‘I was worried Kenan Sofuoglu would be riding with no leathers’
THE BIG NEWS this month is that my Kawasaki shop has won an MCN award! I’ve been trying to win one of those things for about 22 years as a rider, and it’s great to be recognised. What’s funny is Kawasaki only won two awards this year – one was for my shop, the other was for the JL125 scooter, which is actually made by Kymco...
But it should be a good 2017. There are some fantastic new Kawasakis coming – I can’t wait to try the new Z1000SX; that’s our best-seller. We’ve also got the Z900, the Z650, and a Ninja 650 that looks a bit like an H2 – bet it doesn’t sound like one! And the new ZX-10RR – can’t wait to get one of those. Versys 300, which is a great idea for an entry-level adventure bike. Not everyone who wants a smaller engine also wants a smaller bike, so that’s good for taller guys.
Speaking of the new 300, the new 300cc class in World Superbikes next year should be good. They need to do something – the championship isn’t what it was a decade ago. And that’s not down to the racing or quality of the field, because that’s phenomenal. It’s just too similar to MotoGP, with where the bikes are at. And there’s less manufacturer support in Supersport than ever. Sometimes you have to make a change. BSB did it with the control ECU and the Showdown format – since then it’s been amazing. next year in BSB, but to me it’s just like riders; teams come and go. Everything has a lifespan. Like the title sponsors we’ve had in the past. Cadbury’s came in and did a mega job, stayed for four years, then pulled out and moved on to Coronation Street. We had Motorpoint for years, but now they sponsor cycling. Sponsorship has a life-cycle and you can only buy so many Milwaukee or Tyco jackets. If you look where BSB is now compared to where it was five years ago, to lose a couple of teams is a shame, but it’s not life-threatening. It’s losing the characters that’s the hard part. Mark Smith-Halvorsen was my team manager in 2014 and what a character to have in the paddock. With the likes of Paul Bird, Jack Valentine, Stuart Hicken, Martin Halsall – they’re big characters, and Mark was one of the biggest.
For me, the question mark at the moment is over Tommy Hill’s team. They’ve lost their sponsor, ePayMe – or as they’re known in the paddock, ’eNotPayMe – and Tommy’s put a lot of effort in over the years. There’s a lot goes on behind the scenes but it’s not quite happened, with riders getting injured and the bike not performing. But they deserve to be racing. He’s desperate to be there and is just struggling to find a sponsor.
Things are evolving in WSB, too, with the new naked class potentially replacing Supersport for 2018. When I heard about it, I was worried Kenan Sofuoglu would be riding around with no leathers on! Then I realised they meant going back to the Eddie Lawson era. But with naked bikes making up such a big part of what people ride on the road, why shouldn’t they race them? And you can see so much more of what’s going on, with them all bashing bars. It’ll make great viewing, and with the racebikes being all tricked out, that’ll get people excited about aftermarket stuff again. Great for business, great for bikes and great for TV. It’s an exciting time!