Racing a team effort for the Pothier family
Motocross is a family affair in the Pothier house.
For 15-year-old Justin, the only member of his family to ride competitively, recent events have translated into the teen's ability to drive even further in his career.
Earlier this month, Justin was named Kawasaki Canada's Team Green Rider of the Year after a particularly strong racing season, marking the first time someone outside of British Columbia has earned the title. Not only did he score a new KX 250 F from the deal, the Hanmer motocross rider also received $3,000 to help develop his racing career.
Of course, his family was right there by his side the whole time. Both his parents and his 18-year-old sister are part of his “pit crew.” Whenever he dons the No. 167, his family is by his side — ready to work on his bike, offer a kind word or simply cheer him on.
After getting on a quad at age four, then a bike at age nine, it was clear to the entire family Justin wanted to race.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “The adrenaline rush, wanting to get better.”
However, while he had an excellent season accumulating wins in the junior division last summer, Justin's journey into the sport wasn't quite so easy.
It took a few broken bones and a lot of support from his race family at the Valley East Motocross Park (VEMP) and Nick's Racing Team in Espanola, but before long he was riding to win.
“I was kind of nervous about him being on the track,” said his mom and No. 1 supporter, Lise.
Since then, she has become a full-fledged race mom, going as far as watching TV races by herself just to see how the pros do it. Having been to enough of Justin's race, Lise now said she feels comfortable when Justin gets on his bike. So much of the sport is mental, so when he's positive about getting on the track, she knows he will be safe.
“If they're positive (words), I know he will have a good day,” she said.
Many of Justin's 2012 race starts took place in southern Ontario, where there are more riders looking to win. Justin said he would often be in the gates with 40 other riders.
In 2012, he won first place overall in the Amateur National Qualifiers in the southwestern Ontario region, and finishing first overall at the MotoPark New Area MotoCup around rounds one and two. Most of his wins come from breaking away from the pack early in the race, scoring about 90 per cent of all holeshots, then holding on to the lead until the end.
The tracks in that part of the provice are often bigger, there are more riders and longer seasons for them in which to train. It means in order to be competitive, Justin has to work that much harder at home.
During the “off-season,” he has been hitting the gym hard at least three times a week, enhancing his physical strength and endurance. His family has also loaded up his bike and travelled to indoor facilities, where Justin can score more seat time.
Because nothing prepares one for racing like riding.
“It's all about balance,” Justin said. “You have to be aware of your surroundings.”
His position on his bike, his breathing and his focus are all things he aims to improve with each ride.
Serge Solomon, owner of the VEMP, recently became Justin's mentor, helping hone the teen's skills.
“Justin's a great kid,” he said. “When it comes to doing his homework — getting better at racing — he does the work. And it pays off.”
For the last six months, Solomon has watched Justin get better and better.
“I see it in him,” he said. “He works hard and shows signs he could work at it as a career.”
Next season, Justin said he plans to carefully select his races, even travelling into the United States, for the chance to ride even bigger and better tracks.
While his goals are ambitious, he has the full support of everyone around him.
Racing isn't cheap, and it is certainly time consuming, but the Pothier family is fully behind their son.
“He was 100 per cent into it,” Lise said. “That's why we committed.”
“It's a family commitment,” said his dad, Gerry. “It's a team.”