Paul Free Interview – Part Two

Crankt Protein Team Honda Racing – Motologic – December, 2016

Part two of our interview with Paul Free, click here to go back and read part one of our extensive delve inside Crankt Protein Team Honda Racing.

It was of course a big deal for you and your business this year, taking on the factory Honda Motocross and Supercross, which has been a massive expansion of your activities. You’ve had to recruit more staff, learn a few more skills, and meet a lot more people. What are some of the biggest challenges that this has brought about.

Crankt Team Honda Racing - Jay Wilson Graphics 2016
Crankt Team Honda Racing – Jay Wilson Graphics 2016

“I think the whole lot has been a massive learning curve. My experience in that whole scene is very little and I’ve applied myself to learn as quickly as possible, I haven’t been able to go to all the events, physically I just can’t. But what I’ve learnt this year has been invaluable, and I’ve learnt enough to understand what we need to be successful. We employed two young guys in Dylan and Jay to ride for us this year, with the idea for them to grow with the team, as the team grows over the first year, and move into 2017 with the new Honda 450.

Dylan Long - Toowoomba MX Nationals 2016
Dylan Long – Toowoomba MX Nationals 2016

“So yea, it’s just been a massive challenging year, with injuries and everyone learning I think. Putting a team together of this size is never easy. Finding the right people to work together, like in our road team, to create that culture, has challenges that take time to iron out and once we get it ironed out I am sure we will be successful.”

Jay Wilson
Jay Wilson – Avalon Supercross 2016

You have employed Todd Waters for 2017, another guy that returned from Europe last year and has raced to some great results this year, and Luke Clout who is stepping up from 250, So you’re going to have that mix of experience and youth with Luke still being young, you’ll have the best of both worlds. Is that the idea?

Australian Supercross 2016 - Toowoomba - Image by Marc Jones
Australian Supercross 2016 – Toowoomba – Image by Marc Jones

“Yea, that’s one thing I’ve learnt this year in Motorcross, if you don’t have a top line experienced rider, if you don’t have enough money, if you don’t have the right people, if you don’t have the right equipment, you may as well stay at home.

“It’s really simple, the ingredients are simple, quite similar to road racing in the sense that so much pivots around the rider, and that’s why we’ve gone out and engaged the services of Todd. I think that Todd will be a massive asset to our team, with his spirit and knowledge, determination, being just so driven for success. So we’re really looking forward to getting Todd on our bike and working with him.

Todd Waters and Luke Clout - Crankt Protein Honda
Todd Waters and Luke Clout – Crankt Protein Honda

“Another part of that whole program as well is we’ve employed the services of Jay Foreman. Jay is currently working with Todd in their current team in Australia on a part time basis, but they’ve worked together really well and shown a lot of success. So we thought it was an opportunity to take both of them across and move them both into the Honda pack.

Jay Foreman - Crankt Protein Honda - Image by Emma Carlon
Jay Foreman – Crankt Protein Honda – Image by Emma Carlon

“We’ve also had a lot of success this year with Pip. Pip has been fantastic in his ability to establish this team, get it working, get the bikes competitive straight up. It’s done an absolutely outstanding job. Pip’s has recently left Honda and has moved into a technical position at Motorcycling Australia, so in that we need to keep moving forward and Jay fitted the bill perfectly.”

Crankt Protein Honda - 2016 Aus-X
Crankt Protein Honda – 2016 Aus-X

 

The 2017 Honda CRF450R is almost here. That will be ready to go when Motocross kicks off in 2017, but it’s going to be a different story for the Blade. It was quite funny at the ASBK Champions dinner, I lost count of the amount of times your competitors mentioned how old the (current) Fireblade was, and congratulated you on such an ‘old’ machine doing well. At this stage though it looks like you will be on the ‘old’ Fireblade SP for most likely at least the first half of next season, perhaps even three-quarters into season 2017 you’ll still be on the current model SP, while we wait for the new models to arrive.

“Yea that’s right, that’s what it’s looking like at the moment.”

Troy Herfoss
Troy Herfoss – 2016 ASBK Champion – 2016 Honda Fireblade SP

So again I guess at least you know what you’ve got to work with at the beginning of the season, then I guess it’s just trying to bring that new model on line towards the latter part of the season. That will present some new challenges within itself, going from no RbW (Ride-by-Wire), with it being the only bike in the paddock currently with no Rbw – once the new GSX-R arrives. So perhaps explain to us the advantages and disadvantages of that. We know of some large disadvantages with the current model’s lack of traction control, electronic engine braking control etc. But perhaps there also are some advantages, with having the more linear connection to the rider’s right wrist?

2017 Honda Fireblade SP2
2017 Honda Fireblade SP2

“Yea, so you’re talking about the cable operated throttle-bodies. There’s definitely some major challenges there, with some of the models on the market now with their standard or their kit electronics. I can only hope that what HRC provide gives us the adjustability and tuneability, to the level that we ultimately need in the new model. I’m sure they will. They are a very advanced company, we can’t wait to get hold of that new motorbike and start working with it.

2017 Honda Fireblade SP2
2017 Honda Fireblade SP2

“I think we’re extremely driven people here and very, very technical, and always looking to advance our motorcycle and work with our riders, taking our motorcycle forward. This shows with our current team, Troy and Jamie, and now Bryan in 2017, but to have a new platform to work on, I think is just so exciting. To have all those new challenges, it will be really exciting. I think if we can start off with the new bike where we are, using a lot of the chassis settings and such that we’ve currently got – I’m sure they’ll transfer across – and use that as a base. Then get our heads around all the electronics and that sort of side of it, as quickly as we can. I think we’ll ultimately be competitive immediately.”

Todd Waters, Luke Clout, Troy Herfoss and Bryan Staring - Crankt Protein Honda - Image by Emma Carlon
Todd Waters, Luke Clout, Troy Herfoss and Bryan Staring – Crankt Protein Honda – Image by Emma Carlon

Well congratulations Paul on this year’s Superbike Championship honours with Troy Herfoss and the best of luck with the new look off-road line up for 2017. Hopefully you get a bit of family holiday time, before it’s time to get your heads down and start on 2017.

“I hope so, thanks Trev.”

MotoGP Support Races - Australian Superbike - Stauffer, Herfoss, Waters - Image by Andrew Gosling
MotoGP Support Races – Australian Superbike – Stauffer, Herfoss, Waters – Image by Andrew Gosling