Paul Free on that performance by Superbike debutant Aiden Wagner
The Team Honda Racing 1-2 at SMP and the CBR 1000 RR Fireblade SP

By Trevor Hedge – Images by Trev, Keith Muir and Robert Parker
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MCNews.com.au – Paul, heading into the Swann Australasian FX Superbike Championship last weekend there was perhaps an air of uncertainty. You knew of course what your bike could do, but you were unsure, as we all were, as to how well sorted YRT had managed to get the new R1-M in their short period with the bike. You knew you were most likely going to be suffering a top end horsepower deficit, and I think that was displayed at Sydney Motorsports Park on the weekend. However your riders still bought home the bacon, 1-2 in every race, did you think this could happen?

Paul Free – “I thought Troy would definitely run with the guys on the Yamahas, I probably anticipated them to be a little bit closer than they were to be honest.  I didn’t expect anything like this from young Aiden, it being his first ride of a superbike full stop. I never expected that kid to be as strong as he was, and to win races, well I think he astounded everyone. We got an idea of the pace of the Yamaha on Friday, (where Cru Halliday displayed scintillating pace on the new YZF-R1M), and we made some small but obviously good choices with our motorcycles going into Saturday, and obviously Troy and Aiden stepped it up too.”

MCNews.com.au – Troy said on the podium that you have made the bike even easier to ride this year, how much more development is there left in that Fireblade SP? What have you done in the off-season to your bikes?

Paul Free – “We have changed some components from last year, that just made it a little easier to ride and to make it more consistent, in saying that I mean easier to ride consistently over race distance. We were looking for perhaps a tenth or two of a second in regards to a lap time, but more so sustaining that over the full race distance, which is where I like to think we have improved considerably. The lap times from the start of the race, to the end of the race, is insignificant now, their laptimes are very consistent even over the duration of a 15-lap race. Which I think is what Troy is getting at with those comments, we just made very small changes to the bike in some areas and that has just made it a nicer motorbike.

Troy Herfoss with Shaun Clarke and Glenn Granger in Parc Ferme
Troy Herfoss with Shaun Clarke and Glenn Granger in Parc Ferme

MCNews.com.au – Any chance of giving away some of those trade secrets in regards to the component changes you mentioned?

Paul Free – “Last season we used the standard Ohlins cartridge in the forks, this year we have gone to the more race-spec Ohlins Nix30 race cartridge. That has improved the motorcycle a little, a couple of small changes in the shock, nothing dramatic just a few tweaks here and there, and we are using HRC front brake disc rotors, with the FX series allowing disc rotors to be changed this season we opted to run the HRC disc rotors, just a series of small things.”

MCNews.com.au – And what improvements do the HRC rotors bring? Lighter weight?

Paul Free – “Actually Trev, they’re heavier.  They just seem to offer more consistent performance over a full race distance.”

MCnews.com.au – As you said, Aiden did leave everyone’s jaws on the deck on Saturday, and continued that form on Sunday, sharing the race wins with Troy. I know the budget is spoken for, and it is not as though you can pull funds out of the air to try and run Aiden at more events, but obviously as a team manager and seeing a young guy go so well on the motorcycle, the motorcycle that you and your boys pour your hearts and soul in making the best you can, to see him do that on your motorcycle you must really want to see him out there again.

Paul Free – “Of course, of course. You find a young guy like that with an immense amount of talent, like we found with young Hooky a few years ago, and you want to see them out there on your product and give them as much support as you can. But as you said Trev, it is difficult times, we are commited to Troy and Jamie for this year, and nothing is going to change there. But who knows, let’s see what happens and what unfolds over the next few weeks.

He is a great young fella Aiden, I didn’t know Aiden coming into this event, never had even really spoken to the kid before this race weekend just gone, he is a really, really nice young fella, and a damn good motorbike rider.”

Aiden Wagner with Paul Free and Jamie Stauffer. Jamie spent time examining Aiden's lines and body language around SMP early on in the weekend and offered Wagner advice and feedback on how to get the best out of the Superbike.
Aiden Wagner with Paul Free and Jamie Stauffer. Jamie spent time examining Aiden’s lines and body language around SMP early on in the weekend and offered Wagner advice and feedback on how to get the best out of the Superbike.

MCNews.com.au – So how did it come about that Aiden ended up racing one of your Team Honda Racing Fireblade SP machines last weekend? Apart from the obvious with Jamie being injured, I mean how did you come to choose Aiden over another rider? Who suggested him? How did it come about?

Paul Free – “I just rang him the other day, and he happened to be in Thailand watching the WSBK event there, so we spent a lot of time sending text messages back and forth. I rang him and asked him if he wanted to ride the bike this weekend, and obviously he jumped at the chance and it just evolved from there. The entry was already in for Jamie, but when he couldn’t race under the advice from doctors, we just changed the name on the entry and it was a pretty easy transition, change the number and happy days away we go.”

MCNews.com.au – So had you just seen what Aiden had done at the World Supersport event at Phillip Island, and thought oh well I will pick him, or was there some other thought process behind that?

Paul Free – “Honestly Trev, I haven’t been taking a lot of notice of many riders outside of our team for the last 18 months or so, probably even more than that. I have just been so focused on our team, and our riders, and making the success that we have had, so no I haven’t really noticed what other riders were doing outside of our team. It wasn’t until Laura, my wife, put the press release out on Thursday, and I read it and saw the image of him collecting his trophy for winning the FX Supersport Championship, I thought, Christ, this kid might be alright… I just chose him because everyone I talked to, well his name kept popping up, that’s the guts of it.

I had a lot of guys calling, texting, emailing, wanting to ride Jamie’s motorcycle, but I was not just going to put anyone on the motorbike. Not many people can really do it justice, I would rather have it sitting there on show than not put it right up the front. Young Aiden’s credentials seemed to stack up as I was asking around, and look it is a lot more than just a motorbike rider for me, and for Honda, it is about the whole package. It is about a person that can get along in the team, a person that can communicate within a group of people, and a bit of a profile perhaps, for us a guy really needs to have the whole package. We have been extremely lucky over the years with our riders that were the whole package, and I think Aiden is no exception to that.”

MCNews.com.au – Well you obviously made the right choice and you must be pleased as punch with how your riders performed on the weekend, and how the Fireblade SP stacked up against the competition. I would be reckoning the boys back at Honda HQ back in Melbourne would be pretty happy too?

Paul Free – “They are absolutely chuffed, absolutely chuffed.”

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Team Honda Racing 1-2 at FX-ASC Eastern Creek season opener
Team Honda Racing 1-2 at FX-ASC Eastern Creek season opener
 Related Links from 2015 Swann Australasian FX Superbike Championship Round One – Sydney Motorspots Park

FX ASC Superbike next heads to South Australia for round two at Mallala on the weekend of May 17

Troy Herfoss and Aiden Wagner
The new R1-M showed mighty pace in qualifying but over a full race distance the Honda men shared the wins and finished the opening Saturday round with 45 points apiece
 Related Links from 2015 Swann Australasian FX Superbike Championship Round One – Sydney Motorspots Park
Troy Herfoss leads Aiden Wagner and Sean Condon
Troy Herfoss leads Aiden Wagner and Sean Condon as the Yamaha men give chase
Aiden Wagner in action at Sydney Motorsports Park on the Team Honda Racing Fireblade SP
Aiden Wagner in action at Sydney Motorsports Park on the Team Honda Racing Fireblade SP
Aiden Wagner with mechanic Dan Williams and Team Honda boss Paul Free
Aiden Wagner with mechanic Dan Williams and Team Honda boss Paul Free after taking out race one on Saturday at SMP
Aiden Wagner gets a feel for the Team Honda Racing CBR 1000 RR Fireblade SP
Aiden Wagner gets a feel for the Team Honda Racing CBR 1000 RR Fireblade SP
Aiden Wagner leads Cru Halliday and Troy Herfoss
Aiden Wagner leads Cru Halliday and Troy Herfoss
 Related Links from 2015 Swann Australasian FX Superbike Championship Round One – Sydney Motorspots Park
Team Honda 1-2-3-5 in 2014 Swann Australasian Superbike Championship
Team Honda 1-2-3-5 in 2014 Swann Australasian Superbike Championship
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