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Catching up with: Jonathan Rea

WSB star Jonathan Rea is a busy guy. Not content with going for a World Superbike title he also runs a British motocross team that, for 2013, is really stepping up its ambitions.

Armed with a new sponsor and new rider plus a fully fit Wayne Garret in MX1 the team is expecting some good results all season long.

New MX2 rider Lewis Tombs potential was spotted by Rea at the end of last year and has brought a new expectation and impetus to the team as they seek to climb the ladder in British Championship racing.

Above all though, this is a team run by passion for the sport. This is what not only drives Jonathan but the whole team, and this is the essence of motocross – doing it for the love of the sport.

Jonathan was kind enough to allow MX Vice some of his time and, in a wide ranging interview, we spoke to Jonathan about his team, the British championship and his start to the season in WSB.

 

You have really stepped up with the team this year, bringing in a new sponsor and signing Lewis Tombs, was it difficult to do that?

We try and make things better every year. This winter it was clear if we were going to travel to England and do British Championship races on the mainland, we had to look at some riders.

Wayne, I felt a little bit sorry for him because he didn’t get the best crack at it last season. He started the year in really bad shape because he just had one week on the bike before the start of the British. This year is a proper crack for him.

With Lewis coming into the team it’s good, he is a solid MX2 rider and a really nice guy, we believe he has a got a lot of potential.

You have a new sponsor on board that has really lifted the set up of the team as well…

Yea I have known Graeme Hanna at IFS for some years.  He is a great guy and puts a lot of time and effort into motorsport in Ireland and also in England mainly in road racing.

I had discussed my plans with Graeme for the this season and he was quite excited to be involved and it is nice to have a global company on the side of our bikes and I hope we can give them some reward for their investment.

Are you concentrating more on the British Championships this season – is that the main goal?

I think it is frustrating for us as team trying to do both and win titles at Irish and Ulster championship level with regards to professionalism, image, rider and infrastructure. When we looked at the dates at the start of the year it was clear that we could ride the Irish championship. But since then there was a very late announcement from the Red Bull Pro nationals that they were going to run the Pros on a Saturday as well. That has thrown a spanner in the works for us because it clashes with the Irish championship.

When it comes to date clashes we will have to sit down and make the best compromise. With all our industry sponsors and backers being more based in the mainland the British and Red Bull have to be the main goals. But with both our guys strong starts in the Irish championships it’s a shame to not campaign for a championship back home.

The first Irish round was last weekend, just before the British championship, and it looked pretty muddy!

Yea it is funny, in the off season everyone talks about how much they have improved and how much they are going to come out strong. It is a really strange situation for the riders because they have no idea where there speed is or what they are going to do.

It was a great opportunity to get them both behind the gate and also more of a team bonding, it was nice to have the whole team present and have some good vibes going on.

Wayne went well in qualification but bad starts hampered him because clearly he had the pace to be at the front in every race. He rode solid.

Lewis had a very tough weekend. A rock came through his goggles and hit his nose pretty hard so he was riding with a bit of discomfort all day. He got off to a bad start because at Vernon Mount for a 250 launching up the start straight it is a pretty steep hill so he had a lot of work to do and the guys in the mid pack at Irish championship level are still pretty fast in the early stages.

Race two he had a big crash and showed great speed in the middle but unfortunately the clutch gave up the ghost at the end. He had to push the bike across the line but we gained some points and the third race was just damage limitation. We had to get another 250f for Lewi to ride in the last race because there was too much damage to continue with the number one bike.  He did ok it was more to get the guys out and blow the cobwebs off, get some starts in a lower pressure environment and I guess they both gained some confidence coming into the weekend.

What are your expectations coming into this weekend?

I have absolutely no expectations. Every new season is always full of hype about everyone doing everything. We just need to see where we fit in first. I know both my guys are capable of strong results but what they will be on Sunday we don’t know. I am confident if the guys do their best they can both come away with good points from the first round. We can learn from that and move on, it is a long season as we saw last year at Fatcats it got really rough and a few establishes riders got injured so the main plan for our guys is to get points scores on the door early and move on.

Both guys have shown their top ten potential obviously MX1 is tough again this year with the GP riders but Wayne was close a couple of years ago before his injuries and Lewis was getting good results at the end of last year.

Yea I am really confident with the rider line up, I think we have got the best guys we could. Wayne’s in a little bit deeper than Lewis. The MX1 class this year is really stacked, it is going to be really tough for Wayne especially as he hasn’t ridden with a lot of them guys yet this season.

Lewis finished strong last year but that is no indication of this year, we still have to come out and do a good job. I think Fatcat is more of an introductory round, Canada Heights will be more of a gauge.

Fatcat is a pretty specialist track and more unique but I think when we got to a more technical motocross style circuits like Canada Heights, Lyng and Farleigh Castle it will definitely suit our guys a lot more than round one.

Are you able to attend many races this year?

A lot of them clash but I am going to Fatcats. It is always good to go at the start of the season and it is a race a lot of people go to.

You seem to enjoy being at the races, walking the track and giving advice to the riders…

I enjoy it. It is really hard to critique these guys, they can learn from my experience if they want –ok it is a slightly different sport but they are in the team for a reason and that’s because they are good guys and they can do things their own way. I like to let them do things themselves but I am always there and always try and help. It is always nice to have an outside eye on the track or whatever just like I do in my sport. I have guys like spotters or people to help.

Does it give you a release from the pressure of WSB – to do a hobby to get away from it all?

I just see it as completely different. It is not done for that reason. I just enjoy it, it is nice getting away –it’s still a fresh sport. It is not a career for anyone in our team, everyone gives up a lot of their time because they are enthusiasts. I have my own career. I act as a team manager but I have a proper job.

I love the fact I am just a massive motocross enthusiast and we can create an opportunity for two riders. When you go away for the weekend and are surrounded by like minded people ,it’s good fun and it is just a good release from life for everyone, not only my job because it is really easy for me to draw a line and step across from one to the other.

Are you still riding yourself?

Not so much anymore. I still have a bike but I had a shoulder injury from Phillip Island so I haven’t been riding as much as I wanted. There just aren’t so many places to ride where I live on the Isle of Man. It’s nice to get out and ride but I get my kicks from watching the guys.

Who do you think will come out on top in MX1 and MX2 in the British Championship?

I have no real idea – it is just so stacked! Even in MX2 at the front it is very fast. I’m not sure which order but it would be really nice to see Martin (Barr) have a great year. I know how much effort he puts in and it would be nice to be rewarded with a championship. Guys like Elliot and Martin are going to be at the front in MX2, In MX1 it is stacked there are anyone of four or five guys that can win. It’s going to be interesting to watch, I am certainly glad I am not out there racing it, it will be nice to watch from the sidelines.

The WSB series started off probably not the way you wanted in Phillip Island but how is the bike progressing and are you confident for the rest of the year?

Yea I am definitely confident for the rest of the season but we have just been working with different electronics. The bike wasn’t far away at the end of last year but we needed to make a big step with the electronics and unless we actually do this and go through the initial process of getting it set up we were never going to improve that much.

Right now it is just a case of it feels like we are doing a lot of donkey work at the start of the year when we really should be up and running. But from the Phillip Island race my guys have got a lot of data they can look at and they can study our problems and hopefully come up to the next race with something positive.

Leon Haslam is your new teammate – a former motocross rider as well. Is that good having a strong teammate? You have never really had someone on your level before.

Definitely it is not just nice for me to look at some fast data but nice for the team to have two strong guys. It can be disheartening on the other side of the garage with never having strong results but now there are two strong guys fighting for the podium on their days.

It is good for the team and I am sure there will be times in the season where I can learn a lot from Leon and vice versa so it is definitely a plus.

Interview and picture by Jonathan McCready

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