The small, Gloucester-based two-stroke GL12 KTM team are back at the GPs, chasing glory in the EMX300 and EMX250 championships after a difficult winter trying to secure the support necessary to fund the challenge.
With the EMX300 championship kicking off this weekend at a soggy, cold Valkenswaard Euro circuit, we sat down with team owner Bob Buchanan and Dutch racer Mike Kras to find out what’s been going on.
Dirt Bike Rider: Bob, when we spoke at the last MXGP in France last year you didn’t have the support to continue and it was looking quite bleak. What happened after that?
Bob Buchanan: We tried a funding page as a double-edged sword, to try and raise some money but also to raise awareness of the fact that we didn’t have any money or support.
It worked better in the latter way. We did get some money in, and to everyone who donated I’m very grateful, but KTM went from having no bikes or spare for us to miraculously after the funding page went live they found some bikes, obviously pure coincidence. A couple of other sponsors then came on board and it meant we could then think about running again.
We used the Arenacross series to keep the awareness going and give the boys some bike time. The weather’s horrific and my two boys don’t go out slogging in deep mud and freezing, I’ve got two artists not artisans *laughing* so the Arenacross kept us together and gave us bike time so it worked well.
Looking at the costs and logistics of getting to the races, I fund that from the sales at the races so I’m dependant on how that goes so it didn’t help that Lyng was cancelled – the beginning of the season is when you need the money. We’ve got to fund the trip to Russia again, which is a nonsense for a European championship I think.
DBR: You’re competing in both EMX300 and EMX250 championships this year, does that make it any more expensive?
BB: No, because I’m going anyway so it doesn’t matter whether I’m paying for Mike and James’ entries at the 300 races or two races, the cost is getting there.
DBR: Is the funding page still live and active?
BB: It’s still there but nobody has donated for the last four months. The response to that was disappointing but I understand that a lot of the people that donated will be motocross riders and it’s hard enough for them to pay for their own racing let alone to pay for me.
DBR: So, the best way to support the team now is to come and buy some goggles from you?
BB: That’s exactly it. But if there are any corporate sponsors that want to come on board then the amount of publicity we get is unreal. Talking to Dave Thorpe at the Arenacross, he said it doesn’t matter who wins, you’ll get all the publicity. The interest in what we do is enormous so the potential for someone to come on board and use that interest is also enormous but it’s just getting the right company to come and do it.
Mike Kras had a very tight battle with the eventual champion, Brad Anderson, last year, winning in Lommel and on his way to victory in Switzerland before a rare DNF. His team-mate James Dunn was the only other rider to take a race win from Ando so what does Mike expect this year?
DBR: Mike, you came into the series last year with very little preparation but this year you’ve raced in the Arenacross series. How has that helped you prepare for outdoors?
Mike Kras: There’s always one, two or three weeks in January when I cannot ride because its freezing or like now just mud so doing the Arenacross every weekend I knew I could ride on dry tracks, well-prepared tracks. So Arenacross races are only six minutes but riding every week I know I will get more bike time than I would get in January. I had seven weeks of good riding, better than I could get in the rain in Holland.
DBR: The Arenacross races are very intense, sprint races. Does that help with your technique for racing outdoors?
MK: Of course. You can ride for five hours by yourself in the sand, I’ve been riding 25 years, so I know how to ride. It’s just the tension – getting out of the gate, getting the first few laps. When you do this three times a night for seven weeks, getting used to the tension, the fighting, looking in front, looking behind, [and holeshotting 450s, Bob chips in with a huge smile]. You know what to expect, the nerves are out of the way, the arm pump. For me it’s now the eighth round so I think I’m more prepared than going to Dunkerque all winter.
DBR: In Holland this week, Valkenswaard is your home race.
MK: Yes, actually Lommel is closer but this is Holland, so this is my home race. I’ve never been off the podium in every class I did here so I’m really looking forward to it.
DBR: The EMX300 championship is really spread out this year with a long trip to Russia and ending at the last MXGP in Imola. Are you doing any other races in between?
MK: Yes, I’m doing the British Two-stroke Championship. Maybe Bob doesn’t like to go to Russia, but I do, I really enjoyed it last year [laughing as Bob chips in that he doesn’t mind going he just doesn’t like paying for it]. It’s trouble getting there because you can’t fly straight there but I think its one of the nicest tracks of the whole year. It’s a shame it rained so much last year, but I’m the mud man so I don’t care. Also, here [this weekend] I think the mud is good for me because it doesn’t get so physically demanding with the bumps just more technical which is how I like it.
DBR: Just talking about Russia. British riders can’t get a sporting visa to go, is there any problems for you being a Dutch passport holder to get a visa?
MK: I’m already spending two weeks filling in papers and going to The Hague to get a visa. It’s not easy but it is easier for me to get a visa.
DBR: It looks like the championship could be a battle between you and Anderson again this year.
MK: The only Anderson I’m afraid of is Jason but he’s not riding here, he’s in America [laughing]. I know Brad is always fit and gives 100 per cent but the same for me. Last year was rough because I had a problem with my blood, but we didn’t know for so long and it went down the mountain but this year I feel prepared and feel good before the season starts. I know he’s gonna be good and I’m gonna be good so let’s see who is the best.