Martin Halsall left the BSB class last season but is more than up for success on the roads and in British Supersport, with William Dunlop and Joe Farncis respectively. Again, a thoroughly entertaining interview with an owner who is without doubt one of the friendlies and most accessible in the paddock.
Well it was a bit of a long way around really, to come back to where we started. Obviously, we decided not to do BSB, which was fine in 2016. We built an R6 anyway, for William (Dunlop) doing the roads. So, we ended up with the bike being surplus to requirements. We’d made the decision to come away from Superbikes, enter Supersport with a bike, which was, like I say, surplus to requirements. Joe (Francis) used to work with one of our mechanics last year with TTC Yamaha. I’ve had my eye on Joe for 2 or 3 years as I know Roger Marshall. We chatted about Joe moving forwards and the conversation came up of running him in Supersport. The fact that we had a bike ready to go made perfect sense to do it here. We’re back in the paddock and the main reason I got into bike racing was to help young riders in Supersport and to enjoy it. We’ve chosen to go back to where we started; it’s a good move and this year I expect to be getting podiums and maybe a challenge at the championship. Joe is an extremely talented rider.
Did you offer Tommy Bridewell a ride in the Supersport class?
No. Obviously, from finishing in BSB, we had to let Tommy go. We had numerous conversations out of season about us doing something and we made the decision not to. The communication as far as Tommy riding our bike finished there really. We’re still in contact with him which is good, as it wasn’t a fall out.
Do you regret not holding out a bit longer for the new Suzuki having seen how competitive it is?
No. No, definitely not. The reason I came into BSB was to enjoy it and I was getting to a point in BSB where I wasn’t enjoying it. Last year, we were promised the bike on three occasions and we knew when the bike came, that it would be a good one. We’re not saying that potentially in the future, we wouldn’t run a Suzuki because if they’re a competitive bike then I’m keen to put riders on competitive bikes. As a privateer team, that’s what that gives you – the opportunity to be competitive against the factories. With the Suzuki last year, we put a lot of work and a lot of effort into 2015 and 2016 but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We had good seasons and Tommy did well to get two podiums last year but I don’t regret waiting. I’m happy with where we are and let someone else have a stab with it.
Are you already planning on heading back into the BSB class, when you say, “in the future”?
The thing that I needed to do was get out of it, regroup and start fresh again. Fortunately, now we are in a good position in Supersport with Joe and I can see us doing something Superbike wise in the future, we’re just not sure when.
Yamaha are one of a few manufacturers producing new Supersport bikes but you’ve opted to stay with the old Yamaha 600cc machine. Why is that?
The reason for that is because Joe was consistent last year on the R6. He rode it very well last season. We know there’s a new R6 but we aren’t going to change, we are going to stick to what we’ve got. We know it’s strong enough. Whilst other teams may opt for a new bike and try and find their feet there, they’re taking a big risk. You could hit the ground running and be lucky or you could have a bike that’s difficult and be unlucky.
Who are your sponsors?
Movuno.com are an online estate agents. The way I see it is that estate agents are predominantly online anyway with Right Move and Zoopla. They offer the same package as a high-street estate agent but with a fixed price of £599 instead of paying a percentage fee on the price of your house when selling it. They’re fabulous to work with.
How is Joe to work with?
A complete idiot (Joe just came into the truck). No, he’s brilliant! Even over the weekend, he’s acknowledged that whilst being faster in sectors one and two, he has been a bit slack in sector four. This morning, he went fastest in sector four and that shows me something within a rider that he has the ability to adapt. He has the brains to focus on where he’s not so strong. He thinks ‘I won’t focus on one or two because I’ve done that, but I’ll focus on the sectors I’m not perhaps as good at’. So, if you look at that moving forward, then you’re there or there abouts. So yes, it’s all good.
At what point did you know that BSB wasn’t happening in 2017.
There’s obviously a high level of investment needed for a Superbike team. Bennetts had pretty much chosen that they were going to go and talk with Hawk Racing to follow the Suzuki brand. So, it left us without sponsors. I’m quite happy to fund some of the gap but I’m not prepared to fund all of the gap. We did have conversations with Josh Brookes and Tommy Bridewell but to put a structure together and be competitive at that level, I wasn’t prepared to fund it all myself.
Do you therefore feel let down by Bennetts?
No, not really – business is business at the end of the day. They’ll go with whatever brand they want to. The way I run a team I would hope is very professional, well presented and we do things properly. We’ve always built good bikes. There’s not a lot more we can do on our side.
Can you win the Supersport championship and be successful on the roads this season?
Yes, we can. I think that there’s a main combination to win championships. The rider has to be right, the bike has to be right and the team have to be right with the right structure and I do think we have that. Joe is an extremely talented rider who will go a long, long way. From what I’ve already seen, he has an amazing attitude towards racing and an amazing attitude to growing within racing. The rider is the right rider. The bike is competitive and proven. The team is a great team and we all work very hard. Within all that as well, you put all that effort in and hopefully get a little bit of luck too. I think the roads will be a little bit different. It’s the same combination as on the short circuits. William is an extremely talented rider, whether he will be there winning at the TT, I’m not so sure. That’s not me not having belief in my rider – I do have belief in my rider but I’m also realistic. I know who else is out there in the competition. My choice with William was ‘potentially he isn’t going to win it but he’s a great brand to have on board’ and that’s the choice we made.
Do you miss Tommy Bridewell?
We miss Tommy massively. He’s a very close personal friend and he’s been up to the house and spent the day with us, with his wife Stacey. We are extremely close to Tommy and Movuno are still sponsoring him personally. He is an extremely talented rider. Last season, we were on an old bike and he proved what he could do. Back to the three combinations, the thing that was missing was the bike because it was an old bike. No problems with the team or the rider, the problem primarily was the bike. If Tommy has the full package then I think he could really show what Tommy Bridewell is made of.
Did you have an idea about coming down to Supersport with two riders?
Originally, it was only going to be the Road Racing with William but through circumstances with the R6, we had a conversation with Joe. I didn’t think to do Supersport, it was just we had a bike that was surplus to requirements and that we may as well give Joe a chance. There was a chance to look at putting William on the short circuits but we haven’t followed that up and he will be remaining on the roads.
Photo credit to Gareth Davies of Full Factory Media.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko