Pete Extance says ‘there will be some fireworks in the garage’ at the end of the year, as he anticipates a showdown between his riders Luke Mossey and Leon Haslam. In this exclusive interview, Pete talks about the rivalry between the two riders, whether or not he’d employ team orders and also who he sees taking his JGSpeedfit Bournemouth Kawasaki brand to the championship in 2017. This interview gives an insight into what might occur towards the end of the season and if what Pete says is anything to go by, then we are in for some hard, and possibly even controversial, racing at times! Team Owner Extance also discusses his future plans, his season so far and what off-track aspects contribute to running one of the biggest and well branded teams in the Superbike paddock.
How would you sum up your season so far?
It’s been phenomenally well to be honest with you. We couldn’t have had a better start to the year with five wins from six races. Then, we had a bit of a disaster situation, which was no fault of the team’s or Leon’s. That has sort of set us back a little bit. Leon moved to WSBK and did a great job for Pucetti and we moved to the NW200 and Isle of Man TT where James Hillier got podiums at both. It wasn’t our best TT but two fourth places and a second, with James and the team back safe is really important to us. We’ve come straight from the TT to Knockhill so it’s been a really long trip, I’ve been away for over three weeks now and I’m looking forward to getting back home. Having said that, we are sat here on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Scotland at Knockhill and Luke has had a 2nd and a 4th. Big congratulations to Jake Dixon. Luke now leads the series from his teammate Leon Haslam who is unfortunately at home, following a crash from FP1. Leon is strong and is back testing on the 27th of June; he’s got no lasting damage which is great firstly for him and also for the team. This will only fire him up even more, ready for Snetterton. He won’t want to remain number two for very long.
How does running a factory team compare to running the more satellite team you had last season?
In fairness, it’s more or less exactly the same. We get a great amount of assistance from Kawasaki. Everyone knows Leon has got a great connection with the factory; he’s got a different swingarm but Luke hasn’t, as he’s running the exact same as last year. How beneficial that will be when track temperature goes up later in the summer and tyre wear comes into it, we don’t know yet. It’s a great privilege for me as a Kawasaki dealer, who’s been racing a long time, to be the official team and get some general support. We don’t really get ‘Factory’ support, KRT in WSBK are the ‘Factory’ team, we are the officially backed BSB team.
Last year you ran Supersport with Andy Reid but not this year – why?
The contract with Kawasaki specifically states that we are only allowed to run two bikes in the British Superbike paddock and that we have to focus on winning the British Superbike title this year. It stated that we weren’t allowed to run in the Supersport or Superstock 1000s, with just the roads. We were allowed to run the TT with a bit of race testing.
How come Andy Reid and Filip Backlund have not featured in Bournemouth Kawasaki plans this year?
I felt Filip was at the point where he wasn’t going to ride and, as you documented, he had a lot of crashes last year and wasn’t really on the pace, so I had to look elsewhere. I had already signed Luke well before Kawasaki approached us to run the factory team. Luke was running with us whatever happened and then began the bunfight over the Assen weekend. The riders had heard that Mark (Smith Halvorsn) was leaving, ‘can I come with you, can I come with you’ was all I heard over the weekend! We kind of agreed already with a certain rider that we would sign them, however I then got a phone call at half seven on the Monday morning from Ross Burridge at Kawasaki and thought ‘what the hell going off at half seven in the morning?’ and he approached us to say, “can you run Leon for 2017” to which we agreed.
What goes on behind the scenes at Bournemouth Kawasaki with regards to hospitality etc?
We have a legion of fans. We have 120 guests per round. A mixture of JGSpeedfit and our other sponsors. The guests have enjoyed a lovely roast lunch and dessert, absolutely rammed in here every single week and we have rider talks all the time. We are looking to do some more Q&As with the kids like at Donington Park last season. We are doing a milk and cookies morning with the parents and kids and just trying to bring families in. We have a lovely big ‘selfie board’ – as I’m calling it – with a picture of Luke and Leon on the bike and the little minibike in the middle. It’s great to see families in the paddock and not just crowds of blokes and if the families go away with a Luke Mossey cap on and a flag that they’re waving then they’re happy. We don’t do posters anymore, we do lanyards because they have all the riders details on them and hopefully, it’s a bit more of a memento than a poster that you see half a mile down the road when we’re driving away from the circuit.
Given Leon’s successful wildcard, do you see WSBK as an option in the foreseeable future?
Not for Bournemouth Kawasaki. We have a lot to prove in this paddock yet and we have come a long, long way in the last seven or eight years. I think before we start running at World Superbikes, we need to be British Champions. If it is this year, then it’d be great to come back and defend the series. For the riders, I think I know where we are with one rider but not necessarily where we are with the other. Luke is very keen to stay with us and we are looking to get that signed early to get it tied up ASAP. However, on the other side of the garage, Leon is actually contracted to Kawasaki UK so we will leave that seat open right up until the 11th hour until we, he or Kawasaki need to make a decision so we don’t miss out on other riders. I genuinely can’t believe at Knockhill – and before you ask, I’m not telling you who they are – but we have had three top riders approach us following rumours speculating Leon’s return to WSBK. I find it amazing that we’re not halfway through the championship and already silly season has kicked in.
That said, you don’t need the added stress of what is already an enormous operation you have to oversee do you?
Not yet. I tend to do a little bit more with the hospitality side of things. I love getting the microphone and presenting and doing a bit of the television stuff. I don’t tend to do too much with the riders, Jack Valentine probably does a little bit more with the riders although for now, they manage themselves quite well. We’ve also got some full time technicians that look after the bike so in fairness, it’s not that much more stressful than previous years gone by. The only thing that is different is that this season, we are bigger and better and have some high expectations so we have to deliver, to get results back to our sponsors and our guests, maybe a little bit more than other teams do.
Would it be fair to say that this is the first time you have had both riders wanting to win the championship?
100%. We as a team haven’t been very well financially supported in the past and we’ve had to fund a lot of the Bournemouth Kawasaki into the team. What that has done is meant that we can have one reasonably good, top quality rider and we started with Chris Walker and Dan Linfoot and gone through that, but the 2nd rider has had to bring their own money to the table. Whilst that kept us on track it unfortunately means that you get a rider who isn’t going to win the championship or be in the showdown and help support a title challenge. Now, we are in a position with two fully paid, full time professionals and that makes a massive difference.
Did you expect Luke to be this strong?
Luke’s had a podium at every round; we felt he has really matured this year as a rider. I’m not sure that even in my wildest dreams that I would’ve put him as leading the BSB championship after four rounds of the championship. That’s great for Luke. This is not a negative for Luke but one thing that has been good for him is that we’ve gone four rounds without rain. Luke is the first to admit that whilst he is improving in the rain all the time, it’s harder for him to be pushing for 1st, 2nd or 3rd. A podium every round, no rain has helped and we’re heading towards mid-June and into July and we should be able to run through most of the season without rain. However, then we have the showdown in Autumn. If there was a stumbling block for Luke then it’d probably be the rain but lets hope it all stays dry.
Has Leon been surprised of Luke Mossey’s pace?
Erm, I think Leon knew Luke was fast. I think certainly that if he didn’t know about it before then he knew about it after testing in Cartagena, because there, he definitely knew about it! I think perhaps Leon is more surprised with how Luke has strung the results together and stuck to him in most races. His consistency has been absolutely exceptional. Leon won’t be worrying about that – his job for this year is to win the British Superbike Championship and if Luke runs him hard then fair play to Luke but if Luke wins, Leon will be extremely upset. I think he’ll be pleased for Luke but I think he will be very upset. As we all know, Leon has never won a British Superbike Championship and that’s what he desperately wants to do. If we asked Kawasaki at the start of the year what the result would be out of both the riders, after all the effort and finances they’ve put into Leon, they’d probably say it would swing more his way. However, it’s not over yet, we’re only four rounds in, lets get the boys in the showdown and let battle commence!
Is there going to be a rivalry between Luke and Leon?
I think there’s definitely going to be a rivalry! I think at the beginning of the season, Luke wasn’t happy with being called the number two rider by some people – it’s not something I have ever done myself. We have always called them on an equal. Leon has to be looking not only at Shane Byrne and the others but also his teammate. We will get to round nine pretty quickly now seeing as the races are pretty much every other weekend. For sure, I certainly think that both bikes will be in the showdown and that there will be fireworks in the garage.
Could it lead to an off-track fallout?
No, I don’t think so, if anything the two riders get on better than the two crews, so I think the riders are fine, we just have to try and keep a lid on the two crews. Expectations run high in the garage and the two lads are ultimate professionals. On track, they’ll probably look after each other until the last round of the championship if they’re battling for it and then it is open to any of them.
Would you use team orders as a tactic in the final round?
Wow, thats a very good question. It’s a question that actually, I can’t believe as a team owner that I may be asked. However, that may well be the situation. If there’s a situation where Leon can win the championship and we need Luke 2nd and Leon to win then I think we have to look to team orders. There’s a lot of investment and hard work and graft that goes into this and whilst any rider is not happy with team orders, at that point, it has to come. It’s not something that I’m overly happy about but I think I would get my butt kicked if Kawasaki said ‘why didn’t one of your riders yield?’
Which one of your two riders do you see team orders helping and hindering and who do you see as the rider taking your Bournemouth Kawasaki brand to the title in 2017?
Now that is a very difficult question – goodness me. That really is a tricky one. No one can write Luke Mossey off and no one can right Leon Haslam off. I really do think that bookmakers wise, between our team and Shakey, it will be your top three in some order. What route it goes, with two green ones first and second and a red one third or a red one first and the green ones behind we will wait and see. I know which way I’d prefer that, I’m just not sure with which green one! Luke’s only downfall may be that we get to Assen and Silverstone and we get a wet race but I love them both.
Image courtesy of Gareth Davies of Full Factory Photography. You can find them on Twitter and on Facebook. We would also like to thank Pete Extance for his time on what was a very busy Sunday at Knockhill.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko