Honda international on 2023 campaign to date and what comes next.
After retiring from racing in the US full-time last year, five-time Australian Supercross (AUSX) champion Justin Brayton’s program has been reduced for 2023 and, despite limited time behind the gate this season, it’s clear that he still has what it takes to compete at the front of the field. Misfortune at Newcastle’s Triple Crown – where he went 2-2-DNF for fifth overall – means his bid for his sixth-straight SX1 title is over, however, he is determined to finish the remaining races strong this year, first in Paris this weekend, before turning his attention to Marvel Stadium in Melbourne for the final round of the AUSX and World Supercross series. MotoOnline tracked down the Boost Mobile Honda Racing rider for this latest Conversation.
To begin with, following Newcastle your hopes for a sixth Australian championship ended with that DNF in the final race. It is the way it is, but with full points being awarded in each of the motos, you went from being nine points outside of the red plate after the second race, to being ruled straight out of contention an hour or so later. It has been an exceptional run though, to win every championship held here since debuting in 2016…
Even back to the beginning of the night in Newcastle, I really did everything in my power to close the points lead. Obviously Dean won the first round, I got second, but with such a short championship you have to make things happen early. I won the heat race, started the night off well, hole-shotted the first main… I thought I had that one pretty easy – I had a five- or six-second lead just cruising out front. Then I came up on a bunch of lappers, I had to roll the whoops and Dean was able to close up onto the back of me and was able to sneak past as I got held up. So that one was a huge bummer, because if we didn’t run into lappers… Honestly, the variance between us and the back of the pack at an Aussie supercross is so big. When I say lappers, it’s not like they are doing the same rhythms that we are or skimming the whoops, it’s a really big difference. I didn’t know what to do when I came up on them, because I really don’t know how they are going to ride. That is the difficult part, so yeah, if I won that one the points are tied up going into the next main, but unfortunately I got passed and was six points down at this stage. Dean straight up beat me in the next one, so I’m nine points down and we are going into the final race. Being a short, 10-lap race, I know how important the start is, and unfortunately Clout and I hit off the start when we were just starting to brake, so we are going pretty fast into that first turn. I just slammed the ground and was able to get up and get back on the bike, it was just my bike was so mangled. I don’t know if something happened to my pipe, but the power was way down as well, so I wouldn’t have been able to jump the triple or the finish line, that is why I was just rolling around… Just rolled around and unfortunately, that’s it, game over. When you have those short races, things can end quickly, but I also have to be thankful for the years past where I’ve swept some of those races and things have gone my way. Just part of racing, like I said earlier, I did everything in my power to bring it down to Melbourne, but just wasn’t in the cards this year.
Has it been different considering you are not racing full-time in the US anymore, for you to come back into racing at this time of the year? Visually, you seem like the Justin Brayton that you always see, but how has that been for you since you aren’t coming off of 17 rounds of Supercross?
It’s definitely different and I took six or seven months off completely, stayed at our house in Iowa through the winter, a lot of changes with not racing 17 Supercross events in America. It has definitely taken longer than expected to get back up to speed, and I think that’s where Dean [Wilson] has me a little bit, obviously, he was going to be tough regardless, he is riding really, really well at the moment, but I was also banking on having more World Supercross races and stuff to be tuned up and race-ready. It didn’t quite happen that way, I do think I did need a little more time. I think if I come back next year, I will definitely give myself some more time. Not only on the bike, but also off the bike fitness and all of it matters so much. Dean, Clouty [Luke Clout], [Matt] Moss, and [Josh] Hill, they are at a really high level. You can’t take anything for granted, and in the past, I was coming off racing 17 Supercross races, so I had good fitness, race intensity and all of that so for sure you’ve got a point on that 100 percent. Still good enough I think to win some races, but unfortunately just didn’t fall my way.
I guess you sort of take things year by year, and what opportunities are there, but is the idea for you ideally to continue on in the same type of structure for next year?
I would love to. It’s always year-to-year and obviously I’ve had a long relationship with Yarrive [Konsky], but now with him bringing Dean in, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that. Time will tell. I have every intention to try and get that sixth championship next year and see how the cards fall with structure and World Supercross and all of that. Nothing is done yet, but it has definitely lit a little fire under me to come back and prepare a little differently. It’s been all different for me too, not having raced in the US, and how long it truly takes to prepare to get to a high level. It’s really, really difficult, and it’s the one percenters, a tiny bit here and a tiny bit there, that adds up to half a second a lap. Maybe that’s where I was in the past and to get back there, to be able to win the championship again.
Just finally, you are all good for Paris this weekend – that’s still the plan?
Yep, all good for Paris this weekend. It’s one of my favorite races and the 40th anniversary, so really cool to be a part of it. I was able to win back in 2009 and to still be going at it today, was able to have a great race last year there with Kenny [Roczen] and Eli [Tomac] getting first and second, and I was able to get third. Had some awesome battles with Marv [Musquin] and Cooper Webb, and this year is going to be no different, stacked field as it always is. It will be fun to have Jett, Hunter [Lawrence], and obviously Kenny and Cooper back, some stiff competition, but a perfect way for me to go into Melbourne with some races under my belt… maybe it will help bump that intensity up a little bit.