If you run a GP team your season is already well underway as you approach the first round of the British championship!
Roger Magee’s successful HM Plant KTM UK team have had two long haul GP races in Qatar and Thailand to contend with prior to this week’s British Championship kick off at Landrake.
Fortunately the team did well overall and so both Simpson and Pocock will come into Landrake confident they can do the business.
We caught up with a Roger, who was kind enough to give us some of his time, to get his take on the first two GPs, the fuel issue and his thoughts on all his riders heading into the British Championship at Landrake.
MX Vice: Let’s start with the first two GPs. They were pretty successful overall; Natalie Kane was on the podium, Shaun Simpson showed some good speed and Mel Pocock got some good points in Thailand after his illness.
Roger Magee: It was Natalie’s first race of the season because there wasn’t really anything else shecould compete in because of the bad weather. She was carrying a slight shoulder injury so she wasn’t able to just practice the same as she should have been coming up to the event. She certainly showed that she is a real contender for the world championship this year as she has been for the last few years. To be on the podium at the first GP is big boost to her confidence and we look forward to the next round. The pressure will certainly be on the Australian girl because she has never led a world championship before.
Shaun only had the one off event at Hawkstone where he won the MX1 class and he showed he was very comfortable on the SXS 450 KTM. He seems to have got the bike well dialled in and he has proved over the past weekend that he belongs on the top six, in what is a very competitive class. He definitely didn’t look out of place.
Mel Pocock picked up a stomach bug in Qatar but in the first moto he showed he could run top 6/8 and it was just because of his lack of strength he slipped down the leader board. Certainly after the second race he was totally gone and he almost collapsed off the bike such was the effort. Then next week in Thailand with the high humidity he wasn’t at full strength but rode to get some points on the board. We look forward to when he has full fitness.
MX Vice: The MX2 class looks like a lot of guys have stepped up their pace from last year, does make Mel have to do the same?
Roger Magee: It’s early stages yet and obviously everybody is keen to show their best cards. Maybe someone has had more preparation but at the end of the day you have to take the season as an overall package and just going well in the early rounds maybe means you have peaked too soon.
We will see as Mel gets better with the KTM and a new mechanic etc it takes a while to build that relationship. He certainly showed in that race in Qatar that he has the pace to run at the top. But we will see how it pans out over the next few GPs. Sometimes the early season form in those few GPs doesn’t truly reflect whenever we get back to Europe. And we look forward to the GP of Italy to see where everybody lies.
MX Vice: Just about the fuel issue, did you have any problems with it and what were your thoughts on the teams that did?
Roger Magee: We had already agreed with ETS to run their fuel at the GP in Thailand, first from a financial reason because we didn’t have to transport the fuel. The week before the event they did advise us that they couldn’t supply us the fuel they had originally intended because there was such a demand because the other teams couldn’t get their fuel into the country because of the political situation.
Everybody was advised what the specification was, it was up the mechanics and the technical staff to actually do that and make sure everything was ready to roll. My understanding of the situation was that the fuel that was actually supplied was of a better grade than what we were originally going to use.
Technically it exceeded the limitation that the FIM permitted; this was given special dispensation to be allowed because of the political situation.
My view on the fuel is the other teams didn’t use it as an excuse, but the situation occurred not because it was bad fuel but because the fuel got too warm. It’s to do with probably the engine’s position in the frame and the amount of cooling available to it.
We had a situation when we were on Kawasaki’s in 2007 that when we went above 35 degrees we couldn’t get the bike to run properly. It was very similar in that the fuel got too warm and then that causes engine problems. If it was just that fuel then the bike would be doing that from lap but the majority of riders were only complaining about the situation in the latter half of the race and that to me is the real reason regardless of what riders are saying.
MX Vice: Just going back to Shaun Simpson, it seems like the return of the prodigal son, he seems very happy and very confident this year. Everything seems to have slotted back into the way it was back in 2008/2007?
Roger Magee: Yeah we did try to make it happen over the past couple of years, but for various reasons it didn’t work out. I think whenever maybe Shaun saw what we were able to do with Strijbos a couple of years ago he knew we could give him a competitive package, then obviously coming off winning the final MX1 GP that brought him back onto the world stage. It showed him he had the ability to run at the front in the big class.
All we have really done is given him the tools to do the job, the overall package is there to do be competitive at that level.
MX Vice: You seem to give him a bit more of a free reign to allow him to do the things that give him confidence like working with his dad that maybe other teams didn’t. You seem to understand Shaun’s way of doing things and that makes him faster and more confident.
Roger Magee: Each of the riders are different. You can’t let everyone do what they want too because that’s when things can go wrong but listen to what they have to say and then make you judgement on what is best for that rider and the team in general.
If the rider is doing well that benefits the team and the other riders because it gives us a higher profile and hopefully more partner want to be associated with the team. It is a win/win situation if you get results and that’s what really matters at the end of the season.
MX Vice: Looking forward to the British Championship, you have pretty much owned that championship for the last few years. Does that increase the pressure on Shaun and Mel to keep the string of wins going?!
Roger Magee: I don’t think so – it’s up to them to do their best. They have both been at the sharp end of championships in recent years and all we want to do is make sure they are provided with the right tools.
We aren’t taking anything for granted because there are other guys who will step up their game on home turf in the UK. It’s different at Grand Prix level then some riders don’t perform as well but certainly when you get them on a track that everyone is used too, then there will be a high level of competition in both classes. But we will be certainly looking to do another double in both classes this year but that’s up to a lot of team effort and bit of luck as well.
MX Vice: Trying to do all the Grand Prix and the British championship, does that help the riders for the British Championship or wear on them a bit?
Roger Magee: Certainly some elements of the British championship could have been perhaps staged a bit better for teams that are willing to support the British championship while still doing the world championship.
The event in Ukraine is more doubtful now but before it we have a race in Drumclog in Scotland which we are very happy to go to but whenever you have over 2,500KM to travel, it doesn’t make it logistically very suitable. That’s the sort of thing that makes it more difficult but overall most of the time it is not a problem.
MX Vice: Ben Watson had a pretty good ride at Hawkstone, do you think he can make some waves and become the new kid on the block this year?
Roger Magee: Yeah I think with the other three riders that we have and not just Ben, but James Cottrell and James Dunn, the potential on some days is there to have four riders in the top six or top ten. James Cottrell, it’s his first time on KTM but he is getting adapted to the bike. James Dunn is coming back from injury and has shown good speed in recent weeks.
MX Vice: He hasn’t been held back by the injury then?
Roger Magee: No he hasn’t at all – it has actually made him more determined! Then Ben I think over the winter time has turned into more of an adult now instead of a schoolboy. He has got a bit more strength and a bit more confidence with winning the Youth event at Le Touquet. He is starting to show the potential that we know he has but sometimes it takes a bit of time and patience for the ability to come out.
We would just like to thank all our 2014 sponsors for showing their faith in us once again and increasing their support to put us in a position that we are able to compete at the highest level in the World and British championship.
Interview: Jonathan McCready
Picture: Elliot Spencer