[Husqvarna]

In The Champ’s Corner, Part 3: The ‘Old Man’

4 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Wade Lewis, DPH/M33 Productions, Andy Wigan, Matty Mac Media

From the outside, motocross might appear to be an individual sport. But any motocross rider who’s won at the elite level will tell you that having the right people in their corner is an absolute prerequisite for success. We spoke with the key people in Todd Waters’ corner; those who proudly witnessed the likeable 28-year-old clinch his long-overdue maiden Australian MX1 Championship title.

“It was a really emotional weekend for me at Coolum. But I wasn’t nervous. I was calm because Todd looked so in control. Even though there were only 2 points between Todd and Luke Clout coming into the weekend, I knew he was going to bring it home.”

Steve Waters, Todd’s Dad & funnyman

TM: Emotions at Coolum’s series finale…
SW: “It was funny how that, on the Coolum winner’s podium, Todd reflected on the fact that one of his first wins as a seven-year-old was at Coolum, and that I teared up back then. Well, like he said, things haven’t changed [laughs]. It was a really emotional weekend for me. But I wasn’t nervous. Which is a good thing because, whenever I get nervous, there’s usually a reason for it. I was calm all weekend at Coolum because Todd looked so in control. Even though there was only 2 points between Todd and Luke [Clout] coming in to the weekend, I knew he was going to bring it home.”

Looking back at 20-plus years of racing with Todd, the fondest memories the Coolum title win evoked…
“Lots of them! It made me think back to Todd’s first Aussie title race on a 60 in Adelaide, thinking we could maybe get in the top 10. When he came over the finish line, he was half a lap ahead! No one expected that, not even us. He went on to win five titles there. That’s when we realised he had talent. Todd was the first person in Australia to win his first MX2 race. Same again with his first MX1 race. In his very first 450cc ride – as a 19-year-old with Honda, back in 2009 – and he stood on the top step of the podium, along with Andrew McFarlane and Jay Marmont. And it was very special when I got to see him standing on the World MX Championship podium at Maggiora in Italy back in 2015. In fact, he almost won that day. One of the very special moments for me and Todd was the Motocross of Nations race we went to at the famous sandy track of Lommel, Belgium. We were there on the Suzuki with Jay Foreman, and Lawson Bopping and Luke Styke were there with Craig CDR Yamaha’s Craig Dack. Anyway, Todd was really nervous and got a crap start. On the first lap, I remember writing “P25” on his pit board. And then at the 22-minute mark, I put “P5” on the board after he’d just passed the two Americans. I’ll always remember Dacka shaking his head and saying that he’s never seen a ride like that in the deep Lommel sand. That performance got Todd the ride over in Europe in 2014. When I’m home by myself, I’ll often put that Lommel race on the TV and watch it, just thinking to myself ‘how good’s that?!’ [laughs].”

The Aussie title wins that got away…
“When you look back to 2012, when Todd finished second in the title chase to Josh Coppins, he had a mechanical problem in the first two races that put him something like 15 points behind. He was on the podium every weekend from then on, and only missed out by a couple of points. Coming second to Matt Moss that following year was also hard to stomach because we all knew what he was up to, even back then. That year, there was only a few points in the title too. Todd had the red plate several times over the years, but bad luck or injuries always saw him lose it.”

“Last year, when we went to America for three weeks, there were seven of us in the campervan, plus a couple of Kiwis following us on their vans. And we had an absolute ball doing that. We make a holiday of everything we do.”

Surviving the all-too-common father-son racing relationship fallout…
“I’ve never asked, but pretty much all the teams that Todd has raced for over the years have asked me to be mechanic for Todd on race day. I mean, I’m his practice mechanic at home a lot of the time, and I worked with him all year back at Honda trying to work that thing out in 2017. And then in 2018, when we went overseas, I was with Todd almost all year. But this season, the DPH guys prep the bikes and I’m just the race-mechanic on the weekend. I never get upset or talk too much to Todd on the weekend. I might get disappointed here and there, but I’ll keep it to myself. When you look around the sport and at the parents who are really hard on their kids … well, their kids aren’t in the sport any more. Or their dads aren’t. That says a lot.”

Family, balance and perspective…
“I went to Europe in 2015 with Todd. Even though I’m dad and he’s got his girlfriend there most of the time with him, I knew my place and I gave them as much space as I could. Then last year, when we went to America for three weeks, there were seven of us in the campervan, plus a couple of Kiwis following us on their vans. And we had an absolute ball doing that. No fights. Just good times and an awesome experience. We make a holiday of everything we do. I mean, how many other guys from the MX Nats paddock have jumped on an enduro bike and raced one of the Transmoto 6-Hour events? He had a ball doing that with some of his mates. I always say to people, ‘If you don’t want to stay for the podium, don’t come to the race’, you know!? Have fun with it. And that’s what we’ve always done. If you want to get home straight away after the race, find another sport. I think that grounded family existence has played a big role in keeping life and the sport in perspective for Todd, and it’s been an important ingredient in his title win this year.”

“I always say to people, ‘If you don’t want to stay for the podium, don’t come to the race’, you know!? Have fun with it. And that’s what we’ve always done. If you want to get home straight away after the race, find another sport.”

The difference in the 2019 Todd Waters…
“There’s been absolutely no difference in what Todd’s done this year; it’s just that he’s on a bloody good bike this year. Early in the year, he was racing a stock bike with a pipe and some Krooz Tune suspension work and the thing was that good. The boys then fitted a Vortex ECU and the DPH guys did some minor head porting work, but that was it. In other words, the average guy can go out there and race what Todd races on the weekend. Todd grew up racing KTMs and Huskys, so he’s comfortable on the things. But you can see from the sidelines how much more stable the Husky is to ride than the Japanese brands out there. I mean, look at Tim Gajser a couple of years ago. He won the title somehow after hitting the ground 100 times in between. And I said to Todd, ‘If Gajser jumped on your Husky, you’d never catch him!’ [laughs]. Seriously, I’ve only seen Todd drop his bike once all year; in a SuperPole lap way back early in the season. When he’s happy with the bike and its set-up, then he stays upright. Simple! A few tweaks to the suspension is all he’s done to the bike all year. He hasn’t felt like he’s needed to. In previous years, you just feel like you can’t do enough testing to get the bike feeling like you want it to. The bike this year has given him a new lease on life. Literally every day, he’ll ring me up and tell me how good his bike is. He’s like a racehorse. If he’s injured and can’t ride, he’s beside himself because he just loves riding the thing so much. In all our years of racing, I’ve never seen anything like it. Plus he’s worked harder than anyone I know.”

“Literally every day, Todd will ring me up and tell me how good his bike is. If he’s injured and can’t ride, he’s beside himself because he just loves riding the thing so much. In all our years of racing, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Surely, there’s more to it than the bike…
“Of course. This year, his girlfriend, Gill, has worked with him much more closely. So she should get the credit for that. Gill’s a physiotherapist and they work really well as a team. They’re both up at 5 or 5.30am every morning. Gill goes surfing and Todd does his beach running and stretching (Todd doesn’t surf during the race5 season), and then they’re in bed by 8.30 at night. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t even take a Codral Cold & Flu tablet. So when talk turns to drug testing, Todd puts his hand up every time, and I hope like hell they come test my son. He’s a living advertisement for persistent hard work, not shortcuts. Okay, he and Gill let their hair down after winning the title. They both got home at 4 or 5am, but they were down at the beach surfing at 6am.”


Related Content

IN THE CHAMP’S CORNER, PART 1: THE CHAMP

RED PLATES IN SIBERIA

IN THE CHAMP’S CORNER, PART 2: THE RACE TEAM

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