125cc World Champion Grant Langston is fast. So fast, in fact, that many people have him slated to be Pastrana’s main competition while defending the 125cc National title. The likeable South African is fresh off of his first Supercross win and heading into Glen Helen with tons of confidence, and for good reason: he’s hauling ass!
We caught up with Langston today at the KTM test track in Corona while working on an upcoming article for TWMX and asked him a few questions…
TWMX: First of all, congratulations on your first SX victory. Tell us what that was like…
Langston: It was great, especially after what happened in Houston! That was obviously really disappointing to fall three turns from the finish with an eight second lead, so I think the best thing I could have done was to come back and win Dallas. KTM has worked so hard to get a rider on the top of the podium, and it finally happened. I think we finished in every position except for first up until that point, so it was great.
TWMX: Did you expect to come to America and win a Supercross race in your first season, or did you think that it would take a while?
Langston: Honestly, I wasn’t really sure. I knew the guys were really good. I raced in a few overseas Supercrosses in ’99. I remember Brock Sellards beating me by like 30 seconds in an eight lap race, so I knew that I needed to pick up the speed a bit. I figured that I would get some top-five finishes, and maybe even top-three, but I really didn’t know if I would win one this soon.
TWMX: Many regard you as an outdoor specialist. How did you learn SX so quickly?
Langston: It’s funny, but when I came out here I had only ridden on a Supercross-style track a handful of times. There’s nowhere in Europe to practice SX. I learned ALOT in the beginning. I had to watch the other three guys on my team to learn how to seat-bump jumps, how to regain control in the whoops when you get squirrely, and other techniques like that. I had no idea what to do. I am riding with less energy now, and every time I get on a SX track I feel more confident. At Anaheim 1, I had never even gone through a real set of stadium whoops, so I was scared, to say the least! I’m way more confident out there now; I feel really good on a Supercross track. I don’t want to be known as just an outdoor guy; I want to be a Supercross champ, too.
TWMX: What kind of confidence are you entering the Nationals with? Can you beat Pastrana?
Langston: Yes, I think I can. I’ve raced against him many times. In fact, in ’95 he came to South Africa when we were both on 80s. There were three motos: the first one was muddy, and I almost lapped him, the second one I beat him by a considerable amount, and in the third he broke his thumb. We had a rematch in Vegas in ’96, and we were pretty close; he beat me one moto and I beat him the other. At des Nations last year, that was a really good test. On Saturday, he beat me in the heat race. I was riding like a real idiot. I got bad arm pump, and then we collided and my disc got bent. His footpeg also went through my spokes. I was really disappointed, because it was a battle of pride for both of us. Sunday was a different story, though. I knew I could beat him, and I did in both motos. In fact, the second moto I came from dead last, almost three quarters of a lap down, and caught and passed him. I’m pretty confident that I can beat him outdoors. I know that he will be tough; I’ve seen him ride and he’s a great rider, but I think that I will beat him again. I guess we’ll see in a few weeks!