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Grid Talk – Anthony West | COLUMNS | GASSIT GARAGE

Banned from FIM competition, Ant West kicked butt in the first round of Brazil’s Superbike championship, beating local legend Alex Barros by a whisker

How did the gig in Brazil come about?

Since I lost my Moto2 ride in 2015 I’ve been racing everything and everywhere from MotoGP to dirt track in Vegas to WSBK in Russia. Every Christmas for the last few years Alex Barros has been trying to get me to go and race in Brazil. I almost went in 2017 but now the decision was made easy for me as it’s the last place in the world I can race that’s not FIM affiliated.

Please explain a bit about the team, how long it has been in existence and how long it has raced Kawasakis?

JC Racing Team has been around since 2009 but only picked up the factory Kawasaki program a few years ago. However it’s not a full-factory effort like the Eric Granados Honda team that runs Alex Barros. I brought one mechanic from America who has been with me on and off over the years. He’s called Murph and has worked with me in Moto2 and WSS and also been a manger and body guard at times. So no wonder his business card says ‘problem solver.’

We hear it didn’t take long for the locals to give you a nickname?

Yes,  ‘the Gringo,’ I think it’s awesome. It started out as a local joke so I thought it would be fun to put it on my leathers. So now my name on the official timing screen at these races is Anthony West Gringo.

Did you have to do much set-up work on the ZX-10R to suit your riding style?

The ZX-10R is a handful to ride because of its big power so it’s fast even with just modified cams. Controlling the power is hard so I work a lot with how the throttle bodies open and close. And play a lot with ignition timing. And I always try use the softest spring I can get away with. It’s a mistake I see a lot in Australia where riders and teams think harder is better. In World Supersport, I have run as low as 7.5kg springs on some tracks and made podiums. So that can give you an idea of how my setup ideas are different to other riders.

That first round of Brazil’s national championship sounds like a pretty incredible weekend of racing.

I really didn’t expect to win. Alex Barros is still really fast and his well-funded team is experienced in Moto2 and the Spanish national championship. The Interlagos circuit at Sao Paulo is hard to learn as it has fast, long and blind corners – the last corner is just scary! I enter it in fifth gear and on the gas sliding the rear with the concrete wall on the outside. If you crash there and hit that you’re gone, for sure. I think all my experience of riding any bike on any track in the world helped me get up to speed to be able to fight for the win.

So Barros is still a top rider and local hero?

Alex Barros has given me new hope that I’m not ready to retire at 40. He is 48 and still damn fast. So that gives me another 10 years in this sport if I make it to his age. He really is a hero here. The people love him.

Give us an insight into the local scene there please. It looks like big crowds compared to ASBK. Also what are the tracks like?

The crowds are crazy. There are more people than at some WorldSBK races I have been to, let alone ASBK. The tracks are good; just a little dangerous in places and the rules sometimes seem a bit relaxed. Like the safety car driving up pit lane the wrong way! Every time we question “is that allowed here” the answer usually is “this is Brazil”. Having said that the race teams look professional and how they do the media and promote the event is very well organised.

What’s the plan in Brazil going forward? The series has 10 rounds on tracks you probably haven’t raced on before?

I’m too broke to fly in and out, so I’ll stay here and do all the rounds. I will just have to use my experience of racing at unknown tracks when going to some of the other rounds because testing is not an option. Some tracks are over 15 hours drive from Sao Paulo.

Where are you at with the FIM ban? It seems to be dragging on, which can’t be an easy situation for you?

I’m currently trying to take them to an appeal court to fight their decision but I’m failing because I don’t have money to pay for it. I’ve sold some of my important possessions to pay the first amount required but it looks like I now need a lot more money to continue. So I’m stuck. But I won the last race I entered. And that feels good.

Interview Hamish Cooper