The MXGP faction of Red Bull KTM continue to go through the testing and training laps at Claudio De Carli’s base at Malagrotta near Rome and the newest recruit to the factory team, Tommy Searle, is firmly getting to grips with the 2016 350SX-F that he will steer in his third attempt at the premier MXGP class in 2015.
The 25 year old Brit had been riding Tony Cairoli’s championship winning motorcycle during November and until the team could get their hands on the new race machinery that they could develop ahead of the 18 round GP campaign that starts at the end of February. Now Searle has his own 350SX-F the former MX2 championship runner-up is apparently well up to speed.
“I jumped on Tony’s bike in the beginning and the suspension wasn’t right for me and I wouldn’t have wanted to race that bike without changing the set-up,” he explains. “The new bike is a like ‘night and day’ to that first experience. It has been adjusted to my style and is a lot better. In general I’d say the handling is better but I haven’t ridden a KTM for a few years now so I can’t compare it to anything previously and recently.”
“I’m the happiest I have been on a bike for years,” he continues. “I enjoy it every morning when I get up to ride. I get on it, pull away and think ‘yeah…’. With the Cairoli bike I needed a lap or two to get into it but now I know this one is mine and it feels just right.”
Searle should be one of four 350cc riders in 2015 with team-mate Cairoli allegedly angling towards a fifth term on the bike, Jose Butron riding one for Marchetti racing and Dean Ferris gunning the Husqvarna equivalent FC350 for Jacky Martens’ Nestaan crew.
After two seasons with some decent speed but a lack of podium results in MXGP Searle is ready for a new challenge and is still buoyed from his last competitive outing – on a 250 – at the 2014 Motocross of Nations.
“I’m not bothered by being on a 350 [against the 450s] you wouldn’t want any more power on my bike anyway,” he claims. “I can see how it might be harder on some of the slippery tracks but what GP tracks do you have now that are blue line? OK, at a place like Loket then you wont have the torque of the 450 but honestly I couldn’t be happier with what I have.”
With Ken De Dycker also alongside him as part of the three-man team it is perhaps the first time since he left Grands Prix to ride in the AMA in 2009 that he has not been the lead rider in a prominent set-up.
Searle has been clocking up the laps and hours with Cairoli since the champion finished his busy promotional schedule in October and November. “I’ve been riding with him every day,” Searle offers when asked his opinion of the Sicilian. “He’s just generally a nice guy and likes the simple things. He knows what he wants and just focuses on that.”
Searle, the most successful British Grand Prix rider of the last 10 years, has travelled to Italy three times and knows he has been handed an ideal opportunity to resurrect his career to the lofty status of 2012 when he was the only athlete to regularly challenge now-team-mate Jeffrey Herlings in MX2. He has altered his training regime to again collaborate with Kirk Gibbons, the fitness and sport specialist based in England’s Midlands that had previously assisted his climb to the peak of the sport. He insists that his work with the local University helped him arrive to the “best shape I’ve ever been in” last winter but any chance to have shown that potential was ruined by his crash and broken wrist in Thailand for the second round of the GP season.
The decision to resume the alliance with Gibbons is another part of his step to make a major push in 2015. “The university was good but it was not the type of thing you could do by going in and out,” he explains. “It was not that specialised to what I needed. If I were an Olympic athlete staying there full-time then it would have been ideal. So I’m working again with Kirk now and its good because he knows me and understands the sport. He is a very positive person and I think taking what I’ve learned from the University and Kirk’s guidance then I have the right mix.”
Like most of his GP peers Searle is committed to being in Sardinia at the end of January for the opening round of the Italian Championship at Riola Sardo that will represent his first European race for KTM since the end of 2008.