I met the Uribe family four years ago when they began to attend Yamaha Champions Riding School, with Jayson enrolling in our Youth program. They had big plans and dreams to race overseas and a goal of making it to the World Championship. Four years into that dream, the family is still on the gas, with Jayson running competitively in the ultra-tough FIM CEV Repsol Moto2 Championship in Europe on a Kalex Moto2 machine. Two years ago he finished fifth overall in the French Superbike championship, then third overall in the British Superbike Moto3 championship. Impressive.
For this week’s article, I asked racer Jayson, mom Becky, and dad Allan to describe what it’s like for this family to take on such a daunting task. Racing at the front of these series is tough enough for the local European crowd, what’s it like for a family from California?-Nick
JAYSON URIBE: “NO EXCUSES. YOU EITHER SINK OR SWIM”
Racing in a foreign country is difficult to say the least, but it is also totally worth the effort. I know that I have been lucky to race in the different championships, but it has not happened by chance. My family, friends, and sponsors have given all that they can to help me climb the ranks and get this far.
Just like racing here in America, racing in Europe requires the rider to make deliberate sacrifices, but when you are the foreigner in the paddock with different rules, cultures, and languages, it compounds the stress felt by everyone. My biggest fear is that I may only get one shot at this FIM CEV European Moto2 series, so I choose to make every lap count.
From what I’ve experienced so far, the CEV series is pretty similar to racing in the BSB (British SuperBike Championship). The grids are full, the bikes are all well maintained and tuned to perfection, and the riders are some of the best in the world. Many people who I race against have actually stepped down from higher championships either because of lack of money or because they needed to improve before they returned to the Moto2 racing at the world stage. Several riders, such as Ramdan Rosli and Eric Granado, both came from the World MotoGP Championship and are now racing side by side with me. I usually have a few riders that are a bit faster than me and I make it my goal to stick with them or pass them by the checkers.
There is an old saying that goes, “You will become who you hang out with.” If this is true, then I am destined to improve greatly by the end of the season because my teammate and friend, Steven Odendaal, is not only a very talented and experienced racer from South Africa, but he just won the CEV Moto2 Championship. For the first time in my life, I finally have a teammate who has years of experience on the local tracks and who is willing to work with me as I look for the right bike setup. Although Steven and I have different riding styles—I am more “old school”—we are close in weight and height, which helps when we compare data.
One thing I noticed that is very different from previous championships I raced in is the amount of importance put on data. I have two telemetry experts who work with me at every race, Nico Sanchez, and his father, Chus. Every time the bike rolls out of the garage, every throttle blip, brake lever pull, or missed shift is recorded, and as they tell me, “The numbers don’t lie.” They work with Steven and I after every session, and we choose one lap to compare my data to Steven’s so that I can see where I need to get on the throttle sooner or be more aggressive with my braking. At this level, most racers take a similar line. What separates the front pack from the rest of the group is usually who makes the mid-corner direction changes better and who gets on the gas earlier.
My manager, Donnie Graves, gave me a few books on sports psychology and told me to read them. One theory that keeps popping up is that it takes ten years (or 10,000 hours) to truly master a skill and I firmly believe that. I began racing on a GP machine when I was nine years old, and that was eight years ago. I took a break for one year, in 2012, to race supermoto, because I was in a rut. I wasn’t progressing, I was nowhere near the podium, and I had stopped having fun. I also raced one year on a production bike while in France in 2015, so I have to add those years to my “master a prototype bike in ten years” rule. If I stay on my current path, I will be 21 when I complete the ten years/10,000 hours of training and learning (although I plan on always learning). It’s funny, but I’m just now starting to really understand some of the techniques that I was taught when I was 11.
Racing a motorcycle at high speeds is not something the human body was designed to do, unlike walking or chewing. It is a learned skill, and skills take time to improve. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, as I know that this is my rookie season in this championship. But like any racer I will never be satisfied with second place. We all want to win; not for the trophy or the glory, but to know that we were the fastest at the track on that day. The need to cross the line first is built into a racer’s DNA—it’s why we live.
In this series, I think that anyone in the top five could podium or even win, because in this championship there are no “factory” bikes and all of the engines are sealed. This makes the racing much closer, as it is more about the team and rider rather than factory bikes versus satellite bikes, which is the case in many championships, including MotoGP. After a race, some bikes (usually those in the top five) are randomly required to be totally stripped down, bolt-by-bolt, in front of two race officials. There does not need to be a challenge or an allegation made to check the bikes; it’s just a way to make sure that no one is cheating. This happened at our last race, and while it took hours of work for our mechanics, it was all taken in stride by everyone and they drove the team rig home the next day. Of course, our bike was perfectly legal and within all regulations.
Making the jump to CEV has been one of the best decisions I have made, but racing is expensive and funding is always the most difficult part of the journey. When I arrive at a new circuit it can be discouraging to have far less track knowledge than my competitors, yet still be expected to go out and place well. The pressure to perform in order to keep my team and my sponsors happy is constantly in the back of my mind. At this level, there are no excuses; you either sink or you swim. My entire family has given so much for me to be here, and my own personal sacrifices have been large. I didn’t come this far to lose.
BECKY URIBE: A MOM’S PERSPECTIVE ON RACING INTERNATIONALLY
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” -Douglas Adams
We have a saying in our family: “A family that rides together stays together.” Jayson and I began riding motorcycles around the same time, he was four and I was 30. I saw how much fun he was having and thought that I needed to try it as well! Five dirt bikes, three street bikes, and two surgeries later, I can confidently say that riding bikes together as a family has been the best preparation I could have had for living abroad with Jayson and supporting him in his racing endeavors over the past four years.
I believe that having the common passion of motorcycles and racing allowed me to support Jayson in a special way as we travelled. I am grateful that we could bench race after each session and discuss apexes, brake markers, or about which corners he was struggling with. By understanding what he was experiencing, it reduced my fears of him crashing or of how I would manage to get him home if he were to get injured.
I am often asked by people, “Don’t you get scared?” My answer is always the same: “Yes, of course I get scared sometimes, but I realize that racing is his passion and it’s my job to help him achieve his goals, not hold him back.”
Back in 2013, I left America as a 40-something mom/wife/daughter embarking on a life-changing adventure to support our 13-year-old motorcycle racer chasing his dreams. During my time away I learned to fiberglass fairings, repair leathers, wrench on most anything that was broken (or crashed), how to speak two different languages, and how to be content with the thought of my small bunk bed and sleeping bag after a long drive home after the races. Sure, we had a few scary moments (like when our van blew a head gasket three hours away from home and Jayson got burned trying to fix it, the foreign banking nightmares, or the difficulties of explaining American health insurance in a French hospital after a race crash) and yes, it was very difficult to be away from my husband and two other kids (now 19 and 23) for months at a time, but we survived. We learned from our mistakes, we adapted, and we refused to give up.
Now, in 2016, I look back and realize that every part of our journey, from the early days in the WERA paddock on a 2004 Honda RS125 to the current scene of a sophisticated 2014 Kalex Moto 2, was critical to our development and preparation for whatever comes our way next. We definitely have our bumps and bruises, but I prefer to think of these as “battle scars” that every racing family endures as they fight and claw their way towards the upper ranks of global competition, and I think of them fondly.
I am a better person for having embarked on this journey, for all that I have learned, and for all that I have yet to discover. My family is closer now; we laugh more, we appreciate everything to a much higher level, and we all have a common goal—to finish the season happy, healthy, and with a plan for the upcoming season. This may not have been what I envisioned for myself as an up-and-coming consultant in the business sector, but in a nutshell: I wouldn’t change a thing.
ALLAN URIBE: ADAPT AND THRIVE
I am a third-generation electrician. My Dad was in the trades before he became a teacher, as was my grandfather, Rocky, who we named our company after. When I was approached to see if I would like to share some of my experiences regarding our life and journey since Jayson started competing internationally, I didn’t know what to write about. My life is like every other racing Dad’s—I work hard to pay the bills, work a little harder to pay for the program, and then work a little more to cover the travel expenses. It’s what all race families do and I get that. The one thing that is different from racing locally (nationally) is the amount of change that our entire family must constantly deal with.
For me, the single most important characteristic that has allowed us to be happy as we are is to be adaptable. Becky and I rarely go to the races together; we take turns so that our business is always taken care of. Obviously, the language barrier is one of the first obstacles to work around. I am always amazed by how quickly young minds can adapt and pick up a new language. Jayson speaks basic Spanish, French, and Catalan after racing in the different championships over the past three years. We have books at home on the various histories of whatever region we are racing in, and we all try our best to adapt to the local culture and respect the differences.
The most difficult moments for me are when Jayson is on the track and I cannot physically be there. We had a strong family racing program while Jayson was in the States, and now that he has moved up, it’s hard to not be a part of the weekend. I realize that this is why we all worked so hard to get to this point, but what I didn’t think about was the fact that Jayson would be racing without us there sometimes.
But even if I can’t be there physically, I’m there mentally and emotionally. Every race weekend I change the clocks in our house and try to sleep when Jayson sleeps so that I don’t miss a second of when he is on track. I print out all of the sector times and study where he can improve, and whenever he is on track, Becky gives me the play-by-play over the phone. My work crew here at home is the best, and they know that on the Friday before the race weekend, my nerves will be raw and I will look like I’ve been up all night (because I have!).
Sometimes parents will ask me what they should do to get their children into international motorcycle racing. I have a different answer for each person depending upon their child’s ambition, experience, and skill set. The one thing that remains constant: Everyone involved must have complete commitment to the program and understand just how much work is involved. It is a huge commitment and for most, a huge sacrifice, but it is not impossible if everyone shares the same dream and are willing to forgo things like family vacations and food (at least anything above Ramen).
It’s not an easy choice and it may take years to reach the top (and we may not make the top) but every day that I wake up, I believe with all of my soul that we made the right decision about making the temporary sacrifices necessary now for the long term goal of having another American racing and winning in MotoGP. And I hope that’s Jayson Uribe.
Nick’s Note: Thanks to the Uribe family for finding the time to describe their intoxicating world to us. I speak for everyone who has met this family when I say how proud we are of your efforts and that we encourage you to new heights.
On a more national note: Hope to see you at Barber this coming weekend for the AHRMA races! I’ll be on Rusty Bigley’s Spondon Yamaha TZ750 so come over and say hello and to meet one of only three aluminum-frame Spondon TZ750s in the world.