Revolving Racer – Tommy Edwards | Columns | Gassit Garage
In the past few months Tommy Edwards has been in Europe testing and competing in the WorldSBK 300 championship. Here’s an insight into his new racing life.
After a wildcard in the final round of the WorldSBK 300 in Jerez last October I signed up for the 2018 season with the Netherlands-based Nutec-Benjan-Kawasaki team. We gained the support of some great companies at home and, next thing, bags were packed and I was heading to Europe with mum and 87kg of luggage. Somehow we avoided excess luggage charges and 24 hours later arrived in Amsterdam.
It was minus-eight degrees and extremely windy; welcome to Europe in March. The first weeks we spent by ourselves up in the Netherlands, organised a car, cycles, gym membership, an enduro bike and met a bunch of friends who I could ride and train with. Everyone here is super keen on bikes in all different disciplines and are happy to help out or show us cool stuff. I couldn’t believe the sidecar motocross World Championships we watched just down the road – they’re crazy!
The difference between riding in Australia and Europe? Let’s start with the tracks. Obviously racing in Australia you know almost all of the tracks, gearing and settings, which makes it very easy to turn up and go fast straight away. I don’t know any of the tracks here, while most of the European riders were in the series last year and have raced on all of them. As the seven European tracks are closer together than all the tracks on an ASBK calendar, they have an obvious advantage. Despite that, surprisingly I was the fastest 300 rider at the pre-season Aragon test and found pace by the race in Assen so I’m hoping it shouldn’t be too big a problem.
Let’s talk about the bikes. In Australia, I raced the Yamaha YZF-R3 and got to know it really well. We had a fantastic set-up on it and I loved it. Yamaha were the leading manufacturer in the WorldSBK Supersport 300 series in 2017 as well, so switching to the new Kawasaki Ninja 400 for 2018 was a bit of a gamble. Fortunately I got used to the bike straight away and I felt really comfortable. It handles much better than last year’s Ninja 300 and we have made a lot of changes and got it going fast.
So what about the riders I’m up against? The competition in the ASBK Supersport 300 last year was very strong. A few riders have made the step to Europe, racing in the Italian Championship and similar series’. I’ve been lucky enough to jump straight into the World Championship, which is insanely strong. I think the biggest difference is if you make one mistake or even have a rest for 0.002 of a second and you’ve already been passed by three people. One of the things that I prefer about ASBK over WSBK is that you get three races in a weekend. In WSBK, if you fall off or have a bad race you have to wait for the next round, which is difficult for me at the moment. (Tom crashed out of the last round at Imola in an early pile-up after starting 18th out of 39 riders.)
Language is the other obvious difference, especially in the race paddock. My team alone has members from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Turkey and a Japanese sponsor. But thankfully this means most of the time they speak English.
Living in Europe has been a great experience so far. As much as I miss family, friends, home – and especially having dad in the pits! – it’s cool being here doing what I love in an amazing environment and having great people around me. I still believe a top-10 finish in the championship, and maybe a podium towards the end of the season, is achievable.
By Tommy Edwards