It isn’t everyday you get to interview a top quality British Superbike racer but today, I spoke to Michael Howarth about his injuries, his past, present and future and other things such as the loss of bestfriend Karl Harris and MotoGP and WSBK this season. He said in one word that 2016 has been painfull, so be prepared to be amused (not by me); Michael opens up to me whilst he was having his haircut. Enjoy!
Who got you hooked into bikes and how?
Well I got myself into bikes, after I got injured in 2000 playing in Rugby League, as I was a professional Rugby League player at the time. I snapped my ankle and even though I recovered I just never really got back to where I wanted to be. If I’m honest I got bored, so I went out and bought the new SP1. I took it on a track day and started beating all these lads, little did I know they were a bunch of nobodies. I thought to myself, “Im Rossi” and that I’m off and going to be a big thing. I would never have picked any other sport. It wasn’t going to be snooker, because I actually have a penis! I had motocrossers since I was a kid so I’ve always been with bikes. I had road bikes from 1997 too.
What was the plan for 2016?
I got my own team back up and running with an old Shaun Muir Yamaha, the 2014 Josh Brookes bike. To get the team up and running properly would cost around 250,000 but I was getting nowhere near it. So then I took my sponsors, had a meeting with Tony Dexter and joined MotoDex BMW. However, then I completed two laps before sending myself to the moon and doing myself up. It was an odd crash because the bike was warmed up perfectly and everything.
What is the plan for the rest of the season?
Well I will be back at Cadwell Park, that is for sure. Whether I am on the pace or not is another matter. I’ve got a CAT scan on my hip so that decides what happens after. I might miss Donington because it is a bit too close with Oulton Park. Saying that, I might be alright because I didn’t ride Brands so I had time off.
How do you motivate yourself every morning to come back from your injuries?
Not raced since Karl’s death, I wanted to get back out there to ride with him, you know? Biggest thing that gets me is Morrison staff stacking shelves. They look so bored. I’m going to do something I enjoy! The doctor said I wasn’t going to walk since December but you can’t let a crash end your career when it isn’t career ending. OK, I broke my shoulder, knackered my hip and broke my back but it’s nothing that won’t mend.
Who are your sponsors?
Traction Chargers who do fancy battery chargers for Jaguar and Land Rover, based in Devizes. E-Dynamics who own 4/5 Volkswagen branches. Without them, I don’t race, it’s as simple as that. Because I’m chasing sponsors 24/7, I don’t have a day job as such. I could be rich and retired by now if I wasn’t a racer but there would be no fun in that.
Back in the early days, I rode for Malcom Ashley. In 2007, I was riding at Brands, when the front forks snapped on me at about 170mph. Tena4Men sponsored me, but then in 2008 they came on board as a title sponsor. It was my own team, I rode alongside Tristan Palmer. When that came to an end, I became a bit of a journeyman really. I couldn’t find anything proper. Riding a bike is easy, but finding sponsors is difficult.
Do you ever see yourself giving bike racing up for good?
Yes; Ive only got a year or so left in me now. I don’t see myself going to Superstock 1000 like Michael Rutter did. He is only doing that because nothing came about in BSB and also because he is more focused on the roads. He’s getting good prize money over on TT, he doesn’t need to do the BSB Superbike class anymore.
What will you do after bike racing?
I see myself in team management; I’ve done it before. At Tena4Men, as you know we ran Tristan Palmer, who got us a sixth place finish at Silverstone which put him 10th overall in the championship. In the future, I don’t see me running a BMW. It’s too expensive to run. I don’t really know what I would run until I sit down with manufacturers, but if I said one now, it would probably be the new Honda, because it so easy going and cheaper to run.
I tell you what, I’d love to bring Niccolo Canepa over to this country; he could win a British Superbike championship tomorrow given the chance. I don’t understand why he hasn’t been bought over before by somebody already. Canepa has done MotoGP, WSBK; he’s a bit lucky he isn’t going to prison like but it’s just one of those things aint it! I’d also like Kiyonari, me and him are good friends through Karl Harris, when they were teammates back in 2006. At Thruxton, Martin Halsall said to me will you go and have a word with him to sort him out, and I did! The talent is there but there’s just something not there for him. It’s been since the crash at Oulton Park with Shakey and he just hasn’t managed to shake it off yet.
Most rewarding thing about being a bike racer?
Well, you are doing the job you love and getting paid for it! I’m doing the thing that millions of people want to do. I aint stacking shelves at Morrisons!
Who do you see as the best young talent coming through?
Glenn Irwin. He has showed his talent; he’s got the podium to prove it. He’s come from nowhere, by which I mean people thought he would crash his brains out and get sacked half way through the season but he’s gone about his job properly and done what he needed to. He has kept his head and I’m taking all the credit for the podium because I said he would get one when I was talking to him that weekend.
Buchan hasn’t shone considering his Superstock 1000 success. He needs traction control and that would be WSBK territory. He really would do it over there.
Mossey is there or there abouts, he just needs to take his time and preserve his tyres. He has the pace to win if he sits behind Shakey and looks after his tyres until the end.
Linfoot will win a race without a shadow of a doubt. Dan will stay with Honda next year if he has any sense, although I think O’Halloran may have annoyed him with that win at Snetterton.
Top 6 prediction in no order: Byrne, Haslam, Bridewell, Ellison if he can get the bike to work. It’s a free for all after that. It will be whoever can figure it out how to string some good results together.
Your greatest achievement?
Winning a SBK Cup race at Cadwell Park in 2006. I was fairly new to it at the time so if I had known it’d be last win I would have celebrated a lot more! I thought it would be expected of me to win again. I thought I’d be on my way. Cadwell anniversary this weekend will be alright if my body can hold together.
Karl Harris, best friend. How much did/does his death affect you?
Well at the time it destroyed me, as it would anyone, he was my best mate. I did a couple of BSB rounds after but I was lost; it was the first time I’d ever ridden in the championship without him and I couldn’t do it because he wasn’t there. He has inspired me to come back. I’ll never be a Karl Harris speed wise or results wise. The paddock misses him like mad. One of our best on-track memories was at Croft in 2006. F*****G Shakey Byrne cost me a podium after crashing at Knockhill in 2008; I was going to be third in race two but came 5th after he crashed and caused the red flags to come out! We (Michael and Karl) were both on the podium together at Croft anyway, it was a real joy. We had a proper crack in the paddock, we used to sneak off to my motorhome for cigarettes and then go around at night stealing everyone’s beer!
Ever thought about road racing?
I want to do the TT, I always have. I could have done the NW last year but it does absolutely nothing for me, similar to the Ulster GP. All I want to do is the TT and set a 125mph lap, then I’d walk away happy.
What was the lowest of the low for you?
Got to be when I was at Oulton Park this year and I was out of action after only two laps, having been away and off the bike for two seasons. Next thing I knew I was flying in a helicopter. At the time it absolutely ripped me apart, however it didn’t take me long to get back up to full health.
MotoGP and WSBK predictions.
Hmmmm WSBK. I think Rea will win again this year. I really do. Tom will be a close second. It wont be Kawasaki next year; Ducati and that will come along a lot stronger, there is a new Suzuki next year too. Kawasaki have got it sorted for this year but I think next season, we will see the competition be lot stronger and more competitive. I don’t know what Ducati are thinking taking Melandri on. Its utterly ridiculous. I would rather see Eugene on the bike but Melandri is only there because Ducati are skint, after they’ve just given Lorenzo 30 million dollars for two seasons. They offered Casey that much to come back and ride for them; they told me when I went to test their new Multistrada Enduro bike. Marco is bringing a bucket load of money to the team, that’s the only reason they want him. What has he got left to prove? He might prove me wrong and make me look like a plant-pot but he’s not got the motivation to say ‘OK, I’m going to win a title’.
For MotoGP, I think the little man is going to win it. I think Keith and Jules were right when they said Lorenzo won’t win it. It only takes one more wet race for him to do what he has done at Assen, Sachsenring and Brno. I think it could be a close run affair this year with Marc and Valentino. Rossi can take it to him. It’s only going to take one mistake from Marquez. Rossi won’t get any help from Jorge. He wasn’t relying on it from Jorge anyway and Marc won’t get help from Dani. There’d be murders if it was ever found out that Marc and Jorge worked together again.
Have you ever fallen out with any racers; are there any you dislike?
Naaah! To be fair, I’ve never seen something that makes me want to dislike someone or brand them as dangerous. I had a big rivalry with someone in club racing. They all raced ex Troy Bayliss bikes and he was moaning about the bikes not favouring him. We had a battle once and we ended banging fairings. We shook hands after, no animosity or anything. We just said that’s what you call a proper race, a proper battle.
Top 3 BSB races:
Hill and Hopkins, Brands Hatch, 2011
Haslam and Lavilla, Cadwell Park, 2006
Haslam and Harris, Croft, 2006.
For more exclusive interviews you can follow us on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and for all bike related posts you can follow @MotoGPKiko. To keep up with Michael Howarth, you can follow him @howie94! Thanks to Gareth Davies once again for the fantastic picture.