In 2017 Justin Brayton went to a supercross-only schedule racing of in the U.S. and Australia. In 2016 he raced in three championships: Monster Energy Supercross, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, and Australian Supercross, as well as a some other off-season races in Europe before going straight into 2017 SX. That was a long run!
This year, he skipped Lucas Oil Pro Motocross to get rested during the summer and then start racing again in the fall. Now he’s coming off his second straight Australian Supercross Championship and success in European SX rounds. Where many riders are searching for settings from team switches, new bikes, and coming back from injury, Justin has a whole season of racing under his belt. He’s feeling fresh, confident, and comfortable. We caught up with him at Lake Elsinore MX last week to see how his off-season is going and how he’s feeling going into 2018.
Racer X: Justin, we’re out here at Lake Elsinore today doing some testing. Three weeks until Anaheim. How are you feeling?
Justin Brayton: Three weeks until Anaheim. It kind of just feels like another race to me. I’ve been racing quite a bit this off-season. Down in Australia I did that championship and then went to Geneva a couple weeks ago. My whole kind of mentality with my new schedule is that I go into Anaheim a little more prepared, kind of have that race fitness. I know my bike really well under race conditions. I think it’s a huge benefit. This will be my first year really having the same bike that I raced in the off-season, as far as the new schedule with Australia and Europe and all that stuff. The ’18 Honda is awesome. I’m looking forward to Anaheim 1. Hopefully just feels like another race to me.
About this time last year, it was kind of more experimental for you. You switched teams. Your first year on the Smartop/MotoConcepts Honda. It was a brand-new Honda. Where were you last year compared to where you are now? Last year was my first time going to Australia and doing that championship. I went over there and did it on the 2016 model Honda and came back. I believe my first time riding the new ’17 Honda was the beginning of December, I think December 6 or 7. Realistically, I had three weeks to get the bike ready and get myself prepared. To be quite honest, I wasn’t prepared to go racing even physically. When I went to Australia, we really just kind of were on vacation. I didn’t have a practice bike over there, so I was just racing on the weekends. I got to take my family. We just really enjoyed it. I trained a little bit here and there, but really just wanted to enjoy it as a family. When I came back, I was definitely a little behind the eight-ball for sure. I didn’t go in quite as prepared as I would like physically, and I wasn’t confident with the bike only having two and half, three weeks on it. So, this year, totally different story. Going there, I knew that I had to create a good atmosphere for me to train in. I got a track built that was ten minutes up the road from me in Australia. Organized with some other guys there so that I would get to ride their tracks. All of them were within an hour or so (away). Really did the same program as I would over here. Did a lot of training, a lot of riding; I set it up to where I had a practice bike and really didn’t miss a beat. I was super motivated with not doing anything during the summer. I was ready to get back racing, ready to get back training. That feels good now. I really feel like I’m in mid-season form. I hope it benefits me. You never know for sure, but I feel ready to race come January.
So you’re coming into A1 in full stride. Do you feel like that might affect you a little bit later in the season because it will kind of be the end of your season? Mid-supercross, do you feel like you might taper off a bit?
Yeah, that’s something that I take into consideration, for sure, racing so long. But in years past, I’ve raced longer actually. I’ve done supercross. I’ve done motocross. I’d go straight into doing some off-season races. I might get a couple-week break, but straight into doing Monster Cup and Bercy and Geneva and the race they used to have in Italy. So, throughout my career, I’ve raced so much during the off-season that I feel like I just needed a little bit of a break, and a lengthy break, a two- or three-month break. It kind of got me motivated again. Not that I wasn’t motivated before; just that extra one or two percent that you need to race at the front, I think it comes down to being mentally prepared. Everyone trains so hard now and has good programs and has good motorcycles, it just comes down to really wanting it and wanting to put in that extra effort and dig that much deeper on Saturday night. I feel like I have that this year, where last year, all things considered, I just didn’t really have the confidence to run up front.
Do you feel like going to Australia was a little bit of a rejuvenation for you?
Australia was amazing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to put a program like that together. I’m thankful for Honda here in America, Honda in Australia to help me put it together a couple years ago. To win two championships is awesome. To get to see a different country with my family is amazing. My daughter is three, so maybe she doesn’t remember it, or maybe she does. I’m not real sure, but we get to look back and show her pictures and things like that. Just overall an amazing experience. I hope to continue doing it, whether it’s one more year or three more years. Not exactly sure. I believe the schedule I have now is awesome. It keeps me motivated.
You’re the back-to-back two-time champ now in Australia. Are you going to keep going defending that? What’s the plan?
Yeah, two-time champ. Actually, talking to Honda Australia at the moment to possibly go back and try and make it three. I don’t see why not. Honestly, I’ve just enjoyed it so much. My wife loves it. My daughter’s getting to an age now where she’s going to start school. We’ve talked about maybe going over there for three or four months and putting her in a little kindergarten or pre-school and having her do a few months there. We think that would be cool, just to say she went to school in Australia. I think it would be kind of neat. Not real sure. Going to really focus on this supercross season here in America. I feel like I can still do really well. I think with my preparation and I kind of know what the speed feels like to run at the front, and I really feel like I have that more than I have even the past three or four years. Never quite know until you race, but I’m confident in the way I’ve gone about it this year.
You were kind of a little bit of a guinea pig last year in the sense that you were testing all the Showa stuff for the new Honda. You had come over to the MotoConcepts team, and that was kind of a little bit of an unknown and an unproven team. How are you feeling coming into this year and putting all that behind you?
I was super thankful that Showa stepped up last year and gave me works suspension. At the time, they didn’t have a guy on factory Honda, so they wanted to help keep developing it with my help, along with some others. Super thankful for them. We’ve got an amazing package, and now Kenny’s [Roczen] chosen it, which made me feel awesome. I think it was cool. I feel like I kind of did my job and what they wanted me to do. Thankful that I’m still on it this year. I haven’t done really any testing since I’ve been in California just because I feel so confident with it. I’ve raced it on several different conditions. I think a lot of people come Anaheim, it might feel really good at the test track and feel good at the two or three tracks you ride in the off-season, then you get to the race and it’s totally different. I feel like I have that advantage where I’ve ridden so many different styles of tracks. I’ve ridden tracks at Club MX on the East Coast. I’ve ridden tracks in Australia, in Europe, and out here in the States, the test tracks. It all feels great. It feels great under every type of dirt that I’ve went to. I don’t really see any reason to change now that I’m that confident in it. I feel super prepared. Really thankful that Honda and Showa and Smartop and MotoConcepts and all my sponsors have kind of let me do the program that I wanted to do.
You live in North Carolina, but right now you’re in California doing your final testing before A1. How long have you been here, how long are you staying?
Yeah, been in California for two weeks now. I head back to Charlotte tomorrow, spend some time with the family for Christmas, then come back out here the week of Anaheim and get to work. It’s race time. Going to enjoy the holidays back home in Charlotte with my wife and two kids. Excited for that. It will be our first Christmas where my daughter really understands getting gifts and Santa Claus coming. We’re doing Rudy the Elf and all that stuff. It’s been a really fun year from going to Australia, coming back, now I get to spend some Christmas. I’m in a really good place. Super thankful for everyone involved. Hopefully it pays off for everyone come Anaheim.