It doesn’t seem that long ago that Shaun Simpson was winning GP motos and leading the World MX2 championship. Truth is because it wasn’t really. Since his days as a Factory KTM racer the wheels, if not fallen right off his career, have certainly come loose. Well now it seems the nuts are done back up tight and Simpson is doing his best to make up for lost time and distance on the journey towards race wins and championships.
Now he looks a lot more at home on the British based Monster Energy/Bike it/ Cosworth Yamaha team and he validated that when we caught up with him recently.
Vice: Riders can change teams but that doesn’t always feel like the fresh start. Does it feel like that and does it help being back on a British team?
SS: I think so. Although the communication with LS Honda was fine and they all speak good English it still creates difficulties, I think it’s more of a culture thing than a language barrier. It does make it easier being amongst fellow Brits, you don’t have to speak all proper for starters! You can give feedback better and now this team have better resources than ever before it definitely feels like a fresh start for me and not just another switch of team. I don’t think it’s unfair to say LS Honda were unorganised and to be honest I don’t think they have the budget to run a GP team. Looking back on it now and experiencing it, it’s no surprise Ken (DeDycker) left the team. I think it’s been spiralling out of control for a few years. I spoke with Tanel (Leok) who rode there in 2010 and he said he wasn’t happy when he was there. It turned out rather than going to the line on a competitive bike I was lining up on close to a stock bike which anyone will know is just not good enough at GP level. Now I’m sat on a bike that I know I can grab holeshots on and compete at the sharp end. The bike is fast and fun to ride.
Vice: You live in Belgium so how does it feel coming back to race the Maxxis British championship and do you think that works to your benefit or disadvantage with GP preparation?
Coming back and doing the British is a good thing because there’s some fast riders in the UK that don’t race GP’s, having said that it’s the same at the Belgium or Dutch championships, so either way it’s not that easy to be up front and the traveling isn’t that far so it’s no problem in that respect. The British championships are probably a bit better for me because I know the tracks and I’m on more of an even playing field and it’s always good to ride in front of more of your supporters. I got to be honest it’s nice to win a race at home and be in contention. It’s given me a boost for the GP’s where I have to compete with the best. The race format at the Maxxis is okay for the fans but as a rider I’d rather have two motos like the GP’s. The three motos make it easier to catch up in a championship because there’s more points to be made up in a day but if you’re leading a championship it makes it harder because you have to get three clean starts and stay out of trouble and we all know how hard that can be.
Vice: Do you think your confidence has taken a knock over the past few years?
Yeah definitely, I’d agree with that. I feel like I’m finding it again though. I knew last year was going to be tough moving up to MX1. I didn’t expect to come in and win motos like Steven Frossard, I knew it would be tough but little did I know the machinery would make it even tougher. I was happy with my pace most of the time but I couldn’t keep it up because I felt I was pushing it to get the best out of the bike, but at the same time I learnt a lot. Now I know I’ve got a good bike under me, the support from Yamaha, from Steve, Monster, the whole team it gives me that platform to get back to my previous form. It’s not only about how I ride or feel, it’s about how the team is feeling too and I feel very much at home already in that sense. If you’ve not got that feeling from the team, it’s easy to lose motivation and ask yourself what you’re doing it for. When you come back from a bad race and you have your team on your back but in a positive way it makes a huge difference.
Vice: You no doubt get asked this question every year but what the hell, it offers a good insight into your head. What are your expectations and do you have a target you want to hit?
I don’t like to set targets because sometimes you find yourself setting unrealistic ones because you want to do well but then when you don’t hit them you can get really pissed off and down on yourself. Having said that I’m a motocross racer and I want to win and if I’m in the hunt for a moto win at any point I’m going for it and letting it hang out! If you’re running in the top three after 15-20 minutes then it’s not by luck, you’re on pace so you then have to seriously consider pushing for the win. If you’re dropping back then you do what you can to stay on and get the best position. When I won my first GP moto at Valkenswaard it felt like one of the easiest races of my life, I thought ‘how could this be possible?’ I was doing easy laps and still gaining time, so when it feels like that you can push for wins. Realistically I want to be running in the top 10 every GP, I know I said I don’t like to set targets but I feel that’s something I can achieve and so far it’s going good. If a top five or podium is there for the taking I’ll push for it rather than settle that’s for sure.
Vice: Sounds like you’ve got a game plan and you’re relaxed, but do you still get nervous as a racer?
Yeah! I think most people do and if they don’t then maybe they’re not as focused as they should be. You love it so much and you put so much effort into it and it comes down to that moment. I think with the adrenaline for that moment nerves are hard to fend off completely. Sitting on that start line at GP, it’s 40 minutes ahead of you, it’s the best guys in the world beside you and you’re one of them, so get out there and show everyone what you’ve got because everyone is watching. If you’re not just a little bit nervous about that you’re either ridiculously cool minded or you’re not committed enough.
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