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Under the Radar: Hawkstone Park

Aside from the winners, Ashley Wilde and Liam Knight may have been the standout performers at the Hawkstone International. Both riders made it clear that they have put in their work during the off-season and will be a force to be reckoned with in their respective classes when the season gets underway. We caught up with them on Sunday to discuss all of that…

Ashley Wilde (6th Overall in MX1)

MX Vice: You had two great results today, but is it really surprising after all the work you put in pre-season now that you’re full time?

Ashley Wilde: Yeah, like you said I’ve been given a great opportunity to do it full-time now. Obviously I just made the most of not having to work during the week and taking this as serious as I can and doing what needs to be done. I had a really good off-season with Richard Mike Jones and Alan Millway, both in the gym and on the track. I went out to Spain with Rich and got some riding done, but unfortunately had a little crash just over a week ago and hurt my shoulder, which is the only real setback I’ve had.

I wasn’t really sure whether I was going to ride this weekend, so I’m made up to come out and do what I’ve done. I missed the superfinal, just because it’s starting to feel a bit achy and stuff. It’s a long season and we don’t want to do anymore damage. I’m just made up that all the hard work is paying off…

MX Vice: One of the things that really stood out today was how you caught Brad [Anderson] in moto one – that wouldn’t have happened last year. It just shows how much work and effort you’re putting in…

Ashley Wilde: Yeah, it’s such an eye opener now to look back and see how well I was doing last year despite the fact I was doing so little. Whereas now I’ve changed my diet, lost a bit of weight. It’s my job now, so I’m taking it serious and putting in the hard work. It may be a bit of a shock, but I wouldn’t have been happy with anything other than two top tens today.

MX Vice: The top five today were fast, obviously they’re GP regulars. But you really didn’t look out of place…

Ashley Wilde: Following [Dean] Ferris around in the first race was a bit weird, but I’m just happy to be the first Brit, behind Simpson. Obviously he was so good last year, so to be the next Brit behind him was a step in the right direction and a confidence booster. I’m also doing the Valence International next week; this weekend has given me a bit of confidence that I won’t look out of place there.

MX Vice: You’re set-up has changed quite a bit as well. We like it!

Ashley Wilde: Yeah, the new bike is great. To be honest we haven’t had too much time on the race bike. But the bikes are so good – that’s another thing that has changed a lot from last year. I’ve got Toby [Lightbrown] as my mechanic now, so he comes out riding with me when he can. The whole package is there…

MX Vice: You’ve obviously taken a step up with the support you’re getting, compared to what you had last year…

Ashley Wilde: Last year I just had dealer support from Honda. You get a couple of bikes and a small spares budget. Whereas now, riding for Thorpey’s team, I get a lot better stuff. Ryan’s done the engine on the bike; I haven’t much time on it yet but I went practicing down the road yesterday and I said to Toby that I loved it straight away…

MX Vice: Another thing that people have got to remember is that this time last year you were a full-time plumber…

Ashley Wilde: I have been since I left college as well! I was lucky enough to start a business with one of my best mates. I’ve got to where I am today through hard work. This is a big opportunity for me – it’s a make or break year. If I’m in this spot again next year then I need to be getting paid to do it. It’s all good having this year out to live the dream, but if it doesn’t pay off then it’s back to work I go.

MX Vice: One thing that has always stood out in the past is your sand ability. So, with a majority of the tracks this year being sand, things are looking quite good for you.

Ashley Wilde: That’s one good thing about this year; no one is putting any pressure on me. I’m local to FatCat so I get up there quite a bit, but the problem with the sand tracks this year is that everyone is already smashing them. So, come the first round of the British, everyone is going to be sand specialists.

Liam Knight (7th Overall in MX2)

MX Vice: Fantastic ride for you today, Liam. Take us through it…

Liam Knight: I knew when I first went out there this morning that I’d have to qualify good to get a good gate, because everyone chucks the sand on the concrete. I qualified ninth, so was able to prep my gate. I got fourth around the first corner in that race. When two of them passed me I just tried to stay with them for as long as I could!

Race two was the same story, I got another good start and Covington passed me. But I think he crashed, and then Bradshaw was the last one to pass me. Once he passed me I tried to stay with him. It looked like I was getting closer, then I’d drop off again.

MX Vice: It seems like you’ve stepped it up in a big way over the winter. What would you attribute that to?

Liam Knight: After Christmas I went to Spain with Richard Mike Jones for two weeks – it’s just more bike time then I usually get over the winter. Next week I go to the France with the team, which will be even more bike time, so hopefully I’ll be even stronger by the start of the Maxxis.

MX Vice: Obviously you’ll be doing a full year in the MX2 British Championship this year, but it sounds like you could be doing the first two EMX2 rounds too…

Liam Knight: Yeah, I’m going to go to Italy and then Valkenswaard. There will be no expectations and we’ll just see how I do. If I’m doing okay, then we’ll go to the others. If not we won’t bother.

MX Vice: Do you look at the progress that Sterry and Watson made last year by doing the EMX2? Is that the thought process behind the decision?

Liam Knight: Look at Adam last year, winning British Championship races. He’s only the same age as me. It’s just such a big thing to get out there and get over the nerves and stuff. Then when you come here it’s nowhere near as big, and it’s easier to not get stressed out. Doing them all will help you improve, but it’s a lot of money to get out to them! The EMX250 is good, but you can’t say it’s not a battle out here. Wherever I am at the moment I’ll be learning.

MX Vice: Have you got any goals or expectations going into the 2015 season?

Liam Knight: I just want to be in the battle really. Pushing for top tens would be nice, but I know there is probably more depth at the Maxxis then there was today. There were fast frontrunners, but MX2 is going to be a tough group this year. You’re going to find a battle wherever you are, which just makes starts even more important.

Image: Ian Barrow

MX Vice Editor || 25

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