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Monday Conversation: David Knight

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Isle of Man’s David Knight came and conquered America’s largest off-road racing series, the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country tour. After dominating Europe’s World Enduro Championship, Knight took up the GNCCs for 2007 and 2008 and won 14 of the 24 races he competed in, nailing down the titles both years. With this year’s title wrapped up early, Knight decided to have fun and race a KTM ATV at the Klotz Ironman GNCC, and he ended up 49th overall out of 230 riders, and 22nd in the XC1 Pro Class. Now he’s heading home and ready to start racing for a new team which will be announced shortly (hint: they make luxury cars and just released a new 450cc off-road motorcycle). We chatted with Knight about his experience in the U.S.

Racer X: First of all, how was the ATV?
David Knight: (Laughs)

(Laughs) Can you even answer that question?
Yeah I did enjoy it. Compared to the bike race, the pace felt a lot faster off the start, but I guess maybe it just felt fast to me! I saw [KTM ATV teammate Adam] McGill and those guys get tangled up at the start, so I knew those guys were behind and I would be holding them up. So I just kept trying to pull out of the way, and then I got stuck in a rut so a lot of guys come past me. You would look at a rut and think you were fine, and then you would get it stuck! And I would try to put me feet down and lift the thing out, but with the nerf bars, I didn’t have room and I could only get the front off the ground. So once I finally got going, I was far enough back where I was actually getting held up by some guys. I could have a good battle out there with those guys.

So you did fit in out there, you weren’t the slowest guy.
No, but I was so far back that I was probably racing the kids on auto quads or something!

They only had pro, A and B riders out there, so you were at least competitive with B or A guys!
Yeah! But see, I stopped a couple times and had some drinks. I could have maybe taken it more seriously and maybe gotten like a 15th instead of a 22nd or whatever, but it was just for fun, so I kept stopping for gloves and to get drinks and stuff. There were some parts where I felt quite good and I was like, “Hey I could really do this,” but then on some of the off-cambers with tree roots and stuff, you don’t know what the thing is going to do, and it just pulls on your arms. I wouldn’t say it’s as tiring as the bike, and also you only do two hours instead of three. But it’s just more hurtful on the body. It just pulls arms and legs. I’m glad I did it, at least I know what it’s like, and I know how tough those guys are. You have to do it to appreciate it. You can watch and think you can go as quick as them, but no way, those guys are on another planet.
{QUOTE}
So did you have fun today as a course marshal?
Yeah! It was good, I had to do something, I hate watching. So I went down to the mud hole and pointed out lines for Nate (Kanney) and the XC2 guys. I was going to do a lap or something just for fun, but me mate, he sold the boots I gave him and he had to borrow mine. So I didn’t have any boots!

So have you enjoyed your two years here?
Yeah, it’s been really good.

When you came here everyone knew you were good in the really gnarly extreme stuff. The GNCC tracks don’t always have that type of terrain. Are you glad you proved yourself in faster stuff?
The World Enduros, they do have some extreme tests, but you can’t really make up a lot of time there. Most of it is more motocross pace. I just talked to a World Enduro guy who raced here today, Salonen, and he just told me he couldn’t believe how different it was. And you know, that’s what makes it so impressive what Juha (Salminen) did when he came over here, winning right off the start. It’s so different for us, and the guys here, they grew up doing this type of racing. So sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do, which is just step back and slow down and try to take it all in and learn. It was like, riding that quad yesterday, it took me back to being a beginner. I was just learning to swim, but I was in the deep end of the pool! So some people could make fun of me for doing it, but I’m well past the point in my career where I care about what people think.

Word is you’re moving on from KTM?
Yeah, and I’m glad that I’ve worked with them, and got a lot of titles with them. You know, KTM, they made me who I am. When you’re leaving a team, people want to get you to bad mouth the team. But I won’t do that because they’ve been great. The new deal hopefully will be announced in the next week or two. I’m doing it to do something fresh and new, kind of like the second half of my racing life. I’ll try to pull a Valentino Rossi and win on a new bike.

Finally, can you count how many times you flew across the Atlantic in the two years you raced here?
I think it’s like, 46 or 48 times.

Each way?
Yeah! So that’s what, 24 trips back and forth or so.

You get to fly first class?
No! If I upgrade it comes out of my pay. KTM pays for coach. It’s actually cheaper for them to fly me then to set me up with a place here, and I like having my own space and doing my own thing at home.

So will we see you racing here in the States ever again?
Yeah, right now the plan is to come back and do the early rounds next year. And in racing, you never know, I could end up back here racing full time again! If I did a third year here, though, I would probably just stay here and not fly back and forth. When you first come over, you only know a few people. Now after two years, I have a lot of friends and know a lot of places to ride and places to have fun. So I think it would be better to just live here if I would do it again. And you never know, maybe I will!
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