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Tony racing the final round of the 1997 125 AMA Outdoor National at Steel City, Delmont, Pennsylvania (Photos Courtesy Chris Deutschen)

Photo Courtesy: Martyn Petts

Tony and Doc Wob testing for Dirt Bike Rider Magazine (Photo Courtesy Ray Mayes)

In Episode 1 of our new Interview Series ‘Now & Then’, we chat with Tony Marshall. From his schoolboy winning streak, to his involvement in testing after his career racing GPs and the British Championship, Tony has plenty of memories and stories to share.

 

Be sure to read on to find out his thoughts on the past, present and future of the sport.

 

 

When did you start Motocross and how did you get into it?

 

I began MX when I was 5 years old. My Dad and I broke down outside Eddy Grimstead’s. There was a PW50 outside and I jumped straight on it.

 

 

How long did you race for?

 

I stopped racing at the age of 25. I had 35+ broken bones. I had been working for Guy Nicholls for a year and a half, so it was time for me to concentrate on my career. Luckily, I kept my hand in the sport as a test rider with DBR [Dirt Bike Rider Magazine]. During my career I raced the British Championship, an AMA National, a Canadian National and World Championship GPs.

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Who did you look up to or idolise?

 

My idol, from a young age, was always Dave Thorpe. There were always other riders who inspired me such as Paul Malin and Jamie Dobb.

 

 

Best season?

 

I won every championship as a school boy and there were a couple of years when I was pretty much was unbeaten. This also included the European championship, and my big claim was beating [Mickaël] Pichon. However, as a pro, it never really happened for me. I had a few British race wins, but my career was full of injuries.

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Best race/weekend?

 

Finland 125cc GP finishing in 8th and Hawkstone Park 125cc with the overall win in 1994 at the final round.

 

 

Best and worst bike & why?

 

My best bike had to be in 1993. I had a 1994 KX 125 prototype in February and helped with the final tweaks & endurance before they went to production. I used this bike at the British GP at Lyng. Also in ‘93 I had a full factory ‘92 KX 250. I looked like a bit of washing hanging of it!

 

My worst bike was in 1984, the first year the KX 60 came out. I was promoting this bike for Kawasaki Team Green when there were no classes for it and I was racing it against the 80s. Ended most weekends with black balls!

 

 

Do you still follow today’s racing?

 

Yes, I still follow the GPs and the British MX mostly following Jake [Nicholls], but I still struggle being a spectator!

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What do you think of the sport now compared to then?

 

Fast! The boys are on it. I don’t think the age ruling in MX2 is correct, I feel that’s what the European championship is for. One of my big mistakes was thinking I needed to go straight into the GPs. I should have done a season or two in the Europeans, but unfortunately in my time there was no budget in the UK for European Championships only GPs.

I do feel the tracks have gone a little more like the US tracks in Europe. However, there is one thing that I do see; the Euros have the beating of the Yanks on them! They’re still in a class of their own when it comes to SX. There is more knowledge nowadays on preparing the body and the boys are ultra-fit. Full respect.

MX is far too expensive nowadays and the 4 Stroke has played a big part in this. I feel the kids don’t have the fun as there is too much money involved. I know we all turn our backs on the electric era, but I feel this will bring the sport to a totally new level. There will be tracks everywhere, anyone with a bit of a field could potentially build a track - only my view!

 

 

Best and worst circuit?

 

Old Brampton was my best. My worst was Langrish (Ken Hall Trophy).

What are you up to these days?

 

I’m a director at tru7group.com. I’ve been working for Guy Nicholls since I quit GPs. Guy was a sponsor of mine but offered me a position to come and work for him and help his son Jake when he was 7 years old, some 20 years ago!

 

This was a massive move for me as I never thought I would be without MX, but DBR kept me on as a test rider for the next 10 years so this softened the blow. I’ve had the best education from working with Guy.

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Fastest competitor you ever raced against?

 

This list can go on. I rode an outdoor US National, so [Ricky] Carmichael would’ve been the biggest name that I raced against there. I even got to test his bike after the race at Steel City. I’ve ridden some of the best riders’ bikes in the world; Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Stefan Everts, Mickaël Pichon…the list goes on.

 

 

Biggest rivals?

 

Austin Kemp, Jon Barfoot and Justin Morris.

 

 

Any stories of note?

 

One thing I was never short of, other than my legs, were opportunities. I had some of the best bikes and rode for the best teams, but unfortunately my career was full of injuries.

The biggest being Weston Beach Race 94. After going 2nd, 3rd and 1st Overall in the last 3 rounds of the British Championship I had the opportunity to ride the Beach Race for CAT Kawasaki. The team was doing the media promotion for the race and I was hit by Daniel Smith when he was flat out on a 500. I sustained a broken big toe, compound fracture of the Femur, a break to the neck of the femur, three broken ribs, two broken wrists and lost 6 pints of blood. I spent the next 6 months healing up and getting fit.

 

From this point on, my career was an uphill battle. My first British Championship ride back I went 4th or 5th Overall. Unfortunately, when training for the next round at Brampton, I re-broke the neck of the Femur and bent the pins in my hip!

 

I remember testing Jeremy McGraths Factory Chaparral 250 Yamaha end of 1999 and breaking my wrist. Oops!

Which rider(s) do you think could have gone far?

 

Lee Morrison and Carl Nunn. Both of these riders had great talent and should have gone way further; World Champions in fact…in my opinion.

 

 

If there was a Team of your choice that you could have raced for, who and what year would that have been?

 

An HRC ride would have been anyone’s dream, but I was lucky I had a full-blown Factory KX 250, and when I say full factory, I mean full Factory. How I’d love to own this bike today!

 

 

Was there any other sport you did or followed that you think you would have done if not for MX?

 

I was ok at most things, but I spent my whole youth dedicating my time to MX, training and working on my bikes. My Dad worked away during the week to cover the cost of my racing. I was very fortunate in my era that manufacturers heavily supported riders. Those days are well and truly gone!

 

 

What do you think of the sport now compared to then?

 

Firstly, the money has gone in the sport and it relies solely on external sponsorship. I feel for the parents. In my day it was tough – now, it’s a completely different level. I feel that the National Championships don’t get the volume of riders and I see this is due to the cost of the sport. Unfortunately, anything good in life nowadays costs you big money, so this is not just a dig at the sport!

 

 

If you could go back to change anything, what would that be?

 

Injuries. And probably thinking about how to go fast rather than trying to just go fast. My heart took over my ability sometimes, and that would probably be the reason for most of my injuries.

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What’s missing from the sport today?

 

I’m probably not the best person to make a judgement as I don’t follow the sport like I should. For me, the one thing that stands out is the support for the younger riders and this would go through to the Pro’s.

 

I have always felt that our federation has never given the support that other countries receive. I may be corrected on this as things may have changed, but this was definitely the case back in the day.

 

 

Any regrets? Any weekends you wish you could go back and change?

 

My ‘94 season. I had the biggest opportunity that year, but unfortunately from the word ‘go’ it all went wrong. I ended up catching my finger in the front disc helping my mechanic load my bike up. I needed an operation to remove bone splints from my finger just before the first GP in Italy. I jumped in the camper from the Hospital and headed straight to Italy. I think I ended up breaking my foot on the first lap of qualifying on a jump only myself and [Mickaël] Pichon were doing, but managed to finish my lap in the top 8 (if my memory is correct).

 

The Italian medics tried their best to get me on the track again the next day with injections and a special cast, but the pain was just too much.  I had other injuries throughout the year, then Weston Beach Race just finished me off.

(Photo Courtesy Martyn Petts)

(Photo Courtesy Martyn Petts)

(Photo Courtesy Ray Mayes)

(Photo Courtesy Martyn Petts)

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Tony testing Ricky Carmichael's '97 Pro Circuit KX125 after Steel City. (Photo Courtesy Davey Coombs)

(Photo Courtesy Davey Coombs)

(Photo Courtesy Davey Coombs)

(Photo Courtesy Ray Mayes)

Massive thank you to Tony for his time.

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