To say Clayton Jameson struggles to make it in Motocross, it is a bit of an understatement. Indeed, if there's a harder track to follow, he's riding on it.
Like most rising amateurs and pros who got their start as toddlers, Jameson got his first dirt bike when he was three, a PW50, naturally. But the riding didn't stick and after a time racing ATVs, Jameson settled on being a regular, every day kid. Finally at 14 he got back into riding and while his peers surely were ripping it around the track, he struggled to get his footing.
Finally, after two stints at FCA camp he was ready for Loretta's Lynn's. But a crash during camp while helping train younger kids ended his hopes for Loretta's, ended his time on the bike and almost ended his life.
A MotoSport sponsored rider, Jameson continues our "grassroots" interview series of amateurs working their way to the pro ranks or the weekend warrior who competes for the fun and thrill while holding down a day job. This is what he said:
Years Riding: Six years
What age did you start riding and on what: Age 14 on a 2008 Yamaha YZ85
What do you ride now: 2016 Yamaha YZ250F
Hometown: Blackwell, Missouri
- Won Loretta Lynn's qualifier and regional in 2011 in Supermini 1
- Made it to Ponca City, OK second year of racing back when you had to qualify
Favorite Track: Silver Dollar Raceway in Georgia
Favorite Riders: Dean Wilson and Justin Barcia
Other sports participated in: None
Other hobbies or interests: If Motocross doesn't work out I did go to college. I'm one semester from having a degree in welding and two semesters from a degree in Automotive Diesel Technology.
1. How did you get started riding a dirt bike?
I got my first dirt bike for my 14th birthday and it took off from there. Actually, my dad got me my first bike when I was 3, a PW50. I only rode it for about a year and then did flat track on 4-wheelers. That was a better route for me at the time but then I stopped after age 7 and I didn't ride anything until my grandpa got me my first dirt bike when I was 14.
2. How did those first years go when you started riding?
They were definitely rough. There were many, many races where we stayed in a 20 foot enclosed trailer. We had bike problems and I was on the ground a lot. But about six months after I turned 15, something just clicked. I was at an FCA camp with Ryan Sipes and Andrew Short and I took to heart what they were saying and I started doing really well. That first full year it was rough and I was getting hurt left and right but after that it went smooth.
3. Then you had a major accident and almost died. What happened?
In June 2011 I was training for Loretta's. I was at an FCA camp, my second year, we were doing a training session showing younger kids how to approach a section. There was a downhill jump where I took it with another rider and we ended up whipping together. The wind blew him into me and when I landed, it slingshot me into the uphill and I landed sideways and into the face of the uphill. When I hit the ground, it was estimated at 65 mph and it was like hitting a brick wall. I was knocked out completely for 25 minutes.
I woke up in the hospital. I tore my spleen, broke my wrist, fractured two vertebrae, broke a rib, my collarbone and tore the main artery in my heart. A surgeon at the track told me I had a 5 percent chance of living.
When I was at the hospital I was originally told they couldn't do anything for me and nobody could tell my family what was wrong. That's when it got serious and I needed to fly to another hospital because I was bleeding internally from my heart. Basically, the doctors told my family to say goodbye. That night all of my family was there, I didn't know what was going on or where I was but I knew enough something was severely wrong for all my family to be there.
About 7 p.m., they get ready to put me in a helicopter and someone tells the pilot he can't fly because of severe weather. Now they have to take me by ambulance to the hospital 4 hours away. I should not have made it at this point. I shouldn't have made it off the track. Miraculously, we make it to the hospital where I went directly to surgery.
My grandpa was there and I've never seen him cry. I now had an even slimmer chance to make it through surgery. They were originally going to break my sternum and if they had I'd never play contact sports again including Motocross. But they went through my left side, sliced me open across my rib cage and went in and surgically cut the broken artery, and slid essentially the inside liner of a garden hose. I was in ICU for 13 days and doctors told me I should never look at another dirt bike.
But I looked at it as if I can make it through this I can make it through anything.
4. How did you get back into racing and riding?
After I healed up, I was about 17 years old. I finished school, worked for two years and went to college. After working about seven months I stepped back and said, "Is this something I'm going to remember forever? What do I want to say I've done in the last 20 years when I'm 40?" You can't race Motocross forever. I want to be able to say I've lived in other states and traveled. Motocross was the only thing I was good at and I thought I was still in decent health so at about 19, I started racing locally again and it took off.
I'm the kind of person where my mind is made up and I'm going to do it. I sold all my stuff and went to Moto X camp. Look at Christian Craig. If he can do it, that can be me too.
5. So you're currently at Matt Walker's Moto-X camp where you arrived in June. Are you working on fine tuning some elements of racing or is this boot camp for riders?
This is more fine tuning amateur stuff. We had a bunch of camp guys at Loretta Lynn's. I didn't go because I broke my leg at a qualifier but I'm healed now and riding. This camp is more of a facility where people either come a month before Loretta Lynn's and train or actually live here. I train with a trainer twice a week. I live, eat and breathe Motocross Monday through Friday and race on the weekends. Every week Matt Walker sets a goal for us. The Mini O's are coming up in November and I'm training for that.
6. How long is the journey at Moto-X camp?
I'll be here the bare minimum of a year. Half of his facility is a campground the other half is for the training facility. Right now I'm living onsite with my fiancé.
7. So you're all in. It's safe to assume then your plan is the pro ranks?
Yes, that's definitely the goal. When I left Missouri in May I had a broken leg and I still wanted to race. I took every dime I had, and everything I owned, I sold it. I sold two trucks and a fifth wheel (type of camper) to move here. I knew if I was going to do it I was all in.
8. What did your family think of this especially after the accident?
My family was all against me. Nobody wanted me to go. But I was 20 years old and I made the decision for myself. Nobody has gone out of their way and paid for anything for me. I've funded it all myself. But now they do support me and help me out with some things.
9. Was the training camp always on the horizon or was there a point in racing where you felt you hit a wall and needed extra help to get your goals accomplished?
It came about when I started riding again (after the accident) there was another rider I used to race with who was at Club MX for three months. When he came back and we went out and rode I couldn't believe how much faster and better he got, and his endurance. I knew there were training camps but because of how expensive they were I didn't really think about it. Seeing him come back after three months I thought if I'm at this point how much further could I go? I was riding just on the weekends and working during the week. What could I be if I rode every single day?
10. Describe a typical day at camp.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday are days we get up around 8 a.m. and get out and ride by 9 a.m. starting with a five lap practice and then work on instruction and fundamental training. Then we switch instructors and work on other fundamentals. After lunch we might work on starts or free ride until about 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we do physical conditioning with a UFC trained fighter in the morning and then riding by 9 a.m. Weekends are free.
11. So, next June when a year is up, what do you do?
I'll know by June if I'm at the riding level to make it at Loretta Lynn's. My goal is to snatch a national title and if that happens, racing and riding is definitely my future. But if I get hurt or in a situation where it's not working out, and at 21 years old, I'll know whether to throw in the towel or to keep going. So the goal is to do well and hopefully pick up some interest of teams or major sponsors.