plan cul gratuit - plan cul marseille - voyance gratuite en ligne

Shaun Simpson – how he’s building his own team

Shaun Simpson – how he’s building his own team
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Font size Print

Twenty rounds of the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship in seventeen different countries means sixty race starts (motos and qualification heats). Eight dates of the ACU British Championship adds another sixteen to the tally. Factor-in pre-season events and useful (lucrative and obligatory) other International fixtures and the competitive MX calendar starts to look daunting, costly and exhaustive.

Friend of the magazine, Shaun Simpson, holds the distinction of being the last privateer winner of a premier class Grand Prix when he claimed the Benelux round at Lierop all the way back in 2013. For the 2014 and 2015 seasons Simpson ran his own operation inside the framework of what is now the decorated Hitachi KTM fuelled by Milwaukee team and reached the position of 4th in the world at one stage and added more MXGP silverware to the mantle. He was instrumental in creation of the fledgling RFX squad in 2019 and has launched – boots-deep – into his own SS24 KTM MXGP structure for next year. 

2019 ended on a bounce for the 31 year old, who helped Team GBR to their second Motocross of Nations podium appearance in the last three years, and an upward surge after struggling through an expectedly thrifty and wayward term with RFX. Simpson found extra speed through the slimy sand of Assen thanks to three weeks of dedicated technical development on the KTM 450 SX-F through the knowledge of father and former-racer Willie Simpson and renowned tuner John Volleberg – the same crew behind his plucky underdog efforts in ‘14/15 and now the basis for his 2020 push as one of just two remaining Brits in the MXGP division.

Simpson was able to use the buzz and profile-gain from the MXoN to generate interest around his new project. It is an alternative method of tackling the elite of the sport outside of the factory teams and the narrowing band of established satellite set-ups in MXGP. The story is interesting as the Scot – who splits his time between home near Dundee and a long-term base in Belgium – not only has to continually analyse his work as a Grand Prix rider and find a level needed to compete with the Herlings, Cairolis, Prados, Desalles, Febvres, Seewers but also manage the intricacies and demands of organising a supplied and viable structure ready to travel the world. There is no other venture quite like it in MXGP, and although it means the window for risk is that much wider for the veteran, it also places him in control and potentially at the beginning of a whole new chapter in what has been a lifetime invested in the sport.

With only days remaining until the end of the calendar year, Simpson insists he is close to the mark for SS24 KTM MXGP to throw the covers away. So we spent a good half-an-hour talking to the former British Champion, asking for insight to the process and the means to forge a motorcycle capable of competing in the FIM World Championship as well as fighting for domestic honours…

In previous years I’d already been quite hands-on…

…with things like doing emails, talking to sponsors and helping the team. The two years at Wilvo Yamaha meant I stepped right back from that role but I was doing it again with RFX and had a lot of input. The difference now is instead of me saying “I think we should do this and that…” and someone going-out and doing it for me, I’m the one that has to come up with the ideas and see everything through; trying to get people signed up to different types of deals and cope with product delivery, numbers and supply. There are other important ‘new’ things like the details of working out how the set-up will be and opting to go for something different to a truck and then deciding how it will look. 

Organisationally I have a pretty good idea of what numbers of parts are necessary to do a full season…

…for example, it will take around 40 sets of grips. Sprockets: you’ll need one for every weekend and then there are different sizes. Then I’m working with Renthal and R Tech for the plastics and Enjoy from America with the stickers – which has to be planned in advance as they need to be shipped over. I’m trying to set time frames and get designs made. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing which I didn’t have to do before. Instead of a design being pushed through two-three people before it gets to me, I’m instead swapping around forty emails to get it to the point where it is sitting on my bike in the workshop. Dealing with sponsors, trying to get sponsors on onboard and making a lot more correspondence. I’ve had to be more organised – and cope with more email threads than ever – but from the physical side I have been trying to hit my marks. I started training at the usual time and I’m trying to get as many miles on the bike as I can at this time of year and being weather-dependent. The buck stops with me; if I have a slack day or I’m a behind schedule then it is all my fault. 

There were moments when I thought ‘I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here…’ 

…but then there are days when you get so motivated. It is a bit like a wave effect. Sometimes the job list for a particular day looks daunting but then you start to see things come together on the bike and product starts to arrive, you renew relationships with contacts and partners and it swings back the other way. It has also been cool to see the social media buzz I’ve been getting about the project. The size of the workload can feel a bit overwhelming. There have been evenings when I’ve thought ‘we’ve achieved so much today…but there is still so much to do tomorrow’. By January 1st I want to be fully set so I can focus on my training and do what I normally do as a grand prix rider. It means putting the pressure-on up until new years eve and thinking of things like a flight crate – which we’ll source and then adapt. We’ll have the van and the bike ready to get some testing done. 

Sponsors? After the Nations and the buzz of being on the podium there was a lot of interest and I thought ‘I’m nailing this…it’s a piece of cake’…

…but that slowed down very quickly. I’ve learned that in some ways you are only as profitable as the size and strength of your contact book! I have a lot of experience in MXGP, and some of the people where you thought ‘I can definitely bank on them…’ could not commit for 2020 for their own understandable reasons personal and professional. But there were also things coming out-of-the-blue that then fill a hole. People or companies have set budgets, and if you are not quick enough or you are placed further back in the queue then you can miss some deals. The good thing about the team is that if we start the season strongly and a sponsor wants to come onboard – because what we are doing is pretty cool and I’m taking a risk on myself – then they can jump in. There is the freedom to change the designs and expand the portfolio. I’m satisfied where I am at the moment, but I would say I’m 30% short of where I want my total budget to be. I’d really like to sit in the gate at Hawkstone Park and the first race of the year knowing I have the full budget to finish 2019 in the same strong way as we start. My goal is not to be hoping and praying as the season goes on that everything will be OK. At the same time, we’ve done enough so I’m not super-stressed about going racing. There is a lot more work to be done and I’ll need a little stroke of luck here-and-there to get the final bits on board…but it won’t be for a lack of trying. Sponsorship saps up a lot of time: approaching companies, getting to the second level but then being refused. You need to know someone, who-knows-someone who has a motorsport interest. That’s still probably the biggest hurdle to get over, everything else is dialled-in: engines, suspension, bikes, parts, tyres, spares, myself, my gym programme. In a way I am still running off the fumes of Assen because you are only as good as your last race. I’m not usually one to feed off that ideal but it has dripped into the winter. Another thing is that we’ve pushed ahead with the ‘Simpson Army’ fan club concept, which means that anyone can get involved and almost ‘crowd fund’ us to the level that they can or want. We put that all out on the website and social media.

I’m not being naïve and thinking ‘I can do this for forty grand…’

…I have set a realistic budget. I’m probably doing it differently compared to other people and have perhaps cut costs where other people blow their money – and I’ve seen it in teams before where I’ve thought ‘why have we just spent five grand on that when we could have put it into the bike?’ I’ve seen plenty of money wasted and I’ve learned from that. We’ll run a tight ship and with my Dad on board and his experience and the way I’ve been brought-up then we’ll do it frugally but we want the team to look right, feel right and for people to walk through our little hospitality area to feel at home and like they can have a coffee. We don’t want it to be too corporate or over-branded but also not ‘transit-van racing’. It’s a case of me going racing for myself and everyone who comes along to help me out will feel like they are a major part of this project.

As soon as you announce you’re setting up a team then there is interest from other riders… 

…whether it’s on the presumption that there is a load of secret budget or a trick being missed or the fact that it’s just another potential saddle. KTM were asking straight-away if there was the chance to put a young guy under the awning. In the beginning I entertained that idea and thought it might even be fun to help and even coach a younger rider to maybe reach the top of his class. But then I took a step back and thought ‘I could make this work for myself but then to put my balls on the line for someone else and have that extra responsibility – whether it’s for logistics, parts, travel, support…’ and came to the conclusion that it was a level where I was not ready to start. With the small group of people I have around me I thought the best move was to put 100% effort into myself and that means my own family, programme and technical set-up. I didn’t want to compromise at this point.

Simpson’s new look for 2020

It is difficult to know exactly how much extra help we need…

…the workload. The racing is the easy part. That’s the time to put on the show. Everything has to be set for that though, with the spare engine, chassis, suspension and if there is a problem there is always a back-up and the van is prepped. Nothing should come as a surprise and there is always a Plan B. The hard part is the bit that nobody sees: it is the practicing during the week, grinding out the motos when it’s wet and cleaning everything up and travelling all the miles. I don’t feel that we have a problem in the actual race paddocks, it’s more personnel during the week, speaking with sponsors, re-stocking the van, orders are made for spares, making sure the engines are hitting their service schedules. So, we’re trying to work that out at the moment: what we have to do, when and who is the best people to count on. We’re simplifying things at the moment and I think we’ll have two races bikes close to ready and dialled by the first week of January when we’ll go to Spain for more testing. We can then evaluate about the help.

I’m not forgetting my own work as a rider, and I know everybody always has a ‘great off-season’…

…but nine times out of ten – and this is talking from experience – everything will be going great, maybe differently, maybe varied but by the end of January you’ll find yourself in the same place mentally and physically as normal! You’ll have plans for tests, improved strength etc but then there is only so much you can do. So, I want to make sure I’m in my normal window of preparation by then. I heard [Jeffrey] Herlings say he will do less work this off-season compared to previous years – who knows if he’s playing a game or not but he knows it is such a long series and you cannot peak for one specific event or phase of the calendar. You’ll be prime at most points but then suffer at others. The key is to start steady. Be there, be fit and ready to go with the bike set-up but also prepared to go the whole year. This season I want to find the old ‘Mr Consistent’ again. I’ve started working with Kev Maguire from Step1 Fitness who I worked with in the past and his guidelines have been a big help. I don’t want to come-in all-guns-blazing, have a big get-off and then be nursing a sore ankle or something. I want to get back to solid results and the ‘old me’ where I’m riding around feeling comfortable, very fit and strong in the mind. Capable with what I have under me. With that I’ll gain momentum and aim to finish the championship with a decent top ten position, which has not been an easy task for most riders for the last few years. 

Making the SS24 KTM MXGP 450 SX-F

KTM have given me a number of standard 450 SX-Fs, exactly what you can buy in your local dealer…

….to be totally honest a standard motorcycle out-of-the-crate is pretty good these days. We definitely need to work on the engine and suspension but the rest is reasonably decent. KTM also give me a parts budget to work with and there is a limit but it’s enough to complete a season if used correctly. You have to watch carefully what you order: one bolt might cost 30 cents and another one that looks very similar is 5 euros. You have to really spend time at the beginning of the year and order parts you are going to use a lot of but being aware that changing certain components all the time will work out as really expensive. It’s about looking at your budget and managing it well. It’s quite easy to blow it all in the first three-four months but we’re experienced from riding for KTM previously with privateer teams and we kinda know what we are doing. KTM have also put a bonus scheme together and gave me connections to Motorex and WP Suspension. That’s pretty much it, but it is also a major part of going racing: you need that backing from a manufacturer. It’s not just the physical parts but for them to be onboard with your idea, and they trust what you can do to the races and put-on a good show on-and-off the track. That’s motivating. As soon as you confirm that support and a van or transport then you are going racing. 

Technically this is familiar ground for me, and I think we can see the results of someone like Jeremy Van Horebeek in 2019 to know that it can be done…

…the bikes I’ve had before in similar scenarios were not mega-fancy but they were put together well and suited me. The engines were tailored by John Volleberg and he knows what I need. If I come off the track and I know the motor can be better or different then he’ll have an idea, or if he doesn’t then he’ll try to find out! We did some testing before the Nations and we got it wrong three, four, five times but come Assen I finally had something I was really happy with. For this reason I’m not too worried about the bike at the moment. It was a dream to ride, even in those tough conditions in Holland, and we both have some ideas to make it even better. Right off the bat, coming into 2020, I think the bike can be really good. 

There are a couple of important things you need to turn a stock bike into an MXGP racer…

…first of all, an exhaust. The stock KTM pipe is very good but the HGS guys have been there for a very long time and, like KTM, have been good to me and always helped out. They were number one on my list and I spoke to them and they came up with the goods straight away. I’d used them this year and we had something that worked really well. So we had our exhaust system. The next thing would be upgraded WP Suspension. WP do a 48mm aftermarket fork and semi-factory shock which was based on the factory equipment from the last few seasons. It was something new from the mid-part of 2019. It was high on my list and I recently tried it. It was really impressive right out of the box without too much tweaking, so I’m looking forward to trying to get the maximum from it. Then wheels and tyres; rubber is important because you get through a lot. Dunlop and Pirelli already have so many teams that getting onboard and product from those guys is very difficult. I had a good relationship with the guys at Michelin this year and, in my opinion, they are trying super-hard to bring back a top-quality motocross tyre and are putting a serious effort into producing handmade tyres and compounds. There is a lot of testing going on. Being involved with someone that doesn’t only just throw product at you but actually wants to come to the races, give support and make a better product is great, so I decided to go with those guys. Another thing that ‘makes’ your race bike – and it is superficial – are the stickers. It’s quite a big thing for me because sponsors that want to get involved will have their space and logo on the bike. You go through a lot of stickers in a season! I’ve had a good thing with Enjoy over the years and they were ready to back me 100%. When the stickers go on then you really see your race bike coming together. They’ll never make you go faster but there is a feel-good factor and it was one of the things I wanted to cross off my list quite quickly. Presentation is a part of it. After that the ECU and the work with John was something I absolutely needed.

Mapping is a huge part of motocross these days…

…but, without going into too much detail, I think we were that far-off with some of the basics during 2019 that the mapping did not help! So for the Motocross of Nations we needed to start from zero and build it up again; compression ratios, valve timing and all of those things needed to be sorted before we fine-tuned it with the mapping at the end. We will be working with a new company for 2020, a Dutch firm through John, that are a new ECU manufacturer and we are looking forward to testing with them and going through the motions with the schedule in January. I think we can make an impact on the market with a new ECU and delivering the kind of performance results we want as well. The bike has to be dialled-in for the track but also for the starts. You’ve heard many times that starts are so important in MXGP now and we’ll be working hard on that. Starts have not been my strong point for a couple of years and we want to get something that helps. When you sit on the line between two guys that might be a HRC Honda and a factory KTM then you know that you need to do something very special to even get your elbows on a par. You got to really gee-yourself-up for it. If you get squeezed out then you are eating roost for the rest of the moto. It’s good to get-in, get the elbows out and make top five starts week-in week-out. It will make the job a lot easier.

Lastly, the whole show has to live, be stored and be carted around somehow…

…lists are definitely my friend at the moment and my wife Rachel has spreadsheets open everywhere. I’m simplifying it. We’ve actually taken out one of the Cairoli accommodation/workshop facilities at Lommel. I didn’t get a deal on that! The reason is that you can literally turn up with a van and a load of stuff and start working on the bike. There is a power-washer, heater, washing machine, sleeping quarters, washroom, kitchen and so on. I have a great sponsor – Dyce Carriers – that will pay for that. John is only 45-50 minutes up the road and will be doing the main tuning of the engines there. It would have been ideal to work from his premises but it’s a lot of pressure for all his other customer work as well. We then have the base in Scotland as well. There are quite a few companies that are prepared to give you a season’s worth of stock up-front or in January and that gets over a major hurdle. KTM spares have to be carefully watched and evaluated in terms of what you are using, we maybe do 4-5 KTM spares orders through the season. Plastics, tyres, stickers can be ordered in bulk which is convenient and nice to see them turning up because it gets stocked and stored. From fifteen products you might only have five you are dealing with on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It will be a case of locking as much as possible down by the end of January and having that stock at the workshops. The WP Suspension could be a case where you get two sets immediately, two sets and bit later and then another two sets further down the line. They come in dribs-and-drabs but two sets are enough to get going. It’s about being smart and getting in early. Being ahead of the game and, so far, we are doing a good job.

Article: Adam Wheeler – On Track Off Road

Pic: FXR

Your comments