Winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win.
That could well be the catch-phrase for newly-crowned national 125cc and under-21 years motocross champion Ethan Martens.
When Waitakere’s Martens was demolishing the 125cc class at this year’s New Zealand Motocross Championships, few would have suspected just how close this teenager had come to giving up on the sport altogether.
The 19-year-old Martens, who finished runner-up to Yamaha Damien King in the 125cc class in 2009, was virtually untouchable this time around.
True, he didn’t have to cope with King, his own MXDK Rockstar Yamaha team-mate who had opted instead to race in the MX2 class this season, but the talented riders lined up against Martens this time around was just as impressive as before, perhaps even more so.
Nonetheless, so dominant was Martens that he took his Yamaha YZ125 past the chequered flag first in nine out of 12 races in the four-round series that wrapped up in Taranaki on Sunday.
But it all might never have happened if it hadn’t been for the faith shown in him by MXDK Rockstar Yamaha team boss Darryll King, the elder brother of Damien, and also a championship winner at the weekend when he clinched the MX2 class title.
Darryll King saw potential in Martens and took him under his wing, despite the fact that question marks hung over the head of the recently-injured young rider.
King had seen potential in Martens as much as two years earlier, when Martens was racing junior motocross events and also when he attended King’s training sessions to prepare the New Zealand squad for the Junior Motocross World Championships event at Taupo in 2009.
Darryll King had seen the fire in Martens’ eyes too when he was chasing Damien King during the 125cc nationals in 2009 (no nationals were staged in 2010).
“Yes, Darryll showed faith in me and threw a bike in my direction,” said Martens. “I picked it up just five days before the Taupo Motocross Extravaganza in October last year and I loved it straight away.
“I actually won all three races at Taupo that day.
“Winning that day gave me a huge confidence boost.”
Fast-forward five months and Martens has gone from smouldering talent to become the pre-eminent rider in the 125cc class.
“I don’t think I’ll defend my 125cc and under-21 New Zealand titles next year. I’m thinking I’ll probably have a go at the MX2 class.”
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com