I enjoyed my time at Donington Park but one of the highlights of it all was meeting this man! Filip Backlund is Sweden’s shining star and at just 26, he has time on his side to climb the ranks of bike racing. I spoke to him about his injuries, the huge drought that Sweden is suffering in terms of producing motorcycle racers and also he treats us to a stunning insight of how he prepares for every round – no really, this is something that you will love!
Why did you choose BSB?
When I became professional in 2010, I made a five-year plan. The plan had in it that in 2012 or 2013, I would go to the World Championship, in Moto2. However, in the first year of Moto2, at least for me anyway, I needed to pay a lot of money. By that, I mean we are looking at £750,000 up to £1.5m. For me, I just had to look at the facts and think I was never going to have that kind of money, and that with the sponsors I already had, I was only going to be in a medium good team. So then I look at my next option which was the British Championship. I came over, I did a year or two in the Superstock 1000 class; my first year was great. I took four podiums, two new lap records and third in the championship along with a good win at Silverstone. The following year was also good, and then we finished off the season in Superbikes so yeah, if you can’t be in the world championship, BSB is the next toughest in the world.
Does Luke being in the showdown give you more motivation to do better?
It’s brilliant for Luke to be in the showdown, of course I want to be there as well. For me, this has been a season which started with the collarbone break, just a week before the first race. Before I did that, I had some really, really good pace which I haven’t been able to find since. Also, we see that I have some really big crashes and my body has had some hard impacts, so unfortunately we find that I haven’t had the best of luck, or the best of seasons. Donington Park was the first round that I feel more confident and comfortable with the bike. For me, I want to finish off the season as best I can; I want to score points in every race that’s left this year; that is my main goal and that’s what I hope we will do.
Best experience since joining the BSB paddock?
For sure, my win in Superstock 1000 at Silverstone and also when I was battling in the top three at Assen in BSB with the FFX Yamaha team in 2014. Those two moments so far are the best. I mean, I’m a racer and I love to win, so the win at Silverstone was the best. The feeling of winning was incredible, so yeah, I can’t think of a better one for now!
How did you find British circuits to learn?
In my first year, I was expecting it to be worse than it was. There’s a lot of tracks over here, and I used to watch the BSB tracks on TV or Youtube and I thought, “OK this is going to be crazy”. Once you ride them though, the only one I find crazy is Cadwell Park, but all the other places are brilliant! It’s a bit more special compared too wider, European ones which are much faster but in general they’re all great over here!
Where do you think you could be now without the injuries you got?
Without the injuries, our goal for the season was to go for the top 10 and then hope to fight for the top five too. In my opinion, that is where I think I could have been!
How do you prepare for each round?
On Monday, I normally do some light training, maybe one or two hours’ light cardio to refresh your body. Then I have a few days harder training. In terms of mental preparation, I do a lot of visualisation. I do some on board laps and then go back to visualisation. After this I go back and do it sector by sector, and then corner by corner. I try to nail every corner, learn where the breaking markers are, where I pick the throttle up and where I start to turn in. The whole point of this is to make the perfect lap. When I get to a race weekend, we do a similar kind of thing. Before every session, I go through the whole lap, figure out where I’m strong and where I need to improve and make some changes. My visualisation comes from my work with the mental coach when I was 15. They recommend visualisation because in any form of motorsport, you can’t be on the bike too often, so it’s all about trying to find solutions or ideas of how we can actually improve lap times and improve technical skills, despite not being on the bike.
When did you realise you was going to be a professional motorcycle racer?
I understand that this is my career and I am earning money for what I am doing. It’s funny because riding the bike is the smallest part, because you’re only on the bike for about 12 race weekends a year. I decided to take a year off school when I was 15 or 16 and just focus purely on the bike racing. My goal is to be world champion. At 7, it was always like “I will be a motorcycle racer” but then at 15 or 16 it was like “I will be a motorcycle racer”, so that’s probably when it sunk in.
Where does your nickname, ‘The Teacher’ come from?
If you had seen me in my private side of things, I wear my glasses. When I first came to the UK I had my suit on, my briefcase and everything, I like to be organised. Because of my business history, that is how I always look! They used to call me ‘The Librarian’, but for half a season they call me the teacher and it stayed ever since!
Why is Sweden not producing more motorcycle racers?
I think that Sweden in general as a country, we are very forward in terms of environment and health and safety and unfortunately, I don’t think motorsport quite fits their ethos. That’s one way of looking at it, however looking back, Sweden has produced big names like Ronnie Peterson and Kent Andersson, so you have some big names in the history but like you say, after that, it was just a drop and there’s few coming through. If you look at the few riders like myself and Christoffer Bergman in World Supersport, we are the only ones able to find opportunity outside of Sweden. The competition level in Sweden is not as high as it was. When I was racing there, between 2005 and 2010, we had riders from Germany, Australia and Austria in Sweden, earning money riding bikes but now you can’t. It’s tricky.
Plans for 2017?
Well I can confirm I have plenty of plans. However, them plans are nothing more than that at the moment, as nothing is solid! We have a few discussions going on. I like this team, they are happy with me, I am happy with my role at the team. We are already in talks with a few teams so we will see what happens. Unfortunately, those teams don’t have names just yet, but we will see in the future!
Five years’ time? Where will you be?
I see myself in WSBK. Not in MotoGP. Definitely WSBK!
Thanks to Gareth Davies for the image.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko