Ben Townley is rekindling his international racing career. The Bay of Plenty rider, who retired from international competition in March 2013, will embark on a fresh adventure in January.
The Belgian-based Suzuki World MXGP team announced the former MX2 (250cc) world champion and former American Eastern Regional 250cc supercross champion will return for another tilt at the world motocross championships in 2016.
Ben Townley. Picture/Suzuki Racing.
Twelve years after he won the world crown, it’s a huge turnaround from the Kiwi star, who was adamant his appearance at September’s Motocross of Nations in France was just a cameo “come to the rescue” ride for the national squad.
Even though the father-of-three is considered a veteran at age 30, he proved in France he was still capable of matching or beating the world’s best. He finished third-best MXGP (450cc) class rider, ahead of France’s 2015 world MXGP No 2 Gautier Paulin, who had the advantage of being spurred on by a vociferous crowd of 80,000.
Townley’s results propelled NZ to No 8 among the 37 nations.
When Driven called the Tauranga-based rider, he was trying to solve a minor problem with a popped balloon and his three young children — Levi, 5, Jaggar, 3, and Swayze, 1.
That prompted the first question: “How will your campaign affect [wife] Lucy and the children?”
“We are all going to Europe. I can’t say exactly where just yet, but Lucy wants to support me with this unfinished business of mine.
“I’ll be travelling to each GP and we’ll come back and forth to New Zealand quite a lot, because several GPs are relatively close to this part of the world, in Qatar, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico and Argentina and two in the United States. They’re all within reasonable flying distance of my home.
“I retired two and a half years ago and had no intention of racing again. But the desire to do it came back over the last six months and, when this chance to ride for Suzuki and work with the people there came about, I knew straight away it was the right opportunity to be world champion again,” he said.
Townley went to the European GP scene as a 16-year-old in 2001, entering the old 125cc category on an RM125. By 2002 he was scoring podium finishes and won the 2004 MX2 world championship.
His performance in France caught the eye of the Suzuki factory team based in Lommel.
Athough he has raced for the KTM, Kawasaki and Honda factories, he began his GP career on a Suzuki and it looks as though he will end his career with them.
“I already had a good relationship with Suzuki team boss Sylvain Geboers. Even when I raced a Suzuki in 2001, he seemed to have a soft spot for me.
“Now we have a lot of work to do testing products and parts before the first GP (Qatar, February 27) and I’m really keen to get stuck in."
Following Qatar, Townley’s campaign stretches on for another 18 GPs and winds up in the US on September 11.