Shaun Simpson has faced a bit of a roller-coaster season this year. A move to Wilvo Yamaha looked promising, and he won the second round at the Indonesian GP.
An off-track excursion in Latvia resulted in clipping a support rope that broke his hand, requiring surgery to repair the shattered bones. His return in Ottobiano lasted about a hundred meters, a first turn crash in qualifying and a broken elbow and wrist requiring more surgery.
The tough Scot returned in Sweden to salvage something from his year, so we asked him about his injury, the new 2018 Yamaha and the MXoN.
DBR: Welcome back Shaun. How did you feel coming back to the GP’s and racing yesterday?
SS: It’s nice to be back. This year has been pretty taxing on the old body, it’s been one of the tougher years that I’ve had in my career. To come back in Ottobiano I was feeling physically ready to go, I’d been working really, really hard, the finger didn’t give me too much grief, it didn’t stop me training so off the bike I was I great physical shape.
Then when I crashed and did my wrist that set me back even further than I was with my finger. I was in quite a deep hole for a couple of weeks, with a lot of pain after the operation.
Just to get up and going again was an even bigger task so I feel like I’ve done well to get out of that hole as quick as I have, as quick as I could and get back to racing as quick as I could.
I’m probably back a couple of weeks quicker than I expected to be, but overall, I’m feeling good. I felt good on track, not so much in the timed sessions because I feel good on the bike at race pace but to go balls out for one lap as a lot of the guys do, that’s not where I’m at right now. As far as raw speed, I’ve not got that right now but overall, I feel safe, calculated and comfortable with my riding and after the 20-minute qualifying race on Saturday I felt I had more in the tank and I was ready for two 30-minute races today.
DBR: Watching Saturday qualifying and you were chasing Tommy Searle all race, matching each other’s lap times and then you passed him on the last lap. Afterwards there seemed to be some friendly rivalry between you both and you’ve both had injuries, was it a good motivator to race with Tommy?
SS: Yeah it was. I don’t know if Tommy knew how close I was or if his mechanic had it on his board, but it was a nice carrot dangling in front of me. To know what Tommy has been through this year and me in the same boat I was quite happy with the speed we were running.
Tommy wasn’t losing much on Bobryshev and Desalle just in front of him. I was happy with the speed but not happy with the lines and the flow I had going but after a bout half way I made a big mistake and dropped back a couple of seconds and then I got going.
When I got back up behind him, he was kinda blocking what I was needing to do but the last three laps I planned my move and went inside on the second to last corner and blocked him out.
It was only qualifying but Tommy came around after and thought it was fun, we were both happy to be in the top ten coming back from injury so it set a good feeling for race day which is what you want.
DBR: You’ve had some great results here on a 250 and a 450 so when you come back with those memories, does that give you a mental advantage?
SS: It gives you a boost. When I think back to 08 the conditions were very similar to today so if you have that I know I can do well in the conditions today.
In 2015 I wasn’t looking forward to coming here, it was 25 degrees and dry with rocks. The first moto I got a good start and ran the whole moto in third; the second moto I didn’t do anything worse just the start and finished 11th so it was all to do with the start that day. But I love coming to Sweden, it’s an excellent country, people are friendly and it’s a nice atmosphere. The track’s reasonably well prepared and they’re doing their best to get over the bad weather that’s been thrown at them. All in all, it’s gonna be a great weekend
DBR: You’re riding the 2018 bike now. I guess you haven’t had much opportunity to work on settings, either as a team or individually. How does it compare to the ’17 and is it where you need it to be?
SS: When I crashed in Ottobiano I was supposed to be testing the new bike on the Tuesday and Wednesday after, so that never happened. When I started riding again I just jumped on the ’18 bike, we’re just testing as we go really.
The first couple of weeks I just wanted to go riding and get some speed up, and fitness but now every time we ride the bike we’re trying something different with the suspension, the gearing, the set-up, to try and get it there.
Although it looks relatively similar there’s a lot of differences. The frame is completely different, more rigid which makes it turn better. The ’17 suspension was quite a bit off, so it’s good to see it coming together and getting to do it at a race with no pressure. We’re here now with a view to getting it all ready for 2018 and if we get the odd good result that’s what we’re looking for. It’s not that we’re here looking to perform a great end to the season. I’ve already got my mind set on 2018.
DBR: So really just starting pre-season early?
SS: Yeah exactly. You can do as much pre-season testing as you want, practicing in France or Spain, but you don’t ever get to feel what it feels like until you come to a race. I’m relatively hard on the clutch but when we go practicing I’m actually alright on the clutch. But when I go racing I’m just a little bit more aggressive, the pressure from in front and behind, and you just notice that the clutch is a little more taxed.
Its the same with suspension; if you’re coming onto the corner and you’re just a millisecond later on the brakes it just reacts differently than when you’re practicing, maybe not hitting exactly the lines you want, or the berms blown out and you hit all the acceleration bumps.
When you’re practicing you can hit your marks all day long but when you’re racing it’s just the different intensity and the way the bike works so you could say we’ve started our pre-season testing early and I hope by the end of September when the GP’s finish we’ll have a really good set-up to go into the winter and fine tune, and really be ready for the first GP in Argentina next year.
DBR: The GB MXoN team was announced this week and unfortunately you were left out. What’s your thoughts on the team and all the reaction on social media?
SS: I’ll be honest, I’ve heard about the frenzy that’s gone on with social media but I haven’t read it myself. One of the mechanics said just get a beer and a bowl of crisps and enjoy reading all the comments. It’s not something I’ve done or would get involved with, or start key-board warrioring, I’ve got bigger things to get on with.
Mark Chamberlain’s got a tough task picking the team, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now, it’s a tough decision to make anyway. You’re always gonna upset someone; if he picked me over Tommy, or Ben Watson over me and Tommy, or Conrad, he’s always gonna have people saying he’s done the wrong thing.
He’s took the decision he thinks is best, he’s the man in power at the moment and honestly, I am disappointed I’m not in the team. You can see yesterday my pace isn’t bad, we still got another 6 or 7 weeks until the nations, I’m confident I’ll be up to speed, I’m confident the bike will be ready, I’m confident the team will be one hundred per cent behind me, which they’ve always said they would be so there’s no reason why I couldn’t have been a great candidate for that race.
But, given the circumstances I can’t complain with Max Anstie and Dean Wilson being picked. They’ve been riding well, albeit Dean’s in America and you never really know how the speed is over there in comparison to the GP’s, but Dean’s been here before and rode brilliantly; he’s a guy that reacts to the pressure and atmosphere so I’ve got no doubt he’ll do well.
And Tommy being picked on the MX2 bike; he’s won in Latvia before and Dixon’s the promoter, Tommy rides for Dixon and had the opportunity to ride an MX2 bike.
In my opinion, Ben and Conrad have been riding well but I’m not sure they’re ready yet for that pressure right now, I’ve got no doubt they’ll be ready in the next few years and be up for it.
So, given the circumstances I can’t complain with the choice but I will be honest and say I’m disappointed I’m not in the team; I’ve been there and done it but how many more times is it gonna be in the UK before I finish my career?
Probably never again so I’ve lost my last opportunity to be in the team at my home motocross of nations. But I wish them all the best, I’ll probably be there supporting them and having a few beers after.