Features 4 Jul 2023

Conversation: Mason Semmens

Hattah Desert Race winner recalls his breakout 2023 outright victory.

After finishing in the runner-up position a few years back, US-based Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) regular Mason Semmens returned home to claim an emphatic win in the 2023 Penrite Hattah Desert Race. MotoOnline caught up with the 22-year-old Trail Jesters KTM team rider after the victory for a Conversation about his weekend and to catch up on life overseas.

Image: Foremost Media.

Mason, congratulations on the Hattah win. Take us through the weekend…

Thank you, I appreciate it. It was a good weekend. I started pretty far back in prologue – they send you off in number order, so it was tough. I was catching guys in front of me and going good, then sometimes they just get in your way that little bit, it’s not their fault, it’s just what happens. But yeah, prologued seventh and then got fourth in the Top 10 Shootout. I was happy with that, it gave me a good starting spot for Sunday. I got out to a good start in the race, I was following Callum [Norton], Jack [Simpson] and Korey [McMahon] for a bit. Korey kind of overshot a turn and I got into third, then unfortunately for Callum, he had a bike problem and I got into second. At this stage I was about 50 seconds behind Jack, but yeah, I just kept chipping away and got onto the back of him. We went back and forth a little bit, he passed me back a couple of times. But yeah, I stayed strong and got back passed, then about 10 minutes later I looked back and couldn’t see him, I knew at that point it was my race to lose. I just kept my head down for the last hour and brought home the win. It was good!

You finished second here in 2021 and since then you’ve been living in the USA. Has this been a bit of a bucket-list thing to tick off, to come home and get the outright win at Hattah?

It has, definitely. Since I went to Hattah in 2011 and I won the 65 class, and I think maybe Toby Price won outright seniors that year too, I’ve wanted to win. But yeah, I got second in 2021 to [Daniel] Milner, then I missed last year, I was on the sidelines watching that one. I lined some things up to make it work this year, and yeah, it’s a dream come true this one, for sure.

We were teammates back in 2019 on the Davey Motorsports team, so I had the chance to see you race motocross. You had a lot of potential as a motocross racer, so why the sudden switch to off-road?

The motocross days just didn’t really pan out for me. When I first turned senior, I just had injury after injury, I did my knee, then my shoulder. Things just didn’t line up and the fun kind of went away racing motocross at that point. I always raced bits of off-road here and there throughout my career, and I’m good mates with Lyndon Snodgrass and Milner. Those boys were always hassling me to get into off-road, but yeah, Lyndon went to the US and it opened the door for me at KTM in 2020. It just brought the fun back, training and riding with Milner, he was a great mentor for me, he’s guided me through a lot. So yeah, now I’m doing off-road full-time in the USA, racing GNCC and things like that. I still feel I have a point to prove in motocross, but I’m also happy racing off-road. So, we’ll see, I like to switch it up, maybe I’ll get to some motocross races one day in the future… we’ll see.

Image: Foremost Media.

Obviously it was a great decision for you, because you’re racing full-time now in America. What’s it been like over there and has that been a good transition for you?

The transition has been pretty smooth. I moved in with the Riordan family and also Lyndon as well, we all live together, which is cool. Josh Strang also lives just down the road, so we all train and ride together. The training and racing side has been fun. Although the racing has been a challenge, the tracks are a lot different to what we have at home, even the format of racing. Over there we race at 1:00pm on Sunday and there’s quad racing all day on Saturday, so the tracks are just beat as, [laughs]. Last year was my first year here, I had some injuries and it didn’t go to plan. This year has been a lot better than last year, but still not as good as I want it to be. I’m still getting my head around it all and trying to improve. It’s tough going, but it’s a decision I definitely haven’t regretted at all. It’s always what I’ve wanted to do, racing overseas, so it’s been a journey, but it’s good to be home and tick this win off the list.

In terms of the goal moving forward, is the plan to remain overseas or potentially come home and race full-time domestically?

The main priority would be to stay in America, but then again I have to think about what’s best for me in other situations. But the future for me, I don’t really know what that looks like. Over the next few months, we’ll get things rolling and see where we end up. But yeah, wherever that is, it’ll be off-road racing, whether it’s in America or Australia. Not exactly sure of the plan yet, but I’m excited for whatever comes, that’s for sure.