As we arrive at the week prior to round eight of the Monster Energy MX Nationals, MX1 red plate holder Matt Moss (Motul Pirelli Suzuki), will enter the round with a mere 18 point lead from KTM’s Kirk Gibbs.
Moss hasn’t managed to take an overall win since round two of the series at Appin, and despite his points buffer, both KTM’s Gibbs and CDR Yamaha’s Billy Mackenzie, are edging closer to the reigning champ.
As we close in on the final rounds of the 2014 championship, the fight for the title heats up, and the infamous silly season begins. We spoke to three team managers on this year’s championship battles and what their plans are for 2015.
Jay Foreman – Motul Pirelli Suzuki
Moss is obviously still holding that red plate and leading the MX1 championship, but his points buffer is slowly becoming smaller and smaller. Would you say you’re on the defence or the offence at this point in the championship?
“Oh I think we’re just sort of controlling it. We aren’t taking any risks and just trying to control the championship. I do think it’s time to go out and win, and take another overall at a round. But we also need to make sure it’s at a time where Matt is comfortable and know that he is ready to do it.”
There has been talk of CDR Yamaha eyeing Matt for 2015. We know your team has a very close relationship with Moss, are you looking to lock something in with him ASAP?
“Yes we are. It’s normal that everyone will want to talk to him; he’s the fastest rider out there, so of course everyone will want to talk to him.”
Will Matt Moss be riding for Suzuki next year?
“At this point I can’t see why he wouldn’t be with Suzuki in 2015.”
What are you looking for in a rider to sign them on?
“I think the most important thing is just having the raw speed. There are a lot of riders out there who are good bike riders; they just don’t have that unbelievably fast speed. It doesn’t matter if some riders have it, but they crash a lot. It’s then my job to control that and get them in a position where they can make the most of having that speed and stay on. Some riders just don’t have that raw speed and then it’s much harder to get it, than it is to control it.”
Rob Twyerould – KTM Racing Team
Kirk Gibbs is closing in every week on Moss; do you think he could run away with this championship over the next three rounds?
“My feeling is that we need to make our move over the next two rounds, and the ideal would actually be going into Coolum with a lead. It would be very hard to beat Mossy (Matt Moss) at Coolum, he rides that track very well and he’s prepared to ride at a level that will win the championship. So if he needs to finish sixth, he will do exactly that to win the championship. It think we really need to keep the pressure on him over the next two rounds at the hard pack tracks that we think he struggles a little bit on. Then fingers crossed we go into the final round with a little bit of a lead and really put the pressure on him.”
Gibbs has had a lot of instances this year where he has finished second or third in a number of races. Has that been something that has played on both yours and his mind, that perhaps he would only ever perform at that level?
“Look, he is a very consistent guy and he probably doesn’t have that confidence that Matt does. Matt is a very confident guy and in his mind he’s a winner, whereas in Kirk’s case, he’s had to develop that – to believe in himself that he can win. Early in the season you could see it with all the riders, Mossy would be in the lead and they would line up behind him, and it was a bit of a mental block, but I think eventually that got broken. A few of them now have the confidence that they can actually win a race. At that level it’s your outlook and your mindset, and I think now, Kirk really does believe that he can win.”
A lot of team managers are already looking into rider combinations for 2015. Are you also thinking about options for the team, especially given that Ford Dale has not raced this year?
“Yeah, look that’s taking all of the emotion out of it because I really like Ford and he is a great guy and honestly if everything went right, he would be the guy to watch for sure. It’s going to be tough for him to come back from this back injury and I’m still not sure what to do. We have had pretty much every rider in the paddock contact us, so they obviously see the KTM team as a great team to be involved in. We certainly have a lot of choice, and what we do with Ford is undecided at this point yet, but we are keeping our options open.”
I imagine Gibbs would be at the top of your list to sign for 2015, but is there anyone else that is catching your eye at this point?
“I think the next big thing in Australia is Caleb Ward. I really like the kid; he’s like the nerd of the paddock. His style though is fantastic, he is up on the foot pegs and nothing seems to phase him. For me and KTM, he is a young guy that we will really make a big effort for to keep him going, and look to him as a star of the future.”
What are you looking for in a rider to sign them on?
“Well for me, it is fitting in with our environment. I have a really great bunch of guys, mechanics and technicians and it’s how their personalities would fit in with that. Obviously they have got to have the potential to win races as well, but for me to get the best out of the rider I feel like we really have to click and gel as a team. If I don’t particularly like the guy, or he’s a bit arrogant, or rude, that sort of instantly puts a block there. Over the years now we have had Todd Waters, Kirk Gibbs and Ford Dale, and they’re all very nice guys. I work on the positive, rather than the negative, so when they don’t go well I try to find the positive in that performance. So I like a guy that responds well to that sort of feedback, rather than someone who wants a kick up the arse when they aren’t going well.”
Craig Dack – CDR Yamaha
You have had Billy Mackenzie under the truck for a couple of years now, and he hasn’t managed to step up to that winning position. You’ve made no secret of the fact that you want to win, is the answer to that Matt Moss?
“We are weighing up all of our options for 2015. ”
After standing under your truck at the Jay Marmont retirement announcement, it is clear that your relationship with Billy is purely a working one. Can it continue or should Billy’s position vacant.
“From time to time, there are strains on people’s working relationship. Both Billy and I are mature enough to rise above this and are both working for a common goal – and that’s getting good results for the rest of the championship.”
At the beginning of the year Matt Moss was really a force to be reckoned with, do you think the playing field has leveled out as the year has progressed?
“I think what’s happened is Matt has jumped out in the last few years and grabbed the bull by the horns and been the guy to beat. Over the course of the last four to five months, Matt has been beaten a couple of times, whether it’s been by Billy Mackenzie or Kirk Gibbs or whoever. What happens now is that the riders who have beat him have realised he is beatable which gives them confidence. Particularly with Gibbs that’s what I’m seeing.”
Who do you think will take out this year’s championship?
“Well at the moment, we never say never. We still have a fair way to go in the championship and there are still a huge amount of points up for grabs. It seems like though, between Matt Moss and Kirk Gibbs there is a really interesting battle. If those two don’t have any problems for the rest of the championship, they’re going to be hard to beat. But to say who is going to win out of those two, I recon you could toss a coin up. The championship is certainly not anywhere near over for us, but on current form we need to be performing better to be a part of that battle.”
What do you look for in a rider when looking to put them on?
“Number one is that you have got to be quick. You have to have the speed, and I guess that’s every team manager’s number one. But then you have to look at the character of the person to see if they’re going to fit into the team environment. I like to look for riders that are coachable, have an open mind and are willing to learn. The other thing I look for is that they have the same determination and grit that as our team has got, and that’s to win races.”
CDR Yamaha has generally in the past, signed on older and more experienced riders. Would you say that we’ll be seeing a move towards the team signing younger riders in the future?
“One hundred per cent. Over the last several years we have signed older riders because there has been guys like Daryl King, and Josh Coppins who were runners up in world championships and at the end of their international careers they still had some good years left in them on a domestic level when we hired them, and consequently we have won championships using that theory. Now, that isn’t the case. There aren’t any Kiwis retiring out of the world championship and it’s a different ball game. And in saying that, there is a stronger group of up and coming riders in Australia now that are very promising. But if our collective thoughts at the CDR Yamaha group don’t see what we want from the next bunch, that of course will be disappointing cause young, or old we are open for that winning feeling next year!”
The series will now head to Raymond Terrace for round eight of the championship on Sunday August 3