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AMCN Revolving Racer – Chandler Cooper | Columns | Gassit Garage

I had no idea how to race a roadbike, let alone a full-spec Moto3 machine

My path into road racing is probably a little different to most. As a kid I raced dirt track on the small bikes – it was kind of a hobby sport – and I would race about four times a year. It wasn’t like I was dedicated and getting out there every weekend.

When I was 12, my dad took me to Winton and I tried the track for the first time on a Honda CBR250. Ever since I first hopped on a roadbike, it was like a new game for me; I was really passionate about it and excited about riding on the road.

After five months training in Queensland with Bernie Hatton, I went to Valencia and did a test, ending up with a contract for 2016. So my very first year of racing was in Spain on a Moto3 bike!

It was quite nerve-wracking. Everyone over there was asking, “So how many times have you won in Australia, what’s your background?” and I’m saying, “I’ve never raced in Australia!”

It was quite funny because a lot of Aussies go over there as national champions and I’m probably the first one without any sort of a racing background.

I had no idea how to race a roadbike, let alone how things worked on a full-spec Moto3 machine and it was quite a challenge for people to deal with me – they didn’t know what to expect from me as a racer, whether I would go really well or not improve at all.

When I first went over there I was 13 seconds off the pace in my first race, then last year I was two seconds off… so in two years I’ve gained 11 seconds, which is a huge improvement and the team was happy.

My weight was a bit of a disadvantage in Moto3. I’m a biggish kid and it was very difficult to try to lose weight. I’m 64kg but a lot of the other riders are 58kg.

I’m still only 17, turning 18 this year, and I actually dropped out of school last year. Study-wise, I finished Year 11, but it was just too hard doing the online schooling with the different time zones.

When I first went to Spain I was 16 and living in an apartment with a roommate. I had to learn how to do everything for myself – how to cook and clean; all the things that as a kid your parents would normally do. It got hard sometimes. I was over there once for three months straight by myself and it did get lonely, but when I came home to see family and friends it was
such a great feeling.

So now we’re hopping on a Supersport bike in 2018 with PromoRacing in the Spanish championship. We’ve been testing at Albury, Broadford and Phillip Island and I’ve already got a good feeling with the bike, the tyres and the power. It suits my riding style a lot more – really aggressive at the front and heavy on the brakes, then power out.

I’ve been training at Albury with Chas Hern and the track up there is awesome to both learn on and ride.

I’m training with heaps of Spanish riders and also Eric Bernado, who is from Brazil. It’s funny training with them because you learn a bit of Spanish and a bit of Portuguese. I’ve got a few Italian friends who travel around a bit and when I go to France or Portugal I know a few of the locals and they just love the Aussie riders, and the British.

There are two more planned Australian practice days – with Phillip Island being one of them – before I head back to Barcelona on 30 January to start official testing on the new 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 with Raül Jara and the team at PromoRacing.

And I can’t wait!

By Chandler Cooper