Patriotic fans have been waiting for James Dunn to breakthrough since his sensational EMX125 performance at Matterley Basin five years ago. Whilst those who he was battling with, like Brian Bogers and Jeremy Seewer, have gone on and made a name for themselves in the FIM Motocross World Championship, Dunn is looking to make his first splash in MXGP with the I-Fly JK Yamaha squad.
MX Vice: I am sure that a few people were surprised to see that you have signed a deal with JK Yamaha, so just talk us through how that went down.
James Dunn: At the end of last year I was talking to a few people and trying to get a GP deal to do MX2. I am young enough to do that. I was just trying to approach teams that were doing the full series and stuff, because that was my goal. I went over to speak to them at the final British round and then they said that I should go over to try the Yamaha. It all came together quite well really; I like the bike and the deal was pretty good. I was quite keen to have a go on a Yamaha anyway and, once I rode it, it felt pretty good. I was happy with it.
Did any other opportunities come up when you were approaching the different teams? Could you have stayed with Hitachi and done a similar deal to this year?
Yeah, I spoke to a few people. I think that the deal with Hitachi and Revo splitting up changed things a little there, but I had a couple of offers to do the British Championship, MX Nationals and what not in the UK. My goal is to do a full season of MX2 [in the FIM Motocross World Championship] while I can though, you know, and this team was the only one to give me the opportunity to do that. When I did ride the bike I was quite impressed with the Yamaha and everything, so it did all come together quite nicely.
I guess it helps knowing how competitive the Yamaha is out of the box. Even if the team struggle, you are starting with a pretty good base.
Even when I rode the standard 2017 Yamaha, I was amazed how good it was. It felt really good just in general. We have been getting the bikes sorted for next year with engine testing, suspension testing and that sort of stuff. I am confident that we can build a competitive 250F to compete in the GPs. Obviously you have to have a supersonic bike to be able to get the starts. I am confident that the team will be able to do that.
Were you so desperate to get into MXGP that you would have taken any contract, no matter what it was, over a British deal? Did you still weigh up your different options?
All of the deals were pretty similar. I think that I would have had similar stuff no matter if I had ridden in the British Championship or MXGP. For me though, I just wanted to be in the world championship while I can. It is my best opportunity to do the best I can. I just wanted to give it a full year and see what I can do, as I know I have not reached my full potential yet.
How old are you now then? Do you still have a couple more shots at racing in MX2 or is this your last chance?
I am still twenty-one at the moment and I am not twenty-two until January, so I would have another two years left in MX2. That is quite handy. This is just a one-year deal though, but obviously there is always the potential for things to change.
If you do have two good years in MX2, I guess you could put yourself on the map and maybe go to MXGP? Without that, you would be stuck a little bit.
That is the goal. I did think about going up to MX1 in the British Championship next year, but when I thought about it more I decided to give these next two years everything I have got. Hopefully, with some good results, I’ll then be able to go onto MXGP and build some momentum. Obviously I have not really had any momentum going the last few years. It is just a case of being in the MXGP circle, you know, trying to race them and move forward.
With getting back into MXGP, is it important for people to look at you as more than just a British rider? You could break out of that and, once you are looked at differently, it would open the door in the future.
Definitely. The British Championship is great, but I had always wanted to race the MXGP series. I have always enjoyed racing those events even in EMX125 or EMX250. That is the goal, to be racing MX2 and MXGP in the future. Obviously I would do British Championship races if I can or any series like that. Maybe I could even go to America in the future? You never know what is going to happen.
Obviously you are coming off an injury that was quite serious too, so what was the deal with all of that?
Things were going really well last year, especially in the British series. I had some good results in a couple of the GPs that I did too. I had a concussion that went on for a lot longer and was much worse than we thought. I had a concussion and the week before that I had quite a bad viral infection, so a combination of the two left me with a lot of fatigue. I could not get over it in time to finish off the season like I would have liked to. With these things, you have to make sure you are healthy before you go and race. I did that. I have regrouped now and am definitely in a place I want to be heading into next year.
Seeing as the concussion was so serious, is there a chance that if you crash again you could make it worse and end your career or is it just in the past now?
At the time that was the case, yeah. I had to be very careful about hitting my head again and stuff. I was advised by professional doctors to take the time off and get it right, rather than rush back in and make it an even bigger problem. Now everything is fine and we are all good to go for next year.
Was it tough for you to get over? You have obviously had a lot of injuries, but maybe nothing quite like this?
Yeah, it is quite a difficult one. When you have a broken bone you just have it in plaster for however long, do your physio and then your good to go. A concussion is one of those things where you have to see how it goes each day and react to what the symptoms are. It was a different experience, trying to recover from that, and it was probably a lot harder too. It was more physiological than just waiting for a bone to heal. It was a tricky one, but I had a good group of people around me to help out.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Image: ConwayMX