In case you haven’t heard, GasGas Motos is back. With the Torrot Group recently acquiring ownership of GasGas Motos, the Spanish marque will return to the world and North American markets in a big way. As part its North American plans, the company recently hired two familiar faces to help grow and develop the brand in the U.S. market; former National Enduro and ISDE racer Johnny Barber, and former factory pro motocross racer Broc Hepler. In part one of this two-part interview, we speak with newly hired East Coast Racing Manager, Johnny Barber.
Johnny, how are things going with your new position at GasGas Motos North America? Can you elaborate a little bit as to what your new job position will entail and what you’ll be responsible for in the U.S. market?
Things are going good considering how new everything is. My position at GasGas North America as East Coast Race Manager is a work in progress, for sure. I’m responsible for finding the riders, soliciting sponsors, and handling most of the logistics of our team. It’s an exciting time to be involved with GasGas! Right now my role is focused on building a small regional race team here in the Northeast. We would love to continue to expand but right now we are focused on building a strong foundation.
Having raced National Enduro and ISDE events, you seem like the ideal person to bring your experience to the task of racing manager. You also have a long history, starting in 2003, with the GasGas brand. We imagine that will help tremendously when it comes to building a race team.
I’m a huge fan of off-road racing and feel very fortunate to be involved in this industry. I understand what it takes to compete at a top level and hope to use my experiences in the industry to better our team. I actually rode for GasGas N.A. from 2003-2006 racing National Enduros, GNCC, and the ISDE. I was able to get GasGas their first ever National Enduro overall win as well as some GNCC top 10 overalls. Two out of my three ISDEs were on GasGas, including the 2005 world trophy team in Slovakia.
"I think being competitive again at the national level is an achievable goal for GasGas here in the states. It’s not going to happen overnight but it’s definitely something I’m working towards." -- Johnny Barber
Will you and the team be based out of Pennsylvania? Or will you work out of the Ortonville, Minnesota office?
We will be based out of Western Pennsylvania. It’s really good at the moment being that our rider Broc Hepler only lives an hour away. We have been able to get a bit of testing done and Broc seems to be getting comfortable with the bike.
From what we’ve read, part of the plan is for you and the recently signed Broc Hepler to race the Ohio-based Appalachian Championship Enduro Series (ACES) in 2016. What made you choose this series?
Broc and I are both fans of the ACES enduro series. It also makes the most sense geographically. ACES enduros are well attended, challenging, and the enduro format allows for less congestion and possible injury because of it, which is obviously a big deal considering what Broc has been through. It doesn’t hurt that Broc and I are both past ACES series champs!
So will 2016 primarily be a development year for the GasGas North American team racing the ACES series and select National Enduro and Full Gas Sprint Enduro events?
Absolutely! I think it’s important to have the right infrastructure and components in place before we take this team to a full national schedule. This is a learning year for myself and the sponsors who are coming onboard without us having proven ourselves as a team. I hope to give our supporters a good ROI and continue these relationships into the future as we grow and evolve our team.
Twelve months from now where do you hope to be with the GasGas North America program in the U.S.?
Twelve months from now I hope to have our first regional championship wrapped up and also a list of ways I can improve at my role. We will evaluate what worked and what needs to change so that moving forward we can improve as a team.
"It’s an exciting time to be involved with GasGas!" -- Johnny Barber
Beyond that what it the ultimate goal of GasGas in North America? Is there a long-term goal of signing more riders and becoming a podium threat at national events in the future?
I think being competitive again at the national level is an achievable goal for GasGas here in the states. It’s not going to happen overnight but it’s definitely something I’m working towards.
Johnny, thank you for talking with us about your new position. We’re excited to see GasGas back in off-road racing and we look forward to seeing where things go. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks Dale for the interview and posting our team press releases. I think dirtbuzz.com is an awesome media addition to the off-road scene! I’d also like to thank all of our team sponsors for coming onboard in the last three weeks. We couldn’t do it without the support of these great companies!
Lunova Group, Spectro, FMF, Golden Tyre, Fasst Company, Supersprox, HBD Moto Grafx, Super B, Numbers Brewing Company, Tri-state Powersports, P2R suspension, Shift MX, 6D Helmets, and Scott motosports.