Interview: Steve Dixon discusses Jack Chambers, Mikkel Haarup and his future in the paddock
Steve Dixon has been in the Grand Prix paddock for 34 years now and he’s just as passionate now as he was at the start of his journey which is amazing to see. The Brit started the season with Mikkel Haarup in the MX2 World Championship but after the start of the season didn’t go to plan the pair went their separate ways.
Jack Chambers from America got the call from Dixon to race the rest of the MX2 World Championship and he is showing good pace. The goal this year is to learn and gain experience before looking to run at the front in 2024 – as confirmed in the interview the paid have a verbal agreement to continue working next year.
We caught up with Dixon to discuss a range of topics after the French GP.
GateDrop: Steve, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster start of the season for you starting with Mikkel Haarup but now you’ve got Jack Chambers under the awning, I feel like he’s getting to grip with things every weekend…
Dixon: Jack is doing real good. It’s a shame, I think he’d have got a sixth in that one, but he broke a chain, apparently three riders broke a chain in that race, Taylor Hammal did as well. It’s a shame, I think we only had eight minutes to go but yeah, he’s going to go home for a week now. His track at home is a bit like Latvia so he is taking some parts back to go training there for four days and then come back to Latvia and hopefully continue the build. I mean it’s not really about points, it’s more about the experience.
The main thing is that tracks are so difficult to remember because they’re so rutty and then you have to remember all the jumps and which ones are the good ruts. You know if you make one little mistake someone is going to pounce on you. Normally the pack behind him after he gets a good start, the pack behind him usually gobble him up but this time he started sixth and went back to eighth. He seemed comfortable but the pack were right behind him, and I was thinking, here we go again, we’ll be back to twelfth. But he was able to break away from the pack and was chasing down sixth so that was really good. It was a shame about the chain, but we’d have had a good result. He is building and he’s not going to put it on the line because he’s not going for a championship or anything like that but next year every point will count.
GateDrop: Just on Mikkel Haarup and then we can put that one to bed, I think it was a mutual decision in the way to part turns and you both still have a good relationship…
Dixon: We are still on good terms, very good terms. Basically, our main problem was with the engine that we had, the valves took five months, and we actually only got them a couple of weeks ago for the Spanish GP. Things are hard to get hold off at the moment so we couldn’t run the full engine and it was an issue of trying to lower the revs and everything like that. At the beginning of the season, we had a good off season, and we did a lot of hours. He was training mainly on the 450cc but that was the plan anyway. We talked about it, and he felt with the time he had in MX2, he thought it might pass him by. He didn’t want to chance just waiting for better results but he had a sixth at Argentina which is still his best result.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gone too well for him, but we parted on good terms and who knows for the future, we could work together again. It was just a good decision at the time for both of us. We were on the back foot because parts hadn’t come and that is just how it is with industries at the moment and as everyone knows we do a lot of our own stuff. That does help get us ahead and you can see that with Jack, he is starting to get the good results but yeah, we are all good with him and he’s all good with us. I guess it hasn’t gone too well for him jumping on the other bike.
GateDrop: Just on Jack, I think it’s important to add context, I mean it wasn’t that long ago he was riding Supercross and now here he is racing three moto’s at each GP on rough tracks. I feel like he has got speed, but he just needs time to build and also for the fitness, because he probably isn’t used to 3 moto’s at brutal tracks…
Dixon: I mean he definitely has the credentials to do what we need him to do, I have enough experience to realise what the limitations are. He came in and won his first British last week at Foxhill, he was fastest but isn’t used to those backmarkers and getting frustrated with them. Unfortunately, we didn’t run the second race but Zach is telling him: race, race, race.
It’s been a big change for us as well because we had a mechanic in Denmark with Mikkel, everything was setup, we’d done all our work with 160 hours before the season with Mikkel. Suddenly Jack is here, and he wants to train four times a week but you know, it has hugely benefitted Courtney (Duncan). She has been riding with him all the time and has upped her level compared to everyone else in WMX. You can really see that and when it was technical yesterday, she really shone. You know, we realise it is going to take him time but it isn’t easy to find riders and I think I was pretty lucky to contact Zach who put forward Jack. You know, he’s only twenty and it’s given him a feeling he can actually achieve something in the sport.
GateDrop: Is there a deal done with Jack for next year or is it still up in the air?
Dixon: Only what we have agreed in principle. I didn’t want to push him but it was a mutual thing together. There’s no reason not to, he fits well at Kawasaki and they’re happy. Kawasaki are paying him and over there they were spending money on a team as such just because it was easier but now he is getting paid by official Kawasaki. All of that is good for the rider.
GateDrop: You are the only full time British GP based team and it doesn’t get any easier. Do you still see yourself here for the foreseeable future in the MXGP paddock?
Dixon: Oh yeah, I mean this is my 34th year and the oldest team. I’ll be going out of here in a box, you know we will adapt. Sometimes we’ve had four riders when we had Zach, Tonus, Simpson and Pocock. It could be one rider, but we will adapt to the times. I’ve been lucky to have had good times with Yamaha for 25 years and coming up to 9 years with Kawasaki. It is good to have established partners and our interest is just to race. I will raise money whether it’s through 100 sponsors or 1, 3 or whatever number of sponsors.
We will just adapt, this year I have been a mechanic too because there’s a lack of mechanics coming through at the moment. My mechanic Jordan (Vaughan) is now sort of doing it on a part time basis with us, he has sort of had to give it up after 15 years. He started when he was 15 and he is 30 now because he has got two kids and the family needs him. We are always adapting to suit the situation whether it’s the economical, rider or staff climate. But we aren’t going to go away.
GateDrop: Is Jack going to race the rest of the British Championship or are you still waiting to decide?
Dixon: I mean we will do as many as we can, we had already arranged that he is going back to America. At that time I wasn’t thinking about doing the British, it would have been nice to do Blaxhall but we will try and do as many as we can. We’ll try to do as many as we can just to give him seat time and racing as that helps.
Interview: Andy McKinstry
Images: Ray Archer