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  Justin Williamson          page 3

When I was 13, I started begging for a new motorcycle, as every kid probably does. My parents didn't spoil me; they made me earn everything. They made a deal with me: if I would do a perfect school year, all "A's", not even one "B", I could have any new motorcycle I wanted. Yea, you guessed right. Be careful what you promise a thirteen year old kid that loves racing. It cost them about six thousand dollars. That brand new '01 YZ 250 was the prettiest thing I ever saw. And I actually got a good education that year.


Uncle Chris and I raced all summer in New York on my new bike, with mediocre results in the B-250 class. I loved the bike, and the whole racing scene was always fun to me, but for those first 3 years, I just wasn't very serious about racing well. Then I won my first race ever, in a miserable, cold, rainy, downpour in New York, at the last race of the summer; and something changed in me forever. The ground was saturated and the conditions were so bad that half of the field asked for their money back before the race even started. We never considered not racing; we couldn't understand why those guys would miss out on all that torturous fun. I mean, what else can you do on a rainy day that is anywhere near as fun. Besides, when I was very young I was encouraged to feel proud to "succeed in the face of adversity", and even now, conquering difficult challenges feels much more rewarding to me than conquering the easy ones; I kind of like it when we have to hurry to put our mud tires on the morning of a race because it rained all night, or lift my bike up out of a mudhole I got it stuck in, just to ride on to the next one, and try again.


Coming off the starting line of the first race I ever won, the mud roost was so heavy that we had to pull our goggles off just to find the first corner. We were in a downpour, and the rain stung our eyes in the field sections. The woods offered a little relief while we made our way through the thick mud. We were careful not to get stuck in the mud holes that were quickly becoming littered with bikes. We just made consistent progress. By the half way point of the race, one hill became so difficult that the only riders that made it through were those willing to push their bike the entire length -- nearly impossible, though not impossible! It took us twenty minutes to make that short stretch of a hill, littered with burned-up bikes, and exhausted riders, commenting:" You can't make it. You're wasting your time. Give it a rest." Everyone else in our class gave up, but we didn't know that at the time. We kept going. By the time we got to that hill on the next lap, the course had been rerouted. We were the only ones to finish all the laps in B 250. When I received my first "winner's" trophy, I was changed forever. That day, I became a truly serious racer! Since then my only real career goal was to be an off-road pro.


Up until then, I didn't know what it meant to be a serious racer. I thought the top racers just rode a lot; so that’s what I did. Back in Florida, when I got a disappointing tenth at my first B250 FTR race, I knew I was doing something wrong. Uncle Chris had been trying to coach me for years, but I wasn't as dedicated to the work as I was to having lots of fun. However, at that point, I was willing to learn! He set out to teach me how to become the best I can be. I realized that I needed to change to improve. The changes were difficult and frustrating, but we worked through it and succeeded. Within a month I was winning races. Very soon I was checking out on the class. At that point, I hit another milestone -- I was truly dedicated to racing, and decided to try to make it to the "big time." I wanted to be--a Pro Racer!
My parents and Uncle Chris agreed that if I continued to do well in school, and win the B-250 class in Florida, they would set me up to" home school" on the road while pursuing my dream of becoming a professional racer. In the spring of 2002 I achieved that goal, and they fulfilled their promise. Uncle Chris stopped working as a professional tennis instructor and went on the road with me, as my teacher, driver, mechanic, coach, trainer, and manager. My parents have financed me the whole way. Those were big sacrifices. I hoped to not let them down!


I quickly got the hang of GNCC National racing in the B-250 class, after a disappointing start. Soon I started doing well. By the end of the season I was running the fourstroke A class and doing well on a KTM 400 that I traded for one of my '01 YZ 250's. The main reason I developed so quickly that year was because I was practicing everyday, and raced every weekend, sometimes twice on a weekend. But always, starting on the front row to learn from the best riders!

As we traveled around the country racing, in some district series they thought 14 was too young to ride AA. I would tell the promoters that even though his AAs were very good riders, I was confident that I would beat about half of them. I need to thank those promoters that laughed at me, as much as the ones that were more respectful. Every time they made me start in the second row, I had the "I'll show them" attitude. Uncle Chris laughs about it now, and says," you should have seen how serious you looked on 'those' starting lines." He was right; I remember the feeling. Those guys weren't going to rob me of my valuable riding lesson for the week. They just didn't understand why I wanted to race in a class that was sure to beat me--no chance of winning. I didn't have any interest in winning. I just wanted to learn. Of course, those were some of my best races; I holeshoted each one, and caught and passed more than half of the AAs. I showed them. But more important, I showed myself. Since then I've often turned negatives into positives.

I gained a tremendous amount of racing experience that year, because Uncle Chris persuaded me to race against the "AAs", when I was still at the "B" level, early in the season. He said it was the quickest way to learn, as long as you don't try too hard to stay with them. He was right. In every race there would be a "AA" that would get a bad start, or was having a bad day, or would crash. I learned a little from every one of them. Pretty soon I was beating all the slower ones, and learning from the better riders. By the end of the season, I was running with the top "AAs" and improving quickly. I was just fifteen years old.
We've been home less than 10 times since 2002, but only for Christmas and the FL GNCC each year. Then we were back on the road, chasing down more valuable racing experience. We both easily adapted to life on the road. I never really experiencing home sickness. Thanks to cell phones, I talked to my parents everyday. The nicest surprise that we encountered early in our travels was how friendly people are at off-road races everywhere. We've made so many friends, our phone book is bulging. Some people were concerned about my social development, and that I might miss my friends back home. I don't know about other home school kids, but if they go to a harescramble race every weekend, as I do, they would probably do a lot of socializing, as Uncle Chris often claims I do, when he hollers, "quit shooting the breeze, and get ready for your race." I can't even count how many wonderful friends I have at the races. But I do know how fortunate I am because of them.


We weren't lonely when our dog "Moto-Smoky" was given to us. But she was a stray that needed a home. And things have become even more fun ever since. She's a smart dog, great with kids, does lots of silly dog antics, and a great companion; especially when times get tough. And there were times that were tough.

Two years ago, my Mom's terminal cancer came back aggressively for the last time. My parents didn't want me to go through the agony with them. I think it's the main reason they didn't mind me being on the road all the time. So they called us back home only near the end. I spent a couple nice days at the hospital with my Mom. Then a couple tough days. Then she was gone forever. At first it was difficult. But staying busy with racing and having so many friends has helped me through. Sometimes I think about her, especially when things get tough. I miss making her laugh; we used to laugh a lot together. She was always very comforting. But I know she wouldn't want me to dwell on the past. So I rode on.... into the future.

 

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