A TEENAGE motocross rider from Hyde has stepped up a gear after winning a coveted place on one of the country’s top teams.
Brandon Buckley, 13, from Godley, once one of the country’s top young racers, has beaten off considerable competition to sign for Phoenix Tools Evenstrokes Kawasaki.
The former Godley Primary pupil was one of three riders chosen from more than 300 applicants for the newly formed youth section of the team.
And it marks the dawn of a new era for Brandon – who almost quit the sport after an injury-plagued 2021 in which Jude Morris, one of his best friends, was tragically killed aged 17 following a crash.
“Brandon is making a fresh start in 2022 with a new team, new bike and new goals,” explained dad Mark, who runs Trade MOT Centre, Dukinfield.
He has already started training in readiness for the first race of the season in the opening round of the British Youth Championships in mid-March at Culham, Oxfordshire.
Brandon has been on his journey for the last decade after having his first bike, a Honda CRF 50 aged just three.
And he began competing on a KTM50 aged five finishing ninth in his first-ever race on the dirt racetrack at Preston Docks.
Brandon was only aged seven when he first began racing at national level, again in 50cc classes.
Since his first podium finish in 2016 still only seven, Brandon have achieved many successes at in club championships and national events having switched to a higher powered KTM65 bike the following year.
His most successful year was 2019, his final year in 65cc classes, when he finished runner-up in the British Youth Championships, missing out on the title by seven points on the final day of the season at Landrake, Cornwall, where without a bike failure and crash in two of the five races he would have been crowned champion.
That year Brandon also finished third in the Bridgestone British Masters and was then chosen to compete in the Junior World Championships at Lake Garda, Italy.
There was a field of 80 riders – the top five from each country – and Brandon missed out by 0.2sec to qualify to race in the top 40 as he finished 42nd.
Brandon moved up in 2020 to the 85cc small wheel class in the British MX Nationals. But as one of the youngest competitors in the 10-13 years age group, he had no great expectations. Covid-19 struck that year, however, with many of the racing cancelled but in the shortened season he finished fifth.
Last year Brandon joined a team for the first time as he was signed by Passion Racing GasGas, still competing the same class as 2020.
But it turned out to be a year to forget because of a catalogue of injuries, which began with a broken wrist while in practice a week before the start of the season.
He was also to break and damage ligaments in his foot and sustain rib injuries in what Mark described as “a year to forget”.
He added: “Brandon went to hospital eight times during the year with multiple injuries – I could easily have done a Tripadvisor of hospitals in this country.
“He even thought of quitting because of the injuries he sustained and the death of his friend which again highlighted the danger of the sport.
“And when Brandon was racing, he was carrying injuries, so it was a difficult time.”
As bikers race at speeds of between 50 and 60 miles per hour and can sometimes be 35-40 feet in the air, it is not for the faint hearted.
“I crash at least once every time I race. It is definitely more dangerous than football,” joked Brandon.
Brandon, who has previously competed in France, Belgium and Italy and practiced in Germany and Holland, is keen to start afresh with Kawasaki, a team backed by major sponsors Phoenix Tools and other backers including Everton and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
He will be competing this year on a Kawasaki KX 85cc big wheel bike in the British Youth Championships and British MX Nationals.
“This will be Brandon’s first year in the big wheel class and he hopes to achieve a top 10 in the nationals,” explained Mark.
Though Brandon has signed for Kawasaki, he still has to fund his racing which costs between £20,000-£30,000 each year which Mark finances largely through his business.
Bikes are about £5,500 and then it can cost a further £3,000 to modify them on top of maintenance, £120 race entry fees.
“Every time we shut the van doors it is £100 and the cost of a weekend is about £300,” he said.
“There is a saying in the sport that you only become a millionaire if you are a billionaire to start with.
“It is a very hard sport to get anywhere professionally because of the cost. The main reason Brandon signed for Kawasaki was for the exposure of being on a well-established team which can only for good and hopefully bring about better things in the future.”
By being a member of the Kawasaki team, Brandon will benefit from discounted equipment and services from sponsors.
Brandon, who has previously done mountain biking, boxing and Thai boxing, is also a member of the Ashton Air Cadets 247 Squadron.
If a career in motocross fails to materialise, Brandon is looking at the Royal Air Force as an engineer, though he also does not rule out pursuing boxing which he has had to give up after joining the air cadets.