Catching Up with… Austin Watling

By Billy Rainford

Corunna, Ontario, Intermediate racer, #424 Austin Watling, has been working his way through the ranks the last few years and has risen to the point where his name is mentioned with the top up-and-coming riders getting ready to hit the Pro level after 2017.

With just one more year left to run the yellow plates, Austin will use this final year of amateur racing to prepare himself for the biggest challenge of his life – The Pros. To do this takes complete dedication as a rider and unwavering support from your parents. In 2017, Austin and his family will be receiving additional support from the new Amateur Support Program on the Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing team.

We got in touch with the speedy youngster recently to get his take on this latest development in his racing to see what it all means and what his plans are for the coming season.

Austin Watling

We check in with Austin Watling to talk about this latest development with the Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing amateur support business | Team photo by James Lissimore

Direct Motocross: Hey, Austin, how are you doing?

Austin Watling: I’m just doing some school stuff and I’m tired.

When did you first start talking about this new deal with the Honda Canada GDR Fox Racing team?

It’s been in the works for a while. They kind of helped us out at Walton this year, as people might have seen. I don’t know exactly when we started talking about it, but after I was down south for Mini O’s, Derek (Schuster) gave me a call. I came back a week after Mini O’s and I was supposed to stay down for another week and ride, but I came back and did the photo shoot and looked over the contract and everything. I looked it over with  my parents and once everything was good we signed it.

We spoke with Derek and he mentioned a racing calendar for you in 2017. Are these all races you had already planned on doing?

Most of them. I don’t think we’re going to do Daytona this year, but we’re going to do Oak Hill and Freestone and stuff, and then we’ll do Walton and Loretta’s still. We’ll come up to Canada and do stuff to support them in between, but I think the only difference is we’re going to do a couple Nationals as Intermediate. I think we’ll do 2 or 3 of those. Same schedule as we were going to do.


Austin had a good showing at the Mini O’s this fall in the ultra-competitive B classes| Bigwave photo

How will this change the program you’ve already got? A little more support, a little bit of pressure off your parents? What do you think?

Ya, definitely. I’m trying to keep my mind off things like that. They’re definitely going to help, I just don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. It’ll help me train better. I want to do better with better support behind me, but I’m always going to train and do my best. Ya, it’ll be a little bit off my parents’ shoulders. My dad probably won’t have to work as hard, but I don’t know if that’s good for him. He’s always working on my bikes anyway. It should be good.

What’s next for you?

Right after Christmas, we’re going to head south. I think we’ll go to Real Deal for a month and then after that we’ll go to GPF with Colton (Facciotti) and Dylan (Wright). That should be good. I’m looking forward to riding with those two. Hopefully, it’ll improve my program a little bit and from both of them I’ll learn a few new little tricks. From there we’ll go to Oak Hill and Freestone and some of those, and then I might stay down a little bit longer until spring and then we’ll probably do some area qualifiers while we’re down there and then come back.

So, I assume your goal would be to do your last year in the amateurs and then hopefully there’s a spot for you on the Pro team, right?

Ya, that’s the ultimate goal right now. I’m going to push as hard as I can and try to ensure a spot, but it kind of rides on what I do this year, so it’s kind of a big year for me. I want to just prove myself in the beginning of the year and have some good confidence and then try to stay consistent at all the nationals. Then, hopefully in 2018 we’ll be on the Pro team with GDR.

20161126-img_2522 Austin Watling

Don’t worry, Stephan, there will still be lots for you to do, even with this new level of support | Bigwave photo

So, looking back at the Mini O’s, how did that week go for you?

It went pretty good. It’s kind of hard to tell by looking at the results. Supercross went all right. I got together with some people and had some bad luck. I went outdoors and qualified pretty good. I finished with a 5th, a 7th, and a 7th. That 3rd (from a photo we posted) I think I got mixed up with Austin Winslow. I think they thought that was me. I think it was pretty good, considering most of the guys up there were on factory bikes – Team Green and all that stuff.

It’s kind of hard, looking at the results, because you look and wonder why I got 7th but half the guys…from where I was last year, I think I improved a bunch and I was happy with where I finished.

Ya, without a great start, you’re sort of screwed in that group. 

Oh, definitely. Like in Supercross, once you get one or two bad starts it gets in your head. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And with only 5 laps in Supercross, it’s kind of hard to make your way back. Outdoors, I got a bunch of good starts and I felt like I could run with the guys.

20160828- Austin Watling

Austin is proof that hard work and dedication can pay off in this sport | Bigwave photo

You mentioned racing a few Canadian Nationals as an Intermediate. Which track are you most looking forward to racing? Is there a track you’re looking forward to?

Probably Gopher Dunes. I think that’s the plan as to where I’m going to debut. I think it’s good, obviously because I’m riding for them and I think I ride pretty good there. I just need to be confident going in and not go to the starting gate thinking about how I’m racing all these guys and let my confidence get down. I need to go in with a good head and get a good start. I think from there I can run with some of those top 10, top 5 guys.

Isn’t there a track you’ve never been to like out east that you are thinking, “Ooh, I can’t wait to ride that one!”

I think I’ll probably do Ulverton but I’ve never been out there…never actually really seen the tracks, so it will be good to go out there, but I think I’m just excited for Gopher because I love the track and I’m comfortable with it. I think I can do really well there.

So, where will we see you take your first gate drop with all your new sponsors?

I think Oak Hill is the first one and then.

So, have you got all your cool new Fox casual gear yet?

Ya, for sure. They’ve been hooking it up. Jay Moore is a really good guy and I’m glad to have him behind me.

Well, congrats on this latest development for you. It’s a big deal. 

OK, thank you.