Kirk Gibbs and KTM celebrate MX1 Title
KTM Motocross Racing Team rider Kirk Gibbs gave the Austrian Marque its first Premier class national championship win since 2002 when he wrapped up this year’s MX Nationals championship in the first moto of the series finale at Coolum.
Gibbs has held the championship leader’s red plate all year long, but the Queensland-based South Australian officially became the MX Nationals Champion when he fired his KTM 450 SX-F to a third-place finish in race one behind Ben Townley and his KTM teammate Luke Styke.
Gibbs’ 3-4 result for the day quizzically equated to a seventh on the day behind Adam Monea, Ben Townley and Dylan Long, but it’s unlikely that mathematical anomalies will feature in the newly crowned champion’s memories of today.
His KTM teammate Luke Styke was unable to back up from his impressive second place in the opener, and toiled in the second moto to a fifth placing which saw the MX1 rookie finish equal third on points with Monea.
On the back of a spectacular first year in MX1, the Jervis Bay rider was devastated to find that he would relinquish third in the championship on a countback, but immediately turned his focus to the upcoming Supercross season.
Rob Twyerould, KTM Motocross Racing Team Manager – “I’m over the moon; it’s just been an amazing year, and the culmination of three years with Kirk working his way up through the championship to finally win it, it was brilliant. I think through the whole year, he only conceded five points to his nearest rival, so, an absolutely amazing job. The first race was fantastic for us today, but the second was a little tougher. Stykesy struggled a little bit with his fitness, but ended up tied in the championship for third only to lose it in a countback. For a first-year rider in MX1 that’s an amazing effort! He is incredibly hard on himself but I’m really proud of him; he was a big part of Gibbsy’s result as well because it worked so well with Kirk and the whole team. The guys directly in my team have been absolutely amazing that the effort they put in, and even starting right from the top with Jeff Leisk, his belief in me and his support has been unreal, and the other person has been Tam Paul – he’s been my sounding board all year and I really appreciate the effort that he has put in. I’d also like to thank everyone from head office in Perth who have supported us through the year, Customer Service Manager Craig Brown who has picked up the slack in my technical role when I have been off racing. And all the sponsors like Troy Lee Designs and Motorex, Dunlop, ETS fuels. It’s just been amazing.”
Kirk Gibbs – “It’s really good obviously, but it’s more of a relief than anything, I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years and obviously to get the first one is great. It’s been a long time coming and I’m just pumped to be able to get one. It’s a win for the team and my family and for everyone really – it’s not just me that wins, it’s my friends and people from all over the place, people who let me ride at their places, people I practice with and my friends as well. All of these people have been behind this championship.”
Luke Styke – “I was pretty gutted to go from second in the championship to fourth in the last two rounds. The first one was great, I holeshot and led the whole race until the last two laps when Townley got past me. But in the second, nothing was clicking. I didn’t have any flow so I just pumped up and just rode like a squid, and I paid for it. But I guess equal third in the championship isn’t too bad. Anyway, I hope I can get some good results in supercross and just keep moving forward. I won the MX2 championship in 2013, so I can ride it, and it’s pretty fun.”
In MX2 Racing: KTM Factory Support rider Caleb Ward was unable to make it back-to-back Coolum victories when he struggled with poor starts. Ward recovered as best he could on his KTM 250 SX-F to take a pair of fourth placings for fourth overall and concludes the championship in fifth place.
Caleb Ward– “It wasn’t a top day for me. I struggled with qualifying as per usual – I need to work on that next year. In the first one I started okay but I got pushed wide and buried back in the pack. I worked my way through everyone but by the time I got back to the front, the leaders were too far gone and fourth was the best I could do. In the second I got a pretty horrible start, I was around 20th on the first lap and I tried really hard to pass as many people as I could. I was wishing it was a 30-minute moto because it took too long to get back to the front. Everyone has seen what I can do at Coolum, so the start was pretty much the difference between me dominating on the day and getting fourth overall. Starts are definitely my weakness and I need to fix that for sure.”
In MXD racing, KTM Factory Support racer Jayden Rykers again impressed – just as he has done for the past three rounds – with his sheer speed and determination. Rykers recovered from a trip over the handlebars early in the first moto to finish second, then in the second race, fought a dominant lead despite losing a throttle grip. He was denied his third round win in four rounds when a freak technical failure stopped his bike cold – but had still accumulated enough points to secure second place in the championship behind Wilson Todd, and ahead of Connor Tierney.
Jayden Rykers – “I was leading the first one, but I ran a wide line and went over the bars. I clawed back up to second and was on the tail of first place but I got caught up with lappers and I finished second in that one. In the second I went out and got another good start but on the first lap my throttle grip came off. I had to take my glove off as well, and that put me back into third, but I did some work on the next couple of laps and got back into first before my bike stopped. I was lucky enough to keep second in the championship, and second is not a bad result for us this season considering how much money some of the other guys in their factory teams get spent on them – it’s good to see that I’ve still competed on a minimal budget, and how much I’ve improved over the year.”
2015 MX Nationals, Australian Motocross Championship standings (Final)
MX1: 1. Kirk Gibbs 647, 2. Kade Mosig 586, 3. Adam Monea 577, 4. Luke Styke 577, 5. Lawson Bopping 523, 6. Daniel Reardon 510, 7. Dylan Long 497, 8. Cody Cooper 425, 9. Kale Makeham 384, 10. Jesse Dobson 382
MX2: 1. Jay Wilson 600, 2. Luke Clout 559, 3. Takeshi Katsuya 541, 4. Jed Beaton 499, 5. Caleb Ward 473, 6. Nathan Crawford 456, 7. Wade Hunter 447, 8. Geran Stapleton 403, 9. Dylan Wills 388, 10. Jack Simpson 354
MXD: 1. Wilson Todd 585, 2. Jayden Rykers 528, 3. Connor Tierney 518, 4. Jesse Madden 488, 5. Bailey Coxon 448, 6. Kaleb Barham 353, 7. Jordan Hill 352, 8. Lachlan Davis 349, 9. Toby Stevens 333, 10. Jaiden Corrigan 310
The season that was – Kirk Gibbs
Round 1 Horsham: (1st, 1st) 1st Overall – 70 points
Coming off a second place finish in the MX1 Championship standings in 2014, KTM Motocross Racing Team’s Kirk Gibbs headed to round one determined not to be bridesmaid in 2015. With a solid pre-season in New Zealand under his belt Gibbs, raced to a close to perfect result at the opening round. Taking both race wins, and securing second in SuperPole, Gibbs took the points lead at Horsham, and set himself up for a year of success.
“It feels good, I was only one point off being perfect for the day. I got a good start and put myself in good positions to lead some laps and ride my own lines, which was nice. I was really comfortable today with the track and everything and my bike was awesome, so I’m really happy, but like everything there’s always next week.”
“So I’ll just keep building it and keep getting after it. There are still a lot of rounds a lot of racing to go so anything can happen, so we’ll just keep our head down but up, and keep moving forward.”
Round 2 Appin: (3rd, 2nd) 3rd Overall – 62 points
With renewed confidence after his success at round one, Gibbs headed to Appin in New South Wales looking for a round one repeat. In moto one, Gibbs was caught up in a first turn crash that proved to be costly, and although Gibbs recovered and raced to third place, in his books it was just not good enough. In moto two, Gibbs showed his determination, and despite losing his rear break, raced to second position, handing him third for the day, and maintaining his championship lead.
“Qualifying went good; I qualified fastest and felt really well. I got the holeshot in the first moto, but then just pushed a little too hard around the second turn and lost the front. After that, it was pick it up and into damage control – just go as hard as I could right to the end. Although it was really disappointing to go down in the first turn it still wasn’t too bad.”
“Let’s hope this is one of my bad days, I had my back brake fade away about 10 min into the second moto, so, trying to ride this track with just a front brake was pretty tricky, but I was still good enough to even close the gap there on Dan. I just had to ride the best I could with what I had. But hats off to the team, the boys had to work very hard between motos because I bent the bike up a little bit.”
Round 3 Broadford: (7th, 1st) 3rd Overall – 59 points
As the series progressed to the historic venue of Broadford, Gibbs showed the motocross fraternity why in 2015 he was labeled the ‘diesel’ of the MX Nationals. In race one Gibbs once again was caught up in an early crash, and despite recovering and looking to move into third, Gibbs once again went down, eventually crossing the line in seventh. In race two however, his ‘never give up’ attitude was showcased. A sore and sorry Gibbs fought hard to bounce back with the win in race two, once again handing him third spot on the podium, and the red plate leading in to round four.
“Second in the super Pole was good for points, and in the first moto was going all right, but early on I came together with John Phillips and went down so I had to regroup and get going again. I was charging, got up to third and was catching those front two boys, but was just pushing too hard and had another big crash, so it was just sort of damage control from there – trying to ride the best I could with my bike all bent up. It was a decent crash that second one so I’m going to be sore for a couple of days – a stupid mistake that could have been pretty costly.”
“In the second moto I got a great start and I got into the lead pretty quick. Then Reardon had a couple of better lines and was riding well, but I knew if I stayed with him I could pressure towards the end. I made a little mistake and he got away from me, but I just put my head down and charged and chipped away at his lead, got back on and just waited for my move. When I put it on him I just tried to sprint away at the end and I pulled out about a five or six second lead. I’m really happy to bounce back with a win, but I’m going to have to keep my bike off the deck in future, that’s not the way to win a championship, so I’ve got to be a little bit smarter with that.”
Round 4 Murray Bridge: (1st, 2nd) 1st Overall – 67 points
When the MX Nationals headed to Murray Bridge, Gibbs had the upper hand as the MX1 series leader returned to his home state in South Australia. Having had success at the venue in 2014, Gibbs was determined to put in a solid performance on home turf for his family and friends. In race one, Gibbs rode to a tidy first place, while in race two Adam Monea edged Gibbs out handing him second. However no one quite had what it took to knock Gibbs off his perch, eventually claiming his second round win on home soil, and further extending his ever growing championship lead.
“The day was good, I qualified well, but I hit a marker in SuperPole and my front brake went a bit spongy. I got two ripper starts and just tried to ride smart and safe and kept clicking off clean laps.”
“The boys were pressuring me, but I was good enough to come away with a win in that first moto. I made a couple of silly mistakes and Monea got by me, but I was able to keep him honest. I was happy with my speed today but those couple of little mistakes probably cost me a 1-1. I’m really happy with extending the points lead though, and making a decent gap to keep trying to open up.”
Round 5 Coolum: (4th, 1st) 2nd Overall – 63 points
With the series having it’s first hit out at Coolum for the year, Gibbs looked to set himself up with a healthy championship lead, before the MX Nationals commenced the mid-season break. In moto one, Gibbs was caught up in a crash after the first turn, which forced him to have to fight for a fourth place finish. In race two however, Gibbs once again proved that no matter what, he will always bounce back. After an average moto one, Gibbs got to work, and took his fifth race win for the season in race two, landing him in second on the podium and with a 52 point lead on teammate Luke Styke as the series kick started the mid-season break.
“That first moto was a little bit tough – I had a great start and just went down. It was hard to know where people wanted to be on the track, so it was hard to pass, but I finally got up to fourth so I was reasonably happy, but at the same time disappointed. I knew with a good start I could do well in the second moto, and I did that, and led every lap.”
“We’ve got a big points lead now. Coming off a strong year last year and a great off-season, I knew that I’d be right there, and obviously going 1-1 in the first round just further boosted my confidence. Now when I go to the line I believe I’m going to win every race. It’s a good feeling.”
Round 6 Raymond Terrace: (2nd, 1st) 1st Overall – 67 points
Fresh off a break from the MX Nationals, Gibbs returned to competition at Raymond Terrace, looking to break the bad luck tradition that the venue has dished out the KTM rider in the past. And break tradition he did. In moto one, Gibbs went head to head with defending MX1 champ Matt Moss, both putting on one of the performances of the year – Moss managing to put the pass on Gibbs forcing him to settle for second. In race number two Gibbs had a point to prove, battling with a number of riders before launching himself into the lead and taking the race win. With bad luck behind him, Gibbs extended the MX1 lead at Raymond Terrace, and continued to set himself up for his first 450 championship win.
“It was a good day, like I said beforehand, Raymond Terrace hasn’t been the best for me, so to turn it around and have some good luck is a bit of a weight off my shoulders to finally get a win here. First moto I pulled a ripper start, but I just struggled a little bit and just didn’t feel 100% confident in the bike, so after that first moto I sat down with a team, Danny did some changes to the suspension and we went 100% in the right direction.”
“It was such a blessing to ride in that second moto. I just had a lot of fun, I was third with a start, and Reardon got past me in the first couple of laps while I was gelling with the bike, and then I started ticking off laps and went into the lead.”
Round 7 Shepparton: (3rd, 4th) 3rd Overall – 58 points
Coming off the high experienced at round six, Gibbs headed to round seven at Shepparton feeling the low the sport dishes out, and with a tough task ahead of him. Having crashed while training, Gibbs made his way to Victoria with a fractured shoulder blade, and was forced to ride through excruciating pain in order to maintain his championship lead. However in his true ‘diesel’ engine style, Gibbs fought through pain, and not only maintained his championship lead, but concluded the round in third overall.
“That’s probably the toughest day pain-wise that I’ve had – ever, probably. That first moto nearly had me in tears at the end of it, that’s how bad the pain was. I just thank God for the adrenaline – once it kicks in.”
“I could have done a lot better today, it was the sort of track that suits me with big deep ruts and all that. But in the condition that I was in, I’m easily happy to come away with third overall today. Now I just want to go away and get this thing back two 100% and just come out at Nowra injury-free and have a good go.”
Round 8 Nowra: (5th, 4th) 6th Overall – 54 points
With only a two-week turnaround from round seven to round eight, Gibbs was behind the eight ball as the MX Nationals headed to Nowra. Despite Gibbs still recovering from his fractured shoulder blade, he kick started his round eight campaign in spectacular fashion – riding to the Go Pro Super pole win, on a tough and tight circuit. However when racing commenced, luck proved not to be on Gibbsy’s side – after collecting fifth in race one and fourth in race two, Gibbs finished the round in sixth overall – round eight being the first time in 2015 that Gibbs was not present on the Monster MX1 podium.
“Just a lack of bike time and silly mistakes cost me today. It was great to get fastest Super Pole lap, but in the first moto I was sitting fourth and after the rain and just struggling a little bit with water behind my tearoffs. I had a little crash, regrouped, then had another crash so two crashes really set me back. In the second I got a good start and was sitting third and felt like I could win, but made another little mistake and went down.”
“I was coming back through again and then stalled it! I’m looking forward to getting some good bike time in over the next couple of weeks and getting back to where I know I can be.”
Round 9 Toowoomba: (5th, 3rd) 4th Overall – 56 points
As the MX Nationals headed to an old favorite – Echo Valley, Gibbs was provided with the opportunity to wrap up the 2015 MX1 title early. Determined to put his toughest round of the season at Nowra behind him, Gibbs took to the track at Toowoomba looking to redeem himself. After moto one, hopes of an early wrap up look dismal with Gibbs taking fifth. In moto two, a disappointed Gibbs raced to third, and was handed with fourth overall for round nine. Despite losing three championship points at round nine, Gibbs headed to Coolum with a healthy 61 point lead on CDR’s Kade Mosig who moved into second after round nine.
“In the first moto I struggled with the ruts – they moved a lot because they were so moist but when I changed my lines, they were actually worse. Second moto was a lot better, but some dust got blown in front of me coming into turn four and I couldn’t see going into a rut and nearly went down.”
“I was able to pick off some good guys though and make a good charge, but towards the end I just made a couple of little mistakes and those two boys got away. I’m disappointed, but overall I only lost three points. Hopefully we can get this thing wrapped up in the first moto at Coolum and then I can come out swinging and try to finish on a high.”
Round 10 Coolum: (3rd, 7th) 4th Overall – 54 points
As the series headed to the final round of the year in Coolum, Gibbs was armed with the knowledge that only a 20th position in moto one would see him crowned Australia’s national champion. After getting to a decent start in moto one, Gibbs fought hard and raced to third position in the opening race – third being more than enough to secure his first ever Monster Energy MX1 title. With the championship done and dusted, Gibbs rode to a comfortable seventh in moto two, relishing in being crowned Australia’s newest National Champion.
It’s been such a long time coming, and it’s so hard to explain because you put so much time and effort into it, and this year has felt so long for me,” he said.
“I made sure a came out swinging this year, and had a really good pre season, and that showed at round one when I took 1-1 results.
“I just got some news that I’ll be racing the MXGP at Glen Helen in a couple of weeks so, I’m excited to chase over there and see what it’s all about.
“Getting this championship is really unexplainable. When I had that injury a little doubt did enter my head, but we fought through and I’m just so happy that I was able to get this done. It’s an amazing feeling and to win an Australian MX Nationals championship is a dream come true.
“I wouldn’t be here without the people who support me. It takes a massive team and it’s an amazing feeling having so many people believe in you, and I’m so happy to be able to finally repay them with a title.”