‘AUSSIES ARE PRETTY BAD LOSERS; THAT’S ALL THE MOTIVATION WE NEED’

‘AUSSIES ARE PRETTY BAD LOSERS; THAT’S ALL THE MOTIVATION WE NEED’

by Bauer Xcel |
‘AUSSIES ARE PRETTY BAD LOSERS; THAT’S ALL THE MOTIVATION WE NEED’

January is always the worst time of year to be stuck at home waiting for the season to get underway. So, when I was offered a trip to Italy on the new 790 Adventure and the 1290GT, I jumped at it. Sadly, Rome was even colder than home and 50% of the test was on a wet track... but I was pleasantly surprised with the new 790. I hadn’t expected much from the middleweight bikes; I’d wondered what all the hype was about at the Milan show, but then I rode one. I was really impressed by how well the motor pulls and how well it handles. We were testing tyres; I love it – I can have as many new tyres as I want, but it’s tough and you need to be on your game. I did learn that the 790’s power delivery makes it so simple to drift on an average tyre; the throttle connection and long flat torque curve made me look good! With the test completed, and no further KTM duties until February, I accepted an invitation to race at the Phillip Island Classic.

‘AUSSIES ARE PRETTY BAD LOSERS; THAT’S ALL THE MOTIVATION WE NEED’

Team Ireland’s Paul Byrne gets attacked by the yellow swarm of McWilliams, Peter Hickman and PB’s own Michael Rutter

I’ve raced there since 2011 with Roger Winfield’s team, competing at the International Challenge. Four teams of six compete for the overall title, and it has always been a needle match between the Aussies and us Poms. The American and Kiwi teams hadn’t been competitive until this year, when the Yanks brought some of their fast veterans. The Aussies moaned that our bikes don’t conform to period rules, but all the period rules differ slightly as ours are also raced at the Classic TT, but basically they’re all the same. The Aussies are pretty bad losers and this motivates Roger and the team to build even better bikes and recruit the best British riders just to slap it up them. It really is a grudge match, but when all is said and done we do actually have a lot of respect for one another and the event would be an Australian whitewash if there was no British team. The Aussies have always had a formidable team and dominated the event for years before we started winning in 2015. I reckon we could’ve gone on for years but this year they stole the title back from us in the last race, with David Johnson and Troy Corser helping their cause. They did deserve it and it went all the way to the wire in the last race. We lost Glen Richards and the Yanks lost Jason Pridmore; this just swung the standings back in the Aussies’ favour.

‘AUSSIES ARE PRETTY BAD LOSERS; THAT’S ALL THE MOTIVATION WE NEED’

The Americans put on a good show with Colin Edwards, Pridmore and Jake Zemke all upping the game using Yamaha FJ motors like ours – 1100 bored to 1250-something, making about 170hp and topping 175mph. We recruited Michael Rutter, Dan Linfoot and Lee Johnston to join Peter Hickman, Glen Richards and myself this year, but it didn’t go as smoothly as it could. Lee got flicked off in qualifying, and we lost the motor when the throttle stuck open. Plus, Rutter got knocked off in practice when he was touring whilst trying to adjust clutch free play as the bike had just been built. Of course, we gave him the sympathy he deserved... When the team got the bike fixed and got him back out for the next session, he started complaining of electric shocks when he put his foot down at the end of pitlane. The HT lead was shorting on to the frame! We were all pissing ourselves when he explained why he couldn’t get off the line because he was too frightened to pull the clutch in or put his foot down.

‘AUSSIES ARE PRETTY BAD LOSERS; THAT’S ALL THE MOTIVATION WE NEED’

Before the race, we got to spend some time riding the trails just north of Melbourne with friends. Aussie journo Trevor Hedge loaned me his 250 Husky. The singletrack there is the best I’ve ridden, but we had a few moments along the way with snakes and kangaroos crossing our paths. This huge roo came out of nowhere and scared the hell out of me, but luckily he bolted. Now I just need to convince KTM I need a 250 two-stroke to evaluate... Whichever way you cut it, I’m happy to have callouses on my hands again from all the testing and racing lately – it feels good.

‘AUSSIES ARE PRETTY BAD LOSERS; THAT’S ALL THE MOTIVATION WE NEED’

Husky fun with Trevor Hedge near Melbourne. Just watch out for venomous snakes and wayward kangaroos...

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