Since he was just 15-years-old, Ryan Lockhart has held a professional racing licence in Canada. Since those early days in the late 1990s, Ryan has competed in countless indoor races throughout North America and Europe. When the 2018 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series was announced late last year, Ryan was only planning on perhaps racing the opening round in Abbotsford, as it was close to his home. However, after finding success at Round 1, Ryan made the trek to Calgary for Rounds 2 and 3, and once again he had a great weekend of racing. After three challenging rounds, Ryan now sits second overall in the 250 class, and seventh overall in the 450 class. With his recent success in mind, Ryan decided to jump on an eastbound flight and finish off the AX series in Sarnia and Barrie. We caught up with Ryan as he was getting everything prepared for his trip to Ontario.
MXP: Hey Ryan, there is a juicy rumour going around that you’re planning on coming to Ontario this weekend?
RL: Well, over the years there have been a few rumours about me that haven’t been true, but this one is all true Palms. I’m flying out to Ontario today actually.
MXP: I’m sure all of your Ontario fans will be happy to hear as you have some deep roots here. What was behind your decision to carry on with the series?
RL: The original plan was just to race Abbotsford and be done with the Triple Crown Series, and I was only going to do that because it was close to my house. Then, when the opening round went okay I was able to turn the trip to Calgary into a race/ business trip. So, I loaded up my family and we headed there for Rounds 2 and 3. Calgary again went well, and now that I’m sitting second in points in the 250 class, I figured why not keep it going.
MXP: Prior to Abbotsford, did you put a lot of preparation into that race?
RL: Very little (laughs), other than the Future West AX Series and maybe a few events in the USA. This is really my off-season, and with the weather so wet in BC during the winter, we haven’t been able to ride. However, we’ve been able to ride more recently, so I should feel better this weekend in Sarnia.
MXP: Abbotsford was obviously about survival, but in Calgary you holeshotted one main event and rode really well all weekend.
RL: Yes, Calgary was good as I was able to run up front a little and get a taste of that. But man, I did a lot of riding that weekend. Between the press days, practices, both nights of racing in two classes, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden that many laps at a race before.
MXP: Here is good question for you: Is it hard these days to race and bang bars with riders that you’re not only good friends with but you also support them through the company you work for?
RL: That is a good question! I mean yeah, it’s sometimes a little strange lining up beside a rider who we’re supporting whether with Atlas, 100%, Matrix or Tag Metals, but they all seem okay with it so why wouldn’t I be. We’re all professionals out there. Sometimes we come together and make contact on the track, that’s just racing. I’m not at the point in my career where I’m going to intentionally clean another rider out, but I will try and be as aggressive as I can be. If there are hard feelings, we can sort it out on the phone Monday morning.
MXP: It’s great to see a fellow vet rider still get out there and compete with the kids. Your endurance might not be what it used to be but your speed is still there.
RL: Yes, I do feel good out there, and it’s pretty motivating to know that I’m still able to battle with guys that race for a living. I’m not going to lie, that is part of what drives me to still want to do this. I don’t know, racing in just a lot of fun right now.
MXP: Well, we spent a few years working together back in 2006 and 2007, and while you were certainly at your peak in the sport back then, sometimes it didn’t look like you were having fun. Do you feel like you’re making up for lost time?
RL: When I was younger, even before the few years that we worked together, I was trying way too hard and was going about things completely wrong. I just had the wrong mindset when I went racing. If a rider was faster than me in one moto or on a certain day, I would instantly feel like they were just better than me. I know you tried to help me with that and I started to figure things out. I don’t know, I think it’s just one of those things that you have to learn as you get older and now I feel like I don’t stress as much as I used.
MXP: One of the things that has changed for you now is that you have your family with you at most races. It must make you feel good to have your fiancée (Randi) and your son (Meston) always there to cheer you on.
RL: Well, Randi thinks I’m crazy for still doing this (laughs), but she supports me in whatever I do. Meston, he’s still young enough that he thinks every rider is me. But, you’ve seen him at the track, he just loves being there. He loves every part of it. To see him enjoying it so much really makes me realize just how fun this sport is.
MXP: You’ve raced indoor races all over North America and in Europe, including events in Quebec where AX was really born and perfected in Canada. What are your thoughts on this new Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series?
RL: So far it’s been good and the racing has been exciting. There have been a few things that need to get ironed out, but that is how it’s going to be for any new series. Abbotsford was a write-off with the dirt, Calgary was much better and the racing reflected that. Hopefully Sarnia and Barrie are even better and we keep going from there. I watched the television broadcast the other day and the coverage is great, the live streaming from what I hear is good. Obviously, there are a lot more positives than negatives, I think just in our current generation people tend to get caught up in the negative stuff.
MXP: Well, like or not this is the series we have and you’re right, there are bound to be a few small growing pains, but it can only get better. I will add to that and say that I personally have never seen as much discussion in our industry during the past few weeks, and while some of it has been of the negative nature, communication is never a bad thing.
RL: Exactly, that is how we’re going to make this sport better, not just for 2018, but for years to come. The CMRC Nationals took the sport in Canada to new levels when they started, with riders like myself, being able to make some money, fly to the races, have great bikes and a large team supporting them. Now it feels like we’re going one step further, and with this new series, riders now have a chance to compete at a high level for the entire year. Hopefully, in the next few years the riders will get compensated more for this and the sport in Canada will reach new heights. This not only helps the pro riders, but it also helps amateur riders as they grow and progress through the ranks. Look at riders like Marco Cannella and Tanner Ward, they were able to turn their successful amateur careers into a solid ride for their first pro season. That’s what it’s all about.
MXP: Well said Ryan! Okay, before I let you go I have to ask you, as we spoke about earlier, you’ve raced a lot of indoor events over the years, including what I would say is the best AX ever to be held on Canadian soil, the Riviere du Loup AX. Can you give us your best Riviere du Loup story? Keep in mind of course that there will be kids reading this (laughs).
RL: I don’t even know where to begin with that race. Over the years it has been so good to so many people, any rider that has ever been to RDL has at least one good story from there. First off, the fans, the city, and the promoter Paul Thibault are incredible. From the moment you drive down the big hill and into the city, you’re treated like someone special. I don’t have one specific story, but I can say that my best memory from there is just standing on the podium after a good night of racing, and then looking around and thinking that your night is really just beginning.
MXP: I know what you mean and I think we’ll leave it at that. I’ve always said this and I know that you and I have talked about this at length, but my opinion is that every pro rider should race RDL at least once in their career.
RL: I agree completely!
MXP: Well Ryan, safe travels and we’ll see you Friday in Sarnia.
RL: For sure Palms, I’m looking forward to coming out and hopefully having a good race. Thanks for calling.