Motocross

Teen dream!

Teen dream!

Tommy Searle is Britain’s best new motocross hope. Tommy Searle is Britain’s best new motocross hope. Period! Okay, so it’s a grand statement to make – but the 16-year-old Molson Kawasaki rider’s results speak for themselves.
In his debut MX2 British Championship season he has quickly switched his role from participant to protagonist. He’s finished out of the top 10 only once in 12 motos and almost made the podium in the second race at Desertmartin. He lies sixth in the standings with a very good chance of taking fifth, is dominating the Under-21 series (eight consecutive moto victories) and, of course, there was that stand-out performance at the British Grand Prix…
A successful schoolboy racer, Searle quit full-time education early to concentrate on MX and this pretty controversial move seems to be paying off judging by how easily he’s adapted to the adult game.
"At the beginning of the year I was in America and felt like my speed was pretty good but I didn’t know how much because I hadn’t ridden against anyone here," he says. "At Hawkstone for the pre-season international I was worried that I might not qualify. I was really nervous for that race."
He needn’t have worried – he landed from the States on the Wednesday, met up with his new team the following day and qualified 11th on a stock KX250F. Pretty impressive stuff.
"When I first came up to the MX2 class other riders were telling me how hard it is to score points so I just wanted to get in the top 20 but then I took a top 10 at my first round and thought ‘this isn’t too bad’. I got better at my next race and kept improving.
"I was knocked off the podium on the last lap at Desertmartin. I think some of the older riders were a bit *****d off that I came through so quickly at the start. It’s not too bad now though because I have been making those results consistently. I don’t think I am much of a target now, whereas some of the hype after Hawkstone probably didn’t help me."
Searle completed a swift and successful apprenticeship through schoolboy motocross after his property developer father bought him a 50cc minibike followed by a KTM 60. The Kawasaki association started in 1999 and he’s been wearing green ever since.
"My dad used to do karting and water-skiing so I don’t know why he bought us a bike. With my friends we would get out on a little flat track we had on our land with a single jump. The 50s were not that loud so the neighbours didn’t mind, then we just used to travel and race at the weekend.
"I was a rider before I was a fan of motocross. It started when dad bought the bike. I rode, raced and then discovered the sport."
It was soon pretty obvious that Tommy had talent and one of his first career moves was to drop out of full-time education.
"I left school a couple of years ago to concentrate on motocross and I have improved a lot since then because I had the time to train and ride properly. I left when I was 14, a year-and-a-half ago. I didn’t really like it anyway! I didn’t get much work done because I was away riding and practising.
"When I was doing my GCSEs it was hard because the other kids were in the middle of their coursework and I had missed a lot of the classes. The teachers were not really fussed when I left. Some were bothered, others weren’t. I went in and did the work for the day when I was there but was missing out on the long-term stuff.
"I never really used to tell anybody about my racing at school. Some of my mates used to like it and my close friends knew but racing was a weekend thing, like playing football for the other guys."
The move from ‘weekend thing’ to full-time pursuit helped Tommy progress from speedy Kent kid to promising young pro status. And with the U21 title looking safe, a decent Brit champs position likely, GP points at his first attempt and the promise of at least two more grand prix appearances to come, the chances of Searle earning himself a full-time world championship berth are snowballing.
On paper Tommy’s entry for the British GP at Matchams was a bit of a long-shot. Sure, his domestic form was good but this was the MX big-league.
But just like at Hawkstone a few months earlier, Tommy rose to the occasion. Not only did he qualify, he was touching the fringes of the top 10 in the first moto before a crash dropped him to down to 16th. A hard-fought 17th in the next race saw him leave Matchams with nine world championship points. All-in-all an impressive debut.
"I felt nervous but the track was so much fun that I just looked forward to every lap and if I did drop back a bit the crowd were shouting and it boosted me because I didn’t want to let them down. I looked at the times in practice and stuff and couldn’t believe the names I was seeing! You know you have to come 12th (in the heat race] and there are at least 15 good riders there so you’re wondering how you’ll be able to do it. A couple dropped out and a couple crashed so I got lucky. Matchams was a tough track so it took its toll.
"It was a lot of fun though, the jumps were nice and I went out to do my own thing. I caught Maschio in the second race and I overtook him thinking ‘he was world champion a few years ago’. Going over the jumps people like Melotte and a big train of seven riders – people I had seen on the TV – were a corner in front of me and something like seven seconds away, the next lap they were five seconds and it was a real buzz to see myself closing down riders like that.
"It was so hectic. People were passing each other all the time. In mid-pack it was crazy and you didn’t have a second to set corners up because someone would come in and hit you – I’d never experienced that before. At the British everyone seems to settle down after three laps but the GP was a lot more action-packed."
The knock-on effect of such a good showing was more self-belief – and even more speed! "It gave me a lot of confidence and there was quite a bit of hype afterwards. I think it was easy to see that I immediately got faster after the GP. I almost made the podium at the next British championship. By doing Matchams I could see that I can make it to the next level and actually be able to run with those guys."

Words by Adam Wheeler Photos by rayarcher.com