“My first World Championship title in 1992 was the greatest moment of my career. I had finally proven to myself and everyone else that I could be a World Champion. Until then, I was an unproven entity. I had only won in South Africa. When I finally won in Europe, it was huge for me. I realized that I could actually beat the best on the Grand Prix circuit. Once I did it the first time, I figured out how to do it again and again. “I don’t think anybody can understand how difficult it is to live on a different continent, far away from home, and win. It’s much easier to win in your own country because you’re familiar with everything. Going to Europe was a huge culture shock. The first few years on the GP circuit, I was very homesick. For me to win, I had to be so mentally strong. It didn’t come right away.
“I FELT LIKE THE FIRST GUY TO CLIMB MT. EVEREST! I PAVED THE WAY FOR EVERYONE IN MY COUNTRY AND PROVED THAT SOUTH AFRICANS COULD WIN ON THE BIGGEST STAGE.”
“When I first got to Europe, I was as fast as 20 other guys. I realized that I would have to improve on certain areas of my riding if I really wanted to be successful. At that time, I had to deal with Dave Strijbos, John Van Den Berk, Pedro Tragter and Andrea Bartolini. “In 1993, I made the transition from the 125 to the 250, and I won the title. That was absolutely the best year of my career. I dominated! All the naysayers who said I wouldn’t win the 250 class ate their words. Everything clicked for me that year. The 1993 Honda CR250 was by far the best bike that I ever raced. It was the same bike that Jeremy McGrath loved.
“Being the first South African to win a World title was huge. I felt like the first guy to climb Mt. Everest! I paved the way for everyone in my country and proved that South Africans could win on the biggest stage. Winning the title was a defining moment in my career since no one even from the continent of Africa had won a title. “In hindsight, I have no regrets about my career. Maybe if I could do it all again I would race a season or two of only outdoors when I came to the U.S. Instead, I jumped right into Supercross, which was so different from what I was used to. I spent the first two and a half years of my racing career in the U.S. injured. I know for a fact that I could have won the outdoor title several more times had I not been injured from Supercross. “I’m not naturally gifted at Supercross. A guy like Jeremy McGrath was always three steps ahead in Supercross, and I was always two steps behind. Doing well in Supercross comes down to practice, but when I came to the U.S., Suzuki didn’t even have a practice track. I had to resort to riding in the muddy hills of Southern California to prepare for Supercross. It was a joke. “Winning the 250 outdoor title in 1999 was huge in the sense that it redeemed me. I had won three World Championships in a row in Europe, and I had everything at my fingertips. Everyone said that I was a sensation, but then I came to the U.S. and didn’t do anything for two and a half years. I had never fought so hard in my life for anything. I really would have a lot of regret if I never won the 250 National title, because I would have felt that I was a failure. I stuck it out, though, and it was worth it.”