Interview: Tommy Searle – back on Kawasaki!

Tommy Searle had a brilliant 2022 season winning the British championship again for Dave Thorpe’s Crendon Honda team and then got to represent team GB at Red Bud to cap a great year. The announcement has now been made that Tommy will be back on a Kawasaki for 2023 as he joins the GTCI Revo Kawasaki team to defend his British crown.

We spoke the reigning British champ about his season and the switch of teams, read or listen below:

Tommy, so you are switching from Honda to Revo Kawasaki for 2023, I’m sure the announcement video you put out went crazy, it was one of the best announcement videos I’ve ever seen! What are your thoughts on that and the switch back to Kawasaki, I remember you riding for Team Green at Desertmartin, I think you were about 14, so you are back to familiar ground!

Yeah back home as such. During the season I was talking with Mark and Revo, I’ve had my sponsor GTCI now for a couple of years and he mentioned he would like to do something a bit more and be a title sponsor of a team so I mentioned it to Mark and between the three of us we made it happen. Kawasaki have a really good relationship with Mark, I have a good relationship with them and GTCI so like I said, we all came together and we have the team so I’m really happy to be there.

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As you mentioned before, I have been with Kawasaki for the majority of my career, the best years of my career at world level have been with Kawasaki, I’m going back to familiar territory, I have had a couple of days on the bike and I really like it, so I am well happy.

Obviously it still has the aluminium frame and everything but is there a lot of adjustment and difference in feel between the Honda and the Kawasaki?

They are very different bikes yeah, the first day on it, it’s like anything even if something is really good, when you first jump on it, it feels different and it takes some getting used too. I felt straight away that it done some things better and I felt straight away that I needed to work on some things. I just rode and had fun we did the videos you are seeing and some pictures. I went on straight back out on it the next day and I was like, ‘waow, this is really good.’ I got to appreciate the bike more because when I jumped on it I felt used to it on the second and I could make adjustments of what I actually needed to adjust on the bike. K-Tech did my suspension again and I was so happy with what I’ve bolted straight on the bike, the balance of the bike, and I feel like it will suit me really well.

Are you doing both the MX Nationals and British championship? There was talk of some AMA Nationals maybe as well if things are going well?

Yeah there’s talk, obviously with Mark, he has a base in America now, he is going to race with Dylan in America and he now also has Revo in America, so he spends quite a lot of time there. So, if everything lines up during the season, it’s something I would quite like to go and do again. I think it would make a great experience to go back over there now. I think it would make good content for videos and I think it would fit in well with everyone. If I feel great at the time and I am healthy and fit, we will be doing that, yeah. The focus will be the British championship and I would imagine select MX Nationals.

We will keep with the video theme, this vlogging has went really well for you and you are actually pretty funny! That was underlined by the announcement video, how long did that take to set up? You seemed to enjoy doing it!

I generally enjoy doing it, I have the time now. I’m very lucky I have Ed, my friend, that’s good at editing, he’s good at everything really, he set up Kecks. He’s quite talented and he’s sound enough, we spend a lot of time together and him filming my videos, that’s what works more so than if you have someone that’s just good at camera but he’s not part of your everyday life.

The announcement video, it was just something we came up between us. We were saying to do this then we would say, okay, do this. We wanted it to be light hearted but also show what GTCI does and obviously you can see he is a building company, he has big jobs. Because I think sometimes when a team has sponsor, people have no idea, just the writing on the bike. He was happy with it and we were happy with it, it came out well. When we were doing it some of the stuff was too much and I kept saying, we can’t do this. Sometimes you think you have such a shit video and then the way he chops it up, you think, ‘bloody hell that’s come out well!’

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I think it’s maybe the best annoncement video I have ever seen, it was brilliant!

Yeah, that’s what everyone says, it went well. I think it had 35, 000 views in ten hours so that’s pretty good going.

So moving onto the 2022, British Champion again, third in a row with the Dave Thorpe Honda team, that section of your career couldn’t have went any better, unbeatable at home really.

Yeah, so I actually won the championship in 2019, so when I went to Honda as champion. Then I had three years, we had the year of Covid which was only the MX Nationals which I won, the following year I won again (British championship). But those two years I didn’t win much race-wise but I was very consistent and that brought me a championship.

This year I came in a lot healthier, I had struggled with a shoulder injury for almost three years now. Such a small injury in the winter while I was riding the Honda, I just literally got a bit sideways coming up a hill threw the waves at Ed’s house, and it was cold, I didn’t warm up correctly and just pulled the shoulder and it hindered me, throughout the winter I struggled. I struggled with confidence and being in the right position on the bike I had to adjust my riding style.

Slowly and every week now it gets better and better but it was such a strange injury because I had MRIs and it just came back there was nothing wrong but I was always a bit worried about it. This year I came in more healthy, a little big stronger and sort had a bit more intensity than I had over the past two seasons, so this one, when I needed too I could win the race. I think I won almost every second race of the year other than two and I done the double twice. Obviously the year went really, really well I think one of my best at British championship really.

And it looked like you did have that percentage or two of margin of error and when you had to win, I think you had to put a pretty hard pass on Kullas when it was getting tight with a couple of rounds to go, when you had to do it you were able to make it happen this year..

Yeah, exactly that. There was times it was very important points, Fatcat was one of those and also mentally I know when I need to push and also the days where if I don’t feel it. I’m not 25 anymore, I’m not quite as fit as I once was, so there are times where if I needed to take it a little bit steady where I can only finish second, I know I need to take that and I also know the time where I need to make it happen, and when I do, at the moment I’m still able too so it was nice to win that race at Fatcat. Over the last three years that was the race I was most proud of. I had to dig in for that one and that was the race they would have come in thinking they can make points up. I think it was mentally good for me and it was good to prove a point.

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Image: Honda

And after the MX Nationals earlier in the year it hadn’t really went well there so to come back and win there was pretty impressive with a title on the line as well…

I think it was impressive for everyone but also for myself because Dave made it very clear after that round (Fatcat MX National) that it was unnacceptable but I still wasn’t really worried. I knew the reasons behind that race which I told him and I didn’t feel comfortable and I had the whole season ahead, I knew the focus was always the British championship and I told Honda I would win the British championship round there and I think they sort of thought..’okay…’ It was important to prove a point, that when I say I can do something, I can do it.

Pic: Crendon Fastrack Honda

Just looking ahead to 2023, Conrad Mewse is moving up into the class, obviously very talented especially in the UK he’s extremely fast, Josh Gilbert in riding for Dave Thorpe as well so it’s going to be a hotly contensted championship again and Harri Kullas is going to be chasing your back wheel was well!

I would say the strongest one will be Harri again, personally. Just because he’s very consistent, gets good starts, I would imagine it will come down to the two of us I think at the end of the season. Conrad Mewse who is undoubtedly one of the fastest riders in the world on his day, you can’t doubt the speed he has but I think up against 450s, it will a little bit tougher than it was for him racing the British championship in the 250 class because I know how to race and I know what it takes to win a championship and I think my bike will be good again so I’ll be strong.

Then you have Josh on the Honda, he will be good, I don’t necessarily think better than on his Husky. I think going to that team, you are on a team that can win, the bike was good but it’s not like you jump on the bike and you win, the rider has to step up as well. So, I think they will both be good, you have also got Ivo Monticelli, Shaun Simpson and hopefully Bobby is back.

The British championship is a strong series, we are lucky that it is a strong series and it makes it good for British motocross, to have guys like Bobby, Harri and if Ivo comes over it only strengthens our championship.

You were obviously an elite Grand Prix rider and finishing in the top positions in America when you went over there as well, you are just racing the British championship now, is that an easier shedule? It looks with your talent you can do it with a margin of error, the training and stuff is probably not as intense as it would be for a world championship, is it a nice lifestyle now you have? You are obviously a dad and husband now as well so you need time to allocate to all of that…

It is a really nice lifestyle. It is probably one of the happiest, well not happy, I have always been happy throughout my career, there’s good times and bad times like everything and you have the highs and lows of motocross. But right now I have good balance, good family life, I have another little one coming in January that I’m excited about but it’s having that balance but I know I’m getting older. I probably took the first two years a little bit more easy, I seemed to have little niggles that made it hard for me to train but I know next year and I want to as much as I know I need to, step up the training again, purely because I want to be strong when I am in a race, I don’t want to be in race thinking I’m getting tired and I don’t want to ever make a mistake in a race and risk getting injured because I am not fit enough, so I do want to have that little bit more intensity over what I did the previous years. I will train through the winter to try and prepare for that too.

When you look back at your GP career, your 250 days was when you came closest to winning a title, you had to move up to the 450s, was it frustrating having to move up and then when you did you were going well but kept having injuries, when you went to KTM you got injured, the pace looked to be there in the pre-season, do you look back at that part of our career with frustration becuause you never got a proper shot at it with injuries.

No, I mean it’s difficult to say because I had opportunities like with KTM and then I was lucky throughout my MX2 career that I had very little injuries. I got injured in America which is one of the reasons why I came back. In general, you could say I was lucky in MX2 and not lucky in MX1, I think overall throughout my career yeah I had injuries, but I had a long run with no injuries like MX2 when I could bang in the results when I was young and get to the top quick.

But coming back to MX1, I came in really strong with CLS Kawasaki and I think maybe I underestimated what you needed to be at the top consistently in MX1. I had multiple offers at the time for factory teams, I think I could have rode for any factory team in the paddock and all sort of matched the same money. But I was happy in the team with CLS and I chose to stay there, there were a couple of other reasons for it at the time. So we stayed at CLS, I had quite a strong first season, i had some podiums in races, I didn’t get the starts, I was always coming from the back of pack through. I won a couple of heat races. I had good times but there were tough times as well throughout that season.

Opportunities came and I almost went to the factory Kawasaki team in the winter because I knew I needed too then the two Kawasaki teams had a falling out so I ended up having to stay where I was then the team sort of fell apart throughout that season with managment and things like that and I also got injured in that crash in Thailand when I had fuel problems over that big jump in Thailand and I had a huge crash which broke my wrist and put me out for three months.

Then it went to KTM where I re-grouped and then at the first round in Qatar I broke my thumb, I just hit a bump awkwardly and at the following round I broke my back in Thailand trying to ride with a broken thumb, in that season I got second in the Italian championship, won a round there against Cairoli so I was strong. I tried coming back from all that then broke my shoulder again that season. So it’s one of those ones that once you are on that downward spiral, it’s so hard to break out of it and get back to where you need to be and I fell into that downward spiral.

MX1 KTM days Image: Taglioni

I tried coming back with Dixon and had some good results, we had problems as well but I really enjoyed my time at Steve Dixon once I understood how he was and that it wasn’t a factory team they did the best with what they had, you sort of have to adjust and then it went BOS and I think everyone knows that story, it wasn’t a great season that was sort of the final nail in the coffin I thought. Life at home is hard because I’m upset every weekend because I am demoralised, you regroup you go back to the next race and set back to square one. Over and over it got too much so I thought I would take a step away from it and that’s when I signed with Dave.

I think in general I had opportunities, things didn’t go my way but it wasn’t through lack of effort, I just had a hard go of it in MX1. I think I am actually good on an MX1 bike and it wasn’t that I couldn’t ride one or I could never race in MX1, because the speed I showed at times, some races I used to come from 20th to third almost a second and have a crash, the speed was always there. But injuries and trying to come back, trying to race back into fitness because you didn’t want to get a pay cut, things you don’t see behind closed doors. It just wasn’t to be in the end, I can hold my head high but obviously my MX1 career wasn’t as successful as I would have liked.

Would you do a GP next year? I think the British GP is in October…

Yeah I did see that this week. I don’t know it might make a good video at the end of the season we will see how it goes during the season. Now you get a little bit older, one week you could be feeling brilliant then a little niggle and you are struggling then. I just need to stay fit, stay sharp and hopefully build from where I am now and hopefully I can go and enjoy doing a race in America if it happens.

I can do the British GP but I also don’t underestimate the speed of the world championship. I think it would almost be easier for me to go and fight for a top ten in America, not easier as such but in the world championship, if you have a bad day you could be outside the top 20 quite easily. My days of racing around in that position…I wouldn’t enjoy that. If I feel really good at the time and everything is going well at the time then I may do it, it would literally come down to the couple of weeks before if I am like, ‘yeah let’s have a go,’ or ‘yeah, let’s not.’

Image: JMcC

Just finally Tommy, I forgot to touch on it earlier, Britain at the MXoN, everything that seemed to go wrong did go wrong but for people that weren’t at, we were over at it and your riding and pace was really good, but again the results didn’t really reflect that you went down in the first corner, I think Jett clipped your front wheel, but I am sure you enjoyed your whole trip – just wish you had a bit better luck!

Yeah, the trip as a whole was brilliant, I can’t say nothing but good things about Mark Chamberlain, about the whole trip, a lot people again don’t see what goes on behind closed doors, the effort he puts in to make that happen. Overall on the weekend we had a rough go, I think everything, like you said, that could go wrong did go wrong, but I can hold my head high that I gave my best and didn’t give up all the way through the weekend.

It was just one of those weekends, it wasn’t meant to be. But as a team and how we done it, I had a lot of fun and I would love to be on the team next year for Ernee.

You can listen to the audio below:

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Main Image: GTCI Revo Kawasaki