World Champion Ben Townley is set to face off with the GOAT, Ricky Carmichael, on home soil at the S-X Open on November 16 inside Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium. Hear what he has to say on a range of topics, and how he intends on taking down RC.
Q – You’ll be going head to head with Ricky at the S-X Open, how’re you feeling about that?
Having Ricky in New Zealand to go head to head with and be a part of the showdown is going to be awesome, he was obviously a very fierce competitor, and I only got one opportunity when I was a pro to go head to head with him once, and I was the loser on that day. So I need to even the scores come November 16th.
Q – For the event too we’ll see the likes of Jason Anderson, RC, Wilson and Savatgy head over, how important is having those guys in New Zealand?
Yeah, you know in 2018, the Kiwi’s were just absolutely hyped up and just psyched about the standard of the rider line up and international stars, and then this year’s just on a whole other level adding in the likes of Ricky, Anderson, Savatgy and Chad (Reed) coming back as well – you know, he has a long history with New Zealand and for him to race here – a lot of Kiwi’s feel like he’s one of ours. So I think in terms of line up, you can’t ask for much more than what is being brought to the table for the second year running. Obviously last year gave everyone an insight into what a world-class standard of racing and circuits look like, and it was received tremendously so we’re all pretty excited for 2019.
Q – When it comes to yourself and Ricky, I think I remember hearing that you were a part of that program at the GOAT Farm and with Aldon (Baker), what were those days like and what do you recall from that period?
I moved to the United States and straight to Florida – those were in the early days of Aldon starting to form a winning run with many riders and I decided that I wanted to get in on a bit of that action. Our routine was that we’d get up each day and I’d pull him along on the bicycle – basically he’d just get in my split stream because I was so fast, then we’d go to the tracks and the same thing would happen there – I was like the rabbit and he’d try and catch me which never seemed to happen, and then in the gym I’d spot him with all his weights because he was trying to keep up (laughs). Nah, obviously Aldon started that trend of really taking riders from being good, to helping them become great and I got on board with that for a couple of years and getting an insight in what RC did and he was a big part of my program for sure, and the way that I was able to elevate my entire program.
I guess I’d come from Europe, where I thought that I’d been putting in a lot of work, and with Aldon I was able to add the cream on top of that so to speak when I went to RC’s place and worked with him and his mum. Those were great years of my career, ’07, and arguably was the fastest that I’d ever be in my entire career at that time.
Image: Townley’s ’07 endeavours saw him capture the 2007 AMA East Coast Championship.
Q – When you look back to that ’07 season, particularly supercross, that East Coast Championship was pretty chaotic. It was one of the most entertaining seasons of all time, because you had so many people who were winning races, then they’d DNF and it was just so up and down. When you look back to that season, what runs through your mind?
Yeah, it was an interesting one. For me, I had a relatively consistent series; I won a few races and was on the podium a lot of the time, apart from the first one, which was a real bogey for me in terms of having my engine expire whilst running second.
Q – We always talk about how in those 250 championships you cannot afford one bad race because they’re so short, yet you DNF’d the first round!
I know (laughs), I know. Dungey was in his rookie season – I was a rookie to be fair too in supercross, and there were a whole heap of other guys who were fairly established and just couldn’t put the entire package together. Once I had that DNF, I threw all caution to the wind you know because there was no other way to get back into that championship hunt other than to win as much as I could and at the very least, be on the podium, and that’s what I was able to do. I was really able to light that fire under me, and nine times out of 10 when that fire is lit under me, it works out pretty good.
Q – Moving into more of a coaching mind frame, what do you think is the most important element for a rider, or is there plenty to it?
From my side, I take a pretty holistic view of it. You know there are many different things to consider, and various different rider levels too. If you’re in that top echelon of racers and fighting for a World Championship, you certainly have to have all of your ducks in a row and two of the biggest ones I believe are the level of your anaerobic capacity, so you have to be extremely fit in the sense that you can handle a high heart rate load, but at the same time you’ve also got to be able to back it up with an incredible standard of technique, because if you don’t, those are the small percentages that in this day and age, you need. Everyone’s looking for any small area that they can to improve.
For a lower or more entry level of supercross rider, technique is super important because technique is what gives you the comfort and confidence to be able to start improving your riding and allowing yourself to literally take another gear. I really emphasize for riders to take that step into supercross, especially over here and really focus on technique because if you put yourself in a good position, it allows you to then get that comfort and confidence to gain speed. So that’s definitely a major philosophy of how I approach my coaching.
Q – Lastly, finishing with you taking on Ricky, how excited are you to be doing that in New Zealand?
Really we were only able to line up together in that one event, in my entire career, and I never really got the chance to have a proper crack at RC when he was in his prime. So I think it’s going to be a really special moment – we’re in different stages of our life – but we’re still really competitive people, and I sure as hell don’t want to lose to the guy. So I’ll be pretty keen to get out there, and even the score on home soil.