Open Mic: Justin Brayton

Open Mic: Justin Brayton

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JGR Toyota/Yamaha's Justin Brayton has completed a world-wind tour of Europe, competing in three different off-season events over the last month. He emerged with two overall victories and some added knowledge as he returns to the team he raced for in 2010-2011. After a victory on Saturday night in Geneva, Switzerland, Matthes talked to him.

Racer X: I wasn't aware of this, but you have won seven-straight main events here in Geneva.
Justin Brayton: Yeah, it's been awesome during the years, but I didn't even know myself until we had a press conference here, and it was basically about me winning three in a row here, and they said no rider has ever won three-straight at a European supercross before. So that's pretty neat. I had fun racing here, in Genoa and at Bercy. I feel like I learned a lot. You can only go to the practice track so many times.

You didn't have much of a challenge, Musquin was good but didn't get good starts.
Yeah, it kind of went how I planned it. Marvin rode good but we never got the chance to race. Last night in the main event we kind of did, he was behind me early, but I made a pass on a guy and pulled away. Tonight he got buried off the start. Lappers were difficult tonight, I got into them earlier than I expected.

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With his two wins over the weekend, Brayton has now won seven straight at Geneva.
Photo courtesy of EspritMX

You won Genoa with a 2-1, you went 3-3-3 in Bercy and went 1-1 here. Pretty good. You're turning into a regular Larry Ward.
Yeah, I've heard Big Bird [Larry Ward] was a European specialist. Genoa was good, Bercy was a bit of a bummer, those guys had me covered. But I feel like we learned a lot even in the two weeks since then, working back home with the guys in North Carolina. Even though I'm 28 years old, and this is my fourth year in the 450 class, I'm learning to be a better racer. I feel like riding at home, on the test track,  you'll feel good, but then you get to Anaheim 1 and you're like “Ah, I should have went this way with this setting.” I feel like racing is great, and now I have a whole month to work on what I learned.

What is something that you want to improve on?
It's not a lot, to be honest. Each track over here was different, and I know this one was live on the internet so the guys were watching it. There's always stuff you can work on, but it's hard to pin point, specifically, one thing we need to change. I feel like if we were going to Anaheim 1 right now, I'd have a pretty good package, but you can always make improvements.

It's a dream of every racer to get a shot at Team Honda, and you got that chance. But you also knew Barcia was coming, and you'd have to ride your nuts off to stay there. And some would say you did that! But you still didn't stay there. Talk about going there and leaving there.
Yeah, as a little kid growing up, I always wanted to ride for Honda. I didn't even think that was realistic, I didn't even think racing supercross was realistic.

Yeah when you were battling Antunez and Brad Hagseth in Arenacross, you didn't think you'd end up on factory Honda?
[Laughs] Definitely not. But, battling those guys, those were key ingredients to getting there. And Bud Man, he's the one that talked to some people and got me a look with some fill-in rides, so that was a huge help. But getting back to the Honda thing, it was awesome. Working with a guy like Erik Kehoe was so great, that guy was unbelievable. I missed the family atmosphere of Gibbs, and I missed North Carolina. I actually got a townhouse there and I even stayed there last year through east coast supercross, and the Nationals. In Supercross, I feel like I did well for them. I had, I think, seven podiums, and I never got any wins, but I feel like it was a building block, it was the best supercross season I'd ever had. But it was taking a long time to get a deal done with Honda, and in Colorado Coy came up to me and asked me about it. I had never thought about going back, but then when I started to, it made sense. I thought it would make for a cool story. And I still have a lot of friends there in North Carolina, I still keep in touch with all the guys I mountain bike with there. I have this vision in my head now, of getting a win for those guys on the team. I know how much it would mean to me, and I'm pretty sure it would mean a lot to them. So there's nothing better than that.

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Brayton (center) will now return to America to begin preparations for Anaheim 1.
Photo courtesy of EspritMX

Not to bag on the Honda, but maybe it wasn't the missing ingredient you dreamt it was.
It was a great bike, great team, loved the guys. But, I've said it before, it taught me that there isn't a magical machine that's going to take you to championships. At the time, I thought that was the top, that if you get there, you're going to automatically win championships. I went there and it didn't happen. All of the bikes at this level are good.

And you think this JGR bike is better, going into 2013, than when you got off of it in 2011?
Yeah, just the ergonomics. They made this new tank and shroud, and the seat is longer, you can slide forward in turns better. You can move around more. It's great, and I really like it. I never actually complained about it before, I've podiumed indoors and out on the Yamaha. So I think I can keep my career moving in the right direction on this bike.

I like to think that, as bad as the Stewart situation was for everyone involved, if you're going to look for a positive, he and the team helped make the bike work better.
Yeah, I think it can be a positive. Obviously, I wouldn't want Coy [Gibbs] and those guys to have to go through that again, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Maybe they don't have the expectations of having to go out and win every race now. Just getting some good results is hard to do in this sport, and this is a team that really deserves that, and I really hope I can do it for them. I'm going to work my tail off for them to try to make it happen.

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