There was some controversy in Great Britain last week, as it became apparent that Jake Nicholls got to test parts of the new layout at Foxhill before the penultimate round of the Maxxis British Championship. Fellow competitors were outraged, so vented that on social media, and cooked up quite the storm. Dave Thorpe speaks out about the situation, which involves his star rider beneath the Buildbase Honda awning, in this exclusive MX Vice interview.
MX Vice: Last week was obviously busy for you, after everyone saw that Jake [Nicholls] rode Foxhill on Tuesday. Explain how that all came about. Who contacted you to put the idea forward? Was it from your side?
Dave Thorpe: I was away, actually, so Jake rang me and said that he had been asked by the promoter to do a press day Friday and the week before. Not the Friday before the event – the week before that. He rang me and said, “What do you think?” I said, “Well, let’s just make sure it is fine with the ACU.” I rang the ACU and spoke to Sonia there and she said it is press day, it is absolutely fine. The rules are quite clear. You cannot do a full lap, so that was it. We were set. Then Friday got cancelled by the promoter. For whatever reason it did not happen and then it got rescheduled for the Tuesday.
I think one of the reasons why they asked Jake was because not only is he good at PR, but he also builds his own track. From what I understand, I have still not been there to see it, the guys and Paul Cook have done a lot of work. I think they wanted some interpretation of what they have made and how it could work. I think that is it, really. Jake went there. He did the press stuff. He gave some opinions on what they were trying to achieve. Some of the stuff did not work at first and they kept modifying it. He left there Tuesday afternoon and we had a team test at Ashdown on the Wednesday. That is it, really.
Since it all kind of kicked off on social media and everything, have you phoned the ACU again just to double check this is fine? Have you spoken to them about this whole situation since this all kicked off?
The bit that I find extraordinary is Jake has done other PR events for Blaxhall and others. The difference is that there were one or two other people invited. I think what spiked everybody is that on the face of it, Jake was the only person that was invited. I think that is probably where all the friction has come from. At the end of the day, it was not our party. We did not invite him… The promoter of the event did. We were just asked to go, as we have done on numerous occasions already. Jake did what he does well. I never hesitate in putting Jake forward, or Josh [Gilbert], for any of these events, because obviously it is good for Buildbase, Honda and all of our partners.
I guess from that perspective, and as a former racer yourself, you can kind of understand then that the other riders are a bit disappointed that they themselves did not get an invite? That obviously did not come down to you, but maybe the organisers should have done something.
Going forward, it potentially needs to be open to more people. I have always, as a team, put us forward to help promote anything and that is not to gain an advantage. I have been in shopping malls before with our bike on a Thursday or a Friday before an event. It is just trying to get some mileage for our partners and the sport. I do feel sorry for Jake, because when Paul Cook asked him to do this he travelled three and a half hours to go down somewhere to help to do some promotion. Actually, on social media all he has gotten is abuse.
From your side now, when something like this comes up again in the future, are you going to be a bit more hesitant about it? Are you still firmly certain that nothing is wrong?
I have always put us forward for everything, like I said earlier, whether it be ACU, MX Nationals or whatever. It does make you hesitate now, because you try and help and then you end up getting a kick. You think, “Why bother?” I do not really get it, if I am honest. It will not change the way that Buildbase Honda operate. If asked, we would be there again no problem.
In my opinion, it sounds like the series as a whole just needs to become a bit more professional with this stuff. Feld Motorsports in America have a schedule before the season has even started, which states that this team will be doing press day at this round and so on. Everything is fully transparent.
Yeah, I think that is a great idea, but the fact of the matter is there are not so many factory teams in the UK. That is a brilliant concept in itself, but I know a lot of people work up until Friday late and they leave after work Friday to get there for Saturday to set up. I would imagine it would cause a little bit of a problem. I think it is a good, valid point and I think hopefully at the end of the season the ACU will get all the teams together. There are a lot of things to talk about that have been plusses or minuses in the championship in the year.
To sum up this whole situation then, it is basically a non-story to you. You, Jake and the entire team had nothing to do with this. You were just put in a situation where you wanted to do the right thing by your sponsors and there is not really much you could do from your side to stop this whole thing getting out of hand?
No, as we have done on numerous occasions already. The only difference is that Jake on this instance was the only person invited, whereas on the others there has always been two or three people as well. I feel sad for Jake, because he has done the right thing, and we are big enough to take it as a team. It is just that jealousy creeps in. All sorts of things creep in. We are used to that. We are big enough to take that. But for Jake, he has gone there to do the right thing for the right reasons and he has just got ridiculed for it.
What do you make of the event being cancelled? Obviously, it was a bit premature and, again, people on social media have been saying that maybe it was not down to the weather, it was down to this whole protest or argument about the press-day situation. What do you make of all of that?
I find it amazing that people question the integrity of the ACU personnel, namely Stuart Drummond and Steve McCauley. Having not been there to see all the work that they were implementing, I do not really know. All I know is I think they cancelled it on their side for all the right reasons. The one thing that people do forget is we do not have promoters screaming out to run British Championship. It is a thankless task at the end of the day. Paul Cook, Chris Warren and their team have been up there for however many days before. Some might argue not early enough, but they have taken the risk of running the event.
When they cancelled it, I guess they are going to be eight or ten grand behind at the point of canceling. If anyone was ten grand behind, I am sure most people would try and run it If it was at all possible. You would definitely try and run it to recover some money, so they must have had a pretty big scare with the weather leading up to the event. Where I was in Devon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the weather was atrocious. I cannot speak for Swindon, because I was not there.
From the team’s perspective, obviously dropping a round was great on one hand. Now Jake is going into the final round with a thirty-nine-point lead and that is a nice position to be in, but on the other hand Josh really could have done with some more races to gain some ground on Conrad [Mewse].
Yeah. The social media spin on it is that we wanted it cancelled, but people forget that we have got a real interest in the MX2 title and I feel at a mud race anything could have happened for Josh. It was not on our radar to have it cancelled. I feel that Josh had four races to have a little go at Conrad, but now he has only got two.
Another hot topic I do not think anyone has heard your take on, the ‘Nations. Jake was not selected in the end. Are you happy that his mind is focused on this one goal that is really important to the team or are you disappointed that he is not going to RedBud?
I was very honest with Jake from the very beginning. I said that I know what it means to a rider to go and represent their country. I knew his passion. Of course, I wanted him to get picked. But, from a team front, we have worked all year with Jake and he has worked very hard to get in the position that we are in. In the back of my mind, I would not say I was pleased he did not get picked, but it makes the team thing a little bit more focused.
Mark [Chamberlain], he has got a thankless task. Whoever he picked was always going to be difficult for him and there is always going to be people for and against. I did not envy that position for Mark, but I feel sure he has got a really solid team to go out there. I am sure that the three of them will do really, really well.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: MPS Images