A chat with Max Anstie is always insightful and this exclusive interview from the twelfth round of the 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship, the Grand Prix of Asia, was no different. Anstie covers bike settings, mind games, track conditions and more in a bumper interview that will keep fans busy. Twelfth’s the position that he now occupies in the championship standings, following a string of successful events.
MX Vice: After last weekend you expected big things. I think everyone expected big things. “Could beat Tim Gajser this weekend” was thrown around. That did not happen but, from where you were yesterday, coming out with fifth overall, that is positive on what I guess you would class as a difficult weekend.
Max Anstie: Yeah. I think the last three have been solid. I was sixth in Germany. Actually, this weekend reminded me a little bit of that. I was searching yesterday on set-up. I went one way and I thought… Last week, I literally just went with the same set-up as Germany and I felt brilliant. Literally did not touch the bike all weekend. I went in this weekend, using that same set-up, and the track was obviously faster and more hard-pack. I just felt a little bit off on Saturday. I was pushing, but it just was not really flowing as well as what I would have liked.
I went one direction thinking, “Right. This is the way to go.” I went the wrong way, but these things you learn. I think that is so annoying, because I was saying to the team earlier that I wish I could just re-do the whole weekend or re-do Saturday right now so I could get myself in a good position on the gate. That is what ultimately killed me today. My starts were good. The bike has been working really well out the gate, but I was just a little bit wide. I came from eleventh or something on the first laps to end up fifth overall. It was solid. I actually rode well… I felt good today.
I’m pleased that we went a little bit the opposite way from yesterday. These things we learn. I think it’s important not to get too… Not carried away, but as soon as you have one bad session people or whoever are like, “What’s happening?” It can literally be a couple of percent here and a couple of percent there. In this class, everyone is so close. The difference between a second and a half on the track or two seconds is the difference between being top three or twelfth. It is just fine-tuning things. I was pleased that I was able to find that and work really well with my team. They did a great job.
We pulled it together today and improved each session, so that was good. It is a shame that I could not have done that a little bit quicker and done it on Saturday, but that is what happens. It is tough, because I looked back at my notes actually from last year… I write notes after each weekend, but it’s from a Husqvarna to a KTM. Although you would think it is relatively similar, I could not really use the information that I had last year to help me on Saturday. I was shooting a little bit in the dark with what way I went. It is what it is.
At the end of the day, I am proud of all the guys and the whole Standing Construct team. We did a good job to turn it around. Sixth in Germany, fourth last week, top three in motos and then this weekend fifth overall. Not my best track. I feel like we have got a good rest of the season coming up. We have got a few good races. I’m strong. I feel good. I’m looking forward to it.
First of all, I am blown away that you make your own notes. Floored. Obviously, we have got a hard-pack track here and you have ridden the KTM on hard-pack tracks this year. This is not the same though. You have got hard-pack tracks, then this was just like another level. I guess nothing you have even gathered from this year applies?
No. It was strange. Honestly, I just felt really good straightaway and gelled with the track and with the bike. Yesterday I went out on the track. From the TV or something it probably did not look too different, but it was like concrete. It is weird. It is like so wet, then you get these ruts and then they just go baked and rock hard. It was really, really slippery. I prefer it usually when you have got a bit of traction and you can really sort of let it eat. I feel like I have made improvements.
I definitely feel like I am in the ball park. I felt like if I could have started right up… I came from outside the top ten both motos, so it was a bit of a shame, but I felt like if I would have been up front, then I could have stayed and run that pace. Everyone was obviously on the same speed, so I am learning. You either win or you learn. At the end of the day, last week I was close to being on the box and this week a couple of percent here and there could have helped me improve.
I’m looking forward to Czech. Like you said, Czech is more like Arco in a way. I can look at the set-up from there and go back to that. It is different when you come to these overseas races and you are dealing with different elements, especially as well with the heat and the mapping of the bike. To be honest, this weekend the bikes felt a bit slower. I do not know whether it was just the heat or whether we were a little bit higher. It’s just a few little things, but it is the same for everyone. We are all in the same boat. Positive.
You have got to be happy with the second moto as well. You charged forwards, passed some fast guys and dropped some of them. That was the one that kind of confirmed that had you got good starts, then a podium would have been on the cards. You cannot ask for much more than that second moto with the start you had.
Yeah, exactly. Coulda, shoulda, woulda and whatever. I have got a lot of respect for the other guys. It is really fun racing, because people are inconsistent, but we are all battling and up there. There are a lot of guys that are going fast and can be on the podium. It is good fun. I’m enjoying the races at the moment. It’s nice to battle with the guys.
Is it tough mentally? Last week your confidence was high, so you were riding this wave, then when you were riding around in seventh today, were you thinking, “I need to get to the front?” Do you almost have to settle yourself down, realise the situation you are in and make the best of what you have got?
To be honest, I just tried to focus on the process of doing what I was doing. I did not even really know where I was. Ryan Dungey did this thing not that long ago, Mind of a Champion. I signed up for it. I was listening to his bits of information. It’s all very interesting. One thing that he said was, if you get a bad start, sometimes you are like, “I need to get to the front. I need to rush. I need to get to the front.” He said the most important thing is to breathe. Take it one section at a time. Control only what you can control.
I cannot control what the other guys are doing. The guys up front are, of course, going fast too. All I can do is ride as fast as I can, pass whoever is in front of me and chase whoever is in front of me. That was my goal. I switched up some lines. I found some good lines. That was that. To be honest, I did not even really know where I finished. It was hard to see the pit board, because of the ruts going down that straight. I was just focused on the process of doing my job and that was that. That’s where I ended up.
Last week was the same. I know from when I have won motos in MX2 before and things like that… It’s a tough sport this, mentally, because you can quite easily get influenced from what other people say or do. Like now it is contract time. You start thinking about contracts and how you need to be up front to get a decent deal or need to do this to get more money. People start saying, “If you do not perform then you are going to be done.” You start listening to that and thinking about that. That can quite easily tighten you up.
The most important thing is to just focus on only what you can control and perform your best. That is it. I think there is a lot going on with everyone at the moment. I think that, on my side, I was just focused on one lap at a time and passed whoever I could. It was sketchy. The track was slippery. It was quite easy to go down. You just had to be one hundred percent focused on that. The moment you let any other thoughts come in, you were probably on the floor. It was like ice in some sections. That was it.
When you were mucking around with your bike settings, was there one specific thing you were fiddling with or was it just like a complete bike overhaul? Was it just suspension that you were going back and forth on?
Yeah. That is the brilliant thing about Glenn [Coldenhoff], my teammate. He rode really well yesterday. Ivo [Monticelli] was on it this week in time training. It was weird, because last week I could see that maybe they struggled. Ivo last week struggled a bit more, for instance, but he did not change his bike set-up so much for this week, yet it worked this week. I was like, “Right. I stayed with my set-up from last week” and that didn’t work.
I was just tweaking a few little things with the suspension. To be honest, it’s minimal. From the outside looking in you would think going a line different on the forks, or a couple of clicks here, does not make any difference, but a second out there for us is the difference between being top five or outside the top ten in time training. It’s just a little bit of comfort. It’s only minor things. I’m being open talking about it. Most people probably wouldn’t even talk about it. At the end of the day, it is what it is.
We are all at such a high level and finding that two percent on each track… Last week, I started at ninety-nine percent. The bike felt great. This week maybe I started at ninety-five percent and I had to make those couple of adjustments to get myself up there. You cannot always be spot on everywhere you go, unless you have got experience or previous settings from maybe the years before or whatever. I feel like I’m pretty fast at getting it down now, but obviously I could have been a little bit quicker yesterday.
It is what it is. I’ve got a great group of people working with me. Frankie, my WP guy, he is on it. My mechanics and the guys are really solid. We are fine-tuning. It’s not like, “Oh no, I have come back and we are going to go out with a completely different bike.” My bike is really, really good. We have proved that it’s really, really good. It’s just everyone is so close. Everyone is so fast that one or two percent makes a difference.
Any Indonesian battles this weekend or did they behave?
No. The track this weekend was quite a lot wider, so it was fine. I didn’t have any moments. I really do enjoy coming to these places. Don’t get it the wrong way around. I love the fans and I love everyone for supporting these races, because it is cool to come and see the different… Even our taxi driver, he was so pumped that I gave him a shirt. He was just over the moon. It really means a lot to these guys, where some of the people in Europe are the opposite. They kind of expect it.
You can kind of tell by the look on their face if they really appreciate it. It’s nice to do that and be a part of it. You know that you are giving something to these people. They only see it once a year, when we come here. Even my fiancé, Milly, she got a few pictures. She has got blonde hair, so I don’t think they see that too often in Indonesia. I think it’s cool for them to have us as a whole, not just the riders, here for this event.
It is July now. We’ve only got six of these things left. This is a stupid question because I know what the answer will be, but we will put it out there. Anyone contacted you about the ‘Nations yet? Any talk? Anyone said anything? Anyone know it is on?
I haven’t spoken to Mark [Chamberlain]. I have not heard anything.
If you are not on the team, then I am going to burn sh*t down.
At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure Lommel is going to be the main thing for most of the teams. Lommel is obviously the most similar to Assen. We’ll see. I’m sure Ben [Watson]’s going to be good. I know his hand is hurt at the moment but give it a few weeks and he’ll be back on. Tommy [Searle] has got his new ride now and that will be really good. I’m sure he is going to be really going fast.
Shaun [Simpson], I know he is now getting back to one hundred percent. He is definitely going to be on it. We have got a good group of guys. We’ll see. We will see with Mark what comes around. No matter what I’ll be ready to go if the call comes in. I like Assen, so that will be good.
No British MXGP next year either, so thoughts on that?
Yeah. It’s a shame. It is a bummer. I did see that the first one was to be announced and I thought maybe it could be that, but then I saw that Steve Dixon did a thing saying that it is not going to be there. It is a shame I think for me, as a British rider, and the British fans. I know Matterley is a really cool track. It is a bummer. To be honest, I’m sure people have figured this out and I’m not just saying this is my opinion… Even I have no idea what’s going on with Brexit and what is happening.
I think if everyone has to start getting visas and things like that, the travelling and the trucks is a right pain. That is probably because no one knows exactly what is going on. They might miss next year, because they are probably still figuring it all out, then hopefully it will come back again. I am hoping that is kind of throwing things up in the air. I’m putting it down to that. I am not sure any other reason why not, because the track is great. It is just obviously a shame at the moment. I don’t even know what is going on with it. I don’t know how it is going to affect us with Brexit. We shall see.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer