GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Graham Widdicombe

Tuesday Toolbox: Graham Widdicombe

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 | 10:25 AM
Tuesday, July 21, 2015 | 10:25 AM

Graham Widdicombe is a newcomer to the GNCC Series and he hails from England! In addition to getting the long distance traveler award, he’s a hard charging competitor in the 4x4 A/B class Saturday mornings. He rides aboard a Team UXC Polaris and has had a lot of help from renowned GNCC racer, Michael Swift. put the long distance phone lines to use and caught up with Graham. Hi Graham. How are things over there in the U.K.? 
Graham Widdicombe: We’re doing really well! It’s our summertime here, so the temperatures are in the mid 80s and it’s really nice. I was just talking with Michael Swift at his shop in Tennessee and he said it’s 90s and quite miserable there, so I’m happy to be enjoying my off-season over here!  

Indeed! It is getting hot and the GNCC staff is headed to Loretta Lynn’s in Tennessee for the amateur motocross finals. Not much of an off-season! Whereabouts in England are you?
I’m in the southwest corner of the country in Somerset.

What’s the ATV scene like there in England?  
You know, that’s a really interesting story! I came to the United States last fall and raced the Ironman. At the time, ATV racing was in a sad state here in England. There were only 4 or 5 utility ATVs on the line and they were always the same people. But when I got back from the states, people got behind my trip and got excited! There were a lot of questions and interest. And since I’ve been going overseas to race, the sport has grown here. I went to a race at the beginning of the summer and there were over 20 4x4 quads! It’s fantastic! A lot of the sport ATV riders made the switch. Polaris has a factory team over here and that’s a first. It’s good to watch the boys go at it. 

Graham might be from Somerset, but it's not Somerset, PA! He makes the trip from England to the US, and back to England for each GNCC event.
Graham might be from Somerset, but it's not Somerset, PA! He makes the trip from England to the US, and back to England for each GNCC event. Photo: Ken Hill

What’s your racing history? What made you decide to race 4x4 ATVs?
I raced dirt bikes for 15 years and finally had a nasty accident. I kept racing, but wasn’t sure how long I would continue. My wife, Becky, was going to the races with me and so we bought her a quad to get around on. I started riding it around the house as a training tool and then one day decided I would give it a try racing. It started as a one-trip outing, but I had so much fun! I started to race four-wheel events here in England. It was better on my old bones and allowed me to carry on racing into my 40’s.

What brought about the U.S.A. opportunity?
I’d been racing ATVs for 4 years. And you might not know it, but outside America, we all follow the GNCCs! We watch the guys like Kevin Trantham, Micheal Swift, Brian Buckhannon. Last summer, I sent Michael Swift a message saying I would love to come race in America. Within 20 minutes, he answered and said he could help with that! It took 3 months of back-and-forth, but we set up a plan for Ironman last year. It was hectic because our biggest race was the Western Beach Race and was the weekend before Indiana. I raced here, then flew to America and competed for the first time in America! I placed 3rd in my class and it was absolutely so much fun! 

And now you are racing the full series?
Yes! Later on, my wife and I went to New York to visit her mom. I was on the phone with Michael Swift. He said he didn’t have anyone for the A/B class and asked if I would be interested? Of course I was! I own my own business here in England and so I had to talk it over with my partner. He’s been great to accommodate, but I’m still putting in the hours and making sure things run like they should.

After getting to know Michael Swift, Graham secured a spot with Team UXC Racing for 2015.
After getting to know Michael Swift, Graham secured a spot with Team UXC Racing for 2015. Photo: Ken Hill

I know you have a lot of travel plus responsibilities back home. What does a race weekend look like for you?
I usually leave my house at 4am on Thursday. We are 5 hours ahead of you, so that would be midnight your time. I get to the airport and catch a flight to the U.S.A. I’m in the air about 7-10 hours and usually have to catch a connection once I land. By the time I get my rental car, drive another hour or so to the hotel and get checked in, I’ve been traveling for 19-21 hours. I go to bed and get up Friday morning, meet Michael Swift in the hotel lobby and go to the track for track walk, last minute prep and then a team meal Friday night. Saturday is race day. I try to sleep in Sunday morning and then it’s off to the airport for a Sunday evening flight home. I typically land at 6:30am Monday morning and am at work by 9:30am.

Wow! I think I would need Mondays off after all that travel!
That was my original plan! But we are so busy and there’s much to be done. Summer break has been good. I didn’t know that this traveling and working would make me so tired. I don’t sleep on airplanes at all, so I’m enjoying being home and getting rested up. I hope to be caught up by the time the season starts again - although, I am coming over there shortly for the Heartland Challenge. And then, of course, Unadilla will be right around the corner! 

What’s the biggest difference between racing in England vs. America? 
There are quite a few, really. For one, the ferocity of the GNCC is greater. Over here, we race for typically 2 ½ to 3 hours because they really want a pit stop. That pit stop is part of the race. But in GNCC, many competitors go for 2 hours without a stop. So I’m good on the distance, but the pace is more like a motocross. Everyone is going all out from the very beginning! Over here, we can ease into the pace and the race gets going later on.


Another difference is the cost. If you are paying $3.00 for a gallon of diesel, we are paying close to $11.00 for the same amount! 75% of that is tax to the government. And then there are entry fees. I think GNCC charges $40 to race. Our typical club fees are $110. Our biggest race is Western Beach and it costs $400 to enter that one.


So, it’s really quite nice to come to America. It costs us a lot to go, but once there the costs are considerably less than they are here. Plus, my wife and I notice how you Americans truly honor your service people. You embrace religion. It’s not like over here. My wife and I have just had the best time ever!

Graham picks Snowshoe as his favorite track so far. With such a beautiful setting for a race, who can blame him?
Graham picks Snowshoe as his favorite track so far. With such a beautiful setting for a race, who can blame him? Photo: Ken Hill

Well, we are really happy to have you! What has been your favorite track so far?
Snowshoe! Without a doubt. I always say. “Everyone is fast in a straight line!” But at Snowshoe, it was very difficult and it separated everyone. I only got 8th in my class, but finished 28th overall. The venue was beautiful. The track was insanely great! It’s the best race I’ve ever done in 20 years of racing!

That was the last race before the summer break. How’s the rest of your season going?
I’m right now sitting 6th in pints in the A/B 4x4 class. I think I’m the highest Polaris. It’s a highly competitive class and honestly, some of my classmates wouldn’t be out of place in the pro class, but it makes me work harder! I’ve enjoyed every bit of it! It’s been an absolute honor to come race your series. I plan to finish out the season and am aiming for a top 5 in the championship.

It’s been an honor to talk to you! Thank you so much for traveling such a distance to race our series!
It’s been the time of my life! Like I said, we all follow the GNCC series closely and to be a part of it – I want my family to experience it, too. My wife is going to race Ironman. She was ranked 2nd in England for women’s ATV in 2014 and so she’s eager to race a GNCC, as well. Also, my son is hopefully going to make that trip and race a KR4 bike on Sunday!

We wish you all the best! Who would you like to thank?
I would just like to say a massive thank you to Micheal Swift, our team owner, for this great opportunity he has given me and all the advice. Team UXC sponsors; Polaris Factory Racing , Maxxis Tires, Rox speed FX, Custom Axis suspension , Teixeira Technology , Fly Racing , Evans coolant , Scott goggles , Dirt works, Driven Powersports, Tire Balls , Muzzy Performance Exhaust , Alco cleaners , RCV Performance , Rickotte Off Road Armor ,SSI graphics , OMF wheels and DP Brakes.

Great! And where can we keep up with your adventures?
TWR Facebook. It’s the UK page to follow mine and my family's adventures in Motorsport.
Instagram: @Speedywiddi
Twitter: @TeamWiddiRacing

Team UXC Racing page:
Instagram: @TeamUXCRacing