Rookie Report: Super Siblings James & Lucy Barker tackle Adult Motocross!
In a cracking double interview with the British Youth Motocross institution that is the Barker family, Dirt Hub delved into the fabric of this fast family from East Yorkshire, as teenage MX stars James and his sister Lucy launch into two very different Motocross seasons for 2024.
Words: Ben Rumbold, Images supplied by the Barker family. Featured Image: ConwayMX / RHL Activities
James has just completed his first season in the full adult ACU British Motocross Championship, finishing 21st in the overall standings despite missing the final round, as Tommy Searle’s double win just pipped him for 20th in the points! Lucy has had an incredible first season on a 125cc machine, becoming the European Women’s Champion and scoring points in the World WMX Championship in her first meeting at Arnhem in the Netherlands. She also made history by being the first female to climb a British Championship podium in the Youth 125 class at Monster Mountain. They have both had a massive presence in the top Youth Motocross paddock for many years and always featured in some amazing action on track.
James turned 18 in October, and Lucy had her 16th birthday in June. From their family home in Driffield, about 20 miles directly north of Hull, they have raced not just all over the UK but also across the continent in search of top Motocross honours, and you get the feeling that both of them will be at the top of the game for many years to come.
We did approach them for an interview and were happy for them to either be interviewed separately or together, but their decision was to do the interview together and it made for a great chat. As you may have noticed though, James won the coin toss for having the Featured Image on the site!
DH: Good evening to you both, how well has your season ended and how are things looking for the winter?
James: Things are looking good now, been back on the bike today for the first time in nearly two months. We were on our way to the last round and practiced at Apex in Worcester, then in my last session with about two laps to go I had a massive crash. I went straight over the bars and hit my head, had a bad concussion and twisted my ankle really bad. I was gutted because the track looked really good, so much better than the MX Nationals round there – I had a terrible day!
Lucy: I hadn’t seen Monster Mountain before, all I heard was “it’s so bad, it’s so bad”, and when I rode it I was like “This is mint!”
James: I was p*ssed off to be knocked out of the top 20 cos I worked hard all year, had some really good rounds and some really bad rounds. Compared to Youth racing, where a bad day is 6th or 7th, having a bad day in MX2 it’s like “oh, I haven’t scored any points!”, and it puts you so far down cos you can lose points really quickly. I felt good after Lyng, when I scored my first points, and Blaxhall went alright, but I crashed out of the second race at Hawkstone. I couldn’t ride between Hawkstone and School House because of concussion, but the first race was great, I was up in 9th but then lost two places with a crash two laps from the end. I felt completely gone in the second race but still scored points so that was good, and it was great to ride “oop north” as well.
Lucy: We originally thought you had to be 16 to race in WMX, but James was training for EMX125 and we parked next to Shana van der Vlist, who races WMX, and told us that we could ride it at the age of 15. Then we found out about the European series as well and decided to do all of them. I hurt the rotator cuff in my shoulder at Oakhanger in Qualifying for the Youth 125 class, and that kept me out of [racing the WMX opener in] Sardinia. The European round in Lithuania was a week before WMX in Spain, so it would have been a 24-hour drive to do that, and then the Euros were back in Poland, half an hour down the road from Lithuania, the week after Spain! So as Lithuania went so well [Lucy won, and led the European series], we thought that all that travelling didn’t make sense when I was out of the WMX Championship anyway. But doing Arnhem was really good.
DH: Is the WMX series a big step-up from the European series?
Lucy: Oh yeah it was massive, the 250s and the 125s race together in the Europeans but get scored separately, whereas they don’t in WMX. You’ve still got 5 of the top ten 250 riders in the Euros, but everyone in the top 20 in WMX is either much faster than you or the same speed! Now that I’ve won the European series in the 125 class, I am going to move up to a 250F for next year, it’s pointless staying on a two-stroke if you’re trying to race for the WMX title.
James: I don’t know why so many people stay on a two-stroke so long, if you’re going to race at international level there’s not much for you unless you go up to a four-stroke.
DH: So how did you get into the sport in the first place, is the sport in the family?
James: Our Dad had little trials bikes and things like that to mess around with on the farm, and did a little grass track but nothing serious. He bought us a quad bike, just randomly, but there was one between the two of us, so we were arguing like mad over that and it broke, so we took it to a shop to mend it, and there was this little bike there, with a pull-cord to start it like a jetwash! So Dad bought us that to stop us fighting over the quad!
Lucy: It had like flames on it, absolute classic! There’s no name on it of any make, I don’t know what it is but we’ve still got it here actually!
James: That was what we started on, we didn’t start on any KTMs or a nice PW50, it was a proper… a proper bike!
Lucy: He got to race, but I didn’t, I was meant to do my dancing. I got to about seven and I was always watching, just thinking “I really want to race”, and coming up to Christmas I asked for a bike and was told “no Lucy, you’re a girl, you do your dancing.” In the end I said “Well I’ll have a motorbike, or I’ll have nothing”, and ended up getting James’ old motorbike!
James: She used to get the hand-me-downs, now I get the hand-me-downs. I get all the second-hand stuff now!
DH: So what major races and achievements made you start to look at doing Motocross at maybe a professional level?
James: In my last year of Big-Wheel 85s, I started to do really well, then after moving to the 125 for 2021 we decided to try the first round of EMX at Matterley, and had such a good weekend that we decided to do Maggiora the following week. I qualified in 10th, just so happy to be there and I was faster than Van Erp, who was Junior World Champion the year before! It was so hot, so humid in the races but I still just loved being there. Later that year we did Trentino and ultimately decided to do EMX125 in 2022. We just loved racing in all those countries, so to make sure we made the best progression we moved up to a 250 for MX2…
Lucy: … rather than race your sister!
James: Yeah, we had support from Store114 in 2022, then from Matt Gardiner for 2023, and now we’re really just looking for sponsorship to do as much as we can for next year.
Lucy: Once we found out about the European Women’s Championship we went out to Denmark for the first European round, and I’d never raced out of England before, I was so nervous, but I won qualifying and couldn’t believe it. All the girl’s Dads are crazy…
James: … ten times worse than anything you’ve seen in England! Terrible!
Lucy: This one girl had headphones on the start line, really serious, but we were battling all year. I won both races in Denmark, and then again in Germany. In Poland I won both in the 125s but was also third behind two 250s, including Lotte van Drunen which was amazing. Although because I stayed for the podium I nearly missed the flight home when I had an exam the next day! I won both races in Slovakia, and then the last round in Italy I only needed a top six and I won it, so to get the Championship was a weight off my shoulders. It was a lot of pressure because you don’t know what’s gonna happen.
DH: So you’ve raced your whole life against boys in the UK, are the girls in Europe doing the same?
Lucy: No, it’s so tough because I’ve been racing boys all the time, and I didn’t really care too much about the results but then I watched James at the GPs, watched the girl races and thought “right, I want to do this”, and started training more in my last year on the 85. Both James and me started training with Brian Jorgensen in Spain, who’s been a massive help.
James: It really did click once you got on the 125 though…
Lucy: Yeah, the penny really dropped. There are so many girls from Sweden and Norway, and they have so many girl races, but because I had raced the boys so much it made me tougher. Boys always try harder to not get beaten by a girl, the Dads always hanging off the fence going “c’mon you can’t get beat by a girl!”, and you can see their lap times getting better! Even at practice days the boys would go faster if I was around!
DH: So have you guys done all of this racing in Europe from your own family budget as well as with a bit of sponsor’s help?
James: Oh yeah it’s all from our budget. What’s mad is that the Spanish federation pays each rider’s entry fee, as do Denmark, the Italians, the Dutch, and the Belgians all help their riders out like that, and at each race there is a representative from the governing body that goes to every single GP. The Spanish guy will even go around to Prado to see how he is! The ACU don’t give any financial support whatsoever, and any British riders are just on their own, without a clue as to what you’re doing when you start.
Lucy: Yeah especially when it’s all new to you, it’s really hard.
James: It’s harder when it gets to 125, Big Wheel 85 is easy to race, but then, like, you’ve got factory teams doing EMX125, and you never see a British rider get signed by them, I think Eddie Wade was the last one.
DH: So for next year, are you back on KTM again, how is it all looking?
James: Yeah 100% KTM because I think it’s just the all-round best bike as a privateer, although they don’t give support to anyone at our level these days! Nothing is set yet in terms of sponsorship so we are open for anyone wanting to help.
Lucy: And that counts for both of us as well, I will be doing the Europeans again but in the 250 class, and all the WMX rounds as well, then as many British as we can.
DH: Just to ask, James you run with #410, Lucy you’ve had #3 and now this year #310, any particular reason why you race with those numbers?
Lucy: Well, I’m gonna tell you the story, cos James will make it sound wrong – James bought a bike and it had #410 on it, which is a big coincidence cos that’s his birthday, 4th of October…
James: No, Mum picked #410 cos that’s me birthday… I didn’t like it so I changed to #3 and cos I had that, Lucy wanted that as well, then I changed back to #410 in my last year of Big-Wheels, cos I had quite a bit of bad luck with #3, quite a few injuries. Then Lucy wanted to change…
Lucy: I wanted a three-digit number when I went to Europe, because I didn’t want to look like I was fast with a big #3 on, so I wanted to be like James again and added the 3 to his number for #310…
James: She’s copied me, then copied me again and again…
Lucy: No, I just like the number, I would’ve picked it anyway… [At this point, Mum chimes in saying “It’s always like this in our house!”]
DH: Brilliant, we’ll leave it there before we cause too much chaos! Thank you so much for talking to us and we wish you both the best for 2024!
It’s clear that both James, Lucy, and the family behind them are committed to racing at the highest level possible, and take a great positive attitude into every paddock they are part of. Dirt Hub will watch their progress with interest and report on all of their success in the years ahead!