BRADLEY R AY O N BSB
Getting up close with BSB’S new kid on the block – Bradley Ray
20-year-old Bradley Ray charged into the Bennetts British Superbike limelight with a stunning debut double victory in the opening round at Donington Park.
Ahead of the second round MCN sat down with the big-haired young gun to find out more about BSB’S latest front runner.
MCN: Has it sunk in yet? BR: Not 100%. I haven’t had time to sit down and think about it but as the days have gone on it’s been like ‘Wow, I really did that!’
It’s such a weird feeling, I won the first race of the year and then made it a double. It’s like a dream!
For a 20-year-old you’ve already had quite a colourful racing career... We’ve raced in all sorts of championships over the years from Britain to Red Bull Rookies to Spanish Championships…
What was your highlight before the weekend’s double win? It has to be winning the Red Bull Rookies race in Austin, Texas in 2013 – it was the first race of the year and the first ever motorcycle race around the Circuit of the Americas. I cleared off as well!
How hard is it to be a young Brit trying to make a name for yourself on the international stage? It’s difficult. When we were in the Red Bull Rookies and doing the Spanish championship, for the Brits you have to stand out massively from the Italians and the Spanish to get an opportunity. All the teams are Spanish and Italian and those countries have so many good kids coming through so understandably they go for their own riders. That meant for us the only way to get into a team was to pay the money. I went with Mark Keane and KRP and did a year in the Spanish championships. To try and make it out there was difficult.
What are your long term aims? Any youngster on the way up is going to say Motogp and that’s no different for me. It’s where I want to be, but I’m going to have to take a different route to get there. The step after BSB has to be World Superbikes and then see where we go from there. If it ends up with me being in WSB for a while then that’s it, but the ultimate goal is Motogp – whether that’s possible I’m not too sure.
It is still possible to get there through that route, Cal Crutchlow did it and also Sam Lowes. Alex Lowes also got chosen for Motogp wildcards based on his World Superbike performances. It’s difficult, because GP teams so often look at Moto3 and Moto2, but it’s not impossible. Crutchlow proved that.
How did you pull off that race two start? To be honest it was one of those where I was sat on the grid looking at the lights thinking ‘They’ve got to change soon!’ And as soon as the lights went out I dropped the clutch. I surprised myself a bit. I thought I’d jump started but my reaction time was so quick, the bike hooked up well and I just went for it!
It sounds a bit strange, but Hawk entered me for an EMRA class meet at the start of the year at Mallory and we had five races in a day there, so that’s five race starts. Through the winter you don’t do anything and I think doing those five race starts at Mallory got me ready for when the lights went out, whereas the other boys haven’t had the chance to do real-time race starts through winter so they’re a bit rusty!
Is it weird racing people like Haslam and Shakey? It’s bonkers! Last year I was racing against them and being behind them was one thing, but to be battling with Haslam, Byrne, Ellison – who I used to watch as a kid when I went up to Brands on the back of my Dad’s bike – is insane. I used to walk up and down the paddock thinking these guys were amazing, so to be looking down from the top step of the podium with Shakey and Haslam next to me was surreal. I was speechless.
What made it possible? I think it’s a combination of things. The team have worked really hard over the winter to improve the bike in the areas where we struggled a lot last year. But I’ve also changed my riding style quite a bit to ride the bike more like a superbike and less like a 600. I think I still am riding like a 600. With the Suzuki you can get away with that a bit but I do think my style needs to change a bit more.
How do you feel about riding in front of your home crowd at Brands? It’ll be interesting! It’s not just my home round though, is it? It’s Shakey’s too! I don’t mind the Brands Indy circuit. It’s not one of my favourites but last year we got an eighth and a tenth there in the second race of the year so I’m feeling pretty confident. With the results we got last year and the improvements we’ve made with the bike I feel we can be strong. When a new rider reaches the front there are always questions about fighting for the title. Have you thought about it much? Yes, everyone keeps asking me about it! I’d like to think it’s possible after the weekend. It’s early days and there are 24 races to go. The first race was bone dry, the second race was iffy conditions and every time we’ve been out we’ve been around the top six and that’s a big confidence boost. We’ve got good pace in all conditions which bodes well for the rest of the year. It’s difficult to gauge it on the first round with everyone getting into the swing of things, but I’ve got more to give, too, so I hope we can be there at the end of the year.
You don’t look like a bike racer... Not at all! I think it’s great, I love the idea of coming in from riding and shocking people when I do take my helmet off and all the hair comes out, the glasses go on and there’s a goofy little kid stood there! It’s brilliant.
I used to have a grade four all over my head, but then I just grew my hair out and it went massive and curly so I thought ‘fair enough’. Each time I go to the hair dressers I get more and more spontaneous, it’s good to be different!
Ray receives his prize watch from MSV boss Jonathan Palmer Ray hasn’t just got big hair, the 20-year-old has big ambitions, too