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INTERVIEW: Jay Wilson | News

Jay Wilson talks of the highs and lows in racing over the past five years.

The last five years have seen Jay Wilson pack a lot into his life. In that time, he has won championships in both Australia and New Zealand, raced in Europe, had a daughter, got married, raced in the US and continued to race in Australia and started a coaching business.

At 25 years of age, and a professional career coming up on its eighth year, Wilson has established himself as one of the elite riders in Australia who has seen the sport from many different angles. He has seen the highs and the lows, the emotion of championship success and the heartache of injury and despair. Professional racing is a tough career path but to keep on achieving year after year means he must be doing something right.

He has an insight that few get. He has been on race teams around the world, worked with all kinds of different people and ridden some amazing race bikes.

With COVID-19 grinding the world to a halt, Jay had the opportunity to reflect over his past five years and give his thoughts and opinions on things that have changed his world since turning pro in 2011.

Winning Championships (2013 SXD / 2015 MX Nats/ 2018 ASX)
Every championship has its own story and something special about them. 2013 was my last year in under 19s and first year with Yamaha and I would say I was one of the favourites for both MX and SX championships that year. I just couldn’t get it together at the start of the MX Nationals but ended up coming on pretty strong through the second half of championship to finish second overall. Coming off a strong second half of MX I went into Supercross confident and it was one of those championships that just all came together, I was building momentum and confidence race by race, I won every round bar the last round where I finished second to wrap up the championship on the last of the Yamaha YZ250F’s with a carby.

2015 was a crazy year, it was either sink or swim. The start of year I went to New Zealand where I rode for Altherm JCR Yamaha, I wrapped up the New Zealand Motocross championship which was great but at that point I wasn’t returning to a ride back in Australia. With support from Yamaha Australia, Josh Coppins and Mike Ward, we were able to put a package together that was going to be competitive to go racing for the Australian Motocross championship. We went to round 1 where the racing started off pretty good, just missing the podium but my day had just been turned upside down. My Brother had an accident and was flown to The Alfred hospital in Melbourne where we would spend the next 2 months. To cut a long story short, my brother made a full recovery and we were able to win a championship out of a van with a small parts budget.

Coming off 2017 where I felt rock bottom mentally and wanting to walk away from the sport, I knew 2018 was going to be a year of building and getting back to where I belonged and enjoying racing again. Motocross was difficult, building confidence and my base fitness back up was a challenge but in a way my 2018 results were similar to my 2013 season. I started out a bit rocky, got stronger as the season went on and found my feet by the end of the MX Nationals.

Going into SX things just started clicking and we won the first two rounds carried the red plate from round 1 to the final race in Sydney where I kept everyone in the stadium on the edge of their seats to win the championship. From the outside I’m sure it looked like I was trying to lose it, but I hurt my hand in qualifying, got terrible starts in the heats and only just scrapped into the main. 2018 Supercross championship was very special, it was the first championship we had experienced as a family.

Racing in Europe
I’ve talked about this a lot but racing in Europe was a real challenge for me. The opportunity to race GPs came at a time in my life where I didn’t have a lot of other options, I was going to be aged out of the MX2 class that season but my wife Misty was almost 40 weeks pregnant. The team I raced for did their best, but they didn’t have access to the equipment or infrastructure we needed to race the world championship. I was also in the worst headspace I’ve probably been in in my career so that didn’t help either. I was living with my mechanic in England and hardly riding during the week because we didn’t have access to tracks. It was not ideal but in saying that, it’s cool to see the Australians over there having a crack with decent teams now. You can’t go to Europe and expect to do well if you have big issues whether it be bike, mentally, family life, or living arrangements. I learnt that the hard way. I grateful for the experience but it wasn’t the fairy tale I imagined that’s for sure.

Having a Daughter / Getting Married
When I was 21 we found out that Misty was pregnant. Back then there were team managers who weren’t even keen on riders having girlfriends let alone kids at 21 but we knew we could make it work. I’m sure there were people who thought that would be my career over, but I knew it wasn’t. I obviously didn’t know how we would go juggling everything, but Poppy has been with us at the races since the start. If anything, being a dad has given me more motivation to do well and win championships and it’s cool that only a year after she was born we were able to do that and win the 2018 Supercross Championship.

With getting married I guess when you know, you know. I met Misty and knew straight away that she was the person who I wanted by my side. We back each other 100%, we share good times and she’s been with me through the hardest times too. She makes a mad sandwich and she just understands me, I don’t think I would be where I am today in my career or in my life without her.

Returning to Australia
Once I missed Poppy’s birth, things got pretty difficult for me in Europe. Misty was at home working full time with a new-born and I was missing out on seeing my daughter to be somewhere that just wasn’t working out for me. I think I lasted another three months in Europe and then it was time to call it and I came home. Coming home was really hard for me, and I sort of feel a bit guilty for how lost I was at that time when I think about what my wife had to do to hold our family up. I knew I wanted to race but I came back mid-way through the motocross season and I just didn’t know how it was ever going to be possible.

Eventually Chris Woods and I spoke, and he really took a risk with me. I struggled getting back into racing, my confidence had taken a massive hit and I felt lost. Eventually after hard work, and a lot of discipline and dedication we started getting somewhere. The podium I got at the 2017 AUS-X open was my first since 2015 and for me it really turned my career around. The next weekend I won the round, signed with Yamaha and we went on to win the SX championship the following year.

At the end of 2017 when I was in discussions with Yamaha, one of the coolest things that grabbed my attention was that they were giving me the opportunity to coach for Yamaha. It was something that I was always passionate about supporting the next generation coming through and also creating safer environments for people to learn how to ride. I have enjoyed going back to some of the local areas I grew up in and also traveling Australia to pass on my knowledge, I think what we have to offer at our development schools and something that is unique, is that I’m racing and learning what is being used now.

Best race you have attended.
San Diego Supercross, it was my last race in America this year and at this point the last west coast race since the whole COVID 19 started, something about the vibe and racing was so cool. The event is in the centre on the city, with big apartments and high rises looking in over the open air stadium (Petco Park). We had Australian friends come over to watch this race, We got to meet Misty’s extended family for the first time which was really special and I just felt relaxed and was finally starting to feel like myself on the motorbike again.

The MXoN at Ernee in France, would have to be one of the coolest races I have been to. It was a hard race to watch as I should have been racing it but with a freak crash the week leading into the race I was forced to sit on the side lines. The atmosphere was unreal, with well over 60,000 people jammed in between two hill sides all cheering for their own country’s it was amazing to see with chainsaws, air horns, flairs, massive flags, and unbelievable racing it’s a bucket list event to attend.

How can we improve MX and SX in Australia?
I think we need start looking outside of the box and being more open to doing things differently. In our sport I think we sometimes get caught in the old school way of marketing or promoting. It would be cool to see more people sharing their knowledge and expertise to work together and collaborate rather than keeping everything so quiet and exclusive. What we do is awesome, and a lot of people love hearing and supporting our industry, but I don’t think it’s been accessible to them. I believe if you have knowledge you should share it, and if people want to come to the races and make videos and shoot content it’s only going to grow and benefit our sport as a whole.

Rivals and Riding Buddies
I’m probably someone who sticks to myself or the little group that is around me quite a lot, I seem to venture towards the old guys in our industry and really just ride with people who are motivated and want to be the best they can be.