DESPITE MORE SUCCESS, BEN TOWNLEY IS STILL RETIRED
At 30 he’s an old man in motocross terms. But Ben Townley has shown that, even two years after retiring from fulltime racing, he still has what it takes at the ultimate level.
Townley enjoyed a long and glittering career, winning national titles at home and overseas, as well as the MX2 (250cc) world championship in 2004. But New Zealand race fans will have been pleased that when Townley retired from the sport, then aged 28, it really wasn’t the last they’d be seeing of him on a racetrack.
When the opportunity arose for him to represent his country for one last time at the annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN) at Ernee in northwestern France, he tackled the task with his usual vigour and professionalism.
Townley’s contribution — finishing sixth and eighth in his two MXGP class races — was the prime reason Team NZ earned a world ranking of No.8.
Townley was by far the best performer in the Kiwi trio. He was also third best individual in his class, edging out such notables as France’s MXGP world No.2 Gautier Paulin.
So, is a comeback on the cards for Townley? “No, I’m still retired,” he said emphatically.
“I’ve been out of racing for two years after deciding to stop riding professionally. For a year, I just needed to get away from it; I just wasn’t interested in racing full stop. I was really bummed from all the injuries I sustained and needed to step away from it.
“With all the turmoil from the injuries I just wasn’t enjoying being a top professional rider. When you’re at that level you are expected to perform and the pressure on you to get those results is tough. I found myself injured more than I was racing.
“I did stop racing and riding for a year, but in the past year I have done a couple of races — one in New Zealand and two in Australia.
“I can enjoy the success and when you get those results and ride like that it’s better than any drug. It’s an unreal feeling. But the reality of it is that tomorrow I’m going to be sore. I injured my hip a few years ago and tomorrow I’ll hardly be able to move.
“On top of that I’ve got three kids who will be jumping all over me when I get home. I’m not going to lie that what happened [at the MXoN] was great, but racing fulltime once more is not going to happen.
“We didn’t really have any team targets at the MXoN. Cody Cooper rides awesome in New Zealand, but he seems to struggle internationally.
“I didn’t expect him to do as well as he did [the Mt Maunganui man finished 20th and 30th in his two open class races].
“But I pretty much achieved everything I wanted to achieve.”
“I had put in a solid three or four months of work leading up to the MXoN, right from the moment Motorcycling NZ told me I’d been selected for the squad and I dropped a lot of weight,” said Townley.
The third member of the squad, Kayne Lamont (Mangakino), was blighted by mechanical woes and was credited with 34th and 35th placings in his two MX2 (250cc) races.