Martin Whiteley is one of those people that the general public would not normally come across. One of his job titles is ‘Team Director’ for the newly formed YT MOB, but Whiteley’s influence and authority goes far beyond that. For the last 16 years, whilst racers have come and gone, he has been there in the background, behind the scenes helping shape and form the modern sport of downhill under the guise of 23 Degrees Sports Management (the company he started in 2000). He’s an important man.
Photos: Seb Schieck
His approach to his job has (probably unknowingly) guided the way in which many of today’s current team managers go about their business. He has brought knowledge and professionalism to the role, and that has rubbed off on everyone else. His track record is ridiculous: from the Global Racing Team (2001-2003: Missy Giove, Greg Minnaar, Mick Hannah, etc.), to Team G Cross Honda (2004-2007: Minnaar again, Brendan Fairclough, etc.), and then Trek World Racing (Gwin, Moseley, Leov, MacDonald, Greenland, etc.). He has manufactured some of the greatest teams to grace the World Cup circuit (XC too). He was way ahead of the curve with his Global Racing Team, and too the Honda team… in fact how the hell did he get Honda involved with downhill racing? That all seems a bit of a distant memory now. With Aaron Gwin and Tracy Moseley on board he steered Trek World Racing to multiple wins, but then things turned a little sour. In 2013 Gwin mysteriously split from Trek and went off to join arch rival Specialized. Talk about rubbing salt into the wounds.
We are not going to go into the whys and wherefores here, it is history, and some things are best left. But after almost three years of near radio silence the two put their differences behind them, starting talking again and are now amazingly back together again. To say we were shocked that when we heard that Gwin and Whiteley were the main force behind the YT Mob would be a huge understatement. There is one thing to start talking to someone again, but quite another to be back working side by side as a team. It’s great though, and we could all learn a lot from this ‘forgive and forget’ attitude.
So what do we now have? By all accounts a slightly rushed team. The title (and frame) sponsor YT wasn’t really looking to hit the DH World Cup circuit until 2017, but when this opportunity came about they just had to take it. The Gwin/Whiteley set up is arguable the strongest and most lethal on the circuit. There are many amazing racers out there (Bryceland, Atherton, Minnaar, Smith, Brosnan, etc.) but on his day Gwin is seemingly unbeatable (who can forget that insane chainless win in Leogang last year?).
We needed to know more. So we dropped Martin Whiteley a line to try and get a bit more information about the news, how it came about and the team structure.