Things aren’t always easy for Team Great Britain at the Motocross of Nations. Bad luck and poor decisions have hindered the team in recent years, but a new manager has been put in place to help the nation return to the podium. The event, which will be held at Matterley Basin, may be more than two months away, but Mark Chamberlain started to put his plan into place at the beginning of the year. If this interview piques your interest, then follow Team GB on Facebook or Instagram.
MX Vice: How did you end up in this position? Did you approach the ACU before Neil Prince resigned or did it happen as a result of that?
Mark Chamberlain: I approached them at the end of last year and all I did was send them an email that basically said that if the position became available, I would like to put my name forward. I wanted to put my name forward four years ago, but I didn’t. Afterwards I thought that I should have done it! I think it is better for me now than it was then. I think I am readier for it.
I just said that, if it does become available, here are some ideas that could be brought into play. That was it. They got back to me and asked if I would like to go up for a meeting and run through it all. It went from there and Neil [Prince] resigned, but the exact timeline of it I don’t know. They said that they liked what I put forward and asked whether I would want to have a crack at it. I have spoken to Neil and he has offered his help if I ever need anything, so that has been great.
Obviously team bonding seems to be your biggest thing and I know that you had a meeting with all of the British riders at Valkenswaard. What plans do you have for that moving forward?
I definitely want to get the lads together again. Some people don’t agree with having a squad. They think I should just name a team and that be it, but I think it is important. We have some riders in their prime and others who are coming in. Ben Watson, Adam Sterry and Conrad Mewse are guys who are all coming up. If I’m working to a multi-year plan, then that group must understand what we are trying to achieve. I thought it was important to involve that group.
You never know what is going to happen with injuries. Jake [Nicholls] would have been one of those guys at Valkenswaard, but he was already injured. We got a group understanding that we would all come together, even if they are not the best of mates, for that race with one goal and to help each other. It is important to help each other. Those guys come off the track and have the best knowledge of anyone.
They are not racing against each other – they are racing with each other. I think that is an important part of it. We are trying to get a group together, which is always difficult as well. It was hard to decide how big to have that group. It is not to say that no one can come into that group or leave it, I guess, as it is not a closed group that is a clique. It is just the fact that these are the riders with experience and the guys who are coming through.
Ultimately they are all racing at an international level. That is not to say that the riders in the UK are not racing at a good speed, but we all know that you have to be in there and racing with those guys each week to be at that next level. That is where I got it from and how we started that process. We just asked what was wrong before, not that anyone was necessarily wrong, but what in general was missing. That was then an eye opener for the guys who have not been chosen before, as they got to understand what was missing before and what is hopefully going to come forward next year and the year after.
Was there anything that any of the riders said that caught you by surprise? Did something come up that you did not think about before you took the position?
Not really, no. Not particularly. There were just bits and pieces. They wanted to spend time together and the younger lads, who have not been in that position yet, were particularly keen. They were up for riding as a squad to build a bit of camaraderie, so that was nice for them to say. Adam, Ben and those types of guys were saying that they wouldn’t mind coming to do this or that. That, for me, was really positive, as I was not having to convince them that this was the way forward. It was coming from them as well.
It is the same as Team France last year. They had Benoit Paturel involved in all of their team bonding, even though he was not initially going to be on the squad, and then when he did end up on the team he was a little more prepared.
Yeah, exactly. That is a similar thing. If you call someone in last minute, they are going to be honoured to be chosen and give it their best. Are they going to be thinking that they were not chosen initially and are now entering a group though? I do not want anyone to think that they are coming in from the outside, if we have to put them in at the last minute or switch for whatever reason. We have got that fluidity where they all know each other and what is going on.
I am not going to go into great detail with them all the time. I said to the boys that I would not do their heads in and ask for a meeting at every race, because there would be no need for that, but if they have any questions they can pick the phone up. I want good communication between us. I don’t want someone to get knocked down, because they have heard that someone else is on the team and it has gotten out on social media. We have got to try and create that team atmosphere.
When it gets closer to the time that we have to name the team, it probably won’t be as easy to manage. At least we’ll cut out some of that if we are talking and up front with each other. You are going to get people who are disappointed, as they’ll think that they should be in there and the same goes for the fans. I read the different posts and it is clear that everyone has an opinion on different riders and the team. A lot of people think that it would be straight forward, but obviously it isn’t if everyone has those beliefs. You are never going to keep everyone happy.
The toughest thing this year is that you have four riders who are already established with Max Anstie, Dean Wilson, Tommy Searle and Shaun Simpson. They will all believe that they should race but, ultimately, one of them will have to suck it up and watch from the sidelines.
Injuries have played a big part. The most difficult calls will depend on how much time we have to see where those boys are at. That is going to be fairly tricky, you know, but then guys like Conrad and Ben are pushing. You cannot discount those guys. Maybe you look at the experience and fact that those other guys have been at that level for a long time, but they have still got to be on form and fit at the time that we select the team. There are a lot of factors. I have got to wait as long as possible, because of the injuries, so we can see where we are going to be and with which riders.
The way that everyone is performing at the moment, do you have anyone locked in in your mind? Anstie and Wilson are doing really well, so I presume that they are the favourites for a spot on the team.
They are both riding well. There are questions on all of the riders though, which we need to nail down, like the team mentality and whether we can get them there. Everyone has said the right stuff at the minute and they are all keen. We are getting really close to the point of talking to the teams and the big part of it, for me, is that they are together on that week. I hope that we can arrange that with the teams and that everyone will be okay with it. Team GB need to be together and in the UK on that week.
The questions that are going to be asked over the next few days will be based on the logistics. Those guys will hopefully cooperate and see that we are trying to get a bit of team spirit going before that event. They have done their jobs for the teams and will still represent them at the MXoN, but then it is about their country. We hope that everyone will really cooperate with what we are trying to do.
With the logistics side, there has always been a bit of drama with the ACU bringing Dean Wilson over. People are still not sure if they are open to it or even want to do it. Have you had an honest talk about that? Can you have him in the team if you want, no matter what?
It is not a case of no matter what. Like everything, there is not an unlimited budget. We are pushing forward with as many options as possible though and trying to get some funding organised ourselves. To have the money to be able to do the job right this year, if we can carry some money forward into the following year then there would be a war chest of such.
We are trying to raise as much money as we can for this year and the following years. It is not an unlimited budget, so I cannot just say that I want him no matter what and then they will write the cheque. I am realistic enough to know that is not possible. We have got to work together with the ACU, the sponsors and a group of people if that is going to happen.
Everyone has gotten angry about this in the past, but no one has actually openly explained what is involved to bring Dean Wilson over. Are his team obliged to pay for anything or is it all on the ACU?
Honestly, with his current team, I don’t know. I have had a chat with different people about how it has worked in the past. It was probably more difficult when he was with Pro Circuit, I would say, because it is a private team. We have spoken and he knows that budget is an issue as well, but he is willing to work with us on that.
If we go down that route, then support from Husqvarna would be important. Potentially he could come over and ride one of the bikes here, but that depends on whether or not they would agree to that. It is early days, to be totally honest with you. That is a case of going through the process and seeing if that is possible. If it was a case of us getting everything over, like bikes, then I honestly think it would be too much of a stretch.
The decision is quite a way out, as you said, but what questions do you want answered? I’m guessing that you want to see if Watson can continue to ride like he has been, how Searle does when he returns and how the recovery goes for Simpson?
Yeah, definitely, and to keep an eye on the younger guys. For British motocross, those young guys are more important than those other guys in many ways. You obviously want a result going into this year. It is going to be a high-pressure situation, so we need the fastest guys and the ones who can deal with that pressure. It is going to be intense, no matter who is chosen, as the crowd are going to want it so bad.
The candidates for the 450F slots are kind of obvious, but the MX2 position is the one that is wide open. I guess you are open to putting Searle on a 250F, seeing as we know that he is more than happy to do that? You are not going to be able to see how he does on that bike, obviously, so it is a bit of a gamble.
If you look at it like that, then that slot is more of a risk. I say more of a risk, but we should not really say that based on how Tommy has done over the years. If the second injury had not happened, then we would all be in a better position to make a call on it. That second injury has pushed him back, so he is not going to have that much of a chance to race. It is an open dialogue with everyone though. The end of August is the latest that we can make a decision, so I am probably going to take all of that time.
If you are taking your time to see how Searle does in his return, does that kind of rule Simpson out? There is no way that he is going to race before the end of August.
Yeah, it is going to be difficult. That is the problem, if he is not going to be back in time. I am not saying that it is definitely a no go, but it is going to make it tough. The hardest thing that I have found is the changing climates with the injuries. That has been the hardest thing, because if you had them all fit then it would be far simpler. You would know the order that they are in currently.
It is a learning process for me at the same time. I am not going to get stressed about it, because we still have more time. I could get a team in my head now, but then we could have an injury in a few weeks. That is why I am not going through that thought process at the moment.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo