Viewpoint: Dan Thornhill

Thornhill on a career highlight.

Thornhill on a career highlight.

Entering a round of the FIM Motocross World Championship as a wildcard is effectively jumping in at the deep end. However, Dan Thornhill thrived in that situation this past weekend and acquired three points at the highest level of competition. Thornhill was on a high, along with the Cab Screens Husqvarna outfit, when we caught up with him for a post-race chat to discuss his weekend in a little more detail.

This was kind of a last-minute deal and conditions were not exactly easy, but in the end you came away with three points. I guess just one was your goal, so you have got to be pretty happy.

Yeah, definitely. I’m just really happy for the team and everybody that put time into it again this year. Obviously, we only found out on Tuesday evening I think. To be honest, by the start of the week I was sort of thinking that we were not going to get in. It was all a little bit last minute with the team and stuff, but to be honest I’m glad we have come. The first free practice I was really nervous and really tight. I just could not get a flow going. We made a few changes and timed qualifying went really well, then the race was better than the qualifying race.

Today was a bit of a nightmare. Yesterday’s qualifying race was wet, but today was even wetter. I didn’t do the warm up this morning. I didn’t do the sighting lap either, so I was double nervous for the race. I rode a bit tense in the first race for the first ten minutes or so, but once I got going I started to come through a few riders and started to feel the groove and was enjoying myself. I think I finished twenty-first in the first race, so that was pretty good for me.

I knew I was knocking on the door for points. I sort of came to gain the experience and enjoy myself. In the second race I had a great start, pushed hard on the first couple laps and just kept riding my own race. I had some good battles with some of the guys down in the twenties and ended up bringing in eighteenth, so I’m pretty stoked with that.

A fourth at Preston Docks was a step forward for Thornhill (MPS Images)

Why this GP? Was this always the plan to come to the last one? Why not Ernée earlier in the season? Did you just want to get the British out of the way and the things that you were committed to?

Yeah, basically. Obviously, I’ve got a good relationship with Lee, the owner of Cab Screens, and we do quite a lot together. To be honest, we are committed to the British and the MX National series in the UK. Once that was sort of done we were sort of a little bit like, well, let’s get ready for the beach races. Obviously I’m looking forward to Weston. Then he said, how about a GP? Obviously, this one was the last one and it’s pretty close to home. At first I was unsure, but he was a bit more confident than I was. We bit the bullet, we came and it was pretty good to be here.

When you chose to skip warm up and the sighting lap, were you just kind of guessing or do you have someone who has got experience in MXGP to lean on? Do you just judge the situation, see what other people are doing and figure it out for yourself?

Well, to be honest, obviously there are a few British riders here. Everybody’s really friendly. I picked everybody’s brains. Justin Morris is here helping as well, so I picked his brains and stuff. Basically the conclusion I came to with the team was we were going to get geared up and get everything prepped. I did actually go to free practice and was all ready to go out, then sort of just watched the MX2 riders and saw what they did. I watched that practice and then thought that I didn’t really need to paddle around there and learn the track, because I was already nervous as it was. There’s a little bit more pressure and stuff, as you know. I just bit the bullet and didn’t do it. I realized none of the guys were doing the sighting lap either, so I thought we would just go straight into the race.

You have done the British GP before, but I guess this one is different just because it is foreign? Were the nerves higher than that even though this is your second one? So, technically, you should be a little more used to it?

Yeah, definitely. Matterley was just a great experience to ride in front of my home crowd and that sort of thing. I don’t think I was prepared last year, to be honest. I don’t think I was ready. This year I’ve had a bit of a better season in the British at home and stuff. I felt a little bit more prepared for this, but when I went in free practice I thought, actually, I don't know if I should be here or not, but I kept plugging away. I didn’t get frustrated. I enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t really want to say this too much, to be honest, but I haven’t really slept for a few days coming into this race. I was so nervous. I got the jitters out of the way and I’m pretty happy with my performance, to be fair.

Thornhill finished twenty-second overall at Villars sous Ecot (MPS Images)

I feel like you have had a good season in Britain. You met all of the expectations that people thought had but, in my opinion, the three points you got today were a bigger deal and meant more than all of your results in the British. Do you feel the same? When you look back on this year, are you going to think about your first points in GPs or something that happened in Britain?

Definitely. I made some steps this year in the British, my best result being a fourth. That was a big bonus for me this year. I just felt every round the confidence was coming. I struggled, to be honest, to pull everything together this year a little bit, but I think that is just a little bit of experience and obviously not being there and doing it. Every time I got there I improved. I brought that bit of experience here, which obviously you gain so much more experience here. To be honest, today is probably one of the best days of my racing career so far.

Finally, say you had a choice of doing the full British Championship or you could use that money to do, say, five European GPs. What would you do and what do you think would be most valuable for your career moving forward?

That is a tough one. Obviously, because of finances and stuff like that, it is difficult for us. The British is the easier thing for us to do, but coming here and being pretty chill with the whole thing and actually enjoying the set-up. To be honest, I would love to do more GPs. Not because I just want to be here and say that I’m at a GP. I enjoyed it. I took a lot from this weekend and I think I gained a lot of experience. So did the whole team, to be fair, as everybody came in a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Obviously we did the British Grand Prix, but everything every year changes. Things are different. It’s been pretty good, to be fair.

Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: MPS Images

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