at the moment. How does that work? Is this down to Yamaha Scandinavia?
Yes. Now it is Yamaha Scandinavia, but we are talking to three other brands. We will see what happens in a few weeks or even a few days, I hope.
With Yamaha this year, how is it going with the riders in the Swedish Championship?
In MX1 Filip Bengtsson is leading. We have one more race to go next weekend. We have Nick Kouwenberg too and he was third in the championship, but he had a bad crash last weekend and broke the C4 in his neck. He is not going to be competing anymore.
You are very serious about the MXGP series next year, so will the team be moving to Belgium?
Yeah. Belgium, The Netherlands or near Luxembourg maybe. It depends where we find a good workshop. We need to be in the centre of Europe.
I am guessing then that with those resources, you will be able to look after the riders and give them a place to stay?
Yeah, we are going to have a workshop with an apartment above. The riders can live there.
Having a workshop for the riders to work out of sounds like a really good base to start from.
Yeah, you need to if you are going to be compared to the other riders. You need to practice where the other guys practice. You cannot live in Sweden. It is cold all year, well not all year, and you cannot start riding until April. You need to be down here where all of the riders are. They are in Spain as well, of course, but you need to have a centre in The Netherlands or Belgium.
Are there any riders who you are looking at or talking to currently?
Yeah, we are talking to a couple of Swedish riders. We are still looking. We have three spots for 250F and then at least one for a 450F rider in MXGP.
What about your background? Do you have your own business, as well as the team? Tell us a little about yourself.
I was pretty much born and raised in the paddock. My stepfather was doing the GPs in the seventies with some pretty good results. He was a factory rider for Husqvarna. My mum met him when I was three years old, then we lived around the world for six months with Roger DeCoster and Heikki Mikola. That is my background and where I come from.
I do not know exactly why I do this, but there is just something in my heart that tells me to do it. I tried to quit a couple of times, because I have a team in Sweden, but I always come back. I just keep coming back every time. It is the whole picture. I am not riding anymore. I was never good. I was a father when I was seventeen, so I did not get a chance to ride as much as I wanted to. I had to support the kids, but I still come back and want to be a part of this.
What about back at home in Sweden? What keeps you busy when you are not running the JWR team?
I have a recycling business in Stockholm. We recycle concrete, asphalt and dirt. That is what I do for a living. I have two bikes on the upper floor of my house, two factory bikes, so my wife is not so happy.
It must be an exciting prospect for you that there are so many great riders, like Max Anstie and Valentin Guillod, who do not have a deal for next year. What would happen if those guys came knocking on your door? Are those conversations that you would like to have?
Yeah, for sure, that is like a dream. They are really good riders and this opportunity may never come up again. There are so many good riders and so little good teams. I hope that we can get a good set-up to help riders. We are like a family team and I hope that we can develop a good rider too, who can grow in here. I think that if the rider feels good and comfortable with the team, then it is a personal relationship and helps them do good on the track.
You like the idea of providing a stepping stone for the young kids who can come through, learn their craft and show what they can do.
Yeah and maybe get to a factory team somehow. It would be really good if we can take a guy and help him go further. I would want him to stay in the team, of course, but you have the HRC team and it is hard to match up to them. I would be glad to see one of my riders be that good.
Interview: James Burfield | Lead Image: Loic Lassence