In a world of fast but heavily backed young kids with big egos, Shaun Simpson showed everyone that a humble kid with a big dream can still make it in GP motocross. Ten years ago a fifteen year old Shaun Simpson was riding a 125 Honda as fast as it would go to top ten in the Ulster championship. Ten years later Simpson has won his first MX1 GP.
And what a way to win it! Simpson pushed Cairoli, one of the best sand riders ever, to breaking point in moto one. The Italian crashed spectacularly just when he thought he had passed the persistent Scot. But it was Simpson having the determination and will to make sure he got to the inside rut forcing Cairoli to risk it all going wide for the pass that made the mistake happen.
Simpson took a jubilant victory but the pressure wasn’t off because the overall win was there for the taking after Cairoli only finished fourth following bike problems after the crash.
The second moto was heart in the mouth stuff. First off Simpson showed just how confident he was by passing Cairoli straight away to get into the lead -but then he crashed! Simpson remounted in eighth and fought his way to the front of a five rider battle for second, but then he slipped to third and in the dying minutes De Dycker was all over him making it a nerve wrecking ending for the watching British fans.
Coming fourth would have lost Simpson the overall but Shaun dug deep on the roughest track in the world as the rest of us held our collective breath in excited expectation. The Scottish hero thankfully was breathing and responded to the pressure, forcing De Dycker to give up on the last lap. And that was it, Shaun Simpson crossed the line as the winner of the MX1 Dutch GP!
It was an almost surreal moment but it was a brilliant moment. The man who had been let go by TM mid season and had no ride for 2014, had just went and won the last GP of the year!
But Simpson’s story isn’t just about this year. It is about a true blue collar worker who did it the hard way throughout his career and still reached the top. Simpson has spent many years in the shadows of more hyped British riders before he firmly stole the spotlight in Lierop on Sunday.
After showing early promise on that 125 Honda, clad of course in red Wulfsport gear, Simpson would join the Chambers KTM team in 2004.
It was there he started to get to grips with scrubbing and perfecting the art of riding a 125 KTM to the limit despite the change to four strokes in GP racing. Simpson qualified for the Irish GP with a heroic last lap attempt at a difficult double that shouldn’t have been possible on a 125 in the wet sandy track. But he went for it anyway and made it to enable him to compete in main GP race! It was a glimpse into the heart and determination that would ultimately lead him to MX1 GP victory.
But it was a gradual, grafting process to the top. Simpson was then helped out by Roger Magee in the 2005/2006 seasons competing 250f Hondas where he learnt the ropes of GP racing. He wasn’t setting the world on fire but he was gaining experience.
Magee’s team moved to Kawasaki in 2007 and Simpson (still wearing Wulfsport) started to show real promise and began to show he could be a force in the GP scene. He finished 24th in the series with a best results of seventh. But for the third year in a row Simpson suffered broken bones during the GP season.
But it was 2008 that Simpson had the best year of his career. Moving unto KTM but staying with Roger Magee, Simpson vaulted to 4th in the world and was a bona fide contender for podiums and race wins, all on a privateer KTM.
His speed was impressive, impressive enough that Simpson was signed by factory KTM for 2009. This was supposed to be Simpson’s year, but it wasn’t. Marvin Musquin and Gautier Paulin came out of nowhere and headed the championship coming into Valkenswaard. But Simpson hit back, winning his first ever GP moto in the Dutch sand. However disaster struck straight after when Shaun badly broke his leg in a practice session just after the GP. Later that year, with Simpson on the couch, Musquin was signed by KTM and promptly won the world title.
In 2010 Musquin and Simpson were joined at KTM by fifteen year old Jeffrey Herlings. The insanely talented Herlings won the third race of the year and Musquin again won the title. It seemed Simpson was becoming the third wheel. The team had a teenage sensation and the World champ on the team while Simpson was struggling to get his mojo back as well as struggling with health issues. To add to his problems Simpson was also competing against another teenage phenomenon in Ken Roczen who would end up second in the series behind eventual world champ Musquin. The young kids were coming in and taking over.
Despite having another year of eligibility in MX2 Simpson decided to move up a year early to get some extra experience on the 450. He signed with LS Motors Honda for 2010, a team that promised a lot but unfortunately the reality didn’t live up to the expectations. Simpsons struggled with the bike all year, especially off the line, and didn’t get the development he was looking for but still managed 11th in the series.
He joined Steve Dixon’s Yamaha team in 2012 but again it didn’t quite click and again good starts proved to be a struggle. Despite that Simpson again finished 11th in the championship and in such a quality field it was certainly no disgrace.
That led to a ride for factory TM this season but despite some top ten results Shaun was surprisingly let go mid season. Recently his form improved as he gained confidence on the JK Yamaha and at the British GP Shaun had best results of the year with a pair of eighths, but no-one had Simpson down as a potential winner at Lierop!
And that is the beauty of motocross, you just never know what is going to happen and, on Sunday the 8th September 2013, after all the injuries and disappointments, Shaun Simpson’s GP winning dream came true – on a privateer Yamaha!
Throughout all the difficulties Simpson has remained humble and hard working. Shaun was even helping put in his mum’s driveway in the winter months of last off season and it is that up bringing that keeps his feet firmly on the ground.
After winning the first moto a beaming Simpson said: “There’s been a lot of ups and downs but it’s all worthwhile now. I can’t believe it!”
By moto two he couldn’t even find words to describe his emotions: “Absolutely awesome, I can’t describe what I’m feeling now. It is the best GP of my career” Simpson then instantly thanked his family for all their sacrifice as well as his JK Yamaha team for their support. It is that genuineness and humility that meant every team cheered as Simpson took the chequered flag.
They say nice guys finish last and sometimes that lack of ego may even have hurt Simpson’s results but, in Lierop, the nice guy finished first!
Article by Jonathan McCready
Picture by Youthstream