Martin Barr revved up for ride with Buildbase Honda
Martin Barr made his 11th consecutive appearance for Ireland at the Motocross of Nations in 2015, and having been voted Irish Rider of the Year by local publication Off Road Ireland, the Ballyclare lad is now looking forward to 2016 having secured a lucrative new deal with Buildbase Honda.
"It's been all a bit last-minute after my deal with KTM UK fell through to run my own team for a second year," said the 28-year-old, who finished seventh in this season's Maxxis British MX1 class.
"It was a bit of a kick in the teeth after turning down other rides, but thanks to Neil Tuxworth at Honda and Buildbase Honda team owner Dave Thorpe, I now have a competitive MX2 ride for next season."
Having recently tested the team's CRF250R, Martin is happy to be jumping back into the cut-and-thrust MX2 class, where he will take in three independently-run championships in 2016: the Maxxis British Championship, Pirelli Masters and MX Nationals.
"The Buildbase CRF250R Honda really is fantastic and I think working with Thorpey and Honda next season will make life a lot easier," explained the Ballyclare lad, who was chief bottle washer and cook in his own team this season, which really took its toll.
"I did 48 boats trips in 2015 and drove them all myself. It was enjoyable but a real struggle trying to race, train and run my own team. I was really tired all the time," said Barr who last rode for Honda in 2010.
"Yeah the last time I was on a Honda I won the Pro Nationals, so hopefully that's a good omen," smiled the Ulsterman whose father Martin, a former top class tarmac star, will continue to look after his engine development and tuning work in 2016.
"I'm always pleased to have dad around and my suspension man Scott Gardner on hand to get the bike set up," he explained, but what about the change of class; does that require different preparation?
"It's no big deal," he said candidly. "I'm lucky that I can jump from MX1 to MX2 and vice versa and to be honest, riding the 350cc KTM this year, it had to be ridden like a 'two-fifty' anyway, so the only change for me will be to trim my weight a little for the smaller class."
Unlike his tarmac racing buddies, there will be no December slacking for Barr as he heads to Scotland next week for his first official Buildbase Honda team test with team-mates Lewis Tricket [MX2], Kristian Whatley and fellow Ulsterman Graeme Irwin, both MX1.
After that it's off to Sardinia in January for some further testing and a return to the Italian Championship for the first time since 2008.
"You can practice all you want but there's nothing like going into turn one fighting for position with 40 other riders," he said.
"I can't wait to get behind the start gate on the Honda and show what I can do in Italy; then it's only a matter of weeks before we head to Lyng for the first British round in March."
All he needs now is to stay injury-free after sustaining serious thumb and shoulder injuries, which have curtailed his preparation and championship aspirations in recent seasons.