Another factory opportunity arises in motocross-only arrangement.
Landing an elusive deal at Honda Racing for season 2021 came as a career lifeline of sorts for former MX1 champion Kirk Gibbs, securing a newfound factory contract after his unexpected exit from CDR Yamaha Monster Energy.
Gibbs won last year’s New Zealand championship with JCR Yamaha prior to covid-19 halting the sport in Australia, however, the homecoming of Luke Clout prompted Gibbs’ departure.
It was an uncertain period for the South Australian mainstay, who won his lone championship with KTM in 2015, but the opportunity that eventuated with the Konsky Motorsport-led factory Honda team alongside fellow veteran Brett Metcalfe was a welcome one. It ended up being an indirect trade between Gibbs and Clout, who spent 2020 with Honda in the US.
“It was obviously a pretty big deal for me after the way everything panned out last year wasn’t ideal,” Gibbs told MotoOnline. “The way things were dealt with were pretty wrong, but I’m thankful with where I’m at – obviously Yarrive [Konsky] and the people at Honda still believe in me.
“Being my age, in my 30s, and Metty’s there as well, the team has two veteran guys and I’m a motocross-only guy as well. To have them come to the party with a good deal, it worked out better than I thought that it was going to at one stage.”
After signing to replace outgoing three-time champion Dean Ferris at Yamaha in 2019, Gibbs’ lone overall victory riding the YZ450F came at Broadford on his way to fourth in the final standings, overcoming a shoulder injury at midway. Despite carrying form into last season, the series cancellation meant he didn’t have the opportunity to rebound in 2020 off the back of his success across the Tasman. Now, he feels the stars are aligning aboard the new CRF450R.
“I went through a couple of years where I struggled a little bit – I’m not gonna lie – and things were tough,” he continued. ” Things weren’t quite going my way and then I went to CDR, but 2019 was still a building block for me and I started feeling better again. Last year things were good, I won in New Zealand and felt like I was ready to fight for a championship, in a better position than I had been for the past few years.
“This year we’re better again. The time off has given me time to work on things that I felt like I needed to, not just with the bike, but with myself also to get things back in order. Being on the new 2021 Honda has been really, really good because I love the bike how it’s small and nimble, so I feel good with it even if we are still fine-tuning.”
Based in Queensland, Gibbs has been working with Daniel Kersnovske from MXRP – who was part of Ford Dale’s 2012 MX2 championship at Honda – in developing his settings, which has proven to be an integral part of his preparation in the lead-up to Wonthaggi’s Penrite ProMX opener on Sunday.
“That came about just through being up here, it’s been hard to get down to where the team is at times because of covid and the uncertainties,” Gibbs added. “It’s worked out really well that Dan from MXRP is based down the road from me, so I’m thankful that Yarrive has let me work with Dan and we’ve been able to work together pretty closely – I can’t thank him enough either.”