Motocross can be a cruel sport. Just ask Martin Barr.
All set to go for a British title, Barr had a small crash in the second moto of the series and managed to break his thumb.
It seemed Barr’s season was already over, at least as far as a championship challenge goes. Despite Canada Heights being cancelled it was presumed Barr would miss Lyng as well, after all, it was only two weeks since he had an operation to put a screw in his thumb.
But to the shock of many, Barr decided compete and despite being in intense pain he managed to grab some hard earned points.
Barr might have a silky smooth style but sometimes that smooth style belies the toughness and burning desire he has deep inside to be the best.
Results don’t always show what goes on behind the scenes.
Injuries are the untold story of the sport and we feel it is time the athletes got more exposure in enduring the ugly side of motocross as they strive to fulfil their dreams, achieve championship glory and put on a show for the fans.
MX Vice spoke to Barr about the crash, the recovery and deciding to ride at Lyng despite the pain.
So going back to Fatcats you were third in the first race, everything was going to plan and then the crash in race two, what happened?
The first race went pretty good. I didn’t push too much with the conditions and stuff. I maybe was stuck behind Luke Remmer for too long and by the time I got into third they were gone but it was a good steady start.
I was really looking forward to race two but the rain came on and there was snow and everything. The track got really bad but I wasn’t worrying about it. I just wanted to enjoy my racing and I was doing that, I didn’t get such a good start but I was coming through to about fourth or fifth and had just caught Graeme and I just hit his back wheel in a slow corner and just whatever way I put my hand out I bent my thumb back. I picked it up and tried to ride on for two or three laps but when the swelling started kicking in I lost grip on the throttle and I couldn’t hold on so I had to pull out. I knew I had done something straight away.
Did you think you had broken it?
I knew, it was starting to throb and had swollen up straight away so I knew there was something up with it. It was definitely a long journey home. I got the boat at 12 o’clock and got off the boat at half two and went straight to A&E and they said it was quite a bad break. I broke a third of the joint off on one side and a bit on the other side. They told me I needed a screw straight away so that Friday after I went in and got it screwed and just started my recovery.
I got quite a bit of Laser treatment on it. The grip was coming back but it was getting the swelling out of it. Going into Lyng I knew I had to go and give it a go. Thankfully Canada Heights was called off, it gave me an extra week but I always knew Lyng was going to be hard with the way the course is. It’s all single jumps and it gets quite rough there.
Going in I just wanted to get some points and come away with a decent result and not lose too many points in the championship but it was a tough weekend.
Were you able to get on the bike before Lyng?
I went out on the bike on the Wednesday before to make sure I could turn the throttle. I literally just did five minutes because I didn’t want to aggravate it. I soon as I knew I could use the throttle and brake which was the most important thing because I didn’t want to go there and be a hazard to myself and also other riders.
In qualifying at Lyng I was 22nd because I wanted to keep it for the race. In the first race I had a decent enough start and was in eighth but Bradshaw got me at the end to finish ninth. But at the time I was pulling the group in front of me in. It was still kind of smooth then.
In race two a freak thing happened with the bike. A stone came up on the sighting lap and snapped the wire that runs to the start button so we couldn’t get the bike started. We had to bump it and by the time we got the bike started the gate had already dropped. I came from last to sixteenth in that one which wasn’t too bad considering.
In the last one I just hit one of the bumps wrong and hurt my thumb again. The swelling came back straight away and I could twist the throttle. I dropped out of the points and once that happened I pulled in because there was no point in continuing and making matters even worse.
It is frustrating because you want to win and go as hard as you can but at the weekend I wasn’t able to commit to the jumps or carry my corner speed. I was just trying to be really precise and not hit braking bumps. It is motorsport at the end of the day you have to take it on the chin but at the same time I have worked hard all winter and with having no ride and then to have such a silly crash, it is a frustrating time.
I went back to doctors on the Monday after Lyng and they put me back in a cast and told me to rest it as much as I can. Obviously just with where the break is if I did happen to bend a screw or hurt it again there was a good chance they won’t be able to do anything with it because the bone will be totally wrecked. I’m just trying to rest it as much as I can, I’m still getting laser treatment and oxygen chambers and get it ready for round one of the red bull pro nationals in two weeks time at Landrake.
How was your wrist during the race, was it better or worse than you had expected?
Don’t get me wrong there was definitely a lot of pain there, it was just something I had to block out and get on with it for sure it was very sore going up the road on Sunday and Monday as well. It’s motocross we are not football players we can take the pain. You just have to try and crack on with it.
Did the doctors know you were going to race and were you in a cast when you were racing?
No they weren’t really aware, they weren’t too happy with me on Monday once they realised I had cut the cast off. I got it strapped up and got a bit of support on it but it’s what I had to do I had to go and try to get a few points. Hopefully towards the end of the year those points will be useful.
Have you done any more damage to your wrist after the weekend or hurting it in the final moto?
No it hasn’t moved or anything everything’s still pretty good in there, it was just getting the tissue and swelling broken up from when I hurt it in the last race. Lyng was a really hard track and if I can ride there I am confident I can ride Landrake as long as it’s not really wet conditions. But whatever it is I’m just going to have to crack on with it, block everything out and give it my best shot.
What time frame are you looking at until the wrist is full healed and will the screw stay in?
The screw will stay in. They told me they don’t want me riding a bike for another four weeks, ideally it would be five or six weeks like any other break. It was three weeks on Sunday at Lyng from when I broke it and two weeks from I had surgery. So to even be out riding I was really happy with it, a lot of people didn’t think I was even going.
I am definitely a tryer. When I go out I give it my all. A lot of people have put a lot of effort into me with product and bikes and I don’t want to let them down. I had to go out and give it a go and came out with 17 points.
The sport and media in general talks about a rider coming back from injury in six weeks or whatever it is but you never really hear the human story of what it’s like to go through that or come back early and race. What is it like to go through that?
I think the ordinary Joe Bloggs who goes to watch and hears someone has a broken thumb they don’t think much of it and probably think he is ok because he can ride but if they tried to do it themselves they would maybe realise we deserve a bit of gratitude. To be riding motocross at the top level in the country and still be out scoring points – It’s not easy and I’m not just talking about myself I’m talking about other riders who have done it in the past.
I don’t think people take in how much work they (riders) put it and how much pain they are in just to be out there and doing it. I think they are just there to watch the race and don’t really care about injuries. It’s just the way it is. There are probably a lot of people who didn’t realise I was even injured and maybe thought I was off the pace and would soon start slagging you because they don’t know you were injured. There are always a lot of stories in the background that the ordinary Joe Bloggs don’t know about.
Just a week to the Red Bull is your thumb going to be much better by then?
All being well it will be five weeks by then since I broke it. Obviously I am not getting to practice or anything but I am still doing my physical training so I will try and ride a day before I head to Landrake. I want to go there and put 110% in because it’s the first round of the championship.
Aside from the injury everything else is looking good with your program?
Yea my bike is working really good, my dad has been working really hard on it. Planet Advance suspension is great the bike is handling well. Graeme Vigors, Billy and Marty Nutt from Nutt travel – everybody has been working hard and we are getting to the races with a really competitive bike. I just need to get myself back to where I was before the silly crash.
Interview by Jonathan McCready