GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Graham and Becky Widdicombe

Tuesday Toolbox: Graham and Becky Widdicombe

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 | 4:50 PM
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 | 4:50 PM

Graham and Becky Widdicombe, the GNCC’s favorite couple from the United Kingdom, are some of the friendliest people and most dedicated racers you will meet. As a matter of fact, although I asked them both the same questions, I had to conduct the interview with them at different times on different days nearly two weeks ago, due to the logistics of everyone being in different time zones and in Graham’s case, a completely different country! It is really impressive to see what all they have done to make their racing dreams come true.  

Graham is hoping to earn the 4x4 Senior championship this year after finishing second last year.
Graham is hoping to earn the 4x4 Senior championship this year after finishing second last year. Ken Hill Hey, how are you guys doing?

Graham Widdicombe: A little tired, it has been a long few days. I just got back to England. The day before yesterday I was in Tennessee. There has been a lot going on lately. We just sold our house here and I’ve been back and forth quite a bit.

Becky Widdicombe: Not bad, for a Monday (laughs). It’s actually been a pretty cool weekend. I spent it in Georgia at Durhamtown plantation doing some testing with the ACE and helping the boys out with their testing on the UTVs.

And how has the testing been going Becky? 

Becky: Yeah, it was good! It was nice to get back behind the wheel, it’s been a long time and the season is just around the corner which is always a scary thing. The last time I’ve driven was about 30 minutes right around Christmas, but I think we have the machine all ready to go.

How did you each get started racing?

Graham: Years ago my friends and I used to go trail riding. Over the years we got pretty quick, but there were a couple of nasty accidents too. So we decided we better go racing so that we could ride that fast more safely. That’s how the whole thing started. In my very first ever competitive race I was in the beginner class. Out of 45 racers I finished 27th. I like to think I’ve gotten just a little bit quicker over the last few years (laughs).

Becky: Oh gosh … So, I was always involved in motorsports from a real young age. My dad got me into it, and it’s been something I always enjoyed. We stuck to the tarmac though. Karting was the natural thing for us to do and at the time off-road motorsports just wasn’t on our agenda. 

And how did you each end up transitioning from what you raced before to what you are racing now? 

Becky: Well, this all started when Graham and I met and he introduced me to racing off-road. Him and our son Sam used to race dirt bikes and I would go with them to the races. I fell into taking photos - it was a cool way to be a part of it, my son and his friends liked having them and the clubs appreciated it too. The courses were so long that Graham decided to get me a quad so that I could cover more ground and take more photos. The more I rode it, the more I decided that I could race one. I think 2007 was my first race. I haven’t looked back since. At first I spent more time with the tires facing the wrong way up than the right way. But I got better and progressed to the bigger 4x4 machines and then a sport quad. When Graham came over here, I started doing a lot of the social media work for the team and Michael [Editor’s note: Michael Swift, Team UXC Team Owner] offered me a chance to have a go in one of the ACEs. I really enjoyed it, and he suggested I race them next year, and after that I never stopped.

Graham: I had a nasty crash while practicing when I was 31. I broke my arm, forearm and back of my elbow in ten places total. It wouldn’t heal up right and they couldn’t operate on it either. So I was off for about eight months. I tried to come back from the injury but I couldn’t ever get back to where I was before. We’d gotten that quad for Becky that she just talked about, and I started riding it around the house as a training tool. One day decided I would give it a try racing. I had a lot of fun and given my age and previous injury it was a little easier on me too. So I switched over to racing them full-time. 

Look for Becky to put her Team UXC Racing Polaris ACE machine up on the box this year! 
Look for Becky to put her Team UXC Racing Polaris ACE machine up on the box this year!  Ken Hill

Now here is the story that I’ve pieced together about how you both came to be here, but let me know if I got it right - you were originally flying back and forth from England to compete in each GNCC round. But then Becky got offered a position here in the states with the company she worked for. And that is what allowed you guys to begin the process of moving here?

Graham: Yes. Becky has actually been here 18 months though. Between her being here full-time and me still flying back and forth plus her work, we actually haven’t seen each other for almost 8 weeks.

Becky: That’s right. I’ve been with Pfizer for 14 years. The stars and the moon all aligned and it worked out for them to send us over here. 

And what is it that each of you actually do for a living?

Graham: I am an electrical engineer by trade, but actually own my own closed-circuit television business in England. I work with a lot of different organizations setting up their systems. That is coming to an end now though as I am trying to see the business in preparation for moving over here. 

Becky: Pfizer is a pharmaceutical company, and I act as a bridge between what goes on in the lab and what happens in the doctor’s office. We take all our knowledge about the clinical trials and the medications themselves and communicate it to the doctors and answer any questions they might have. It’s a really cool job, every day is different. It’s very similar to what I was doing in the UK, just with a lot more headquarters work. I’m not especially cut out to be behind a desk all day, but it’s kept me out of mischief and provided a good living for quite awhile now. 

Graham, it seems like you’re in a different position from Becky. You mentioned last time we spoke that you were trying to sell your business, which is why you still haven’t been able to live here full-time yet. Once all of that happens do you plan on staying in that CCTV industry here in the states and trying to open a new business, or do you think you’ll try something completely new? 

Graham: No, I think I am probably done in my industry. For now at least, I will be helping out with running Team UXC. Time is tight, and it’s always a struggle for Michael to get everything done. We’ve discussed this at great length, and the plan is for me to take some of the load off of him so we can get the team further ahead.

What was one of the biggest sacrifices that the two of you had to make, trying to do the GNCCs while living overseas? 

Graham: I think that the hardest thing is being apart. We are a really close family and we all really like each other. It’s a little easier now that we are all older. Our son is now 21-years-old, and has actually been doing some training with the KR4 team, but he’s back in England now. And even though being apart is a challenge and a sacrifice, I would advise anyone who ever gets an opportunity like this or a chance to make their dreams come true, to take it without hesitation. 

Becky: The hardest thing is time. There just never seems to be enough of it. What I’ve found is that the chance to practice was and for me still is pretty minimal. So I’ve had to get in my practice at the race which is a steep learning curve, especially when you come from a tarmac background like I do. The driving off-road is very different from what you would experience in a cart, and it’s nothing at all like riding an ATV! Even now I struggle a bit with practicing because when you’re working there just aren’t enough vacation days to manage to race, test and practice. It’s just not possible. So that is probably my biggest challenge, though it did get a lot easier when we moved over.

Graham Widdicombe competed in the highlight competitive 4x4 Senior class last season.
Graham Widdicombe competed in the highlight competitive 4x4 Senior class last season. Ken Hill

Now that you both have spent quite a bit of time in the states, what is your favorite part about living here compared to England - and you aren’t allowed to say racing! I want to know what you really like besides that.

Graham: This is an easy one! The people here are some of the friendliest I have met anywhere in the world. Our newfound friends mean everything to us! Oh, and the steak here is delicious. I love Texas Roadhouse…

Becky: Probably the people, I love the people here. There is a kindness and a friendliness that you just don’t see elsewhere, especially in the south. I’ve traveled the world, but there is something special to southern hospitality. It doesn’t matter where you’re at, even just walking into the gas station someone will talk to you. There’s a level of freedom here too that we just don’t have back home. There is a much greater opportunity for outdoor sports, which I love. I’ve been spending a lot of time mountain biking lately, in addition to hunting and fishing. England is a great country, don’t get me wrong but there isn’t as much freedom to do those things over here. The last thing I really love over here is the weather, it is far better than the weather in the UK is!

And of course, no matter where you go, there will always be some downsides. What is your least favorite part about being in the United States?

Graham: It isn’t so much a downside as just the thing that took the most to get used to, and simply because we don’t have it so I did not grow up around it. The gun culture here is very different than it is back in England. My views on it have changed a little since I’ve been here, and we do enjoy going to the gun clubs to shoot. And I guess I would very much rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it. 

Becky: As far as things I don’t like over here, your chocolates suck, guys! (laughs) Cadbury’s chocolates from England are far better, the ones here just aren’t very good. 

What is it about the GNCC series that you and Graham fell in love with? Because you two more dedicated to this series than almost anyone else I know. 

Graham: I believe that the GNCC series is the most professional series out there for ATV racing. You walk through the pits and look at all the teams and crews and riders - you just don’t get that anywhere else. That is probably why so many of us back in England watched the races and followed the results. The fans here are great too. I would wish that everyone in our sport would get to experience something like this at least once. The only thing I would say as outsider is that I don’t think anyone here really recognizes the appeal of this series overseas. People back home would love to be able to watch races live, and I’m quite sure many of them would probably pay to do so. Altogether I just cannot say enough about how great this series is and how much we enjoy it!

Becky: (laughs) Well, I guess for starters we watched the series for years, starting when David Knight first went over and competed. That was when we first got to know the series. We followed it just as much when we switched over from bikes to quads because the strength of the sport in the UK is generally not good. It is so hard to get land to race on there. There are a few smaller clubs but not many national series. Because of the land issues and the anti-noise people and a lack of sponsorship it’s hard to get many races put on. But back to the GNCC series, I love the mixture of races we do. At every race there are similarities between the events, but each one is also different and unique, whether it comes from the track layout or the soil conditions or what have you. The trails interesting, and when you race you never get bored, I get bored easily, and just going around in circles was harder for me. They’re just the right kind of challenging too - difficult but not impossible, a good consistent level of toughness. And it doesn’t just come from the tracks themselves. The people you line up with in the GNCCs, their skills and the numbers, it allows you to compete and have good battles. That’s what I’ve always liked about it. The strong following, seeing the same riders and machines week in and week out - there really is something to the whole concept of the “GNCC Racing Nation,” it’s like a large extended family. 

Becky Widdicombe has been consistent in the Single Seat UTV class, and finished 5th last season.
Becky Widdicombe has been consistent in the Single Seat UTV class, and finished 5th last season. Ken Hill

How did the 2017 season go for you?

Graham: It was fantastic! I moved up to a 1000cc this year, and it took time to get used to it. I struggled for the first three or four rounds. I did some training and got stronger, after that I was able to get into the top three and took my first win at Snowshoe, and then won again at Ironman! I especially liked how poetic it was to win at Ironman, seeing as that is where the whole GNCC racing thing started for me back in 2014. I had a lot of good battles with really fast riders, and had a lot of fun along the way. Even at my age it brought a tear to my eye thinking about how supportive everyone has been and how blessed we are to get to do this.

Becky: I don’t think I’ve been the fastest woman necessarily, but I have probably been the most consistent. I don’t know, looking at the lap times... but the big thing with the ACEs is getting them to the finish. You have to treat them with care, it is a fantastic machine, but they have not had the development that the UTVs have had yet. But yeah, I have done well at some races. The Heartland Challenge, for example, I’ve finished second at for two years in a row. I like the longer races, the shorter races at the GNCCs really come down to getting a good start, because otherwise you have to fight your way up from the back. But I’ve had some good, consistent results, just still not quite where I want to be yet. I definitely know I can get there though. 

And what are some of your goals for this upcoming season? 

Graham: Well, there’s already a lot of talk in the 4x4 class about quite a few fast riders coming in, and it looks like it will be a really competitive class this year. Our times are already close to that of the A riders and it would be great to close that gap even further. Of course from a personal standpoint I would like to win - everyone would. Realistically for this next season I would like to win at least a few races. It’s a long season but it always seems to go by fast. Strange as it is to say, I am more pumped for this season that I have been in my last 20 years of racing! I might also be able to ride a little bit on the bike side too with KR4. It would be fun to do a little bit of that again.

Becky: I’m putting in okay overall results, but I really want to be putting it on the box! I’ve been working hard on my fitness, and doing some other things to work on my hand-eye coordination since I can’t be in the car as much as I would like. 

One last question for Graham - I noticed you always sign your messages with a British flag and your racing number. The flag makes sense, but does the number have any special significance for you? 

Graham: Yes it does! My dad was in the Royal Navy, and my race number, 815, is the number of his helicopter squadron! 

Awesome, I wish you both the best of luck for next season! Thank you both very much for the interview. Who would you like to thank? 

We would like to thank the GNCC team for putting on such great events. We definitely want to thank all of the people who have welcomed us in here as one of their own. It definitely makes this our home away from home. We would also like to thank Michael Swift and Team UXC for helping to make our dreams possible. Both of us want to thank the Team UXC family as a whole for all of the support and kindness. It really means a lot to us.

Lastly, we want to thank all of our team’s sponsors: Airdam, Alco Cleaners, All Balls Racing, Bair’s Powersports, Big Gun Exhausts, CarboRocket, Carmichael Training Systems, Cecco Racing, Cool-it Thermo Tech, CST Tires, Dirtworks Motorsports, DP Brakes, Evans Coolant, Fox Shox, FPS Racing, Fly Racing, Hilliard Differentials, K&N Filters, Leatt Protectives, Nightcrawler Kustoms, OMF Performance Products, Polaris Engineered Lubricants, Polaris RZR Factory Racing, Polaris Power Generators, Quad Tech, RCV Performance, Ricochet Off-Road Armor, Rigid Industries, Rox Speed FX, Spider Grips, SSI Decals, STM Powersports, Tea Industries, Telxeria Technology and Tire Balls.