For last weekend’s Sponsorhouse.com Privateer Profile, we talked to Jake Saylor, who took the SX2-class win at the Zurich Supercross in Switzerland. This week, we got in touch with Ohio’s Jeff Gibson, who used consistency to take the “King of Stuttgart” honors this past weekend in Germany. What’s next for Gibson: A full-on assault to become the first Ohio rider to win the AMA Arenacross championship. Read on for more...
Racer X: Is this the King of Stuttgart?
Jeff Gibson: Yeah, I guess so!
Well, just a little extra purse money, that’s about it.
Good job. It looks like consistency paid off for you over there.
Yeah, I know. Like, the first weekend in Zurich, I didn’t even make a main! The way the qualifying system is over there, it’s way different than ours. You have a heat race, and you qualify out of that to get into the half finals. And then you have to qualify out of the half final to get into the main. Well, in Zurich, I won both my heat races, but when I got to the half final I’d either crash or get taken out or crash in the first corner and just had bad luck.
Is there an LCQ after the half final?
There is, but same deal – I’d either get taken out or crash or something. I mean, I was riding good in Zurich. Really good. I thought I was riding better there than Stuttgart. I just got into the mains at Stuttgart, had some good finishes and I was the only guy on the podium for both nights, so that paid off.
Who got second and third overall in Stuttgart?
Overall, I think second was Matt Boni and third was Saylor. They won both of the mains, but the first night Boni didn’t qualify for the main, and the second night Saylor didn’t qualify. There was a ton of Americans over there and the Euros were going real fast, too. Everything was just really intense and everyone was going the same speed. In practice, I had like the 20th-fastest lap time and I was only a second off of the leader’s pace!
How was the track?
It was all right. It was just a big arenacross track. It was pretty good. At Stuttgart, the dirt was real tacky and soft. Zurich was like riding in a rock quarry almost, so it was a little different.
Did you just stay over there all week between Zurich and Stuttgart?
Yeah. Zurich is in Switzerland and it’s right on the border of Germany. I think it’s maybe a two-hour drive between the races. I just stayed over with the Pfeil Kawasaki team. That’s who brought me over and took care of me all week. Brad Ripple also rode for them, so we hung out all week.
How does a deal like that come together?
Um, just talking with people. I got a phone number through Derek Sorenson with one of the Pfeil guys, and I got in touch with them and everything just came together. Right after the season was done, I let them know I was interested in coming over and doing a couple races. They were interested but weren’t quite sure about me because they knew I had Epstein-Barr and they weren’t sure if I was over that. I told them I was good to go, and it all came together.
Winning in Stuttgart must be a big help for future deals.
Well, right before I went over I signed a deal with Tuf Honda for Arenacross, so I’m pretty pumped about that.
Back up a second; you had Epstein-Barr? I don’t think I heard anything about that.
Yeah, it was weird, because I think it was bothering me all year, honestly. Finally, throughout the Canadian Nationals, my results were just getting worse and worse. I’d come home and I’d train and do motos, and on the weekends I’d just get worse. With like two weeks to go in the Canadian Nationals, I went and saw a doctor, and they told me I had Epstein-Barr. So I got another doctor to put me on this really crazy detox program, so I’m all good now.
Honestly, this past weekend I haven’t felt that good on a motorcycle in a long time. All year, I was dealing with arm pump and fatigue and everything, but the whole time in Europe I felt really good. It’s kind of a relief for me, because it’s like a turning point.
So, did you miss racing the AMA Nationals this past year?
Yeah, I always miss racing the U.S. Nationals.
You have any more overseas races on the schedule?
Nope, that’s it. I got my deal done with Dave Antolak and Tuf, so I’m looking forward to that.
Back on a Honda 250F...
Yep. I haven’t ridden a 250F since 2004 in supercross! I’m excited about it, for sure.
After arenacross, do you have anything lined up? Maybe some supercross?
I’d like to ride some supercross, for sure. I think Toronto is after the Arenacross series ends.
How about the Nationals?
Same thing. I don’t really have any deals for the summer, so hopefully arenacross goes good and I can put something together or do some local money races and make a summer out of it.
What’s the best you’ve ever finished overall in the Arenacross series?
Fifth overall, and that was in 2001.
Ohio has produced some very talented arenacross racers, but I don’t think an Ohio native has ever won the championship.
Yeah, I know Jeromy Buehl finished second a bunch. It’d be nice if I could change that this year!
Who you want to thank?
It was a rough year this year, and I didn’t do what I expected of myself, or what my team expected of me. I’m just really looking forward to working with Dave Antolak and Tuf Honda, so hopefully things turn around this year.