(Interview provided by UNIT)
UNIT moto athlete Josh Grant has faced his fair share of challenges in life, and heading into Anaheim 1 on January 5, 2013, he will face one of his biggest to date. After a few seasons fraught by injury Grant will line up in the 450 class against one of the strongest contested fields seen in AMA Supercross racing history. Is he ready to challenge for the 2013 championship? Is he fit and healthy, mentally and physically prepared? Does he like the new JGR YZ450F Yamaha and the new team? Where’s his head at? We sat down with Josh Grant to ask him all these questions and more.
UNIT: Josh, how do you see the 2013 supercross season playing out, and where do you hope to see yourself come the final round in Vegas?
Josh Grant: I don’t really know how it’s going to pan out as there are so many rounds. For me I think the biggest thing is to get through the first few rounds healthy, build a good base, and bring more momentum in towards the end of the season to have a good ending result. I know a lot of guys are going to go wide-open from the first round, something I usually do, but I’m going to step back as I’ve always gone hard for the first couple of years and its bitten me in the arse. I’ll ease into it and hopefully by Vegas I’ll be sitting in the top three. That’s my goal.
Your attitude, has it changed?
I think I have a different outlook on things now due to obviously having a family with my wife Ashley and son Whyatt, whereas before I didn’t care as much and had the attitude of sending it until I ended up on my head. Sometimes that paid off and other times it didn’t, and this past season has been tough knowing I couldn’t contend for race wins because I wasn’t healthy. Even though I wanted to do good and knew where I should have been running the focus was more about having the right people around helping me build back into the rider I was. Having good people in my corner saying, ‘Hey you don’t need to go out and win’, really took away the pressure and let me enjoy riding my dirt-bike and focus on getting better.
Jeff Kardas photo
How does the Yamaha you’re riding now compare to previous models?
It’s a lot different to the Joe Gibbs ’09 model that had nine years of development and endless hours of testing on it. Then when they switched to the new complete redesigned 2010 model I felt I was riding good on it, but I got hurt at the start of the season and missed supercross, which led into a streak of more injuries, and it’s only now I’m starting to feel great again. I’m working my butt off trying to get 100 per cent healthy, and although I’m not fully there yet I know the JGR guys are doing a great job developing the current bike and have learned a lot from having riders like James Stewart and Davy Millsaps riding it this past season. It’s changed quite a bit.
How’s your confidence level right now with the JGR team compared to any of the teams including JGR in the past?
I feel like we’re the best we’ve ever been. It showed a lot when Coy Gibbs called and asked me to come back and ride for them. I feel we share a special bond, especially after that Anaheim win (2009), and I don’t like to toot my own horn or whatever you call it, but I don’t really complain a lot about bikes and certain stuff so I think the team is really stoked to have a rider who is able to adapt easily to new stuff and not complain about it. I think that brings a lot of positive vibes for me and the team.
How about physically and mentally?
Physically I feel good. I’ve had a couple of months to work out where as the last two years I couldn’t do a thing; not ride my bicycle, or run, or even lift because of my shoulders, it was impossible. So to get the results I did feeling like that has definitely made me stronger knowing I’m now healthy, and because I’ve been through so much shit in my life it almost feels like nothing that happens in racing will affect me mentally because it won’t come close to what I’ve been through. I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt riding a dirt-bike!
In the spotlight or out of it?
I like a little bit of both because being in the spotlight keeps driving you to maintain that position so having it here and there is good, but in saying that I’m not a guy that loves to eat it up. I like to separate myself from all the BS and be my own dude, one that everyone can talk to and not that spotlight superstar guy!
Jeff Kardas photo
What’s left to prove?
I feel like I have a lot left to prove, like being a pro rider for eight years is kind of tough, hard to keep going. You see guys come in for a couple of years then they’re pushed out. I want to be a guy that sticks around like K-Dub (Kevin Windham), someone who sticks around past 30 and keeps on going strong, the old dude in the sport. Longevity is my goal.
Last time you were impressed by a rider?
When we recently went out to Beaumont for a photoshoot I would never have expected or thought that Scott Champion had the bike skills he had on a dirt-bike until he started hitting the big jumps. He was just getting after it and I was really shocked, which is cool because going out there for a while now I haven’t ridden with a lot of guys who can handle that stuff, and have style doing it. I was impressed with Champ!
At 25-years-of-age and eight years into your pro career do you feel like you’re one of the elder statesmen with more experience that gives you the edge in the 450 class?
Yeah a little I think, like you have that older mentality, been there and done it type deal, but at the same time there’s a bunch of 18-year-olds with an abundance of energy and nothing to lose right now because they’re so young. I’m at the stage where I need to keep proving myself to keep going, but I do have that advantage of being older and having been through the up and downs of many seasons and know what to expect and how to deal with it.
When you’re on the track do you look at every rider the same or take each one differently?
I think you have to take every rider differently because they’re obviously different in their own way. Like Chad Reed is a very methodical rider who can pick apart the track and set his bike up really well, whereas Villopoto just goes out and sends it so you have to have that in the back of your head knowing what they’re going to do to even make a pass or race the guy. That’s why studying videos or watching a rider on the track is really important so you understand what they’re going to do on the track when you’re around them.
Rate the competition in the 450 class for 2013?
Dude I think it’s the gnarliest year ever. I look at all the old videos with McGrath and Carmichael etc. It was a deep field back then, but the top 20 guys now collectively talent wise are the baddest dudes on dirt-bikes ever, like you got Reed, Stewart, Dungey, Villopoto, Barcia, myself, Windham, Short, Millsaps, the list goes on, and it’s going to be the gnarliest racing field you’ll ever see … EVER!