Ben Townley will not be starting at the first 450 motocross GP of the season in Bulgaria this weekend because of pre-season injuries he sustained. Here are his thoughts on the eve of the Grand Prix opener.
Ben, how do you feel at the moment?
Ben: Good and bad, because I can’t race at the moment and that’s tough. But it’s nice to be back with the team, I’m involved in a strong team with a good group of people. I spend two weekends with the team in Hawkstone Park and a French championship round, they are working really well and the atmosphere is good in the team. It’s definitively a team who has the potential for winning, and being with them during two races was good for all of us.
You came back in Europe three weeks ago, what did you do since you’re back?
My first plan was to come later, but after a discussion with the team I jumped in a plane and came earlier to meet the people in Hawkstone. I was nervous as I didn’t know any members of the team except Harry Nolte and didn’t really know what to expect! It was good to be there and talk with them, good for my mental to be in a racing atmosphere. I spent a few days in England, then went to the team in Belgium and finally in Marseille. Now I’m back in Belgium to train, and yesterday was my first day on the bike.
How do you feel?
Better every day. I never stopped improving my shape since my injury, but it was long; it’s the first time in my career, which started 20 years ago, that I had a head injury. I don’t remember anything about my crash. My dad was there and told me that it was a small crash, but I broke my jaw and that was a problem. I visited two specialists in New Zealand and another in Marseille ten days ago, who are all some of the best in the world; it was important for me to talk with them. Before that I was confused with the situation, as I visited several doctors and they all had a different opinion! Now I’ve learned so much about head injuries I think that riders are crazy to go back so fast on a bike after head injuries. When you break a bone you know that it will take you six or eight weeks, but head is much more complicated. Coming back to your question, I feel that I’m ready to go back on a bike, but it’s too early to race. I’m so thankful to the team as they never put any pressure on me, everyone has been understanding the situation and that means a lot for me, they took me some pressure off. I’ve been working physically since seven weeks now, and I improved all the time, so I’m happy. It’s difficult to say when I will be back racing; it can be in two weeks, four weeks or more. My goal was to be there to win the title, now of course that’s over and I will be back when I will feel comfortable. In the past I came back too early after an injury, I will not do the same mistake; I know that my speed will not be a problem, but I need some foundation before coming back. For sure I want to win some races before the end of the season!
What about your GP rivals, that you beat them twice last year in the USA?
I don’t really worry about the other people, just the top guys like Desalle and Cairoli. They will be up front all the time. It was nice to beat them last year in Budds Creek and then Lakewood, those were the only races that I won last year! I was winning in front of people from America and Europe and that was special to me; I think that the last time I won a race was Glen Helen in 2007.
Both Desalle and Cairoli will have factory bikes, not you?
It will not be a problem. In the MX2 it’s different, but in the MX1 class you can get sometimes lost and confused with so many parts to test. A big part of the decision I made to come back in Europe is to be on a Kawasaki; the stock bike is so good that you’ve a very good foundation, and the Kawasaki suits me very well. Then I know what Mitch Payton and Harry Nolte can do and I’m very confident. It is important to have people around you that know how to set up the parts and the bike, and with Jeremy Fontaine and Yann Lozano alongside Harry we have a strong technical team. I’m happy about my choice, I know that I made the right decision by joining Kawasaki Team CLS and Pro Circuit, and I will be back racing soon!