On a recent Kawasaki launch at Pukekohe, Paul caught up with one of the nicest (not to mention fastest) racers in the paddock, Shane Richardson, for a quick chat about the Tri Series, the Nationals, Whanganui and the U.S of A…
Interview: Paul | Pics: Paul & Dallas Alexander
Let’s talk about Tri Series first before we talk about America. You dominated it, right?
I suppose you could use those words. I had a little bit of pressure on myself coming into Taupo, having ridden all year, I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself if you will. But then in the first race at Taupo I managed to walk away, and I was happy – I’d proved anything I needed to prove. From there I just rode y’know? I knew what I was capable of and to be fair, I wasn’t as fast as I was before I left.
It was one thing to win, but I was more focusing on my riding as well and I was disappointed that I was a second a lap off at Taupo and a good 7/10ths at Manfeild. Obviously, Whanganui was good and the Robert Holden. But for the most part I was, what I would deem as slow.
I think that does help. Like last year, with Damo [Damon Rees] there, really setting the bar, we could bounce off each other and really push the pace high. Which shows again like at Whanganui, I was running a good pace in our races but then when I hopped in with the superbikes and the pace was pushed, I had the capability to run a second a lap quicker than I had all day in that one standalone race for no particular reason.
Do you actually notice the difference? Do you think sort of like “Faark, I’m going fast!”
Yeah, you do. You notice the mistakes and the little unsettling moments on the bike in places where it’s always so planted. You might get a little bit of a push at the front or the rear skips out, but more than anything it’s a mind-set. I think your mind’s going quicker so everything feels like it’s coming at you the same, but you’re just feeling the differences in the bike underneath you.
So, we sat out the first two rounds of the Nationals, with the plan of going back to America. We decided that we were going to do the third round at Hampton Downs at MotoFest as it’ll be a good warmup for going back to America. We won’t participate in the last round, because it clashes with the Daytona 200, so by mid-March we hope to be back Stateside…running Daytona!
The whole deal the first time was that you went across on a shoestring budget, with Seth and the famous U-Haul van, taking used tyres out of skip bins. Is it the same scenario this year, or now that you’ve proven yourself the first time, have you got more support?
It’s similar, but miles different if you will. Like, we’re still going over, doing our own thing. We’re still a lot like anyone from NZ, still struggling to pull money together to make life easy. But I think with everything we’ve learned from last year, we’ll be so much better off nonetheless, no matter which way we do it. Last year was a good learning year. Obviously, there were no expectations; we had to learn tracks, we had to learn tyres, learn the people, learn the different bike and everything. And we had our fun last year and we’re still trying our best, but we were never going to be 100 per cent with all that. So, this year we’ll go over there and we’ll put into place everything we’ve learnt. It’s a lot more make or break or ‘business time’ if you will, to really push for results.
Yeah pretty much. Last year everyone was impressed with what we did, and we had a few shining moments. But within the team we were more disappointed knowing that, even with what we had, it still could have been better, especially after the knowledge we gained after each round. You’d look back and think ‘we could’ have done this or that differently. We know the potential’s huge, it’s just like anything, it’s never going to be a one or two-year thing. Y’know it’s three or four years and the biggest thing is going to be keeping the budget to stay there long enough to prove what we can do.
Have you had any support from anyone this time round that you didn’t for the first year? Anyone you want to give a shout out to?
There’s a lot of people, individual people in America that want to help us out, y’know like just have respect for us and what we did and what not. So, there’s a lot of people that want to help us out, although a lot of it not financially which is obviously the main area which we need. But, support is support at the end of the day and you’re never going to turn it down. Obviously, the New Zealand motorcycling community is still right behind us.
To be fair, for a while before we even looked at going to America, we were teeing up looking at British Stock 600. Seth had been over there a couple of times, had a few contacts, and we just went back and forward a little bit. Then I think it was Peter Jones that spoke to Seth and said, “Hey, why don’t you go to Daytona ‘cos there’s a big prize pool there.” That was three weeks before the event last year, I spoke to my parents and work and that, and we decided to go three weeks before an international race. And not just any race, but one where you gotta do pit-stops and a 200-mile race – it’s not just your average race!
We went there and yeah ok, everything went bad, but we had no intention of returning after that. And then once we’d gone there, and we kind of saw our potential in America, we decided that if we could get the money, we should go back. We managed to raise enough money to get us a foothold and two weeks later we went back!
Making it to Barber was always like this mythical thing you know? You’d always talk about the end of the championship, but realistically, we weren’t so sure we were going to get there. We got to Road America, which was our third round, and we had 52 dollars in the bank! We didn’t even have a return flight; we couldn’t even afford to come home.
We were at that point and luckily that was where we had our first breakthrough with the double podium and made enough money from that to keep going and keep pushing on. That round was a big round for us as it was where we gained our sense of belonging within Moto America. We had that little money and finished on the podium. Obviously, we qualified on the front row too, knocking one of the Factory Graves bikes off!
So here’s us on this bike with no stickers or nothin’, I’m all duct-taped up, my leathers are all duct-taped up, I think they would have been embarrassed more than anything else for the sake of the show to have us on the front row. But they put our name out there and we finished on the podium and the commentator Brian Drebber, he was just plugging our story flat shack! He loved it.
And so after the podium ceremonies, people were just coming up and giving us money out of their wallets you know, 30 or 40 bucks here and there and basically emptying their wallets. And then people were coming round and just giving us big bags of food to keep us going through the week. And that was when we realised, people are helping us to stay here ‘cos they want us to stay here. For three kids to go over to America in the somewhat ‘baby class’ being the Stock 600, and to have made such an impact on the championship was just surreal.
Is that the same class you’re going back to this time?
We’re going to be in Supersport this time because they’ve now done away with Stock 600 and combined the two. So, we’ll be in the Supersport class, which is pretty much Stock 600 rules give or take a couple of things like the tyres and bits, just all under the Supersport banner.
We’re still deciding on that at the moment – still doing some testing and will see. The 636 we were on, obviously America’s the only country in the world that races them, and they weren’t particularly made for racing, more as a street touring bike. We thought they were the same bike until we started running into trouble at Daytona, as my bits didn’t fit. So we’re just deciding now the pros and cons of whether we run a ZX-6R like we’ve got here or a 636. Obviously, the horsepower’s good on the 636, especially compared to the new Yamaha’s in stock form, but we need more than just straight-line speed too. So we need to sit down, do our homework and even do some back-to-back testing and really figure out what we want to be on. I mean, the ‘old boy’s’ more than happy if I was to ship my stock standard bike from here over there, so if we can get that over there for nothing, then we’ve got a bike set up, that I’m familiar with and ready to go.
Have you looked any further than America?
Obviously, I see America as a good stepping stone, the competition’s good, I would say it’s like a bigger scale of New Zealand – you could do it for a living there, but everyone’s super-friendly and willing to help you out. I wasn’t sure what to expect with being money involved, but everyone was just so welcoming and so helpful getting us from A to B, which was mega.
Where’s the first round that your aiming for?
Daytona’s on the 16th through to the 18th of March and then the first round of MotoAmerica is around the 13th April. That’ll carry right through to mid-September.