Interview: Shaun Simpson on running his own team

Tom Jacobs caught up with Shaun Simpson to discover what it took to get his own team together in the off-season and then be able to run with the factory boys on the track in MXGP!

Being a team manager and the athlete

It hasn’t been stressful, but I have been busy, really busy. There are certain things that no-one really can help with but me. I have to produce, talking to the sponsors, finding the money, selecting which sponsors I want, which material I want on the bike. To be honest it was quite a long road, the technical partners came quite quickly but the personal sponsors, money-wise, took a long time. I am happy with where I am, I am still a little bit low on budget so still looking for sponsors to come on board but results like this (at Valkenwaard) won’t do any harm.

I can’t go to anyone and sell it, they need to believe in me as much as I do. The stickers on the walls ( of the van and the awning) and on the bike, they all believe in me as much as I do so that means we are all racing of the same goal. There is no-one here coming along for the ride. Most of my sponsors pitch in and help build this (awning) on a Friday or Saturday if they are available. I have a WhatsApp group, I just text them I was fifth, and everyone is over the moon. It’s not a distant thing, it’s a family feel and right now the feeling I am getting off of the track is fantastic and that is showing on the track.

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I knew the people I could contact and the people I couldn’t contact, lets put it like that. People made it quite clear. It’s interesting to see some people looking in my direction and starting to think, ‘ he’s getting a little bit closer racing with the factory bikes.’ It’s only the second round, it’s a long season but right now I believe we are doing a good job and we will continue to do that.


Experience of being self-reliant before

Of course, technically we had a great idea of where you wanted to be. To find that package is always a mystery. The chassis has changed since 2015/2016, the engine has changed and the MXGP class has changed. We have to look for a lot more horsepower than before for the start because we need good starts and until now we still didn’t master that. I don’t feel I am where I need to be there. When you have the extra horsepower then you need to be able to hold onto it for 30 minutes and yeah. we have worked a lot and I am really fussy about that so a lot of sleepless nights and late nights working with my dad, together with Volleberg motorsport in Holland. We have worked a lot with that side of things. The suspension, I was lucky in that the last races in 2019 I was quite happy with, we have adjusted that slightly and haven’t touched that for a couple of weeks now, so pretty happy with that. We are just trying to do what we can with the limited resources.

It’s really not a technical sport. It can be made very technical with HRC and laptops and electronics, but it’s motocross. It’s a mechanical sport with suspension, engine, handlebars and wheels and we go racing through a lot of mud. Just bring it back to basics. What are the priorities? Work on the them and the rest of the stuff will follow. A lot of people are putting so much effort into how things look and how shiny things are. Once we have the race bike sorted we don’t strip it down every week, we don’t do that. We just keep the package good, every three to four weeks we take a new bike and do it again.

Factory v standard bike

I didn’t like my factory bikes sometimes because they were so different to what I rode during the week. Those things (practice bikes) were a bit more old and bit more used and I liked that feel of being a bit more worn out. Then you jump on the race bike and everything is brand new and the mechanics like to bolt on new parts and new seats. The foam is hard and the grips are new, if you can train on that, great. but if you can’t train on that it feels completely different! The suspension is stiff because it’s not the same as your training stuff because it is 25 hours old, it gives a weird feeling. We put in a few hours already on this bike in Spain to be sure that when we came to Matterley and here, it was ready. I am happy where I am, I wouldn’t trade this for a factory set-up right now.

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Racing against a strong, deep MXGP field

I think this year we are just going to have to fight every weekend. There are going to be weekends where you are going to be fighting for 15th or 17th place with Calvin Vlaanderen, Thomas Covington, Bobreyshev, that’s what happens. You just have to give everything you have every week. Last week at Matterley Basin I could have given up in that first moto, I was 36th place on the first lap after two crashes but I kept going. I just kept chipping away and after 30 plus 2 I was 18th, yeah okay, three points, wow, but if you give up three points every weekend that’s 60 points. It’s those little things that some younger guys or some riders think, ‘okay, scrap that one and go for a good second heat.’ But you have to get every little drip out of every situation and if that’s the cards you are dealt in the race you have to play them. Just do the best you can every week.