Seventeen-year-old Brooke Williams may be young, but she’s already well on the way to mastering the work/life/competition balance.
Currently working at a farm in the morning, riding in the afternoon and then working a restaurant job at night, Brooke has her eyes firmly on becoming a qualified sports scientist, a profession she may well work back into her true love – motocross.
Of course, having been born into a family that has always been about motocross, it was never really going to happen any other way.
“I was born into it - there’s a photo of me at the Rockhampton motocross track when I’m two weeks old, and both my uncle and my Dad are ex-professional riders.”
You’ve got a fairly specific plan worked out Brooke, what is it?
“I’ve got a bit of a weird way of going about it. I’m actually pulling back with racing for a couple of years because I’m going to uni, then when I finish up, I’ll have a few years where I’m just going to completely focus on motocross, and we’re actually looking towards me and my brother going overseas to have a go at that life. Then if I do any good well we can look into it more. I’m still young – most of the girls who are doing really well are up to ten years older than me.”
What are you going to study?
I’m doing three years in exercise and sports science, becoming a sports scientist and then doing two years in a Masters of Physiotherapy. I would like, in the long run to use my degree and my experience in the sport together. I like the idea of staying in the sport and doing what I love on the health side of it as well.
So motocross, did it take immediately, or was there initial rejection?
“As a little girl I rejected it majorly. I wanted to be a little girly girl and I tried all the other things like dancing and all that stuff, and eventually I came back to it when I was like 13.”
Why do you love your motocross now?
“I personally love the social side of it. The places you go and the people you get to meet. As I’m getting older I’m also liking the admin side of it. Running meetings and getting involved with the clubs instead of just going and using the tracks. This generation kind of just uses the track and leaves, but the reality is a few of us need to stay behind, because if we don’t do that, the track won’t be there.”
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a rider?
“I’ve been very lucky to have lots of coaching from professional riders from a young age, because of my Dad and my family. But my weakness is sand, which is kind of funny since my home track is sand. And probably another thing is my aggression; sometimes I have too much and I end up on the ground, and other times I knock it back too much… I can’t find that middle point where I can be fast but not hurt myself or someone else.
“I’ve actually got really good natural endurance fitness. I work for it, but my strength in my upper body is where I let myself down. The amount of injuries I’ve had in my shoulders – starting riding and then getting injured again, I’ve never really got that strength back completely.”
So the Brooke from five years in the future would be telling you to do lots of core strength around those shoulder joints?
“Haha, yeah probably. I probably should be telling me that now.”
What aspects of motocross thrill you?
“Getting a corner 100% right is the big thing for me. I was always scared of ruts when I was younger, so getting through a big rut right without any problems, that’s always fun for me.”
Women’s MX in Qld at the moment. Do you see it as strong?
“Mountain Man was a big class - 27 girls, that’s a lot. You’d be lucky to get that at a national level. But I think we need to get more of the girls doing the bigger stuff. There’s only a few of us that would do the Airoh series, because there was that stigma that it was the Sunshine State series and ‘I can’t do that, because I’m not that good.’ ”
Is that just pure self-confidence? Where they think that’s just a level they don’t belong at?
“Yes, it’s definitely. Definitely a self-confidence thing. I didn’t want to do the Airoh series at first either. I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t think I was good enough.”
Well it’s great that you understand the psychology from the side of the rider in doubt. In that case, what does your advice to those people become?
“The tracks will be harder, but that’s going to benefit you. You’re going to find a way to prevail. If you always ride the easy tracks, you’re never going to learn how to ride ruts.
I like the fact that at the Airoh series, they put us on the Sunday instead of like at the junior series where they put us on Saturday. And I found that last year a lot of the girls would always want double gate drops if they were racing with the Vets for example. You get more benefit when you’re not as scared of the first corner. If you just go and do it with the Vets it teaches you to barge and to hold your line and things like that. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with a Vet rider. I had problems in juniors, but not as a senior.”
How was Mountain Man for you?
Probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time, but not one of my best race meetings. It was my first proper race in about 8 months back – I’ve been on the ground more than I’ve been upright lately, so I’ve had a lot of time off broken, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back to where I was. I dislocated my shoulder and had to have a bunch of stuff done to that, which took half of last year. And then the start of this year, first practice day back I knocked myself out for ten minutes at Toowoomba and was out for another three weeks.
So you could be forgiven for having a couple of little ghosts in your head about Echo Valley.
Yeah I was a little bit hesitant. Normally with the riders that were there on the weekend I would expect to be around the fourth or fifth place, but I just didn’t put it all together.
Now vintage, how long have you done that for?
“Four years I’ve been doing that now. I’m trying to focus on it more this year. I’ve done state titles for the last couple of years, but I’m trying to get to the Aussies this year. “I’ve got a couple of bikes that I ride, but my main one is a 1993 RM125, but I’ve also got another two RM125s – a 1981 and a 1978. And then I also sometimes ride Dad’s ’84 CR500. But that’s just for me to have a bit of fun on.”
What’s your favourite?
“Probably the ’93, and then the ’81. Just purely for the fact that you can ride the ’93 a bit more like a modern because of the upside down forks, disc brakes and stuff like that that just makes a difference.”
You’re 20 years younger than that bike! what do you like about it?
“This sounds so silly, but I love how it looks. When you sit it next to a modern big-wheel 85, the lowest point is almost the same height as the 85. I look at it and it’s so small and everything’s round and we call it a frog. It looks like a frog. They just make me smile when you look at them.”
To girls who have only ever ridden a modern bike, how do you describe what that 81’s like to ride?
“Um… you need to learn to use the clutch a lot, they don’t have the low-down torque of a modern bike. You’ve got to learn to brake earlier too – their brakes don’t work. And they get hot, you can’t run your back brake into a corner like you do a modern bike. It’s hard to get forward on the 81 too, because their seats don’t go forward the way the flat seat of a modern bike lets you get right up over the tank. The tanks are almost as long as a modern bike’s seat, so you have to change your riding position.”
So, you’re thinking nationals this year?
“Yep. It hasn’t been announced where it is. The classic Aussies are here in Queensland, then for the post-classic, which is ’85 upwards, they haven’t announced where it is, but I’m hoping to go to it.”
We talked about the necessity for a few more girls to step up and consider themselves worthy, both to bring the numbers up and for their own benefit to create the exposure. What would you say to somebody who was wondering if they were good enough to do the Airoh series?
“I would say, as a girl, any girl is eligible to race anything. I don’t think you should be worried about where you come. First, last, in the middle, fall off, even if you think it’s all bad, there’s always something good to take from doing a faster race meeting. You think you’re as fast as you can be, but if you’re with faster girls, they’ll lift you up.”
With the girls that you race these days, who impresses you?
“Chelsea Carter has always impressed me. Like, not just the fact that she’s an amazing rider, which she is, but just because she’s always been really welcoming to the sport. Super dooper nice and friendly – I look up to her.”