It’s great to see Gordon Crockard back on the circuit racing the rest of the year for the Maxxis Henderson LPE Kawasaki team. The ‘Crockstar’ has indeed been a star down the years. A real character and sublime talent that has given our sport some great memories as well as himself. Over in Northern Ireland he’s even more influential and inspirational. So much so that MX Vice’s new eyes and ears on all things MX in N.I – Jonathan McCready – sent us over this interview he done with GC sometime back to give us more insight into Gordy’s illustrious career. Enjoy.
Gordon Crockard is Northern Ireland’s most successful motocross rider ever, and one of Britain’s best in his era. Battling Bolley, Pichon, Everts, Smets and Reed to name a few, Crockard has raced some of the best motocross riders ever and beaten them on his day, and not too many can say that!
With his down to earth, friendly persona you would never guess he has achieved three British Motocross titles, four GP wins and been third in the World (narrowly losing second place to Chad Reed by two points in 2002).
Things were going well for Gordon until injuries took their tool, and quite possibly prevented him from challenging for the world title more often. The most serious injury for Crockard was in March 2009, when Gordon cheated death in a first corner crash at Hawstone Park. Some months of recovery and a missing spleen later, Crockard won the 2009 British Supercross title.
Today, Crockard is still able to put the cat amongst the pigeons when everything clicks. He recently beat the top local Irish motocross riders at Bells Hill, including Wayne Garrett while riding a 1991 500 two stroke Honda when they were on their 2012 450 machinery! GC posted top 10 results on his first ride on the LPE Kawasaki team just one week ago in the British Championship and he also got the chance to race in Australia at their MX nationals earlier in the year and again went top ten on a Yamaha he had never ridden before the day of the race!
However, in this interview we look back at Gordon’s illustrious career, and discuss the highlights as well as what it is like to have been one of the very best in world.
What was it like riding in the 2000 British Championship round at Desertmartin, a lot of people came to that event to see you, were you able to enjoy it?
I did yes, it was out of this world. The atmosphere, it was the first British championship there had ever been and also with me leading it. I was riding on a high from my GP form at the time I was also getting a lot of coverage on Eurosport. People within the sport were up to speed with my form and it was a tight championship as well with [Paul] Cooper.
I had spent most of that year in England, and on the continent as well doing GPs, so I hadn’t got caught up in the pre event excitement. Paul Maguire spoke to me on the phone and says ‘are you ready for this?’ and I’m like ‘yeah, got the kit bag, goggles, everything’s alright.’ He said ‘ no, no are you ready for this!?’ I was like, ‘what’s the big deal? It’s a British championship.’ He said ‘no, there is a lot of people chatting about this!’ I basically dismissed what he was trying to tell me, I knew he was saying make sure you are ready, but I thought it was just going to be a regular British Championship.
When I got there I was like… ‘Oh right, this is a big deal!’ But it was dead funny, I laughed my head off at the way things went. The best banner I saw was an Ulster flag for God and for Crockard. It most certainly was a big deal to me, I was well prepared for it in terms of racing at the top end of the GP stuff and it got you to deal with pressure. I suppose just being able to focus, and the main thing driving me was just I wanted to be British Champion, and nothing at all was going to get in my way that year.
I was just so, so determined. I had overcome a lot to get to that point. I had overcome a knee infection and ended up in hospital and got out of hospital on the Sunday morning, went and raced at Hawkstone that day and went back into hospital that night. My knee was super swollen and that I was able to win races that day – there was just a drive to win and nothing was going to get in the way and block the road.
The fact that all those fans were there and there was a fair bit of focus on myself, I kind of just embraced it and enjoyed it. I wasn’t sitting there bricking myself, I said look this is the way it is, you can either be a nervous freak and sit there and worry or you can just get on with it and enjoy it. It comes down to the people around you and how they respond, if I had people around nervous and looking uneasy I think it would have put doubt in my mind. If you see they are relaxed, they must think I’m going to win the race so what am I worried about. I have never really known any other way, I have had to deal with some nervous situations before and you can’t change the way you feel as much as you try. But I suppose it is how you look at it and the frame of mind you have.
Being at the level you were at in GP’s, how does it feel to be at the same level/position as riders you have looked up to?
You actually under value it, like Herring was my upmost hero, Thorpe, Ricky Johnson, there were so many guys that I thought, flip sake they are just immense. I used to study the races on TV and magazines and look at those races with such high regard and just think they are the men.
To go and win a Grand Prix yourself it just doesn’t feel like you think it would. You make an excuses, like Herring wasn’t in the race, Donny Schmit wasn’t riding and Puzar was out, Thorpe wasn’t riding. It is not like the GPs they used to race. Bolley and Pichon…they just went slow – that’s the way you look at it and you don’t respect it the same way.
But I suppose you have those guys on a pedestal, and you always say I want to be like them, but you are never going to say – ‘I’m one of the dudes now.’ You are resting on your laurels then and the minute you think that you will go backwards. So for me it is still the same, I still look at old GP tapes and think, that’s brilliant, and you watch a tape you are in and think hmmm… You just don’t value it the same.
Younger riders have probably put you on a similar pedestal …
It’s funny because it was Ivy Hill 1996, and at the time Herring was British Champion. Now I remember hearing that they were coming to that event. I just thought about it every day – Rob Herring, I’m going to race Rob Herring, Rob Herring! And I beat him that day, and I just couldn’t believe I had won that race against those guys. To me that is a major major deal, like a career turning point, you go ‘holy smokes, I just beat Rob Herring, what else can I do?’
It gives you so much confidence and drive to go on. Now I’m at the stage of my career where say Rob Herring was on that day, and he is like ‘ you want me to come over to Ireland and race? – you are going to pay me some money? Ok no problem’ So Herring will come over and if some little ginger prick on a Yamaha beats him– is he really going to be that worried? Of course he doesn’t want to get beat but, it is not as important to him to win as it is to me.
And I suppose that is circumstances I have been in, because you go up and you win. Like in 1995 I wanted to be Irish Champion, in 2011 I don’t care if I am Irish Champion or not. So I will be in them races and I will be up against some of the young guys, say Jason Garrett, and he really wants to be Irish Champion, he is taking big risks, push, push, push. Well, I will surrender and say – you can have it kiddo. That’s the sort of thing that happens a lot and it is just people at different levels of their careers.
I’m not saying Herring rolled over to let me win at Ivy Hill, but I would have done absolutely anything to win that race. I would have rode beyond what I have ever rode before, Herring will ride to his limit and he won’t go any harder. I always enjoyed racing against Rob and I learnt a lot from him. Herring was just brilliant.
It is the old argument, talent and desire – what it is the most important? You need both that is the bottom line.
The amount of talent lying derelict about the country is frightening. Look at Herring, he had so much talent it was so easy for him to ride the bike. You don’t appreciate what they have got, guys like Ron Lechien, they throw it away because they don’t care for it. It is having that combination. Herring was phenomenal but he just didn’t have that killer desire.
Who is your most respected rival?
I thought Smets was brilliant, I really liked him. Everts could ride a bike, he was the best, but saying that I didn’t warm to him. I spent a bit of time with him over the years, and he had some personality issues let’s say, and I’m not someone to judge anybody but just at times I didn’t like his attitude. He did a few things that painted him in a really bad light, and that kind of just stuck with me. I just didn’t really like the way he acted about a few things.
But Smets, he was the real deal. He was the sort of guy you could bang bars with and come in and have a beer and laugh about it after. He told you straight, he was my teammate in 2002, and he is a machine in terms of how much energy he has. It is endless and he was older than me, he just had so much energy, he was really good.
What was your best moment in your career or you best race?
The outstanding moment would be going to Talavera in 2000. The previous two years I had gone there, I hadn’t qualified and went there wanting to qualify and I actually came away leading the World Championship. The actual race was dead boring, I got the holeshot and pulled away and won, it was like I was practicing honestly. I used the same goggles in the second race as I used in the first race
I had a really good actual race at Roggenburg, Switzerland in 2002. I was fighting to try and not let Pichon win the championship and at the same time not letting Chad Reed coming on strong. I got taken out in the first corner, and I was last and I made it back up to second. Federici won the race, Reed was lying in second with half a lap to go and I managed to pass him on the last lap. But it was basically just the charge for the back to come right up through. To me in terms of an actual race, although I said Talevera stands out in my mind and the experience of that happening was mind blowing, but to actually to go down and say right boys I’m coming and to pass Reed on the last half a lap to get second, that was brilliant.
Obviously Zolder as well at the MXDN in 2003, to be up there with the best of them and get fourth behind Carmichael, Everts and Smets that was awesome as well.
Carmichael in that race, he passed me on the first lap, and I don’t know to this day how he was able to see where he was going! At the Des Nations because it is the end of the year, the sun is dead low. It was held at Zolder , where you came out round this rutty corner and into a double, and the take off was really steep, where you had to gas it really hard, so there was a hump, a hole and all these ruts and you couldn’t see, the sun was shining straight into your eyes. It was the first lap, there was bikes everywhere and riders struggling with the sun and he jumped it! He couldn’t see where he was going, it was a pure guess, total guess. I thought if you ride like that all the time is it any wonder you are always nearly crashing! I never really saw the guy, he was faster than me coming through the pack.
He is just a worker, he just has some sort of sick drive! He had some fierce drive to be the best and I respect him for that. Graeme Irwin is cut from a similar cloth, riding a bike is an expression of someone’s personality and is he trying so hard, and if he is careful and doesn’t smash himself stupid he will get there. There is no reason why he can’t. He has got decent bikes and opportunities laid out for him. It will come down to practice and his frame of mind and training.