Husqvarna privateer on 2023 season and factory ambitions.
Emerging as a podium contender in the national MX2 ranks, Husqvarna-supported Kaleb Barham has delivered a solid start to the 2023 season to be positioned as a top privateer in the Penrite ProMX Championship. Fresh off a strong weekend in Toowoomba for the second round of the this year’s Sunshine State MX Series, he features in our latest Profiled interview.
Barham made the switch from KTM to Husqvarna in 2016 and has remained a part of their privateer support program since. He achieved a wealth of success in the MXD class, winning motos and rounds, but ultimately came up short of that elusive championship before stepping up to MX2.
Since making the step up, Barham has continued to base himself from his home facility in Toowoomba that fields a full-spec motocross and supercross track, whilst juggling work commitments within his family’s business. The 2022 Australian Supercross Championship marked a major step for the number 16, where he lead laps and battled up the front before finishing seventh in the hotly contested SX2 category.
“KTM group have always been a great supporter of mine, since MXD, they jumped on board and we had some success in the class, we a fair few won races,” Barham explained to MotoOnline.com.au. “There’s been a lot of highs and a lot of lows with injuries here and there, as everybody does.
“2022 started rough, I was working too much and there were things in the background I just didn’t get sorted until supercross, I ended up taking six weeks off work and really knuckling down and we were the second or third Aussie home every round, I’m lucky I’ve got some great personal sponsors that allowed me to race supercross without working.
“But going back on my career, I’ve had some great results, I won a lot of MXD races, but I never really pieced it all together, I’ve been close at times but I feel like this year I’ve found a few things with this bike and this program we have going and I’ve started piecing it together.
“I’ve got a really solid base and Fighting Fit Physio has got me really strong off the bike and it’s showing in the results now, we’ve proven that we’re on a privateer program and we’re beating the factory guys now, so it’s really good.”
As part of his preparation, Barham rides and trains with the 00 Elite Rider Training group, which includes current MX1 champion Aaron Tanti and MX2 contender Nathan Crawford.
“A lot of people that are close to me know, but I don’t always practice all that well, I just kind of hit my marks, but when it comes to race day I hang it out,” Barham added.
“It’s bittersweet training with those guys, some days they whoop my butt and then rock up to the race and go out and perform. I think it definitely helps me thought, Nato [Nathan Crawford] is the guy at the minute, he’s the guy that we all want to beat, so for me to have him to reference during the week is great, but he’s the guy that we all want to beat. So he’s the carrot that I’m trying to chase down at the minute.
“Aaron is looking unreal this year, I think he’ll back that championship up with another one, he’s in fine form. It’s not going to be easy for him, but he’s in the right place at the moment to do it. So to ride with those boys day in and day out is awesome, it’s a great gauge.”
As the 2023 Penrite ProMX series opener hit Wonthaggi, Barham was ready to make his mark, but issues in the opening moto left him in 11th place as the chequered flag flew. With only the single moto run at Wonthaggi, Barham looked to Appin for his redemption, where a consistent 7-6 scorecard placed him fifth overall for the day.
“Top five at Appin was unreal, we’ve shown everyone that we’re definitely a contender this year and we’ve kept the momentum rolling from supercross,” he continued.
“So, it was really good to show everybody at the end of last year what we were doing and that the program we had was solid. So, moving into this year, I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know whether or not I was going to have the support to go racing again.
“It pretty much came down to January and I’d kind of admitted the fact that I wasn’t going to be riding, so I went on a holiday and just signed off for a little bit, took a bit of time away, my partner and I ended up going up north and having some time off.”
Following round two at Appin, Barham and many of the MX2 contenders looked to the Sunshine State MX Series at Toowoomba for more gate drops ahead of round three of the ProMX at Wodonga. A DNF in moto two would ultimately end Barham’s chances of an overall win, but he would leave the Toowoomba circuit with his head held high after showing he can emerge on top against some of the best MX2 talent in the country.
“We just had the Sunny States at Toowoomba and that was like a full-blown national, I think there were 11 of the top 12 MX2 guys there,” he said. “We ended up with 1-DNF-2 results on the day.
“I qualified fastest, so we showed we have both the pace and the endurance and proved we can race both with and without a start, so my form is pretty good at the minute, it’s exciting for me, the program we have with the 00 Elite Rider Training, riding with Tanti and Crawford, it’s working tenfold. We have a great crew and we all work together really well. So I’m excited for the rest of the season and what’s to come.”
As the series head to Albury for round three, Barham sits seventh in the MX2 championship standings and has the firm target of showing the factory teams that he is capable to deliver when it counts in a bid to secure a seat for the future.
“My goal for this year is simple, and that’s to give the factory teams no other option but to sign me, I was disappointed not to get picked after supercross last year,” Barham stated. “But it’s just one of those things, it’s made me stronger as a rider and I think it has mentally given me more of that dog attitude that I needed.”
“The ultimate goal for me is to race AMA Supercross, I love riding supercross and I prefer it over motocross, it’s just a little more technical and you have to be a little more fine-tuned for it I feel. Europe for me isn’t really the goal, I love watching it but it’s not a goal of mine. I definitely prefer to race supercross, whether that’s AMA or WSX.”