Often injured but always fast, Natalie Kane had a brilliant 2012 season finishing second in the World championship and getting her first GP moto win.
With the Women’s GP racing now having half their events with MX3 her achievement went somewhat under the radar. So we thought we would talk to Natalie to see what really goes on at the GP’s when you are fighting for the world title.
It’s not as glamorous as you would think but Kane is ready to go again in 2013. But this time she wants to get the World title that Harry Everts suggested would be achievable back in 2006 when he saw her ride!
Last year was your best season ever finishing second in the world, what did you put that down too?
Yea it was the best year last year because I had four or five years of no- stop injuries. I just had a good break and got the injuries all sorted. I was riding on through injuries that I needed fixed but last year I wanted to try and get through with no injuries and have a steady year and then go for it this year.
At the start of the year I broke my hand near my knuckle. It was nothing major but I had to ride the first two rounds with the injury but then we had a three week break and that was all I needed to heal. For the rest of the year I was ok but just needed a bit of luck and maybe could have won a few more races.
I did win one in Slovenia , it was hard. It was good for me because it was the first one I ever won, but because it was so wet the race was actually stopped early so I didn’t know if I had won it. I had led the race the whole way but before the red flag by bike had actually stopped. Normally they take it from the lap before, but it took a while to sort out who won it and who didn’t, but I finally did win it.
When I finally won I was really happy, when I saw it was going to be a wet race, I thought I will have to win this one coming from Ireland!
Does that give you confidence going into this season knowing you have already got a win?
Yea it did, I had some bike problems last year and small injuries but it was still the best year in a long time. I have two brand new bikes from KTM this year and everything is looking good except I can’t really get out on them much with the weather! But I feel better than I have in the last five years, I just need to get bike fit, to get it set up for me and we will have a good year I think.
So really the key is remaining injury free, that means you can ride more and it is a snowball effect?
A lot of time when you ride with injuries people don’t know what is going on. They don’t even know you have an injury and then they think “ Oh, she is riding badly. “ It is definitely the bike time you need. When you are injured and just riding the weekend races like I was, it just doesn’t work.
You rode at the Desertmartin at the men’s British Championship, how was that?
It was a disaster! But it was good to ride with the men, If I had no injuries and stuff I would like to do some more and try and maybe score a point. I like racing with the men, obviously there is the odd one who doesn’t like it if I pass them or something!
Coming into this season what is it going to take to beat Fonatanesi for the championship?
I need to get the starts. She was always getting the starts last year and then she gets away. If I can get a good start we are fairly even. We have shown it in the qualifying race but then in the race something stupid happens to me. Because we are so close in times if I start tenth and she starts first there is no way I am going to catch her.
She won the last round of the AMA series, had you thought of going there and was that good to see your speed in comparison to the American girls?
It was good to see her results. In lap times we are close, of course lap times mean nothing in the races but it was good she won there. We speak a lot and I was talking to her on Facebook and I was pleased to see she beat them because the Americans seem to think they are faster than us.
Of course the tracks are completely different in America but I think when you are World Champion you are the best whether the Americans are there or not, it is the World Championship. Chiara proved it when she beat them in two races fair and square.
Ashley Fiolek came over a few years ago, I raced her in America on 80s and we were battling it out, I would pass her and she would beat me. When you go to America those girls aren’t hanging around and the jumps they do there are just like the men. But the tracks are smoother there, they seem to level them out for the girls.
When Ashley came to Europe she saw it wasn’t as easy as she thought, but she did get a few thirds.
She was getting a lot of coverage in the USA too and getting on a factory Honda at that time.
Ashley seems to get a lot of coverage because she is deaf – which is pretty amazing that she can even ride a bike when she is deaf! But they seem to get more coverage over there in general compared to what we get in Europe. It was getting better for us but with the money problems all over the world it is tough.
Just talking about the format changes, you used to be with the MX1 GP all the time now you are split between the MX3 series and the MX1. Is that annoying you are further away from the media attention?
Yea it is annoying, not even the media but the sponsors. Roger still sticks by me but at the end of the day they are going to MX1/MX2 but I am going to a completely different part of Europe from the others, so Roger is paying twice to get one truck going one way and the other one another way.
It all comes down to money. The women didn’t want to pay the entry fee so there are 125s in because they are willing to pay. But what the girls didn’t see was the distances you are having to travel to Slovakia or Slovenia, you would be safer paying your 300 Euro to go to Germany or France because you are saving on diesel anyway.
I didn’t really have a say in that most of the girls said they weren’t paying but now they are probably regretting it because they have to pay the same amount of money anyway but not getting as much coverage.
Are the tracks much different in MX3?
Yea they are. The MX3 is good too, the girls get treated well there just isn’t as much media there. They are good tracks and I like them but a lot of them have no bumps and they aren’t technical enough to see who is the best. In Valkenswaard the girls in twelfth or thirteenth are maybe ten seconds a lap slower but when you are in Slovakia or wherever the girls are maybe only 2.5 seconds slower so they is nothing technical to separate us. That doesn’t really play in my favour because the rougher the track the better I go.
Valkenswaard is on the schedule again this year so are you looking forward to that one?
I like the sand but I always seem to get an injury before it. But hopefully this year there will be no injuries and we will see how we go but Valkenswaard makes Desertmartin look like hard pack. I have always got on well with the sand so if I can get myself sorted out I will be better there than I was last year anyway.
Are you going to be based at home or or the continent this year?
I am going to be based in Belgium again near Lommel. It is easier, I like to be at home but coming back and forward on the boat all the time costs too much money. I stay in a camper, I can’t afford a house so I just stay in the camper and travel about in that.
You were training with Jake Nicholls a couple of years ago, what way are you going about your training now?
When I trained with Jake it was good, he had all the facilities you need. I started to go to train with Micky Ward- an ex rugby player. I like the way he does it, a lot of people follow what everyone else does but it is whatever suits you best. I have a trainer when I am in Lommel too so they give me a plan between the two of them and I pick what’s best for me and meet them when I am in their area and I do the rest myself and they will check up on me.
Can you win the title this year?
I think I am just as fast as any other girl, but it is not going to be just as easy to win but that is what I want to do. You need the luck as well, I will give 110% every time but it won’t be easy. If Steffi or Livia Lancelot turn up at the MX1/MX2 rounds, that can mess up the points in the championship. You could either win it or be sixth with a bad start.
Do you all get on well off the track?
There are some you get one with and some you don’t! I get one with Chiara pretty well, she is down to earth and will come over and speak and talks to my wee sister. Lancelot thinks she is too good to do the MX3 rounds and is pretty arrogant she wouldn’t really speak to you.
Your mum and dad have been behind you a lot do they still go to the races to support you?
My whole family has been behind me really. My sister had to give up racing because I was racing in England and we couldn’t afford to take both of us when I was in the youth. My dad doesn’t really come now because he has Crohn’s disease but my mum goes all the time. My sister comes when she can. My Aunty comes too… they all work in the same place so they take each other’s place! If my Mum can’t come my aunty go and she will drive me about. It is really an all girls show but it is all family and they do whatever they can to help me.
No one sees behind the scenes, I was my own mechanic and everything I had five different bikes, i would come in get the bike washed , check over the bike, get some new kit on and go back out. I was hardly getting time to go and look at the track. Everyone says they would love to be travelling the world and stuff, and I do love it but I am living on my own in Belgium in the camper with no TV or internet. My sister comes when she can too and we have a laugh so I wouldn’t change it but it isn’t as easy as everyone thinks.
I just want to thank Roger Magee and HM Plant KTM and all the sponsors for sticking by me when we are racing with MX3. Thanks also to Roy Neil and Neil Loughery for helping me as well as all my family and friends.
Article and photo by Jonathan McCready