Wayne Maxwell INTERVIEW | Sport
With three Aussie Superbike titles to his name, Wayne Maxwell is one of the fiercest competitors on the grid. We talk to him about his racing, his family and his intense rivalry with Troy Herfoss
With three Aussie Superbike titles to his name, Wayne Maxwell is one of the fiercest competitors on the grid. We talk to him about his racing, his family and his intense rivalry with Troy Herfoss.
Let’s start by going back to 2014. You returned to Honda after winning the Australian Superbike title with Suzuki. Troy Herfoss came in to take Josh Hook’s place and ended up staying in the team. He quickly became your number one rival. Tell us about that year.
In 2014 I was doing double duties riding the Yamaha in Europe for the endurance racing and the Honda in Australia, and that unsettled things a bit. I have known Troy since I was quite young and whenever I would be passing through Goulburn and he was home from America we would always catch up. It was always like we had only seen each other yesterday, so we had a pretty close relationship. When he came into the team after taking a break I felt that, because he was my mate, I would help him. But that changed pretty quickly when he became my main rival.
Did the on-track rivalry affect the friendship in any way?
I don’t think so. As he was finding his feet and getting more competitive, it was alright. As it got towards the end of the year and I needed to win more races to keep myself in the hunt, he was keeping the pressure on and it gets that way that you don’t offer information as much unless they really ask.
But away from the track it was still okay?
Yeah, away from the track was still good. There was no problem.
You won both the ASC and ASBK titles that year. Then in 2015 Honda took Herfoss on as the main rider and you went to Yamaha.
Honda wanted two competitive riders and wanted Troy and myself. When you have two guys with such strong competitive personalities, especially in that environment, it can be a very difficult environment to be in and I could see that it could get very bad. I was up for a new challenge so I decided I would go to Yamaha and take on the challenge there. Our relationship certainly changed from then.
In what way?
Because we weren’t in the same team and it wasn’t just a rider versus rider thing but a team versus team thing. More like, ‘We don’t want one of our ex riders beating us.’
But personally it was still good?
Still good but not as good. We were always mates, but the phone calls and catch-ups got less and less. I guess those pressures came from the outside.
In 2015 it was between you and him in the tightest title race for a long time. Ultimately, one point from qualifying won him the title.
The qualifying wasn’t so bad, but there was just one qualifying race and crashing out of that in Sydney and starting eighth on the grid wasn’t good. In the last round everyone had a point to prove, trying extra hard to secure their position for the next year. To get that grid position and having to work past everyone was so, so difficult. It was just one point and I look back over the year and I see so many things I could have done different. You think, why didn’t I just do this or that, but qualifying was what it came down to. I was so close, but I can’t change it.
Falls have cost you some great chances to win the title. It’s tight when one slip can cost you like that, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s always been tight and one small mistake can be costly. In 2009 I was in it but had the fall, then in 2012 the DNF cost me. In 2013 and 2014, when I won, I put in a lot of work to be more consistent. The fall cost me again in the last round of 2016. Now a fall in the first round of 2017 has cost me points. Will it impact the championship? Only time will tell.
In 2016 it came down to that last round at Winton, where you arrived in front. But qualifying nailed you again! Troy got pole and you qualified ninth. Did you think you could still win?
I wasn’t really negative but the qualifying was definitely an issue. When you look at the first race I closed the gap to the lead the whole race. To go into the last race still three points up was good, but I knew even before I crashed that unless Troy made a mistake we were done for.
In the last four years you and Troy have been the dominant Superbike riders. Now in 2017 we’ve added Bryan Staring, Josh Waters and Robbie Bugden to the series. It’s only getting tougher right?
Yeah, definitely. The key is consistency. Last year, before I had the qualifying disaster at Winton, I was always on the front row. That is the key. Winton was my worst qualifying in about 10 years. I’m doing everything I can, on and off the track, to ensure that I can compete at the level that is needed to beat those guys.
How hard is it to combine life away from the track with the requirements of being a racer?
When I’m away from the track all I want to think about is riding the bike. But when you’re a successful racer, and you know what it takes to win, you apply that sort of thinking to work and then it takes away from your racing because of how you apply yourself to work. I need to find that balance and try to remember in my mind that racing needs to take priority at the moment. The work stuff can happen when I’m older.
How do you manage to fit racing in with your work?
I am very lucky to have a boss that lets me do that. I work as a carpenter and I’m subcontracting so he lets me come and go as I need. I can balance my income between work and racing as I need to.
What about life at home with Brooke and Archie? How do you find the time for them between the time you need to dedicate to work and to racing?
I’m lucky that I have a fantastic wife in Brooke. We’ve been together for over 10 years and she is very understanding and easygoing. She has everything organised at home and that means I don’t have to stress too much about that. Over the last 12 months or so we’ve been busy doing renovations, so that’s tied up every free weekend and poor Archie, who has just turned one, has spent half of his time at the reno in his playpen. That has taken its toll because I have to train and when I’m there I think, ‘I’ll just finish this’ and it always ends up taking longer than you think. It’s been a difficult 12 months but we’re over the worst now and hopefully there’s only a little bit to go and I can focus on the home life and enjoy it a little bit more.
How has Archie has changed your life.
You never know what to expect having children. Nobody can explain it to you. I wasn’t the greatest fan of children but now that I have a child I love them all. The love for Archie is so strong, it’s totally unconditional. Brooke does an amazing job with him when I have to work and train. I get home after not seeing them all day and he’s like, ‘Dad, Dad, Dad’. I spend the time with them and then when he goes to bed I still need to find the motivation to train and do whatever else I need to do. It makes the days longer but I wouldn’t change the time I spend with him for the world.
Do you think it’s had an impact on your racing?
Definitely. When you only have a certain capacity to earn as a racer, and then you have dependents to pay for, you need to find a way to earn more. It’s not more stressful but it means less time for everything else and that includes rest. There’s definitely not much time for rest now and if you get to a race weekend and you’re not rested it can have an impact, that’s for sure.
Has having a child made you think of an exit plan from the sport?
No. While I can still ride and win I will. I’ve made moves away from the track to free up some of the financial stresses, but I want to maximise the racing side for now. Yamaha has made a big commitment and it’s only fair that I try to do the same.
INTERVIEW KEVIN EELES PHOTOGRAPHY RUSSELL COLVIN