Double British Champion and winner of two Grands Prix in 2015, Shaun Simpson, believes the material he has been provided by KTM and his new Wilvo Virus Performance team is sufficient for his push to break the top three of MXGP in 2016.
The 27-year-old has been riding in Belgium, Spain and Italy in recent weeks as part of his off-season programme with the British KTM crew, through whom he will enjoy even more support from the Austria manufacturer this season as he aims for further success in the premier class of the FIM Motocross World Championship and a third consecutive national UK crown.
Tests with the 2016 450SX-F and close collaboration with the WP Performance Systems company (assisted by a fruitful family link) have allowed the Scot to get near the technical level he enjoyed towards the end of 2015 when he was given a full works Red Bull KTM and allowed to run the livery of his then-Hitachi Construction Machinery Revo set-up. Simpson won the Belgian Grand Prix with his privateer 2015 bike and then claimed the Dutch GP as well as a podium finish in Mexico with 2016 factory equipment. KTM’s lighter and more agile ’16 450-SX took Ryan Dungey to last year’s AMA SX & MX double.
“I would say we’re pretty close,” Simpson opined on progress for 2016. “It is not a bike that has been built at the factory and we’re just putting our stickers on it like last year but we have the factory engine and have done a lot of our own work.”
“We have the same tyres [as factory, Pirellis] and I actually see it as a bit of an advantage that we have HGS exhaust systems instead because there is talk of using prototype stuff and continually looking to improve and that’s all you can ask as a rider,” he added. “Working with my brother at WP is really good and we still have something to try with the linkage. I’m really happy with what we found in the two days we had testing in Italy.”
“The only things we need to change are the footpegs – and I’ve asked for a different set which they are producing – and some titanium parts from our own supplier,” he went on. “Overall I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Simpson’s first race for his new team will be the Hawkstone Park International in two weeks time. He will also contest events at Valence and LaCapelle Marival in France prior to the MXGP season launch at Losail, Qatar on February 27th. Many eyes will be on the ’24’ to see if he can better a best-ever campaign in MXGP and again emerge as the UK’s top performer.
“I definitely think I can,” he says “and I’ve proved to be a bit of a slow-burner over the last few years. I’ve taken extra steps to be in the best physical and mental shape for the season and being with Wilvo Perfomance KTM and the set-up there means I can concentrate much more on just racing. All the pieces are in place.”