BIG INTERVIEW: ‘I think I can still do a good job for Ipswich’ - Superstar Crump reveals why he’s back and riding for the Witches
IT’S electrified the speedway scene... JASON CRUMP’S return to the UK this summer with Ipswich Witches... MIKE BACON caught up with him to speak to the 3x former World Champ...
MIKE: Well, Jason the news of your signing has gone down well in the UK and Ipswich.
JASON: I'm happy to hear that.
It makes me happy. I've been out a little while from the sport, so if it had been say five years or so I'd have probably expected it to have gone down well, but the amount of time I've been out is a bit different.
So, it's nice to know.
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I think I can still do a good job for Ipswich and it's nice to think, from what I'm reading on social media and messages I've had, people feel the same way.
I've been realistic with Chris Louis the whole way through. And he has with me. I know what he is expecting from me and I know what I'm expecting from him.
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MIKE: So, why ride again? And how big a decision was it?
JASON: A pretty big decision to be honest.
I didn't take the decision lightly. My wife and I discussed everything, she's 100% behind me.
Do you know what? I just felt that in 10, six, even five years time I will be too hold to do it.
Maybe seven/eight years ago was too soon to retire.
But at that point I'd been racing 21 years. I'd gone straight from school in Australia to the UK to ride. After 21 years of riding I don't say I was fed up with speedway because I wasn't.
But I was carrying, not serious injuries, but wear and tear. Things were not enabling me to do what I wanted to do with my riding.
As well at that time, the age of our kids played a part. Our daughter was starting High School, she's 21 this year.
Everything added up to stop riding. It was the thing that suited me best.
Life changes from year to year, month to month, day to day. At the moment what I'm now doing suits us greatly.
MIKE: Why Ipswich?
JASON: If Ipswich had not raced on a Thursday while I was doing the GPs it would have been a place I would have wanted to race for sure many years ago.
But when I was trying to be world champion, it didn't suit me to be riding every Thursday at Foxhall before I was going to a GP on a Friday or Saturday.
I've always been based around Northampton, not far away in the scheme of things.
I have King's Lynn and Peterborough connections, and of course now Ipswich, I like that part of the country. Both our kids were born in Northampton.
So, I'm very comfortable dealing with Chris Louis. I have raced with him, know his family history with John Louis.
Guy Nicholls was a good sponsor for me the last time around, so I have a relationship established with him.
Everything together meant Ipswich ticked all the boxes..
MIKE: Are you bringing the family over this summer?
JASON: My son Seth has one more year to do at school and my wife Melody will hopefully come over five or six times during the season.
MIKE: What are you looking forward to most this season?
JASON: I'm really looking forward to challenging myself again at a high level of speedway.
That's what it's all about. No-one wants to come last in a speedway race do they?
If you have four Tai Woofinden's in a race someone has to come last. You never want it to be you.
As much as I'm excited, I'm also sh****ing my pants!
It is a big step for me to be doing this. But it's a step I want to take and I'm excited to be taking.
I'm looking forward to having those butterflies in my stomach. Because they're already here and we're only talking about what I'm hoping to do.`
Also, it will be nice to be turning up to every meeting feeling fresh as I can, whereas at times before what felt like 15 meeting every fortnight, it was hard to be fresh and happy with all of them.
MIKE: How do you want the other Witches riders to treat you?
JASON: I want to be more of a team man.
I want to be involved. Not that I want Chris Louis or Ritchie Hawkins to ring me up three times a week... If they want to that's fine because I want to be part of that.
I want to be part of what riders are talking about. I want the rest of the team to feel comfortable, to come and talk to me, whatever they want to talk about, racing or stuff in general.
I want to be their 'go to guy' if you like.
I'm considerably the oldest in the team so they can look up to me as that person - that's what I'm working to do.
MIKE: Cameron Heeps, Jake Allen, Drew Kemp, young riders in the Ipswich team. What a thrill for them for you to be with them.
JASON: I'll probably feel 15 years younger being around them and I'm looking forward to that.
I know Jake Allen quite well, I see him around a bit when he comes back to Oz. We have mutual friends.
I spent a bit of time with Cameron in Perth and met Drew Kemp for the first time. I thought he was a great kid.
I don't think I have ever ridden in the same team as Danny King, but remember him fondly. We've had messages back and forth since I retired.
Nicolai Klindt I've know for years because he came to ride in my Polish team about 2006 when he was just a young kid. So, I think Nico Covatti is the only Witch I don't really know that well right now.
MIKE: Well, the other big news this winter is the return of Nicki Pedersen to British Speedway with Sheffield. Your thoughts on lining up at the tapes alongside him again?
JASON: I'll be honest. I had a rally nice message from Nicki just a couple of days ago.
I'd like to say we're older and wiser but personally Nicki and I were destined never to be friends. We were both trying to win the world title at the same time.
If I'm honest, after Mark Loram won the world title in 2000, it was kind of between me, Nicki, Tony Rickardsson, Greg Hancock and Tomasz Gollob for many years, with all respect to the other riders out there.
But Tony departed quite early in the 2000s,
People always have had opinions of Nicki on the track. I just knew if I was going to beat him I had to be close to my best.
As a rival he was a hard bugger. I can't comment on anything else. I don't think I've ever sat at a table with Nicki and had dinner!
I know as far as I'm concerned my days of being world champion are over and I would think Nicki is probably in the same position.
It's probably a bit short sighted for people to just be looking at me and Nicki racing in the UK. The Premiership in Britain looks a lot better than for a fair while and I think as a sport, there is a lot to look forward to, not just me and Nicki racing against each other.
MIKE: Might this be a one-off year Jason?
JASON: I'm going to see how it goes. It's certainly not something I'm looking at and saying it's a one year thing.
I've learned to be more open-minded in the last four or five years and take things a little bit more as they come. So I wouldn't tell you now it's a two or three year plan, or a one-year plan.
MIKE: You've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Witches fans over the years!
JASON: Yes, you're not wrong. But I've always enjoyed riding at Ipswich.
I think as much as the crowd tried to give me a bit of stick, by the end of every meeting I was always getting a round of applause whatever the result because at the end of the day the fans at Ipswich are quite knowledgeable about their speedway because, like it or lump it, they appreciate someone who does ok.
In all the years I rode there, I never went away from Ipswich thinking the gestures and comments at the start of the meeting was what they really meant.
I went away with a cheer and a pat on the back at the end of most nights.
By the way, there is one thing I'm looking forward to.
I'm wondering what sort of introduction I am going to get from Kevin Long (the PA man).
I used to get some absolute crackers as an away rider, so I'm thinking it will be interesting to see how good he is with me now because he now has the opportunity to be nice to me every week!