Features 20 May 2020

Conversation: Jay Wilson

Yamalube Yamaha Racing rider on the year so far and what's ahead.

Words: Simon Makker

It’s been a wild start to the year for Gold Coast-based Yamalube Yamaha Racing rider Jay Wilson. From the highs and intensity of lining up in Monster Energy Supercross’ 250SX West series, to suddenly having a lot of time on his hands, the 25-year-old has found himself having to adapt to life’s punches more than the average guy. MotoOnline caught up with him to find out a bit more about his US campaign, how he’s staying motivated and his plans for two Australian 250cc titles this year.

Image: iKapture.

Jay, what’s been happening since you returned from your US campaign?

I’ve actually being enjoying the downtime that this COVID situation has forced on us. Since I turned senior I haven’t missed a race – I’ve been pretty fortunate with injuries in that respect – so it’s been nice to have a forced break and not feel guilty about it. Until recently we weren’t really allowed to leave the house and I didn’t really want to push my riding in case I took up a hospital bed that was needed for someone else. I’m still training, being creative and trying to be as active as much as I can outdoors.

What do you mean by being creative?

I guess I’ve been enjoying having a bit less structure, so if I want to mountain bike three days in a row, that’s okay. My wife, Misty, is a yoga teacher, so most mornings I’ll do yoga for an hour and have breakfast before our daughter Poppy wakes up. I’ll go for a ride up the coast, go for a swim, that sort of thing. I haven’t stopped being active – I’ve got the mindset of an athlete and I’ve probably been more active than usual, to fill the gap of not being able to train on the motorcycle. It was a bit frustrating to come back from the US with good momentum, confidence and working hard to then have everything grind to a halt so quickly, but I’m trying to appreciate it for what it is.

Looking back on your trip to the States, are you happy with how it all went?

The main reason I went there was to learn and race, but it was really cool trip and I enjoyed the experience and holidaying with the family. The racing was a real eye-opener. We were fortunate that Yamaha allowed us to use their test track and train with Justin Barcia, Aaron Plessinger and the Star Yamaha guys, so I tried to use that as much as possible to learn and be a sponge. Their intensity is at another level and it took me a long time to feel comfortable with it. It didn’t help that I crashed and hit my head before Anaheim 1, so I missed Anaheim 2, then I broke a rib while training, so I felt like I couldn’t really bring everything together. I was making the main events, no problem, but I feel like I didn’t get to show what I was capable of. San Diego was my favourite round. There was good atmosphere, a cool stadium and it was my final round, so I enjoyed it as much as possible and finished in 11th, even with a bike malfunction from halfway through the main. I was happy with that and it was good to finish on a higher note and to come back to home with a lot of motivation.

Now, be honest, were you tempted to try and get over for the remaining rounds now that they’re going to all be held at Salt Lake City?

[Laughs] Yeah it did cross my mind when I received the email from the AMA asking if I was interested, but with the way the world is at the moment, it isn’t possible, especially on short notice. Who knows what the future holds and I’d love to go back, but for now I’ve shifted direction.

Image: Octopi Media.

What was the biggest learning point for you?

Probably that I thought our intensity here in Australia was quite good, but theirs is so much higher. Here’re you have the top guys who are quick, but I wondered how much harder we could push. Over there I was blown away by how much the level increases. From the first lap of practice it’s like a full race and I wasn’t ready for that. At any given time everyone’s going 110 per cent everywhere and it really opened my eyes and raised the bar again for me. Like, that’s what I want to do on a motorcycle and that’s how fast I need to go. I know that’s what’s possible now and it really motivated me for the rest of the year.

Speaking of the rest of the year, you’re racing the MX2 class again, right?

Yeah, I’m back on the MX2 bike this year. I’ve been riding a 450 the past two weeks and building my base on that, but as the MX Nationals gets closer I’ll drop back to the 250. I guess the motivation to remain on a 250 is that I’ve got a family to look after, I’m making okay money on it and I know I’m competitive on them. At the same time, I want to win that MX2 title again, as 2015 is a while ago now! I want to do what’s right for me and my career and win both the motocross and supercross 250 titles before I step up to the MX1 class.

As you know, this will be the last year that Williams Event Management will be promoting the MX Nationals. What are your thoughts on that and what the future holds for Australian motocross?

Kev Williams and his crew do an awesome job and they’ve built a great championship over the past 23 years. I don’t know what the future holds. I think a lot is going to depend on how the industry – not just motorcycle racing, but all sports really – reacts and handles this COVID crisis and what comes after this. Motorcycling Australia have proven they can run good championships, so I think the MX Nationals will be in good, experienced hands. I’m just hoping the rest of the industry gets right behind it and supports it.