Jackson living his motocross dream
For someone who competes in such a high-paced sport, Jackson Simmons is a pretty relaxed customer.
Just a few days away from completing his schooling at Marlborough Boys' College and stepping into the world of full-time employment, the 17-year-old Blenheim-born, Renwick-raised motocross rider does not appear to take life, or himself, too seriously.
However, when it comes to hopping on a motocross bike and racing he couldn't be more serious. A couple of weeks ago he proved his credentials as one of Marlborough's more promising prospects in his sport.
Jackson not only picked up his first ever first place trophy at the Marlborough Motocross Champs by winning the enduro class, which he dominated with five wins from five races, he also did well in the national 125cc class, riding consistently to finish a creditable second.
Considering he has been riding since the age of 5 and racing since he was 12, Jackson was pretty chuffed to win his first ever first-place trophy. He said his dad, Kenny, who got him and younger brother Jefferson on a bike when they were young, was someone who had played a significant part in his success.
"Dad was a top-five or 10 New Zealand rider so he got us a bike when we were younger and we mucked round on that for a while. I was about five or six and we just mucked around down at the river . . . we eventually got bigger bikes and when I was 12 we got an RM80 and I started racing on that."
Once Jackson decided to start competing, his abilities were quickly evident. He placed third at a race that was part of the 2008 Marlborough flat-track series and remembers that event fondly. Since then there have been many races and several bikes come and go, but it was not until he bagged an after-school job with Brendon Wadsworth at the Marlborough Trials Centre that motocross started to become more serious.
"In March last year I did work experience for him and from there it progressed to a couple of days after school to every day after school and full-time in the holidays.
"About six months ago I was looking at getting an RM125 and then Brendon got me one and gave me a bit of a sponsorship. Since then I started racing more and going to places like Christchurch and Nelson to race."
Along with simply being on his bike more, Jackson said a focus on improving his fitness has also played a part in his recent success.
"My fitness is kickboxing every Thursday night. I started about two months ago and it has definitely been helping . . . you get a good sweat-up so you can ride for longer without getting tired."
Another sign motocross was taking over was the lesser presence of football in his life. A Renwick club member as a junior before switching to Blenheim Valley when he joined the senior ranks, Jackson has played football since starting school and has been a Marlborough rep every year since he was 12. Last year, though, motocross became No 1 and his football commitments became limited to playing for BV Colts in the division two competition.
Motocross is very much a Simmons family thing. Although he is not into it as seriously as Jackson, Jefferson still rides in the odd event, while mum Sonya took over as the Marlborough Motocross Club's secretary three months ago and enjoys watching as much as she can.
In just over two weeks time, Jackson is set to start a full-time apprenticeship at the Marlborough Trials Centre and in a few years he hopes to be a fully-fledged motorbike mechanic.
As for the on-track side of things, the upcoming Peter Brown Memorial in Marlborough, December's Westland Champs and the prestigious Golden Nuggets race on the West Coast are the major races in his sights. After that, it will be a case of continuing to balance his work commitments with his racing, but this laid-back teenager is not looking too far into the future.
"It's probably not going to get too serious in the next year or so, but it will be serious enough. I'm not planning on going up north to race or anything, but maybe in another few years. I'll just see how it turns out. "Maybe top 20 in New Zealand one day would be cool."
WEEKLY SPORTS STAR
Name: Jackson Simmons.
Born: Wairau Hospital, Blenheim, 13/02/1995.
Educated: Renwick School, Marlborough Boys' College.
Earliest sporting hero: Josh Coppins.
Latest sporting hero: Ben Townley.
Must-watch TV programme: Sponge Bob.
Must-have food: Mum's baking.
What's hot on your MP3 player (walkman/stereo): Maroon 5, Thrift Shop, Hall of Fame, Battle Scars.
Favourite holiday spot: Anywhere but here.
Superstitions: Don't have any.
Pet hates: Being late.
Fashion crime: Whatever dad wears.
Favourite sporting moment: Winning my first 1st place trophy and winning all five Enduro races at the Marlborough Motorcross Champs.
Worst sporting moment: When my helmet came off after I went over the bars at the 2010 Gold Nuggets MX on my KX85.
In five years I'll be:A qualified motorbike mechanic
The Marlborough Express