Max Anstie had a crazy time of it at the Grand Prix of Belgium over the weekend. There is absolutely no doubt that he was the fastest rider, but a first-turn crash in moto one stopped him from standing atop the box for the first time in his premier-class career. A spectacular win in the second moto was a nice reminder of what could have been though. Anstie discussed everything that happened in the sand, from the success to the crashes, in this exclusive MX Vice interview from the venue.
MX Vice: Eventful weekend, I guess. Screw everything. Forget about the results. Forget about all of that. You were the best guy this weekend. I feel like [Tim] Gajser, [Romain] Febvre and all of those guys would admit that. Is that enough for you to go home happy or is the lack of a trophy and a bonus cheque stinging a bit?
Max Anstie: Yeah, the lack of the bonus is stinging a little bit. It is frustrating. I felt like this was my weekend. It wasn’t even like the first moto… It’s been such a long time since I’ve crashed off the start. I thought, “Right, I’m going to get out of the gate.” I actually got a good jump. I threw it in there and it all got a bit tight. I had [Jeremy] Seewer one side of me and Gajser on the other side. Ivo [Monticelli] maybe in the middle of them. Anyway, then those two are good starters. My bike’s good out of the gate.
I actually got a really good jump. Just coming in they were maybe a little tiny bit in front, which wouldn’t have been a problem. Then as we were going around the right I think Seewer got squashed a bit and just sort of moved a little bit, shut off or something to go a little bit further right than normal. I was like, “Sh*t, I’m going to go straight into the side of him.” I backed off and just hit his back wheel, as I was sliding across the track completely sideways. I hit someone else and crashed, then someone else ran into me. I smashed my shoulder and my head on the floor.
The next thing I was just laid out on the floor thinking, “What the hell just happened?” That was a bummer, because I really felt like it was my day and my weekend. At least I got a GP moto win. I’ve not won a moto before. I’ve won Motocross of Nations motos. I’ve won a qualifying race once, in France in 2017. It was nice to win a qualifying race yesterday, but a points-scoring moto is a bit different. Nice to do that. Shame I couldn’t have done two of them or at least just had a nice, easy one in the first one. It is what it is. It’s obviously a bit bittersweet.
I had to go and get the job done the second moto. I had to. I was a little bit angry. I got into the lead and I was like, “Right, I’m going to let it have it now.” I should have maybe calmed it down a little bit. I didn’t feel like I was out of control or anything. I know it maybe sounds a bit cocky, but I was like, “Right, I’m going to do it now. I’m going to be plus thirty.” I sort of started thinking that and started going, “I’m going to go faster and faster and faster.” I just mistimed a bump and stuck the back into a hard one.
It just kicked me sideways. I was like, “Oh, man.” I hit the floor pretty hard. I don’t know if they got it on film, but it felt like it was quite a bit one. I literally ended up hitting the floor on the side of my stomach. It took the wind out of me. It felt like I was Tyson Fury just being knocked down in the boxing ring. The count was on. I could see guys were coming. I was like trying to breathe. I knew I had about ten seconds. I was like, “Okay. I’m going to breathe. I’m going to breathe. I’m going to breathe.” Trying to recover.
I thought, get the bike now and go. When I picked the bike up, my front brake was completely right down. It took me a lap to figure out I could not use the front brake anymore, which was a little bit annoying. I do use the front brake quite a lot even in the sand. I know some people don’t use it, but I use it to sort of keep me straight. I had to just adapt to that pretty quick. Then my shoulder and things from the first moto, everything was sort of hurting a little bit. I just thought, “Man, I’ve got to come back and get this win.” I managed to do that.
Did you have any doubts about whether you would actually be able to race the second one? You were hurting at the time but once you got back to the truck, were you like, “I think it’s alright?”
I didn’t honestly know how I was going to feel when I was going to ride, because I picked the bike up… I was pretty hurting when I was actually on the floor. I was seeing stars. That was the main thing. I didn’t knock myself out, but I hit my head pretty hard. I had a bit of whiplash or whatever. My shoulder was killing, but it was just muscular. I got back up and tried doing one lap, but my subframe was bent and I think broken or whatever. The bike was all bent up. I had a load of sand in my goggles from hitting the floor.
I tried riding that first lap, my shoulder was hurting and just pulling on the bars. I was like, “Oh, no.” I’ve torn my rotator cuff and done a few things like that before, actually on the other side. I’ve done that before, so it felt a little bit similar. I was like, “Oh, man. This is not ideal.” I came in and took some ibuprofens and some paracetamol. Massaged it a little bit. I warmed it right up for the second moto. I was a little bit nervous about how it was going to be, but it didn’t really matter.
I knew if I got out of the gate and it didn’t really hurt me when I was riding… The first lap I could feel it, but then after the first lap I sort of forgot about it and just carried on. I’m sure it’s going to hurt tomorrow and the next few days, but it’s alright. It’s only muscular, because otherwise it would have hurt more and as I got warm my shoulder was okay. It wasn’t getting worse. When I was cold, just sat around not doing a lot, then my shoulder was a bit stiff. Not ideal. I’ve had a bit of a beat-up from today.
I was stood with a rider who is injured, who I probably should not name, before the second race. Between us we agreed that it would take something catastrophic to stop you winning, because genuinely watching all weekend it was so obvious that you had sand skills and everyone else didn’t have those same sand skills. Did you kind of have that confidence? Was it important to not let that get in your head a little bit?
I go into every race thinking I have still got to go and do the job. I didn’t actually do the job today. I ended up messing myself up in the first one and just stuck myself in a stupid position on the start. It’s just as easy as that. I can’t control what the other guys are doing. It ended up not going in my favor in the first moto. It was a shame. I don’t really know what I did on the start. Obviously, not going to lie, riding around there without Jeffrey [Herlings] and [Antonio] Cairoli is a little bit easier. They would have been fast, but my bike is working really well.
Honestly, my team and bike… I know everyone rides here in practice. Everyone comes to Lommel and goes training, but the track is completely different. We are riding around over twenty or thirty seconds slower and the layout is nearly identical. They have built a couple of jumps up, okay, but the layout is pretty much identical. I have been under 1:40 [lap times] around here in training. Now we are pushing two minutes. It’s twenty seconds a lap slower. That is even in training when it’s a little bit bumpy still. It’s so weird, you cannot compare it to practicing here. It’s almost even pointless, because you come here and it’s a completely different track.
I’ve done a lot of laps around here in practice and then you come here for the race and it’s different. So much softer and so much deeper. The other guys are riding well. They got the job done. I wasn’t on the podium today. There are a lot of them who have got the skills to do it. I don’t know what the difference is. My bike is just working well. I felt pretty light. I felt good on the bike. I felt stable. I have ridden in conditions like this and not felt great, and it can be the bike if you haven’t got the set-up right.
I’ve been kicking around this MXGP paddock for a little while now and I know how to set my bike up for these conditions. It’s been the first weekend where I’ve had a really good Saturday and translated it into a Sunday, but it didn’t really go to plan. In the Czech Republic last week, I felt like I could have been fighting in that top five no problem. The guys were riding really well as well on the hard-pack, but I could have been at least in there. I was the second-fastest on track in the first moto, but my Saturday where I was searching with my set-up killed me.
I made stupid mistakes last week. I even tested a new engine the week before and I was so pumped on it. I was thinking, “I’m going to go to Czech and the bike is going to be absolutely amazing.” I tested it at Lierneux, a track that is literally rock hard and just full of rocks. Basically, an enduro bike would be better around there than a normal motocross bike, just because our bikes are quite aggressive. I was thinking, “I feel amazing around here.” I went to Czech where you would not say that you have got the most traction, but I had more than what I did when I was training.
I switched back to my normal set-up, my engine that I’d been riding with all year, on Sunday for the motos and I was quicker. I just messed up my start position, my gate pick and things like that. It’s the whole weekend, the whole package and the whole thing. I’m really thankful for the team for doing everything they can with me. We are so close. I feel like we have two percent here and two percent there, which makes a difference. I knew my set-up this weekend, I literally just changed a fork line in free practice and that was it.
I didn’t really do a lot else. I didn’t really play around with the clickers or anything and my bike was solid. We did good work. I need to just iron that out for the rest of the season with the hard-pack races, just get my settings and stick with them to make Saturdays good to translate that into the Sunday. I think that’s the key. It gave me confidence yesterday winning the race, so today I was thinking, “Right, I’m going to go and get it done.” You are still nervous and still thinking that you have got to go and do it, but I just focused on what I could control and that was it.
You still need a deal for next year. This helped. Your phone is going to start ringing this week. Still if you can stay with Standing Construct KTM, that’s the ideal situation. Imagine if you can build on this!
I know, I know. Exactly. I’m thankful for everything Tim’s done and the whole Standing Construct team. I’ve got a great group of people around me and I’m really happy, honestly. They are a great group of guys. I’m still waiting to hear from them. I know Tim’s having meetings with Robert Jonas, who is the head of the KTM factory organization. They are figuring out their budgets and things. Hopefully it works out there. If not, I’m looking for a job. I’m calling around. I’ve got a few different teams on the go. I have said to pretty much everyone that I’m going to see what Tim can give me and then we’ll see.
It’s not easy. I understand that it is business for him. It’s business for everyone in the pits! There are not enough teams for the riders and a lot of MX2 guys. There are guys who are coming in with sponsors too. It’s tough. I’ve still got to make a living and I want to get paid. Hopefully I can continue to translate some decent results like this and bring a bit of consistency to it. My goal is I want to fight for top three in the championship. I want to be pushing for that. I want to be top three and top five every weekend. If I can stay with Standing, brilliant if it works out. If it doesn’t, then I’ll be doing the best that I can with whatever we can get. That’s where I’m at.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX