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Between the Motos: Jason Baker

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Jason Baker, the subject of this week’s Between the Motos, is an American former racer who has been given the task of building all of the tracks for the 2009 Super X Championship in Australia, which has drawn a lot of top talent that is racing in the USA currently to Australia to hone their SX racing skills before Anaheim I in January. We talked to Jason yesterday thanks to the wonders of modern phone technology.

  • Jason Baker is handling the track building in Australia's Super X Series.
Racer X: You’re not from Australia, are you?
Jason Baker: No, I’m not, I’m actually from Florida.

I wasn’t truly aware of that until I got you on the phone!
I’m here [in Australia] long enough to pick one up, but no accent yet!

I’m sure you’ll pick up on some of it, for sure. You build all of the tracks for the Super X Series down there, so talk a little bit about how you got that gig half a world away.
Actually, last year, Chad [Reed] contacted me about it, and I actually did the last five rounds down here last year. Everything went really well and I worked real well with the crew and everything. We got along good, so it was kind of a perfect fit. Basically, they were impressed and happy with what I did, and they brought me back this year and gave me a more active role, which is pretty cool. I’m actually doing all the designs and everything from the ground up, whereas last year The Bomber [Mark Barnett] was involved with it, and they were unable to do the last five rounds, so that’s why I came down. But this year, the whole gig was all up to me, so I’m the man to take the brunt of it at the end of the day!

Yeah, but you get the credit if it’s good, too!
Yeah, absolutely.

That’s kind of a racer’s attitude, actually. I know most racers would much rather lose on their own merits than have a mechanical or something. Basically, they would rather have the opportunity to succeed and get all the blame or all the credit. Big risk, big potential reward.
That’s exactly right. I guess I like having that challenge more than anything. That’s a racer’s mentality, and that’s how I got into this, being a rider and everything. At the end of the day, it’s a challenge for me to work with the best guys in the world. With Chad Reed down here, and James [Stewart] coming down to Brisbane, it’s a challenge for me to build the best track.

  • Geelong before...
  • And Geelong after.
It’s something to try to build a track that’s going to challenge the best couple of supercross riders in the entire world, I’m sure...
Yeah, that’s a high task. I actually do work for James [Stewart]; I do his private tracks at his house. So working with him helps me to learn, and then working with some of the other top riders, like Timmy Ferry, Nico Izzi, and those guys, it just makes me push my game. And I also did Chad’s practice track down here this year, too, at his house. If there’s such a thing as having game on a bulldozer, those guys put me to the test, for sure. You can’t get by with being half-assed with those guys because there’s nothing about them that’s half-assed.

It’s the same pretty much for anyone involved with guys at that level, though; even the mechanics and things. Everyone has to put their best foot forward because those guys are going to push to 100 percent, so everything else has to be 100 percent, too.
Yeah, it’s that attitude across the board. Working with those guys has helped me out immensely just because of the simple fact that I can try things with them and figure out if they work. James is a good example of this because he likes to go really big and I can build things that you may not see at the races. But at the end of the day, I get to see how it works because I’m there the first day these guys ride this stuff, and we can tweak on it and make minor changes, and it adds to my knowledge of how it all works at the end of the day. If I can make these top riders happy, I feel like I can make anyone happy. What better way to learn than to have to work for the fastest guys on the planet? I’m honored, honestly.

What’s it like moving to Australia for such a long chunk of time?
It’s not too bad, man. I’m working with the Australian track-building company down here, it’s Humps, Bumps and Jumps, and Brooksy and his boys, and that’s who I worked with last year. I fit right in, man. They’re a hard-working crew – some of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever worked with – and they’re great guys. It’s a perfect fit there. It’s really tough leaving the family, though. But they’re actually coming down this year for three weeks, so that will be nice. I’ve got a little boy and a little girl that are tough to walk away from, but with modern technology and iChat and that stuff, we get to see each other on a computer every night. It’s tough, but I’m able to do something that I love and provide for them, so I guess that makes it a little easier to deal with. A little.

Traveling is definitely tough, but it has to be even tougher to not come home between races at all!
Keeping yourself busy is definitely a big help. You don’t get too much idle time down here, so it keeps your mind off of things. You just bump the track in, build it up, and then tear it down after the race and fly out Monday to the next one. It keeps your mind off it. But it is tough, to be honest with you.

  • Chad Reed's practice track in Australia.
I know that Chad and his partners down there have put in a lot of effort to make that series a success. Since you were there last year during the first year of that series, what changes have you seen?
Overall, they’re doing everything they can to try to continually improve the tracks, for sure. We have three rounds this year where we’re getting 6000 tons of dirt, which is more in line with the American Supercross standards. We’re trying some different stuff out, and we’re actually going over to New Zealand this year to try that out. I think there’s still a bit of a learning curve, but they’re trying to put their best foot forward and improve everything. Just getting some of the riders that they’ve brought over here this year shows that they’re working forward. But they’re still learning. You’ve got to crawl before you walk, and I think that’s where they’re at right now. They’re starting to stand up to walk right now, I guess you could say.

After this experience, do you see yourself moving forward to do more racing tracks instead of practice tracks?
Sure! It’s day by day, man. I just take it as it comes. I quit racing in 2003 and Timmy Ferry was the first guy I worked for the year after I quit following Steel City. From there, it was a couple clients here and a couple clients there, and now I’m pretty much full-time doing private tracks. That’s what I say I specialize in, and then with this gig coming along last year, I’ve just been trying to constantly move forward and take whatever challenges that come my way. I was actually able to work with Dane Herron and his crew out at X Games and designed and built that track at X Games this year, too, so I would love to have the opportunity to do some series work back home, but I know Rich [Winkler, of Dirt Wurx] is a great guy, and they’re pretty happy with what he’s done, but you never know. I’d love to have that opportunity, for sure.

Well, congratulations on landing that gig in Australia. It’s probably by design that we have an American building tracks for a series that is doing its best to introduce American-style SX to another continent.
Yeah, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Their whole catch phrase is “American-Style Supercross” so it’s probably no coincidence that they brought and American out here to build it. I’m honored to be that guy, because there are obviously several guys to choose from. And Chad had a big part in that, too, for the work that I’ve done for him, and he’s a great guy to work for. The whole Global Action Sports team, they’ve put their best foot forward to make us happy, and I’m honored and happy to be here and I’m doing my best to make them happy and give them what they expect.

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