Despite a horror past 12 months, New Zealand motocross great Ben Townley is in a positive mood.
Taupo-born Townley — who won the MX2 FIM Motocross World Championship in 2004, finishing third in the FIM MX1 class on debut in 2005 and then won the AMA East Coast Lites Supercross Championship in 2007 — remains sidelined with injury but he’s already making plans for a full comeback to top level racing, as early as October.
“At this stage, I’m just taking a positive attitude to my recovery,” he said.
“there are still a lot of things that have to happen for me first. I need to be sure that I am strong enough to race … that my shoulder is up to it. I need to sort out a bike to ride because I’m really not committed to any brand at the moment.”
He was on the Honda factory squad in the United States but, with budget cut-backs and his not being able to successfully race for the team in over a year, he does not expect to slip straight back into a top team ride if and when he does eventually return to America.
“I have only been on a start gate twice since I crashed at the Motocross of Nations at Budd’s Creek (in Maryland, USA) in September 2007,” he said.
“I need to build my confidence again and racing in New Zealand this summer should help with that.”
Townley is currently recuperating at his Mount Maunganui home after surgery on his right shoulder in April but he hopes to be back racing again at the first two rounds of the New Zealand Motocross Championships in October and then the big annual international motocross at Taupo on Labour Weekend.
Then he plans to go head-to-head with some of the best from America and Australia when a round of the Australasian Super X hits Hamilton in November.
That’s when Townley will take on Australia’s dual world supercross champion, Chad Reed, at New Zealand’s first Super X event, at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium, on Saturday, November 21.
Australian-born Reed is the most successful supercross rider to come out of Australasia and has not raced in New Zealand since heading to Europe in 2001 and then to race professionally in the United States the year after that. He’s now one of the most highly-regarded riders on the planet.
In a similar mould, Townley is one of New Zealand’s most successful supercross and motocross exports, with 12 national titles under his belt before he headed off to conquer both Europe and America.
His task now is to climb back up the ladder.
“My grand plan is to get back racing in America. It’s just there are a few guys now higher up the pecking order to get factory rides now than me. When I signed with the Honda factory, that was great but then nothing went right for me.
“The best decision I’ve made lately was coming home to recover. I’ll be fresh and fit when I hit the United States again.”
In the meantime, Townley has been helping coach the New Zealand squad for next month’s world junior championships at Taupo.
“There are some riders in the team who I think are pretty fast and have quite a bit of potential. I enjoy giving the squad a hand,” Townley said.
“Hamish Dobbyn, Matt Hunt and Cameron Dillon, especially, have definitely picked up the pace. They’ll be at the pointy end of the field when the world championships begin.
“I think we can have four or five riders qualify but, maybe for the rest of the Kiwis, it will be a real eye-opener to just how fast these international riders are.”
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com