The 2013 SA Nation Motocross Championship has come to an end and one legend of the sport stands out, Richard van der Westhuizen, who won both the MX1 and MX2 national titles. These were also his 11th and 12th SA Motocross titles which is a huge accomplishment. Richard announced his retirement from the sport at the end of this season, we caught up with him to chat about his successful career and why the retirement.
First of all, a hug congrats on your MX1 & MX2 2013 national titles. How many SA championships is that in total?
Hey Guys, thanks a lot, I’m very happy [laughs]. That’s my 11th and 12th National SA MX Titles.
You are without a doubt a legend of the sport. What do you think was the main factor of you being unbeatable this year?
Thanks very much. I think it was a couple of things. I was planning on retiring the end of the year if I won both titles. So I put huge pressure on myself. I think one of the biggest things was eating healthy. It sounds silly but I really cut out all the chocolate (huge problem for me [laughs]) and all the other junk. I got sick quite a lot last year and was always taking time off to get better. This year I was hundreds the whole pre-season and during the season. My coach Ryan Frerichs from Racestrong training is one of my best friends and we sat down before base training and also changed things up and worked a lot more cleverly too. My body was in amazing shape this year. I think that’s the biggest factor from my side. Also my bikes were unbelievable this year. Yamaha and my dad got the bikes so dialled in, out of all my years of racing they are definitely the best machines I’ve had.
You announced your retirement from the sport after the final round of the nationals. Tell us your reasons behind that?
Like I mentioned, I said to myself if I won both titles that would be it for me. The kids are getting faster and I’m getting older [laughs]. I just turned 27 so I could have raced more but I know that its time, I think everyone knows when it’s time to pack it in. I’m happy with my decision.
You will still be racing the regional’s and a few other races during the remainder of this year. Do you have any specific goals for those races and are you still aiming to be on the top step of the podium?
I think it’s in my blood to go for the win. It’s the sweetest part of racing for me. I’ll still give 100% like I always do. Nice thing is now with the championships out of the way, I can be a bit more relaxed at the racing, and soak everything in.
Tell us about some of your highlights of your career?
Definitely my 12 SA titles, its surreal to think about it. Racing all over the world has been such a great experience. Definitely racing in the Motocross of Nations. I’ve been very fortunate to do all of these things, travel the world and race against the best riders in the world.
Where do you see SA Motocross going in the future?
I definitely see it growing. This year was a huge step for Motocross I think. Just look at Freestyle Films footage and you will see how much more professional it is. Monster Energy, Full throttle, MXSA, TRP and all the companies involved put so much in this year and it showed. I think this only the beginning.
“Nothing on the planet beats riding your bike, so I’ll definitely have a bike and be at the track”
So what are your plans for 2014 and the future?
To grow the sport and to grow our business pretty much. And to catch up on things I haven’t had time for while I’ve been racing.
Tell us more about your company Racestar Graffix? Where do you see it going?
Yeah we run a MX Bike decal company. We started 5 years ago and have grown steadily ever since. We sponsor many good riders and the brand has become recognizable in the MX and Enduro scene. Our aim is to grow it a lot bigger and get far more involved with the riders and in the sport.
Once a rider, always a rider. We’re pretty sure we’ll be catching you hauling ass around MX tracks around the country in the future, agreed?
Oh yes [laughs]. I’ll never stop riding, I just love it too much. Nothing on the planet beats riding your bike, so I’ll definitely have a bike and be at the track. My moto’s just won’t be as intense and long now [laughs].
What do you think you will miss the most about racing MX?
Definitely the adrenaline, and having that goal of winning. I’ll always be at the track so I’ll still see all my friends I’ve made at the track.
With you missing from the starts gates, who do you think is most likely to take your winning position?
[Laughs] that’s a hard one to answer, there are so many good riders. I think the guys are going to have to up their game if they want to beat Kerim Fitzgerald and Sacha Naude. They were very strong this year. Other guys are going to give them a hard time though, like: Caleb Tennant, Wyatt Avis, Anthony Raynard. All the lighties are hungry too, like Purdon and Mittens. There are many fast guys out there.
We are sure it has been an emotional decision – who would you like to thank that has helped you our over the years?
Yeah it has, but I’m stoked. Obviously my family for all the support and love over the years. They have been so amazing and I’m so grateful for them in my life. My friends obviously have also played a huge role. My sponsors, well I’d be able to do nothing without them. I am very fortunate to have the following great companies supporting me: Full Throttle Yamaha, Monster Energy, Ohlins Suspension, Oakley, Leatt, CTi2, Thor, Gaerne, FMF, Unit, Scullcandy, Ogio, Vortex Ignitions, Racestrong training, Extreme clean, 32Gi, Racestar Graffix, Renthal, Zeta, Pirelli, Pro Grip, Repsol, GYTR, Shoei, Delta and DID. Thank you!
Photos supplied by Yamaha, Rich Sutherland (richsutherland.com) and El Rey Photography