Where is Tommy Searle? Casual fans have undoubtedly asked that question at points this year, as various injuries have stopped him from competing in a single race. A comeback is on the horizon, however, and ‘100’ is gearing up to make a splash in the premier division. There is no denying the fact that he needs to, as he attempts to build a case to claim a factory ride and spot on the British Motocross of Nations team.
MX Vice: Obviously this one was kind of set as a point you would return. You have kind of returned to MXGP, because we have not seen you all year, but you’re not racing. I guess you are pretty gutted?
Tommy Searle: Yes, unfortunate as this was the one I was going to come back to and make my return at. Obviously I’ve been out injured all year. It’s been a terrible year for me. I did my knee to start with training, then I was going to race at Hawkstone Park and then Ireland and then here. Two days before I just was practicing at a track in York and clipped a little post. Not a post – a little fence. I just got off line, but it was quite a one-lined track. I stood the bike up in a corner and the berm was sort of up against the fence.
I just caught my hand on the fence and somehow it was so slow where I was going. I’d already almost come to a standstill, because I knew I was going to miss the corner, but somehow something got twisted and I broke my hand. That has put me back, which is a shame as I felt really good. I had actually been on the bike for quite a few weeks before. I think I had six weeks riding, so I was ready to return. It is just a shame that now I’ve been setback again, but I’m here watching. It is nice to actually be around in the pits and be around it again. It makes me miss it more, but know that I want to be back here and racing again very soon.
Is this little bit of extra time you are having off helping your knee more? Was that one hundred percent before the hand injury?
No, this is not helping at all now really. It was one hundred percent. I waited and did it properly, as I know in the past that it is not the way to go to try and rush anything in this sport. It’s ridiculous. You can’t ride around a track like this with an injury, so I knew I needed to be ready. I did everything I needed to do with my knee and I was ready, so it is no real benefit. I’ll keep building it up, yeah, keep training and do what I can physically to stay fit. I was ready to come back before.
Do you regret taking your time and waiting for events like Hawkstone [Park] and all of that now? Obviously if you had come back and got a few rounds in that would have been nice, but you didn’t know that was going to happen.
No, you never know what is going to happen. I did want to come back a little bit earlier, but it was important that with the team we got the bike where we needed to be. We were trying to do that as well. It just wasn’t really ready to come back. I would have liked to have maybe come back in Germany or France, as I felt like I was ready physically on the bike and was going fast enough to return. A few things did not line up and with how it is out there everything needs to be ready, rather than just rushed back with the bike or anything like that.
We decided to wait as a team and make a good return here at a race that is European, rather than flying to Russia and doing my return there with stuff that is not ready. Everything would have been ready to return here. It just didn’t happen. So, yeah, I am a bit gutted that I didn’t try to race the earlier ones, but it is what it is. I’ve just got to stay positive and get myself ready to come back again.
Obviously your first knee injury was in December. Were you already behind with testing the race bike and stuff like that? Are you where you need to be now or do you still have stuff to work through before you come back from the hand?
No, we worked quite a lot with stuff. A guy in Holland was helping me a lot with the engines – he has been really good. I haven’t tried the full one, but we were very close and then we made one little change that I was going to race and practice with the following day. Everything is ready to go suspension-wise with Moose and KYB, but now with Kawasaki everything is ready too. The bike is ready. It’s just me now.
I need to get myself in a position and work hard these next two weeks to get the all-clear, then use it to go in the gym and have a hard go at the weights to get myself in shape. Watching out there today, if you are not in shape you just have no chance. It is unbelievably tough. You see every single rider out there and that is just first moto. It is such a hard sport. Mentally and physically you need to be ready if you want to race something like that.
I guess if you are ready you’ll come back at Loket, but if not there then Switzerland? I guess you don’t really want to jump back in at Lommel?
I will come back at Lommel if that is where I’m at and I have to come back. You always have to start somewhere and actually I do not go too bad at Lommel, if I go out there and do a few weeks before. You have got to come back at some time – it is never going to be easy. If it has to be Lommel, then it has to be Lommel. If I come back and I struggle, then I struggle. I’ll then move onto Switzerland and that is a good track for me, so I definitely want to be at one hundred percent for that. If I have a couple of races under my belt before that one, then that is only going to help. I will come back as soon as I can and as soon as I feel ready.
It is a contract year as well, so I guess you’ll kind of want to rush back for that. Are you having talks? Can you even talk at this point? Obviously you haven’t had results this year.
No, it is difficult for me. I am in a difficult position as I have had no results. I haven’t even lined up on the gate this year, so I’m very forgotten about as such. If I did not feel I could race up front with the best of them, I wouldn’t even have bothered trying to race in MXGP. I’m not that sort of person who wants to race for the sake of racing. I want to do well and enjoy it, but if I’m not doing well I’m not going to enjoy it. That is one of the reasons why I came here; to show my face, let people know what is happening and just be around my team as well. They have been very supportive – Steve Dixon and Steve Guttridge have supported me through the injury. They have been good for me, given me time and what I need to come back.
I have not got a deal for next year, so it is important for me to come back and do well. At the same time if you rush back it never goes well either. I have never known someone rush back, unless they are fighting for a championship and have got to get those points, but I’m not in that position. I might be better off sat at home not racing at all than trying to race back and race around at the back, because I’m injured.
It is just one of those situations that is not good to be in, but it is life and it happens. I just need to keep staying positive. Life’s good otherwise. It can always be a lot worse than the position I’m in. I’ve got a broken hand. In four weeks the hand’s going to be fixed and life goes on. I’ve just got to do what I can, make the best of a bad situation, put myself out there, work hard and do my best when I come back.
Are you worried about getting a deal? Is there an option to come back here maybe?
Yeah, there is always an option. I like Kawasaki. I like Steve. They have to make it work. I’m sure that can be an option, but they made it happen for me these last two years. I just needed to show my worth and that I’m worth it for them. In the UK it is obviously good to have me racing in the British Championship – that is important for Kawasaki. It’s quite important for me as well to race in England. I enjoy it. It was nice last year to race there and win that, so I would like to race it again. It would be nice to link that in with the deal, but I’m not ready to go ride just the British Championship full-time and that be it. That is not where I see my future.
I want to be in MXGP and racing, but I also don’t want to be racing in GPs on a bike that’s not competitive and banging my head against a brick wall every weekend. That is not easy to do. With where I’m at now it is good, as we can build a competitive bike. It is always an option. I would happily do that, but I still need to do work. They are not going to give me a ride for no reason, so I have to come back and do well.
Do you think there is a chance that you could be put in a position where you just have to race in Britain next year? Obviously, last year you didn’t have podiums, but each and every week the speed was there in practice and with your lap times.
It is a very difficult situation in GPs now that the factory teams are a long way ahead of the teams that have not got factory equipment. It is not like six or seven years ago, where you could roll out be a good enough rider on a decent bike and go and win a GP. Everything has stepped up a level. You’re not in that position where a standard bike can go win a GP. You don’t see it anymore, because everyone in the class is a world-class rider. Not everyone, but the majority of the riders have won GPs in their career. It makes a big difference if they have got a good team.
You have to have everything nowadays. You have to have a good team, good support and people who want to win as much as you want to win. You have to work hard and everything has to all go together to do well at the GP level. I don’t just want to just race in the British Championship. It’s not a position I want to be in. I don’t knock it at all, because the British Championship is a good series and a good place. Maybe in a few years I would happily live in England and race that, but I’m twenty-eight years old. I feel like I have plenty more left in the tank. I still want to prove that.
One thing that you have to look forward to is the Motocross of Nations. Obviously you are not automatically picked but there’s a good shot. Are you happy to ride 250F or 450F there?
Yeah, I’d ride a 125 there if I had to! It is an event that I love and I’ve always loved. This year if I was to come back through well and get picked for that, it would be the highlight of my year without a doubt. Maybe even my career if we can do well as a team and get on the podium! I have never done that at a ‘Nations as a team. I’ve done it individually, but it’s not an individual event. It’s an event you want to do as a team, Great Britain.
I’d love to be there, but it is still a long way ahead. I’m still sitting on the sidelines at the minute. I haven’t done a race at all this year, but when I was on the bike a few weeks ago I was riding very well. I don’t have a doubt by that time in the season, which is still almost four months away, I’ll be in top shape. If I get picked I always do well at the ‘Nations and I would do very well for the team. That’s a goal of mine now to get on the team. Whether I have to race 250F or 450F – I’d love it either way.
It sounds like the confidence is there within yourself. You still know you can do it, so the time off hasn’t affected you from that point of view.
No. I just know how capable I am. I’ve won a lot of GPs in my career and they didn’t get handed to me. I worked for them, but it has been a long time since I’ve won a race at this level. I’m still young. I’m still confident in my ability. I just feel like everything hasn’t really lined up since I’ve been in MXGP. I got that chance. What I’d done in my career, I had plenty of chances to sign with factory teams when I went into MXGP. After the first year in MXGP I had plenty of offers with factory teams, but maybe I was stupid to stay where I was.
It is something I do regret, staying and not signing for a factory team when I first moved to MXGP. I had all the opportunities, but it is the way it goes. It was a mistake I made, definitely, because I sort of underestimated what you needed to succeed. I don’t live a bad life, but I’m not ready to give up on the dream of doing well and succeeding in the MXGP class. I feel it’s something that I’m missing. It’s not for the money at all now when I race bikes. It’s because I want to do well and I haven’t finished. I don’t want to stop yet until I’ve achieved what I want to achieve.
I guess that’s where people maybe read you wrong. You’re twenty-eight, so really you should be winding down, but effectively you are kind of still in a position where you’re an MXGP rookie, because there have been so many bike problems and injuries. You haven’t really got started.
In some ways, yeah. I have had a lot of years and the teams I’ve been with in the years. I had a shot at Factory KTM and I crashed, so that was my fault that year. I crashed and I had the opportunity to do well, but it didn’t happen. The opportunities have been there the other years that I haven’t been on a factory team, but we have had a lot of problems. It just hasn’t happened for me. I have been in a position where sometimes I’ve been able to make it happen, especially that year given a chance on Factory KTM, and I didn’t.
It is not to say that it’s not my fault as much as anyone else’s, but I haven’t done it whether it’s been injury. People cast me as I get injured a lot and crash, but when I was young I never got injured. Up until I was twenty-three I almost didn’t have an injury, so maybe it has caught up with me a little bit. I had a good run. I just need to get that going again.
I’m only twenty-eight, but [Antonio] Cairoli I think is thirty-two and he has just made it. Watching him there was amazing. It is a master class that he put on. You don’t have to be a young kid to do well in MXGP. He is, I think, maybe one of the oldest out in the track and he’s just showing everyone what he’s capable of. There is plenty more fight in me. I just need to get this string of injuries out of the way, then come back and do well. I need to prove it to myself – not really prove it to anyone else – and achieve what I want to achieve.
When you are off for this long and watching MXGP, can you learn something? Are there things you have picked up just from watching the way the guys are racing now?
You learn that you need to be fast to come back and compete, because everyone is at a good level. I am here today and watching those front two – they are on a different level. On a track like this, you’d have to be really on your A game to compete with those two. The rest of them are also going very, very fast too. I feel I belong though. I watch the names and see that I’ve raced them in the past, as well as beaten them. The ones who are doing well have a good team, a good structure and it shows that you need that to succeed.
You’ve seen riders like Arminas Jasikonis, who have come from nowhere the past year. He’s been given a good opportunity with the team and he has made the most of it by working hard and having good guidance. Yesterday he was fighting up there for the race win! It can happen in a small space of time in our sport. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute you have gotten injured. You’ve seen it with Shaun Simpson. I don’t know the extent of his injury, but it can happen so quick too. Shaun just ran off track one week and ended up breaking his hand, then he just got caught in a first-turn crash and what he’s done now. It is just sheer bad luck. He hasn’t put himself in a [bad] position.
It is just our sport. Some people get luckier than others and you do need a bit of luck. It’s how it is. It can turn around so quickly. One good race at the Motocross of Nations and someone goes, “Right we want to give him a shot at a good year,” and you’re back on top. It’s just how the sport is – you just need to work hard and put yourself in a good situation so that it can come around and you can have a good run at it.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX