MOUNT Gambier’s very own 2015 Motocross Nationals MX1 450 Pro champion Kirk Gibbs returned to his home track at McNamara Park last Thursday to rekindle his junior memories and encourage young riders to aim high.
The KTM Factory Motocross Team rider – who is currently sitting second in the MX1 450 Pro class this season – returned to Mount Gambier to host a coaching clinic with Mount Gambier Junior Motocycle Club members at Mac Park.
He was joined by professional coach Ross Beaton who was a key player in the young riders developing throughout the day.
It was Gibbs’ first time back on the track since he was 16 and he said it was surreal to return to where it all began.
“It is a bit weird to be back, it has been so long since I have actually ridden here,” he said.
“It brings back a fair few memories and its crazy, the track hasn’t changed too much.
“I really enjoy coming home, there is nothing like coming back here and riding.
“And to be able to ride the track and in the dunes and stuff like that is just awesome.
“There is not much play-riding in Queensland, so I really enjoy that.”
With the junior club currently thriving – with membership numbers as high as ever – Gibbs said it was pleasing to return to such a positive group.
“It is good to see everyone that used to be out here like Johnny (Heemskerk),” he said.
“To come home and see the younger kids is great.
“When I was here I looked up to people like Johnny (Heemskerk), Noel Hayes and guys like that.
“There were never full time professionals who could come down.
“So for these guys, they are a bit lucky that I grew up here.
With Beaton sharing his knowledge to the budding motocross riders, Gibbs said he hopes to take on a coaching role once his professional racing career comes to an end.
“It is good to help young riders, I still get benefit out of helping the kids and seeing their improvements,” he said.
“Not only do I want to win throughout my career, but once I finish, coaching will probably be what I end up doing, helping kids come through and hopefully that can be one of the riders from here.”
Gibbs lives proof that riders regional areas can turn professional and that was one of the key factors to his training day.
“Anyone can do it, but it all comes down to how badly you want it,” he said.
“When I was 15 or 16 years old and all my friends were going out I was going to bed early so I could get up and ride the next day.
“Riding dirt bikes was just something I really wanted to do.”
Gibbs said moving forward in his current national championship is a key focus of his at present.
However, coming off a broken femur limited his training prior to the season.
The injury has hindered his results in the opening few rounds, but Gibbs is making a come-back and still sits second overall to Dean Ferris.
“This year has been a little frustrating coming off my injury and we have had a few bike issues, but we are on top of them now and it is just getting into a routine a bit more,” he said.
“We have been a bit out of routine, which sucks and Dean has been fit and healthy for two years now, so it is hard to chase someone down that is riding at such a great level.
“For me it is just trying to get better starts at the moment, that is what’s letting me down.”
Gibbs now has two race win this year and is the only rider to beat Ferris in 2017.
“I believe I can do it, it is just a matter of putting the pieces to the puzzle together when it counts,” Gibbs said.
“I believe my speed is really good, that is not the issue, but when you have someone of a similar speed, it is so hard to bridge that gap when he has a clear track and you’re back battling with people who are a second or two slower.”
Meanwhile, junior club coach John Heemskerk said he was happy with the training day, that saw big numbers out on the track.
“The kids have taken everything on board, but why wouldn’t you when you have got a national champion and a national coach teaching you,” he said.
“We have been trying to make this happen for about three years and it finally has, so it is an achievement for the club.
“As soon as we announced it all the kids were ecstatic and couldn’t wait.”
Heemskerk said it was a positive outcome with the young riders now understanding anything is possible.
“It shows that regional riders can become pro, it all comes down to their own riding ability and how much effort they’re willing to put in.
“When Kirk was a junior he wasn’t the fastest junior, but he put the time, effort and commitment into making it happen.”
With three rounds of the Mount Gambier Junior Motorcycle Club motocross series already completed, Heemskerk said each one has seen big fields of riders.
“We have had fantastic numbers this year and for the last couple of years,” he said.
“Our junior numbers have increased, which shows there is a future for our sport.
“This training session will only increases the determination of the young riders in our club and encourage them to strive to improve.”