Following such a turbulent start to the 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship, Max Anstie has really turned things around in recent weeks and is on the verge of standing on the podium again. The Grand Prix of Indonesia, held at Palembang, was a huge step in the right direction, as he explains in this exclusive MX Vice interview from the event. Every single talking point is covered in this lengthy interview, so dive right in.
MX Vice: It was good. It was definitely good, but it could have been great. Still it was good, and I feel like that is enough to be happy, but it really could have been great.
Max Anstie: Yeah. It was just one of those. I felt great all weekend. It was definitely my sort of track. It was definitely my sort of track on paper [laughs]. I had it down to a tee. It was. I felt good all weekend. I felt like we had a good set-up. I worked really hard coming into this place. For some reason, the heat… I don’t know, I like it. I don’t know why. It is good for me. I felt good in practice and good in timed training. I was always right up there. Then second yesterday. I made some good passes.
Second in the first moto today. I felt solid and strong. I felt really good going into the second moto. All I wanted to do was get out the gate, get in behind [Tim] Gajser and then start pushing to see how fast I could go. I still had some energy left. Literally I got into second and as I got into second on the third corner I crashed and I was like, “Oh no!” Then all the energy that I had, I had to use trying to come through the pack. I was good on the first lap. I made some quick moves, then quite a few guys crashed or whatever.
There was a bit of carnage going on. I was pretty slick on that first lap to get into about tenth or something. I just plugged away. I got to the back of [Gautier] Paulin, which was sick. The thing was though I caught him, and I used a lot of energy to catch him, but as I caught him the last two minutes, I swear he went faster. I was like, “Right.” Actually, he was going pretty steady. I caught him up then, all of a sudden, he picked it up. We started to get close to [Jeremy] Seewer, I think, at the end. I’d used a lot of energy by that point. It was what it was.
It’s a shame, because I really do feel like I was going for that second moto to try and see how fast I could go. At the end of the day, I felt like I could… Not being cocky or anything, but I felt like I could have won that race or at least pushed Gajser as hard as I could. I know obviously he ended up going down in the end, but I felt like in the first moto I was strong and saved a bit of energy. I was ready to go for it in the second one, but it didn’t work out.
At the end of the day, there were still good starts. I nearly holeshot the second race. Second yesterday, second today. Then from last basically to sixth was good in the second moto. I know half the guys are not out there, but the top ten or fifteen guys are still solid guys. I was able to move through. At least I felt fast and I felt like I was moving forward the whole time. It was good.
Going back to warm-up this morning, you were hammering. Everyone kind of did whatever, like a couple of laps. You did not come in once. I saw you do like six fast laps. After yesterday I felt like it was kind of a thing where you were like, “I can go this fast but, watch this, I can go faster.”
No, it was weird. I didn’t even feel like I was using that much energy. It felt like I was riding around my home track in England. Literally this place reminded me of that when it was nice and grippy. It was the same sort of thing. I just felt solid. I felt like I had rest points on the jumps where I was jumping. It felt pretty easy. It felt pretty easy to go fast. I was actually surprised I went quickest in warm-up this morning.
That was a big thing for me, because I had got three-quarters of the way around the lap and then got a little bit held up. It was almost perfect, but it wasn’t, and I still went pole, so that was cool this morning. Definitely improvement on that side. Definitely an improvement on the bike also. I have been working hard the last few weeks, since before Germany, with the team to just fine-tune things. We even figured out in Germany on Saturday to then Sunday to help our starts, just to make the riding a little bit easier.
It’s crazy how you can go a tiny bit different. One or two percent out there against all these guys is a difference between being top five or fifteenth. It is just getting those bits all in line. I wish everything that I’ve learned now… I wish that I could go back to the start of the year and start the year now with the settings and things that I have now. It’s not massively different.
I’ve not changed the whole bike. It’s just a couple of little things that I’m just like, “This works here, this works here and this works on the start.” It’s making my life a bit easier now getting some decent starts. Hopefully we can keep continuing to do that. I know everyone is pushing on and trying to progress, but I feel like we are in a good place. I’m looking forward to next week.
Speaking of starts, in the qualifying race I think you would have had the holeshot but Gajser was on the inside of you. It was kind of the same thing in the second race. Any regrets about gate pick?
No, because Gajser was shutting the inside down pretty hard. I figured that he was really swinging. He gave me a lot of space actually, because he went out and went left. So, for me, I wanted to push hard into the first turn, so I could go to the inside on the second corner. That was my whole thing. I didn’t want to go tight around the inside in the first corner and then be on the outside of the second corner, because that wasn’t it.
If I was in the inside before pit lane, which I did for the second one, came out, was right in there and got in second… Gajser obviously starts well all the time too. I felt like we were level, if not I was maybe even a little bit more in front. I think there was a Yamaha. I was definitely level going into the first corner to be right in there. I just thought, “Right. I’m going to run around the first turn and get down the inside for the second corner.” That was the game plan.
You were obviously one of the fastest riders this weekend. I think you could have matched Gajser. The way I looked at it was there was Gajser and you, then everyone else. Was there somewhere on this track where you could maybe make a difference?
I don’t know. I felt good in the ruts. I don’t know why. I just felt like I was railing nicely. Each turn, it didn’t really matter what line I took. I did switch lines. I tried different lines. I just felt pretty nice in the turns. I was just hitting my marks. I didn’t feel like I was going to make mistakes. I was bummed when I actually crashed on the third corner. I think that, to be honest, I passed whoever it was on the Yamaha going into the turn and it was just one of those where I sent it into that rut, so the rut just gave way.
I was like, “Oh man.” On the first lap you are always on the limit, so that was a shame. I felt like that and then I felt towards the middle and end of the race that the heat was getting to the guys. They were struggling. Some of the guys were not fading but making mistakes. There were a few silly things, like overshooting lines. There was one triple that was quite big, then to land to get to the inside was quite hard. People were starting to make little mistakes. If I did not make those mistakes, I would either catch or take advantage of that in the motos to pass guys.
Whilst you were charging forward in the second race, did you know what the podium situation was? Once Glenn [Coldenhoff] had got [Jeremy] Seewer, you needed to get Paulin and Seewer to get third overall. Did you know that?
Not really. My mechanic put something on the pit board. It was quite hard to see, because of all those ruts. I do not think his pen was that good, to be fair. I was trying to read it. I saw something podium and I figured it was Paulin. To be honest, I was just focused on the next lap, the next person and the next person. I caught up to Paulin and then he definitely picked it up the last few laps. I couldn’t gain, so that was that. I didn’t know but, to be honest, I knew when I crashed that I sort of messed it up.
I was like, “Oh no.” I knew when I crashed there was a very slim chance of me getting on the box then. I thought if I would have just stayed up the first few corners then I could have been up there and fighting for those first few places, but steps in the right direction. I definitely felt good this weekend. I hope I can continue that onto next week. It’s positive.
Speaking of your pit board, can we speak to Tim [Mathys] and get a different color? I feel like white with a black pen is ridiculous. I have thought that since Matterley Basin. Glenn’s got a black one, so I don’t know what’s going on there. I feel like we need to do something.
It works fine when I’m practicing, but then I’ve got time. Going down this straight was so rutty and things it was difficult. Maybe I will upgrade that. At the end of the day, I was just pushing forward. I knew that obviously the damage had been done. It’s always a shame when you crash on the first lap. If it would have been even three or four laps in, people are spread out more. If you crash in the first lap within the first few turns, you lose everything. You lose every spot and then it gets tough to try and pass guys, because they are all fresh as well at the beginning of the race. It is what it is. We’ll keep pushing on.
Backmarkers. I saw you having some great battles with Lewis Stewart all day. I’m looking forward to more of those next week. Do you feel like you had him covered or was he quite good?
I just feel like they need to do… I don’t know if he even went to the riders meeting. I just think they should do a riders meeting. I know obviously they struggle to get a full gate of riders and there are only however many normal MXGP guys. The other guys they bring in are fine, but they are not normal GP guys. They do not understand the blue flag and they try to race you. It’s like, “Mate, we are in our own race. Just get out of the way.” Same in practice as well.
They are trying to do the same line as you are doing in time training. I know it’s nice for the Indonesians to ride and to race against us, but it’s a little bit dangerous to be honest. There are a few big jumps out there. On the first lap I was obviously at the back and I was coming through. I hit the triple and people were doubling and singling and getting all squirrelly. I know that can happen anywhere, but there is a difference between… I’m not trying to be a dick about it, to be honest. I sound like I am, but there’s a certain level of racing. It’s fine. Good experience for them and all happy. Whatever.
Just a little announcement to all the industry that listen to this, your contract is up this year. You are one of the guys who is shopping around.
Exactly. Give me a ring. I’m really grateful and I cannot say anything bad about the team where I am right now. Standing Construct have done a great job. I haven’t heard anything yet from Tim for the next year. I would like to hear something. For sure with other teams, we’ll see. I don’t know what the plans are with the budgets and things like that, but I just want to get up on that box and then I think the phone calls will start coming in.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer