When the news broke at the Dutch GP that Ben Townley had announced his retirement, I had mixed emotions.
On one hand it was disappointing that we won’t get to see Ben race again but on the other it was almost a relief that he hopefully won’t be suffering anymore injuries.
Ben seems to be one of the most unlucky riders in recent years. Every single time he came back from injury he got injured again. The most surprising thing about it is that Ben always rode with good technique, seemingly within his limits and always stood up as much as possible. But clearly something was going wrong somewhere, even it was just bad luck.
His last decent full year was in 2010, and that was after coming back from injury. In 2011 in the GPs he again got injured in pre –season and once fit seemed to struggle mentally with adapting back to the world championship and left half way through the season.
He came back in 2012 and had a ride in the US nationals lined up when he dislocated his hip. That seemed to be the last chance for BT to race on a big stage again. Still, despite that set back he came back this season only to get injured yet again.
With age not on his side and a young family to support Ben has probably made a wise decision to finally rest his battered body and enjoy a more relaxed life.
Ben Townley first came to prominence in 2002 on the Vangani KTM when he won his first ever GP. The next season Townley was expected to challenge for the title but got injured. However he had some serious speed when he was fit.
When 2004 came around KTM brought out their 250 four stroke and Townely would win the MX2 world title on the factory machine.It was an impressive year for Ben and he won the title at Ballykelly in typically strong fashion after one last battle with his teammate Marc De Reuver.
Never short on confidence BT moved to the MX1 class in 2005 with the 450KTM. Townely was fast all season and blitzed to a memorable double win in France beating the likes of Everts, Pichon and Smets.
It was a stacked year at the top of the class and Townely would finish a fine third in the series competing with some of the MXGP greats all season.He was also mastering the art of the scrub and I will never forget the ridiculous scrubs he did in practice at the Irish GP at Desertmartin over the finish line.
He also came oh-so close to beat Ricky Carmichael at the motocross des nations in the final moto of his year in France.
Those two years were Ben Townley at his best and it was the only two consecutive seasons that he would remain injury free in his career.
Ben always had aspirations of racing in the USA and he finally got his wish when he signed with Pro Circuit in 2006.
Unfortunately injury struck again and BT missed most of the year finally getting some races in at the end of the outdoor season.
In 2007 Townely had another mega season when he won the east coast supercross title and then went toe to toe with Ryan Villopoto all season and only narrowly losing the title after a couple of bad starts and a first turn pile up at Steel City.
BT actually won mote motos that year than RV and that season will go down as one of the best ever title fights in the USA.
Unfortunately Ben’s long string of injuries began at the motocross of the nations that season when he badly injured his shoulder after crashing in practice off one of the downhills.
There were a few brief but fulfilling moments of glory in 2010 when Ben won a moto of the US GP and battled for the wins in the US Nationals to show he still had the stuff to run with anyone. He also made the podium at the MEC in 20011 but unfortunately he could never recapture the form that he showed in those three banner years of 2004, 2005 and 2007.
Despite his recent string of injuries Ben Townley can be immensely proud of his career. He left New Zealand as a fifteen year old talented motocross kid and fought through the hardships of adapting to Europe and the world championship as a teenager to come through and become a World Championship.
He raced with and beat some of the best ever in the GPs and also in the AMA where he became the first New Zealander to win a supercross title and outdoor national races.
Ben was also smart. He hung about with Stefan Everts when he was in Europe and went straight to Ricky Carmichael’s house to train there when he moved to the USA. Ben learnt from the two best riders ever and that showed just how badly he wanted to win and the dedication he had to be the best.
That desire may have caused some injuries but he also has two titles and some brilliant race wins from all around the world that will remain with him forever.
Enjoy your retirement Ben and thanks for the memories.
Article by Jonathan McCready