“It’s great to be finally dicing with the greats of ASBK – it’s been a long time coming”
Phillip Island was a pretty wild time for me and the Unitech Superbike team. Thankfully, it ended very well thanks to their hard work. At one point we had electronic problems with both of our bikes, and were unsure whether we would walk away with any points at all. To fix all those problems and pull it out of the fire to finish sixth has been a big boost to my confidence and the team’s momentum heading into the ASBK round in Sydney.
It’s great to be finally dicing with the greats of ASBK – it’s been a long time coming. The biggest pivot was switching from the Suzuki to the Yamaha two years ago. It was a decision I made based on the ergonomics of the Yamaha.
I’m not the biggest bloke in the world and the Suzuki is on the rangy side, which made it hard for me to muscle it around. The Yamaha is much more compact and I’ve been able to slowly get it the way I want, allowing me to drop my lap times significantly.
A big part of that process was Mal Pitman and Scott Heyes, who customised the bike to suit me. They worked on finding the best balance between swingarm angle and chain angle, fork damping rate, ride height and body position. Mal’s experience in local and international racing is unsurpassed. There’s not a lot he doesn’t know about racing at the elite level. Scott has had a lot of success in national racing as an engine builder, and has a lot of knowledge in suspension, bike dynamics, riding styles, race craft and sports psychology. He reckons my body position has changed as I’ve gotten faster. It’s not a conscious thing, just an instinctive thing, I guess.
The Unitech team is owned by Simon Siounis of Picture Me Rollin Motorcycle Accessory Emporium as well as Shogai Imports and Pete and Donna Hoeymakers from Hoey Racing Motor Cycle Enginering. Their support, as well as backing riders in the 300 and 600 classes, has been phenomenal. National racing requires passionate, invested people, and the Unitech team is a great example of that. Its commitment to the sport is amazing. With that support in place, Mal turned our Superbike crew into a MotoGP outfit, which has been key in competing with the factory teams.
My other sponsors include Remo Contractors, SA Profiling, AusCrush & Recycle, and Anthony Gorle of Unitech Building Services. Yamaha has also been very supportive of our effort.
With that infrastructure in place comes my development as a Superbike rider. It’s an ever-evolving thing. The closer you get to the front and see how the top riders operate, the more tools you need to run with them and beat them. They all have their own ways to make life hard for you; they don’t like you passing them. They’ve seen plenty of riders come and go, they know every trick in the book. It’s about understanding their tactics and coming up with plans to deal with them. It’s a great place to be in and I’m loving the challenge. As part of that, I’m working very hard on my fitness.
As a team we’re all proud South Australians, and The Bend is obviously my home track. I spend a lot of time there, and Scott, who’s a Queenslander, reckons it suits my style. A huge turning point was finishing third overall there at round seven of the 2022 ASBK championship. I was up at the pointy end for the first time in a long time. I also got fourth at Phillip Island. Both were massive for my self-belief and feeling comfortable at that pace. Several years ago, we were seconds away from the front-runners. Now we’re talking tenths. The challenge this year is to keep improving myself and the bike, and be competitive at every track.
It’s almost 10 years since I left Europe, when I lived with Jack Miller. It’s been great seeing him win races, drink the best champagne from his Dainese boot, and finally get married! I wish my old mate all the best in 2023.
Photography Rob Mott & GnG