Chatterbox: Bob Buchanan

GL12 Racing Yamaha’s Bob Buchanan is involved in many aspects of the sport, which means his opinions are often formed thanks to experience that covers many, many years. Bob is preparing for yet another season, with his three EMX riders, so tracked him down to talk about chasing that elusive gold plate.

MX Vice: It was a tough year for the team with injuries, but you won two EMX300 rounds. I guess up and down would be the best way to sum it up?

Bob Buchanan: Up, down and then up, I would say. The up? Lewis started well with two seconds at Valkenswaard and Talavera de la Reina, even though we were struggling with the new engine. The downside was that we had a nightmare round in Maggiora on all fronts; Lewis was injured, Brett was injured and the bike wasn’t good.

I knew I had to finish the season strong, so went back to the old bike and an even older rider. Ando stepped up and won four on the bounce – putting us on top in Loket and then at that amazing day for British motocross in Lommel.

The team will have three riders in 2016, so what are your thoughts heading into the new year and what are you hoping to achieve?

We’ve actually shrunk from five riders to three this year, to concentrate more on the European championship – it’s what I want to win. I want to build the best bike I can, which Brad and Lewis can be competitive on, as you can’t afford to have a DNF during a six round championship. They are both good enough to win. I also want Slade in his rookie year to qualify for the race on Sunday. Mostly I want to enjoy it next year; I really didn’t enjoy much of 2015, so I’ll be glad to see the back of it.

What attracted you to Slade Tressler? Did you see something in him this year?

I watched Slade in the EMX150 series, but he is too big for it now at fourteen and ready for the big bike. He lives in the UK during the season and wanted the ride, so I gave it to him.

I run a two-stroke Yamaha team, so I need a 125 rider. I would love to bring on a British kid. I tried it this year with Brett Pocock but, although he was consistently the quickest of the four British rookies in the EMX125 class, he never qualified for a race, which means he wasn’t in the top forty in Europe. Unfortunately there is no one coming out of the BYN this year either, because it appears the gulf between British riders and the Europeans is too wide.

Am I right in thinking the team won’t be competing in the British championship next year? What’s the reason for this? 

Slade will be riding in the British 125 championship at the BYN, but the bigger bikes won’t [be doing the British]. It takes focus and funds away from my goal, which is to win the European title. [Ed Note: Brad Anderson has a British championship deal with Verde Sports Racing KTM.]

Speaking of the British championship, what are your thoughts on the current state of it?

Well, my opinion is coloured by growing up in a time when being the British champion said something about your standing in world motocross and you could watch it live on national television. The Maxxis British Championship now is a good domestic series at its own level and, if you’re happy being a big fish in a small pond, that’s fine. I think it is too insular. The British fans think that if you’re top ten in the British then you are world class, but are then amazed when they watch some of their stars get lapped at Matterley.

When Shaun [Simpson] came back two years ago, after seasons of racing in Europe, he was on European pace and no one has been able to get near him. If you take him and Max Anstie, another rider who learnt his craft in Belgian sand, out of the British Championship, where are the other British riders who are competitive across the channel? Where are the young ones coming from? Adam Sterry is promising and Conrad Mewse has got a big year on the 250F, but there isn’t a crop to pick from. It’s been suggested to me that we’ve got to run the Motocross of Nations here by 2018, because after that we haven’t got a team!

Why our standard has apparently fallen behind the rest of Europe is what needs to be addressed, but it’s not a quick fix and it can’t be done in a generation. We have to find the talented kids and give those a chance, rather than make do with the sons of parents with aspirations and the funds to fulfil them.

Where does the money come from to do this? That is the problem. Manufacturers have to take a lead; there isn’t the money within the industry in the UK for it to support itself. To reinvigorate it we need to attract money from outside the industry and reach a new public. To do that we have to give them something in return, without mainstream television coverage like we used to have that is difficult. We have to accept that ours is now a minority sport and rebuild it from the ground up.

Why do you personally decide to run the team? What do you get out of it?

My motives since the mid 80’s, when I started, have always been to help talented riders do what they couldn’t otherwise achieve without my help. What do I get out of it? Have you ever watched me when we win!

I have stood on the podium as the winning team manager at three GPs now. You cannot buy that, so don’t try! Get riders who can win and help them to win, instead of getting a rider who can pay for you but not win because he’s not good enough.

A lot of people probably don’t realise that you’re involved in every aspect of the team. How tough is your schedule through the season?

It’s not just through the season. The preparation for the season is probably harder, because when the season has started there is no time to change anything major – you have to just go with what you’ve got. Pre-season you’ve got to get everything done, prep and sell the old bikes, find the money and sponsors, source the stock, build the bikes, do the deals, book the events, book the travel, prepare the truck etc.

During the season two to two and a half days a week are spent driving, then you spend three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) at the event, which leaves a day and a half to turn the truck around. That includes unloading, cleaning ,restocking, prepping the bikes and reloading. That’s for both the stand and the team. Remember, I earn my living at the races as well. “100%, how much do you give?”

Why do you choose to run EMX300 and EMX125 riders? What attracts you to those classes?

Two strokes dude – they are what I raced. I love the smell and I love the sound. To me they are race engines, as they require a different input from the rider and, not wanting to harp on about the dumbing down of our sport to me, the four stroke is easier for a novice to ride and gives them an inflated idea of their ability.

Put Marques or Lorenzo on Kevin Swantz’s Suzuki and they wouldn’t even get it off the line, but Rossi would! Put it on my gravestone: ‘Four strokes are two too many.’

Interview: Lewis Phillips | Image: ConwayMX

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