On Friday afternoon, I caught up with Sheffield’s finest Brent Gladwin, the owner of GR Motorsport Team WD40 in the British Superbike paddock. We discuss the team, their choice of rider in 2017 and also their future.
Regarding the Superbike class, you’ve been quite unlucky. Why is that and can it change in 2017?
With the Superbike, it’s just a big learning curve. Every day is a school day. We’ve tried hard in the past to develop young riders and that hasn’t worked. We’ve taken riders from other classes and that hasn’t worked. So, we decided for 2017 we would add Moto3 and Superstock 1000 to Superbike trying to bring riders on that way. In Moto3 we have started a new project with Reynolds Engineering of Milton Keynes to manufacture a chassis for that class which is quite exciting and have 16-year-old Liam Delves riding that. In the National Superstock 1000, we have Mason Law on the all new Kawasaki ZX10RR. In Superbike, as everyone knows, we’ve gone for Tommy Bridewell because for the last five years, he has been in the top 10 in the championship and three times in the showdown. We know we have a great crew and we know we have a great bike we needed to add the right rider and then sometimes, you just need a little bit of luck on your side.
How have you found the adaptation to the new Kawasaki easy or more difficult?
I think that any new motorcycle is a learning curve but the ZX10-RR is just an evolution of the one before. It’s got some fantastic new systems to it that we must learn, like the flyby wire. People have been playing with this system everywhere on all the new bikes and it’s not easy with the MOTEC we all have to use in BSB. The guys we have on electronics help, but it is still learning and it’s also about rider feel. Tommy hasn’t used flyby wire before so he’s having to understand the difference between cable and electronics. Leon (Haslam) had the same issue last year, and Rea and Sykes had the same problems. It’s our first round and we can only do what we can do on a day-by-day basis.
How has as reducing the team down to one rider affected you?
Everything is about sponsorship. As a team, we deliver fantastic advertising value and reach out across social media. However, things affect you – such as Brexit. What we’ve decided to do is focus, and with Tommy, we’ve found something that is a good way of focussing. We decided to go for three classes. I think that focussing on one is not a bad thing, as we focussed on Tarran last season and won the British Supersport championship; we focussed on Joe Francis and won the title in the past and on Karl Harris in the European Stock 1000 series where we also won the championship. So, with Tommy, we like what we have and we like the team and hopefully, by the end of a long season, we will be in the showdown and see what we can do.
How come you have pulled out of the British Supersport category after Tarran won it for the team last season?
It’s a purely commercial decision really for us and the rest of the world. The 600cc is finishing, they don’t sell road bikes anymore, for example if you want a brand new ZX6R then there are non-available. We won the title for Kawasaki for the first time in 26 years so our decision was to come out of that class early and go back to the 1000s. Also, with the manufacturers in the 1000s bringing out new models, the class becomes a win on Sunday, sell on Monday class again, making it more important for the manufacturers.
Do you think Tommy’s experience will see you nearer the top of the time sheets?
I think that Tommy is absolutely not a one trick pony. Some riders are, because for example, if it’s not a Yamaha, then they can’t win. With Tommy, he’s rode five bikes in five seasons, with the Honda, BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha and now he’s back to Kawasaki and each time he’s been successful. For me, if you have a rider with an open-minded approach like his, then you can try something different. I believe that last year, having spoken to his team, Tommy doesn’t give up. He didn’t give up on the Suzuki when other riders wouldn’t ride it. Far too many other riders want to cry in the caravan about all sorts of things. That’s not Tommy he wants to do his best always.
Do you see yourself going into Road Racing?
I personally have a great history of road racing. For me, going racing on the roads is a personal challenge for the rider. It’s your choice. I like the organisers of the Isle of Man TT and the NW200 but right now it isn’t for us. We want to concentrate on this side of things. Adding the Roads to BSB makes for an incredibly busy season and there’s enough of a work load on for us right now. After three rounds, we will evaluate where we are and whether we can go and watch the boys at the TT – which is a great holiday – or if we need to work through that period in preparation for round four. It has benefitted us in the past.
Does Assen cost you more and is it an inconvenience financially?
Not really, but the issue is the cost of travel and the time needed with a couple of days extra each side of the meeting. For a lot of the guys in the paddock, who take time off work, it’s the added time off-work that puts the pressure on the teams. The ferry is good and a lot of fun goes on but it’s a round trip of 1000 miles so it is longer than Knockhill, I sometimes question these things but after a think about it, with races at Knockhill, Thruxton which have rubbish facilities etc., we may as well go to Assen. Having said that, there are some great positives: – The British sports fans and BSB aficionados are some of the best in the world and those guys will get on their bikes or in their cars or take a plane and come and watch us at Assen! MSV have bought a circuit in France. Are we going to be going to Europe more often in the BSB series, difficult to call – we’ve had Brexit. Do we need to add costs to go to these tracks? No, we don’t however, a bit of spice never hurts anyone.
Would you like to see a return to BSB of some of the older circuits, e.g. Croft or Mallory Park?
I like those circuits. The trouble is they don’t have the infrastructure or safety any more. They can’t cope with the size of BSB Paddock and most importantly, if a rider falls and is seriously hurt, are you going to be happy? The thrills of motorcycle sport are very important – When a rider crashes we all want to see them get back up and not with an ambulance parked next to him. I know Mallory are doing a good job, trying to bring it into the 21st century but it still won’t be able to cater for the whole BSB paddock. It is a huge paddock. I don’t know how it would work at all. You can’t just take one or two classes. If you get rid of the support classes for a round, who is going to turn up and just watch a couple of races?
Will you be in the showdown with Tommy this year?
I really hope so! Getting in the showdown would be great for our sponsors, however big or small; they will all get fantastic value from his successes. Nobody is shy of success and I am expecting to pay Tommy quite a lot in bonusses and one of them is for him to get in the showdown.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko