Neil Prince and the Lombard Express Suzuki team pulled a bit of coup this season by getting GP rider Evgeny Bobryshev on their team for a full assault on the British Arenacross and outdoor championships!
The former GP winner worked with Neil when they were at CAS Honda back in 2010, when Bobby won the British title and now the pair are re-united once again for another assault on the title eight years later.
Prince, who was a former British champion and successful GP rider himself, has seen all sides of the sport, so we caught up with him after the Belfast Arenacross to discuss how the signing of Bobryshev came to fruition, their expectations for the season and why he still loves the sport.
Evgeny Bobryshev is now riding for your team, who did that come about and was it difficult to make it happen?
If I am honest with your I was going to stop and do nothing, if anything I was going to help Neville Bradshaw, not in a team, but more in a friend kind of way. Basically, what happened was I was chatting to Bobby, basically trying to help him get some other deals at the end of the year, because he was left a bit high and dry by Honda.
I spoke to Andy Dawkins at Lombard Express and I said, ‘ we could have Bobryshev riding for us here in the UK.’ He’s a really good friend of mine and I was motivated because he is a good guy and good friend. We spoke to other sponsors and put a deal together for him to do British championship and Arenacross. It came about that he could earn some money doing the British and Arenacross and that was it.
If Bobby didn’t know me it would never happen, I still class him as one of the best riders in Europe. He was on the podium last year, so there is no question about the guys talent. For me I was going to try and fit in three or four GPs on the low budget we have, I am very fortunate I have a lot of personal friends who have chipped in to help me this year helping me buy some bikes, I have a lot of good people behind me.
Bobby has now signed to race the full GP season with the BOS team, how much involvement will you have with that team, will you still be a kind of mentor there or is it totally separate from his UK deal?
I will be helping with the bike, I have the right people behind me, in the past we have had good, fast bikes, the last time we built the bikes for Josh Spinks, they had just sat here, because the Suzuki engine hasn’t changed for the last four or five years. I am helping Bobby and helping BOS, he wanted to ride Suzuki because he is comfortable on the Suzuki, BOS we tried the suspension and it works fantastic, you put a click on it and it reacts right away. That is a positive for me because it is hard to have stuff that works that well.
I will go to pretty much all the GPs, pretty much all on a personal level to help him and if we need a bit better out of the bike I will help the team as much as I can to help Bobby’s results basically.
It is two completely separate deals, but my flights are booked to go to Argentina so that kind of shows my commitment really.
Since you are already doing the Arenacross, has it been difficult to combine that with outdoor, GP level testing?
Maybe I’m wrong, but we did the first Arenacross and we went to Wheeldon off-road centre, a superb place which Ollie Clayton’s dad owns. We went down there but it didn’t relate to anything that we saw at the first Arenacross in Manchester. We went back one more time but since then we have been outdoor testing the whole time and doing the Arenacross at the weekends.
We did the first Arenacross, but Bobby had only got in the Thursday before from a holiday. So,we went to Wheldon, we rode to midnight then drove the next day to Manchester to race. So, it was just a big culture shock to come from a holiday to going to there!
But you can see the improvement he has made up till now. What a lot of people forget is if you take Cairoli, Herlings or any of them guys from the world championship they will go well indoors, outdoors, on ice – anywhere. To me it’s just learning the craft a bit really.
I think it’s been good for Bobby to sharpen up, get the timing, it’s really good I think. That’s why we did Arenacross – to do something different. He has had eight years now doing world championship, doing the same thing every year, training practicing.
If we get as much riding in as we can, I have taken him to some pretty awful tracks to be honest with you, bad weather and everything. He is now in Spain riding and we can now get some long motos in. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing to ride tracks like that in the UK – being thrown in there and getting on with it.
The Arenacross in Belfast was a bit up and down for you, a podium on Friday night and then now getting into the main on Saturday. How is that as a team owner? It maybe typifies Arenacross a wee bit!?
It does, but let’s be honest about it, the Arenacross is fantastic, the show superb, what Matt Bates has done with it, superb. But the head-to-head, Bobby has been roughly 8th or 9th in the qualifiers and there are some good riders in it, Ramette was in it at the first round, Coulon was in it, so you have the top guys going into it. In the heat races the start determines a lot and if anyone was there watching (in Belfast) Bobby got to the first corner first but then nearly got knocked down by another rider, but that’s arenacross!
In the head-to-head he just lost the front wheel, it was unfortunate but I won’t lose any sleep over it and I hope Bobby doesn’t either.
On the Friday night he got away fifth and kept plugging away, the other guys made mistakes and he got second. In arenacross anything can happen and that’s why people watch it. You could win the final one night and be stood watching the final the next night!
I believe you are going to race Sheffield on Saturday then Hawkstone for his first outdoor race on Sunday!
We spoke about it and basically, we did Manchester and didn’t qualify there but got up the next morning and rode at Preston Docks all day. We were there from 10am until it closed at 3.30pm. So if Hawkstone wasn’t on we would probably go to Fatcats the next day anyway. It’s not like it’s any different. We are building the race bike for Hawkstone which is basically the same set-up for Argentina, but the Arenacross bike, RaceFX has that and I will get it ready for Arenacross. So it sounds a lot but these guys, they can do this kind of stuff, they train all winter so it’s nothing for them to get up and go racing. It might be difficult with the conditions but if you had seen the conditions we took Bobby to in the last month it’s been horrific, but it’s been good, and every day we have been out riding we have come home on a positive note.
Will that be the only outdoor race before the GPs?
At the minute that is it, we have the London Arenacross the week after, a weekend off then straight to Argentina, so it’s coming quick. That’s the other good thing about Arenacross, you need to get starts under your belt and trust me, there is no better place than arenacross! You need to get out of that gate as quick as you can and that’s going to be the same motto at every GP and British championship we go to.
On the British championship, Bobby won it before but the field is looking deep this year with Irwin, Searle Nicholls and more who can challenge for the title.
Yeah, you have Graeme in there who is a superb kid, superb rider, same with Jake Nicholls, great guy. You have Tommy Searle in there who is a fabulous rider, Elliott Banks-Browne in there, you saw what he could do at Foxhill last year when he followed Searle home. You also have riders like Kristian Whatley, there are a list of ten good riders who are serious riders, yes they just ride in the UK, but they know the tracks, know what to do. It’s not going to be easy. When Bobby did it last time he fought Brad Anderson all year along with Swordy, so every respect to every rider on the track.
We will go there and do the best we can on the track. If we win or if we don’t, it’s the way it’s going to be and hopefully we can get some good results along the way.
On the comparison between the promotion with the Arenacross and British championship, the Arenacross is in the cities so it’s a bit easier to attract people but do you feel the buzz for the Areancross can be got back into the British championship?
That’s the million-dollar question! The Arenacross, obviously you are in a stadium, and you saw what happened with Greedy and Coulon in Belfast, people seem to like that, for me it’s not what I want to see. But the people who go to Arenacross, everything is nice about it.
The British championship, for sure they need to promote it more, I think maybe it’s left to the clubs to promote it and I think the ACU probably need to get out there and do something different, maybe go to local supermarkets, local events, spend a bit to get more back. If they can help the clubs who run the British championships then it might help, it might not, who knows!
With Arenacross they took it to the city centre where it’s always talked about, a lot of social media, the British championship maybe need to look at how the Arenacross promotes itself then try and make a push at one or two British championship events, help out the clubs organising and see if it generates any more interest. I would set a team up or ask some riders to go somewhere and put it in the face of people and if it generates another 50 people that’s another 50 people that we didn’t have before.
You have been around a long time now as a rider then a team manager, do you still get the same buzz out of the sport and do you get to ride much yourself?
I still ride a bit, me and my son Chad. Me and my wife Sam, we try and take him out as much as we can. But I am a bit of a fair-weather rider – I don’t like washing the bike too much! I love motocross, I want to do Farleigh again this year, I love it. That’s kind of why I got involved with Bobby again this year, the last few years have kind of been, should I do this or not? Last year was a step in the right direction with Kevin Wouts and I had Neville, I kind of enjoy that. I love the sport and as much as I can ride I will do but it’s the time, with taking on Bobby this year and doing the British championship and world championship, it’s going to be difficult.
What are your expectations for Bobby in the British and the world championship?
If anyone knows me, I am not the type of person to say anything – I would rather keep quiet. But what I can say is, I go there with a passion to do the best we can and that’s all I want. If we can go to the World championship, get on the podium and be top five, I will be pumped. If he is giving his all I will be pumped. The same with the British championship, go there and do the best we can, whatever we get is what we get.
There is more to life than worrying about where you should be and what you should have done. To me if we do the best we can and that’s the best package we can get together then that’s the best we are going to be. It won’t be through a lack of effort, but I’m not the type of person who says we are going to do this, this and this. Who knows what is around the corner in motocross or in life, that’s the way I look at it a lot nowadays. I tell my little one, just do your best and where is comes out is where it is.
Interview: Jonathan McCready
Pics: Nigel McKinstry