Interview: Bryan MacKenzie
Bryan Mackenzie is having one of the best seasons of his career on his Apico Husqvarna and finds himself only four points away from leading the MX2 British championship with only two rounds to go.
For some reason Bryan has always been slightly in the shadows, firstly his cousin Billy was winning GPs, and even this season the focus of the championship battle was more on Clarke and Barr up until Desertmartin and now Adam Sterry is getting the headlines after winning three overalls in a row.
But the truth is Bryan is hauling ass right now and has been for a long time, he beat Adam Sterry straight up to take a moto win a Hawkstone Park and has only been outside the top three in a moto once since round two. His combination of consistency and speed is proving vital in 2016 and has put him in the position he has always dreamed about.
Mackenzie, now 31, and running the impressive Duns motocross circuit/Facebook Duns mx has the chance to take his first British title and, after years of injuries, rehab, dedication and effort, it is nice to see a rider like Bryan get his rewards and some deserved media attention for the speed he is showing.
We caught up with the honest and friendly Scot for a chat to discuss the season so far and what it would mean to finally lift a British title.
Gatedrop: I guess we should start with last weekend at Blaxhall, 3-2 results consistent again and now only four points off the championship lead. Talk us through the two motos…
It was a steady day really. a 3-2 on paper looks good but again much like Leuchars, I wasn’t too pumped with it. The riding was ok but I was just too far behind the boys in front. Steven had second pretty much locked down in the second race but crashed which gave me the spot. My starts weren’t anything like I have been getting, I don’t favour concrete starts, I was working on them last week, I am inconsistent on them, I sit on the concrete and I’m just not sure whether I am going to get off it first or last. Whereas on dirt I am absolutely confident I will be in the top three going round the first turn.
I’m just a little bit unsure still (on the concrete) and it cost me two good starts and it was a battle from around tenth and by the time I got up there the guys in front were checked-out. As much as it was a good result on paper I was just a bit disappointed I was far away from the leaders but other than that, being second on the box and closing the points down to four is massive for me. It is a great step forward and I have to be pleased in that respect.
Gatedrop: With two rounds to go, will your strategy change or how are you going to play it?
I am confident in the fact that the next two rounds are dirt starts, so I am 100% confident I will be up there around the first turn and that makes my job a lot easier. I have identified a few issues, not with my own riding, but strategies and stuff that I can work on in my game to maybe try and exploit for those couple of rounds. But I am not really changing my strategy at all really, I am just going to work on what I need to work on where I feel they are stronger than I am and expose hopefully the weaknesses that they have got. That’s my game-plan for the next few weeks.
Gatedrop: Does it make it any more complicated having your teammate Steven Clarke leading the championship and also going for the title, will that make it more awkward when you are racing bar to bar?
I don’t think so. We have never got to a point this year yet where it’s do or die and you have to move each other out of the way. In the whole season there hasn’t been a point where we have had to pass each other, so we haven’t really crossed that bridge so I’m not sure how it’s going to go! I’m pretty sure if it comes down to the last corner in the last race he’d be up for it, there wouldn’t be any hard feelings because we both know what he have worked so hard for all our lives. It will be strange, I would question it more than I would if it was someone else, but at the same time we are both pleased, it is his dad’s team I am essentially riding for and his dad is a really nice guy and always really supportive of my results as well as Stevens.
Even though we are both going for the championship, we are still racing as a team and trying to get great results for who we represent so at the end of the day if I was second and he won, I would be pleased the team went 1-2, and if I was second it would be the best I’ve ever finished in the championship. But I’m pretty sure if it has to come down to that decision whether to go in hard or not, if it’s for the number one plate in the last corner or the last race, I’m pretty sure we would both go for it!
Gatedrop: Switching to Husqvarna, did you have any issues adapting to the bike? It looks like you are really gelling well with it?
Initially I had some problems with, not really getting used to the bike in regards how it feels or handles, it was really nice, but I broke my collarbone just before new year and I had to sit out all of January because I got my collarbone plated.
I came back and was able to ride at the end of January but I missed so much riding time and we had to go straight to Spain to get as much time on the bike as we could. We went there with standard parts just to clock ours and came back in the mid/end of February and before we knew it we were a week or two away from the first round. I hadn’t even sat on the bike I was supposed to be racing, Steven being the good rider that he is had developed the engine similar to what he had in the past and has always done really good. I assumed the bike would be awesome so I went to the first round and the bike clearly was really good because Steven managed to get on the podium in the second race, so the bike was proved to be awesome.
But for me the bike was totally wrong in the sense of where the power came in, we are totally different riders, if you stood with your back to the track you could still probably pick me out – I like to rev the bike! I am a heavy revver so the bike they gave me at the start, because I missed the testing period, it didn’t suit the way I rode. Unfortunately at the first round I ended up with am 11th and 17th which was a complete disaster. I was wondering what I had done!
But after that there was three or four weeks with no racing and me and BC then were able to change a lot, and the next race I did I went 3-3 and got second overall. That was literally just having a bike I could rev, and totally suited to how I like to ride. Since then I have barely missed the podium in any races I have done. I think I have only missed a podium one time.
Gatedrop: Adam Sterry is riding really well at the minute in the GPs and getting into the top ten, do you feel that in some way legitimises the speed you, Steven and Martin are racing at in the British championship, going head to head with him for the title?
I find satisfaction in it, I think it should be recognised by a lot of industry folks and fans. I would like to think they recognise that Adam and us three are pretty much on the gas. Obviously the three of us are older and can’t ride MX2 whether we want to or not. I’m 31 now and never in my life have I ridden a 125/MX2 Grand Prix, I would love to. I moved onto an MX1 bike when I was 18 and rode some GPs on a 250 two stroke and in MX1 and stuff like that but not MX2.
I would say I’m the best I have ever been and I would love to give it a go, but that will never happen so seeing how Adam is doing I’m pretty sure I could be knocking on the door of top ten and I would be more than happy with that.
Gatedrop: At Desertmartin I was watching as you pushed hard to stay with Sterry that day, but it struck me that he is 19 or so and you are 31 but you looked like you were riding with so much enthusiasm that you were ten years younger! How do you keep that going for the last ten years and do you feel as motivated now when you go practicing and training?
It’s a tough question that, I have been speaking about this a lot recently – I do feel 31! Stupid stuff like when I go practicing during the week, I train on a Tuesday night with my trainer and we train really hard. So sometimes I go into Wednesday (riding) and it’s hard, not to find the motivation, but getting your body into it. It was maybe only 12 hours ago I was training and I’m asking my body to go again riding a motocross bike. When I was younger it wouldn’t be a problem, I would just get on and twist! But now I have to tell myself to get going sometimes, the body wants to ride at a nice comfortable speed, which sure would probably be top ten speed, but to push it into the realms of top three speed you have to knock it on a little.
I am still motivated, I am motivated to do well, I like doing well not just for me but to do well for my mechanic who has been with me for years and year. I like doing well for my brother, my dad all our sponsors and even all my old sponsors who I still speak to and get on really well with, they have always got a buzz off when I do well. I love coming in from a race when I have done well and everyone is super-pumped. That’s what motivates me – making everyone happy, I actually really enjoy that.
Gatedrop: Do you feel your experience is helping you this year? You seem to make very few mistakes and always around the front, do you think you years of experience are paying off this season?
Yes but not consciously. I have never thought, ‘right I’m going to tone it down and make sure I stay on the bike in every race.’ I think maybe what we just spoke about, about looking good on the bike and moving around a lot, that’s my style on the bike but in my head I’m not always pushing to the edge whereas before I would definitely have pushed the envelope. Before, if I had seen Adam get away at the start, I would have tried my hardest no to let it happen whereas no I try not to get sucked into what he is doing too much and work on my own thing, which doesn’t always win me races but it has put me four points out of the championship lead and being on the podium more times than not.
So in that respect I think experience has put me in a good position but it’s not been a conscious thing to strategize my riding like that and be clever. it’s just how it’s worked out. You know a lot of the time I just don’t want to get hurt anymore, I’m sick of waking up on a Monday and being in pain. I broke my collarbone at the start of the year and I thought, ‘this is shit.’ It’s no fun being sore and maybe I’m taking less risks.
Gatedrop: Not to get too far ahead, but at 31 if you do win this title, it’s going to be a massive moment in your career, what would it mean to you to do that and even to be in the title battle and this close with two rounds left?
To be in the position I am in right now, I am very proud of it. The team, and when I say the team I mean my Husqvarna race team but also all my guys that have supported me and go up and down the country with me to support my riding, it would mean a lot because I know it would mean a lot to other people as well. For me I have cashed in a lot of pain cheques over the years – I have hurt myself a lot. Although I have not been injured too much in the last five or six year, before that I was a bit of wrecker!
I have a few irreversible injuries which are never going to repair, I have totally paralysed one of my shoulders, the muscle is completely wasted, I can’t hold my arm up on it’s own weight – it’s completely f**ked. So to make all that worth it, not that is isn’t already, but to really emphasize that with a title would be mega, it would be everything. I’ve never raced the world championship, I don’t race it to win it. I race the British championship every year to win it. To tick that box and get that title would mean everything to me, to my mechanic to my family to the team, to everyone.