Interview: Catching up with Elliott Banks-Browne!
After a solid 2017 British motocross season with his own Geartec Husqvarna team, Elliott Banks-Browne is ready to get the 2018 season underway on Saturday as he comes back to UK Arenacross!
The former British motocross champion showed flashes of his old form last season and, after getting injured in Arenacross a couple of years ago, is now ready to jump back into increasingly prestigious series and give the British fans plenty to cheer for as he takes on the French!
We caught up with Elliott with just a few days to go until the Arenacross opener to get his thoughts on racing indoors again, running his own team, his goals for 2018 and get a summation of his 2017 season.
How is your preparation going for Arenacross and do you feel you are prepared for Saturday night?
Yeah, preparation has gone pretty well – as well as it can do in England! The weather, up until the beginning of December I was riding two or three times a week on the Arenacross track and since then I am away down to Wheeldon in Devon just to get some riding it, the weather has been awful.
It’s different this year compared to other years. The other years it has been done on a bit of a whim, I have gone into it, we had prepared but we had never set a bike up just for Arenacross. We had gone there with a half motocross set-up and just seen how it goes.
This year we have started from scratch and built a proper Arenacross bike, we went to White Power and they did our suspension and our engine development guy has set-up our engine just for Arenacross. So coming in I feel a lot more prepared than I have done and I am really looking forward to it.
You got injured in Arenacross a couple of years ago, but you are coming back to it again this year, is the injury in your mind at all or are you able to block it out?
Injuries are injuries, it was unfortunate that it happened, they have put a few more rules in to stop that stuff happening. It’s Arenacross, it is risky it’s probably more risky that motocross just because of the nature of it, it’s tight and to get passed you have to push another guy out of the way really!
I’ve put it to the back of my mind, I feel like I’m fit. It took me a while to get back where I wanted too but I feel with the bike and everyone around me is good. Going into Arenacross everyone is fast, the 12 that qualify for the mains each and every night, they are going to be able to win a race, so the main thing is getting out of that get and keeping out of trouble.
On the series itself, it has really grown over the last few years and is one of the most prestigious indoor series in Europe. There are a lot of specialist guys like Ramette and Soubeyras who have been riding indoors all winter already, so do you feel the British guys are coming into this weekend at a bit of a disadvantage with the other riders already used to the speed and intensity?
I do a little bit. It was late we said we would do it. I have already said that if we do it next year I would like to do what they do and go and race some French supercross races and come in ready. We are starting our first race and it is our first race whereas they are coming in after nearly a full season of riding supercross.
I think the Arenacross is different to supercross, the tracks they have in France are more like supercross, they stay nice and hard and don’t get cut up. In Arenacross it’s different and the starts make a big difference, they have an advantage but I don’t think they are necessarily think they will be much faster than us because we have been doing the work as well.
The races themselves are sharp and intense, do you enjoy that? It’s a bit different from motocross!
Yeah, I do enjoy it. I now know how to do it as well. In the past you go in thinking you have to do this and do that but I think in Arenacross the thing is not to take the big chances, you obviously have to now and again but it’s being smart. If someone is running you high, you have to stand up and take it and then race again.
I enjoy the short, sharp races, I enjoy the atmosphere of Arenacross. It’s a shame with the British motocross championship – it doesn’t feel like it did a few years ago. But this Arenacross championship with 10,000 people at night going mad, the racing is good and it’s a proper show again. That’s the sport and that’s how it should be and it makes you feel part of a proper sport again. The MX Nationals and British is good but you are just going to do the race, you don’t feel like you are growing the sport much.
Just talk a bit about running your own team and everything that comes with that, is it much more difficult to get your training done and all that?
To be honest it hasn’t been too bad. I’m lucky with the guys I have around my like Paul who owns the team, still does a lot of work behind the scenes. I have a good group of people around me. As soon as the season finished from November into December I was flat out just getting wheels sorted, stickers sorted, emailing back and forth. Stuff like that takes a long time. Although it’s easier nowadays because you can do everything on the go. It’s just being organised, everyone knows what the motocross industry is like when you want something sometimes it is there and sometimes it isn’t so everything can just take forever to get everything in one place at the right time.
We are actually still waiting on stuff for this week like stickers and stuff, everything is being finalised. It is stressful at times I guess but I don’t let it get on top of me, it is what it is. I enjoy it, it showed in 2017 that having the bike I needed and the right people around me made me a totally different rider again from the two years prior. I think it is definitely a step in the right direction for myself, especially in the British championship and it’s been nice to be able to do something different and bring a different look to it I guess, from a racer’s point of view instead of an industry’s point of view.
Looking back on 2017, you were competitive in both championships, you had that big crash at Desertmartin but came away relatively unscathed, so the odd negative moment, but overall it seemed a good season, how do you feel it went overall?
I was really happy with the way I was riding. Graeme was riding really good this year and I felt like I was the only one who was able to give him run for his money at times. But we had just a few teething problems, I had a DNF at the first round, we had a tyre came off at Hawkstone, I felt after that I should have been winning races straight away.
But I had a really massive problem with my arms and I couldn’t do more than five minutes, I struggled through the first half of the year with a ridiculous amount of arm pump. After Hawkstone it was just do dangerous, I just couldn’t hold on, so I had an operation and that put me out for a couple of weeks without riding. But once I had that operation I felt like a different rider and everything started going good, I got the momentum going again.
At Desertmartin we had a good race in the first one but I had a massive crash in the second one like you said. In Sherwood I went 1-1, at Blaxhall my home race I felt I could have done exactly the same there but I knocked myself out so apart from those little ups and downs the season was good. I showed I had the speed to win races and I showed that at the last race of the year racing with Tommy. But even there I lost my back brake and stuff, so there was little bits and pieces we still need to get spot on every single week. But as a first year as a new team, we made it from scratch, I felt we made a good job. At worse we should have finished second but I had too many DNF’s but we did a pretty good job and I’m happy. I would say it was a good building year and that’s what I needed.
Just on that crash at Desertmartin, it wasn’t the most common place to crash, do you remember what happened?
Everyone says – ‘how did you crash there?!’ At Hawkstone about two weeks before at the MX Nationals I came around the finish line and twisted my knee badly. But I didn’t think anything of it until I went to practicing during the week and I couldn’t even ride!
So I went to Desertmartin the next week but I knew I wasn’t standing on the bike properly, I was standing on my heels not my toes. And if you look on the video, my leg gets ripped off because I was on my heels not my toes. It was a bit soft on the left-hand side and my leg just got ripped off. You are going so fast there and you aren’t expecting anything to go wrong there, so you aren’t strong on the bike.
I was very lucky to get away with it, I think on my helmet logger I was doing 68mph at the time which is ridiculous, we bent the triple clamps and the front wheel. It was just little things like that that can’t happen if you want to go for the championship. But I was lucky. A couple of years ago I would have been out for the rest of the year with a crash like that so I guess something was on my side that time.
Looking toward this season in motocross and Arenacross, what are you goals for 2018?
For Arenacross I just want to go there and be near a podium every single weekend and win some races. Every year in Arenacross I have managed to win a race, so that what we want to go there a do. I want to be more consistent, I have always been fast in Arenacross but one week I would be third the next eighth so I need to be a lot more consistent and I think we will be able to do that this year.
Going into the British championship I am really looking forward to it. We have a lot of really good riders in it. I feel like not changing bikes for the first time in about five years is going to make a really big difference, I am going into the season with what we had at the end of last season and made it a lot better. I know everyone says it every year but I want to be battling for the championship at the end, I don’t feel it is a long shot, I feel it is within reach if I do everything right. It is going to be tough with Tommy and Bobby back but it’s going to make the championship so much better for all of us and make all of us up our game a bit more.
Any plans to do any GPs this year?
Yeah, we are still trying to work it out at the minute. Obviously with Arenacross this year it’s going to take up a lot of our time at the beginning of the year. If we start the motocross season well, then we would like to do Redsands and Valkenswaard, we have said we would like to do about five GPs if it starts from Valkenwaard that’s fine, if it takes longer to get to that point then that’s fine but I am definitely going to do some GPs this year.
Interview: Jonathan McCready
Pics: Nigel McKinstry