Trevor Hedge recently caught up with Bryan Staring at his European base in Varese, Italy. Trevor spoke to the 27-year-old Western Australian about the recent challenges that has seen him go from a top flight FIM Superstock 1000 rider with Pedercini Kawasaki, through to his troublesome 2013 MotoGP season on a clearly uncompetitive CRT Gresini Honda.
This year Bryan has started to get his career back on track with a recent fourth in class (EVO) result at the Laguna Seca WSBK round on a Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R. Again, clearly not the most competitive machine in the EVO category but after some injury and machinery problems earlier in the season Staring looks forward to this weekend’s WSBK round fully fit and raring to go. Staring started season 2014 with the Rivamoto World Supersport squad but after funding for the team fell through then joined Grillini Kawasaki in the EVO World Superbike category.
Before we delve into the interview perhaps it is fitting to fill you on some of the success Bryan Staring had in Australia before leaving our shores. That success includes winning the 2010 Austrlaian Superbike Championship and the 2009 Australian Supersport Championship. Earlier in his career Bryan also won the Australian 125 Grand Prix Championship and is the only rider to have won all three classes in the history of Australian Motorcycle Racing. Before going road racing Bryan was a highly successful junior motocross rider with Honda’s Junior Motocross squad managed by Andrew ‘AJAY’ Johnson.
Bryan Staring Interview
Trevor: You’ve been based in Italy quite a while now, Bryan.
Bryan: “Yeah, fourth year here in Italy. Somehow, it keeps working out, I always end up with an Italian team. In the Superbike World Championship, the majority of the teams are Italian. In the Grand Prix, the majority is Spanish, but somehow I always end up with an Italian team, so anyway it’s good. I’m not that good at learning the Italian language, so I sure as hell don’t want to have to learn any others.” (Bryan is being way too modest, his Italian is more than passable)
Trevor: You went to Europe for the first time in 2011 with Pedercini Kawasaki, where you finished 11th and you came back the next year and finished 4th. What were your highlights at the time with Pedercini and did you enjoy your time there?
Bryan: “I did enjoy my time there, it was really the second year that everything sort of came to light. The first year it was difficult for a lot of reasons, my first year in Europe and also for the fact that that was the first year of the new Kawasaki, and there were sort of a lot of technical problems I guess, so that didn’t help. But the second year we really got on top of it and probably the team just about got on top of it at the same time I was sort of ready to start riding like I could, it sort of all came together at the right point, which was about a third of the way through the season and I’d already had some bad luck before that, but then, that 2012 season we were pretty dominant, really. I should have won a few more races, but a couple of crashes, a couple of stupid crashes here and there cost me I would say the championship. And it was actually a close championship, like I finished fourth in that, which doesn’t sound that great, but I was within a chance of winning coming into the last round, so… But that was a good year, it was probably one of the most enjoyable years I’ve had, the most enjoyable year I’ve had in Europe anyway.”
Trevor: And how did the Gresini deal come about the following year? You must have done something to get noticed.
Bryan: “Well, pretty much just like everything else in life, it’s always who you know and they were looking for a rider because their rider from the first year in had gone and I guess at that point in the season there weren’t that many guys available, and I knew the data technician in the team and we still spoke a little bit and he suggested me to the Gresini guys and as far as I know that was it, the next thing you know my phone was ringing. But yeah, that’s sort of how that came up.”
Trevor: Were there other options at the time?
Bryan: “Yes and no. I mean I had… If I had gone into World Superbike the next year (2013), actually I felt like I was a fairly sought after rider at the end of that 2012 season, because there were a lot of potential good options in World Superbike and one by one they all sort of actually fell away, as they seem to every year. But if it didn’t come up, I think I could have ended up with something better, in World Superbike that is, even if I stayed in Superstock another year in hindsight it would have been better than going to do what I did in the Grand Prix, but anyway, it’s always easy to say in hindsight.”
Trevor: So from the start of the season in 2013 in the category you were it was probably one of the lesser bikes on the grid but you were sort of fairly in the mix with that category, but then as it went on the other bikes seem to develop and got faster, but you never really seemed to get anywhere. Was that just due to a complete lack of testing and machine development?
Bryan: “In my opinion, yes, in my opinion it was. I think we were competitive enough at the start of the year and that sort of showed a little bit of what I was capable of, given everything was still new to me. But as the season went on, a few things compounded, the fact that other riders were gradually sort of taking steps away from me with development and the fact that I started trying harder and damaging the equipment, hurting myself and crashing the bike and trying to sort of stay there, that was where things really sort of got bad and it only got worse until getting towards the end of the year, when I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really have a chance at this thing, I’m better off just keeping myself injury-free and finishing the race.’ But yeah, not too many really good things to comment on 2013.”
Trevor: And I had heard on the grapevine there were some pretty alarming problems with the machine at times with swingarms cracking and having to be welded up between races and a myriad of other problems with the 2013 FTR chassis, is there any truth in those rumors?
Bryan: “Yeah, there’s plenty of truth to them, there’s plenty of truth to them. I mean, the chassis manufacturer knew and it was just the way it was and. But all I can say, you know, I don’t want to speak badly about anyone, all I can say is the guys in my side of the garage worked their arses off to keep that motorbike on the track, and with a lesser quality team there’s no way that bike would have been out in every session, it was a mission for the guys to keep the bike on the track, and a mission for me too. But yeah, full credit to them and a big thank you to them for continuing to put in the effort they did, even though the results were terrible. So it gave me even a better appreciation for the fact that it’s not only the best riders in the world that end up in the Grand Prix, it’s also the best technicians and mechanics.”
Trevor: Towards the end of that season, disregarding chassis development and suspension development, which is where most of the speed comes from that you didn’t really get a chance to develop through lack of testing, how much horsepower would you have been down on compared to the best CRT machines?
Bryan: “Compared to the Aprilia it was a pretty big gap. I’m just trying to think here, I mean I would have to say about 15km/h at that time, so that’s enough. But with those bikes, and they’ve got so much horsepower, it’s often just about getting the thing to accelerate smoothly and have the electronic package to make it at least accelerate smoothly, and then even if you’re not down that much on horsepower, you need all the support to actually sort of get there and getting all that power to ground without upsetting the bike so much that you can’t get it to hook up, that you actually have to close the throttle when you should be having the thing to the stop.”
Trevor: And even though in Moto GP it’s a comparatively low powered back of the pack machine, was it still a complete animal compared to a World Superstock Kawasaki?
Bryan: “Yeah, I guess it was. I would have loved to have ridden with that engine, it was a Honda engine, I would have loved to have ridden it in a normal Superbike chassis, I would love to have tried it, because I’m just pretty sure that it would have been so much tamer, and quicker. But anyway I had what I had and did what I did with it, that’s that.” (At the tracks Bryan has been to so far on the EVO spec’ ZX-10R this season he has recored comparative times to what he achieved on the CRT Gresini Honda MotoGP bike…)
Trevor: And what was it like — when you’ve got guys like Rossi and Lorenzo — sucking the paint off you as they go past like what 30-40 km/h quicker at some parts on certain circuits?
Bryan: “Yeah. I mean to start with it, I guess I was sort of pinching myself that I was sharing the circuit with them, even though I knew I was never really in the same race. So for the first few rounds I mean the excitement of being in Moto GP was enormous, but to be fair, it wasn’t really very long after that that the novelty had pretty well worn off.”
Trevor: So at the end of 2012 you had possible World Superbike options, you could have probably got a semi-reasonable seat in World Superbike, you jumped at the chance to be in MotoGP, as any motorcycle racer generally would, because those chances don’t come up very often for very many people. But then, at the end of 2013, your spirit’s effectively been quashed, the results are not there, you’ve come from being in the position the year before where you’re a relatively sought after rider and perhaps a possibility for a top tier seat, and since then your career has taken a step back, chances for good seats have evaporated, because a year is long time in motorcycle racing. With that in mind, just how bad was it at the end of 2013 when you really had to go looking for a ride for 2014?
Bryan: “At the beginning it didn’t seem so bad, I mean honestly it’s pretty much the same every year, because no team will ever really tell you ‘No’ and I’m sort of learning this now. Like there’s always an option at every team, because before they’ve finished their rider line-up or confirmed their main sponsor, they’ll never tell you ‘No’. So you sort of get strung on all the different rows and all the different tangents.
“But it did seem even last year that you know I was still… certainly not sought after, certainly not, but I had a lot of interest or some interest from some good teams. And that didn’t really work out and didn’t come off and then sort of by the time I’d gotten through that stage it wasn’t worth chasing anything in any other domestic championship, because I wasn’t going to get a bike that was going to be competitive there.
“So I chose to sit out and go with nothing rather than take something bad at that point, and then at the last minute there was a little sort of pop-up opportunity just a few weeks before the first round of Phillip Island and World Supersport and I did that race and ended up with the Russian Rivamoto Team which didn’t work out, actually I’m confident we would have had a good race st Phillip Island, but we had a mechanical and yeah, it wasn’t meant to be. So that project sort of finished after that, or they couldn’t keep the funding and make it happen. And then that left me without a seat.
“So I came back to Europe again, as I was sure there’d be an opportunity as there is in our sport, not that I’d ever wish any other rider any bad luck, but you know, people get injured and especially in the World Superbike paddock there’s often riders changing teams halfway through the season, whether it’s performance or sponsorship based or whatever the situation is, it seems a bit of a mess sometimes, especially amongst the teams that aren’t towards the pointy end. So I was confident at some stage or another I was going to get myself back on a motorcycle and that’s basically the reason I didn’t take any other opportunities to race at home domestically or anywhere else, or on anything else that wasn’t going to be able to be competitive.”
Trevor: And so how has the year gone for you since you’ve joined Grillini? It’s also been a little bit of a testing year at times as well, because it is a lower-mid-level World Superbike team with very little funding and backing compared to the established players. You haven’t got to do testing this year either have you which really puts you at a huge disadvantage?
Bryan: “No, no testing at all. I’m not in a top level team here at Grillini. But they’re a team that’s certainly on the up, they’re certainly getting better and they’ve been a hell of a lot more successful this year than they have been any other year so that’s something. And it’s been tough because when I started, actually when I went back into World Superbike for my first race in Malaysia, by that time it was June and I had only ridden a motorbike twice since I’d finished on the GP bike in November. So that was more than six months that I’d barely ridden. And not only that, but unfortunately I crashed my mountain bike just pretty much as I was finalizing the deal to continue with the Grillini team at World Superbike.
“So for the first few races I was struggling, I was still injured and had a weak right arm. Plus I hadn’t ridden a motorbike and I was pretty uncompetitive, it really was a pretty average sort of start. Anyway, those first few races were average and then — had a little sign of some positive things to come — and then two mechanical failures, so that was no good.
“But by the time we got to Laguna, which I think was my fourth race this year, yeah, quite good, I’ve qualified fourth in the category, ran fourth in the first race. The second race got restarted so many times, it was just a bit of a disaster, I didn’t have a good race anyway. But it’s sort of been a strange year, because I wasn’t really ready when I did eventually start, even though I was already halfway through the year and now I’ve only done four races and then we had a two month break in the season. So we’re sort of going back now this weekend and I’m completely ready, and I’m fit and I hope to get back on the bike and continue where I left off in Laguna, so we’ll see. But certainly I’m looking for a strong last three races, as every rider is. But it really only takes one good result to sort of change the path of your career, I’m well aware of that and that’s exactly what I’m shooting towards.”
Trevor: So looking towards 2015, obviously you’ve only just started to get back up to speed, because I think a few people actually patted you on the back from within the paddock at Laguna and thought you did quite well. So after a horrible 18 months or so that must have really lifted your spirits when a couple of people in the paddock started to take notice again.
Bryan: “Yeah, absolutely. I was so wrapped with the first race at Laguna and the reaction that people had to it that words can’t describe it. After 18 months, I felt like I’ve beat my head against the wall for so long and I keep telling myself that I’m sure I haven’t lost it, I’m sure I can still ride a motorbike, I’m sure I’m still capable of achieving the things I dreamed of when I was younger and I just need to put it all together and get some things to work out my way, which is just not easy, sometimes you’ve got to be lucky and sometimes you’ve got to be smart. But sometimes you’ve got to be both as well.
“So that’s where I’m at and all I can say is basically for the difficulties I’ve had in the last 18 months I’m sure are only going to make me a stronger rider in the future for having to deal with the things I’ve sort of dealt with, it can only make you smarter and stronger and certainly more hungrier. So I look forward to the next chapter in my career.”
Trevor: And away from the racetrack. You’re sort of loving life living in Europe, it’s a fairly pretty part of the world that you live in — and as we’ve experienced this week, the cycling round here is pretty good. But again it must get lonely a little bit at times, but you do have a few Aussies that you can knock around with over here.
Bryan: “Yeah, it’s quite good here in Varese, there’s always someone here, there’s always someone here from Australia.. So life in Europe is quite okay, there’s a lot of different takes on the riders that come from Australia, or come from the States to live in Europe, and I enjoy it here, but there’s times when I’m quite lonely and there’s times when I love it and wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.
“But in general, away from the racetrack, I’m pretty much at my happiest when I’m on my pushbike and I sort of take any opportunity I can to travel through the rest of Europe or see different parts or just make sure I’m enjoying my time away from the track and that’s what keeps me happy and makes me appreciate the life and the lifestyle that I have, and I know I’m certainly very lucky for what I’m here and doing, even though I complain about it a little bit, but I know I’m still a lucky one.”
Trevor: And just to end on a light note as well, what’s the best event of your career? What’s been the absolute highlight of your career? Obviously your most recent one is Laguna, but when’s the actual time that you have in your mind where you’ve just stood on a podium and just gone, wow….?
Bryan: “The best feeling I ever had was probably the first win in my Superstock category in 2012 at Aragon. I just got to that point where everything was ready to come together and when it did click I think I was a second-and-a-half faster in that race than what I’d qualified and I just, I blew everyone off me back wheel and they didn’t stand a chance. And the feeling… because before that I guess I was starting to doubt myself a little bit about my time in Europe and how good I was, and that standout result was exceptional for me. So that was definitely the race of my life.”
Trevor: You’re 27 now, so it’s still relatively young these days, obviously not if you’re going into Moto 3 or Moto 2 but it’s still relatively young amongst the World Superbike paddock. So you think if you finish this season on a high note, there could be some reasonable chances for you for next year?
Bryan: “Yeah, I hope so. And I think honestly to be — I would just like to do well enough in these last three races, whether that’s even important or not to get an opportunity on a motorbike that I can do something with next year I don’t know, and even then I think I’ll probably need next year to really cement myself I guess. I guess it would be the year after that that I’d be a standout if everything sort of went to plan. But in my mind I think that’s sort of how it would go at best, basically.
“Yeah, I’m 27, so I’ve been around a little while. I’m probably not considered a young rider anymore but certainly young enough, and smart enough. Not all the teams are looking for the young rider that’s going to pitch the bike in to the wall, especially how I was less than 10 years ago, that was definitely me, and I’m not quite that rider anymore. So there’s different attributes to every part of your career I guess.”
Trevor: Best of luck this weekend mate and we’ll catch up again soon but from one W.A. boy to another, it’s been great to catch up and spend some time with you here in Varese.
Bryan: “Always good to have some company here, thanks for visiting, Trev!“
Bryan Staring pictured here with CEO of Australian Sports Commission, Simon Hollingsworth, at AIS Varese
The AIS European Training Centre in Varese helps Bryan where they can in getting him back from injury
The AIS European Training Centre in Varese is also currently helping Matt Phillips recover from injury
Motorcycling is not an Olympic sport, thus supporting racers is outside the AIS mission statement but they still support our guys as much as they can
This gallery of images shows Bryan throughout his career from his days of Junior Motocross at age 15
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