When the pandemic hit and the world stopped I caught up with AMCN, the Aussie Motorcycle News Magazine…
With the BSB season on hold, what are you up to these days?
Back at home in Australia tinkering in the workshop and trying to stay active with exercise. The most important thing is to remain in a healthy state of mind mentally as well as physically.
You were in Spain at a pre-season test in late February. What stage was the health crisis at then?
The first reports were starting to come in from Italy and some people at the test had not long been in the areas affected. Everyone was like “wow” but we had no idea how severe it would later become. Seville, where we tested, later became a hotspot.
The UK has since been devastated by the health crisis. How has it affected your VisionTrack PBM Ducati team?
The team is in shutdown at the moment and all of us are on standby. Like everyone we just have to wait and follow the government guidelines. At this point we don’t know what’s going to happen…
What’s your thoughts on all the speculation about BSB starting up again?
I don’t deal in speculation but the facts are that as the championship owns many of the circuits in the UK they have many more options than national championships in other countries. The UK weather means BSB runs from April to October but it loses nearly a month during late May and early June due to the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT. So we haven’t lost that much ground yet and it gives a cushion to change the season around. I believe the BSB organisers, Stuart Higgs and his team will do their best to put a safe, solid championship together if and when they can.
So you can see the possibility of a decent-sized season?
It all depends when it gets the Government go-ahead but when it starts we don’t have to cross borders, which is a plus. The organisers could add in more triple-headers to bulk up the season. Perhaps they could look at reducing the season to 10 rounds but there are a lot of variables. For example, how have sponsors been affected by the health crisis financially? Would they be OK with reduced television coverage in a shorter season?
What were your expectations going into this season after coming so heart-breakingly close to winning last year (he missed out on an historic debut win for Ducati’s new V4R by just five points)?
To win! I’ve come second four times and won the Superbike title once.
Fair enough. But how do you pick yourself up from a disastrous start to the season (zero points in Round One) to finish so close?
Experience. As a much younger rider I would have found it a big challenge to come back. It often seems the world is against you but that’s life. As you get older you realise there’s no point in panicking when things go wrong. I know I’m one of the best riders in the championship and I’ve got a great team behind me so that gave us confidence to come back and challenge for the title. I’m chasing consistency this year.
How different was the 2020 version of the V4R in pre-season testing?
Not as different as we’d hoped. We were expecting a new fuel tank, swingarm and camshaft but they were not available yet. We did get the new Akrapovic exhaust (switching from last year’s Termignoni).
Nevertheless you finished fastest overall and well ahead of the man you beat into third place last season, Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing Ducati)?
Tommy’s a friend and it adds to the rivalry. When he beats my time it’s like “right guys, get the stands off and get me out there again”. The way things worked out last season with no testing between rounds it was too risky to make big changes. I’d had a series of alterations on my mind that I thought could improve the front suspension. As good as the overall package was regarding stability, braking, turning and tyre life the changes we made to the front at Jerez gave us a big step forward. I finished half a second up on Tommy and a second ahead of my next closest rival.
That’s impressive and a big turnaround from the earlier test at Monteblanco where you finished just 0.054secs behind Tommy?
Monteblanco has a very abrasive surface, much like the old Wanneroo circuit in WA used to be, so you get three laps at best out of a tyre. Development there is a bit like wearing a blindfold. Jerez has a surface that remains consistent throughout the day. This opens up a big window and we could work on the front tyre and suspension to get the changes I needed.
So it must be tough now hanging around for the season to start?
Don’t feel sorry for me, everyone’s in a similar situation. Personally, I’m prepared for the worst (no racing) but hoping for the best.