After making his full-season debut with Seton Tuning Yamaha in the British Superstock 600 series in 2012, the popular South African Bjorn Estment has been snapped up by the experienced Appleyard/Macadam team to spearhead their British Supersport campaign for 2013 alongside the returning fast young Scotsman, Deane Brown.
We caught up with the young Johannesburg resident to see what he had to say about his relatively short time so far in the British Championship, his thoughts on joining the Appleyard stable for the coming season and what the future might hold.
How did you get started in racing and who was your inspiration in those early days?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved the idea of motorcycles. My dad had a LT50 Suzuki quad and I have pics of me sitting on his lap holding the handlebars when I could barely even walk, so bikes have been in my blood for a very long time. I would have to say that the fact that my father and uncle raced competitively had a big part to play in me choosing this career and they were my undoubtedly my inspiration, I wanted to follow in their footsteps and be a professional motorcycle racer.
What prompted the move to the UK?
From across the pond back home here in South Africa, I have always kept a keen eye on the BSB Championship as it must be the biggest, most successful, and professional domestic championship world wide. I believe if you want to further your career or even make any sort career out of motorbike racing it’s definitely the place to be because if you’re successful, it’s the biggest shop window for racing talent available. I have to mention the passionate fans that so loyally follow and support each and every rider too, they’re some of the most knowledgeable fans in sport. Of course there’s always the added bonus of the great brolly dollies too, so professional!
You made 3 appearances in STK600 at the end of 2011 with a best placing of 5th at Brands, that must have given you confidence to know you were competitive on unfamiliar tracks to justify your move?
I remember those races like they were yesterday, they were my debut international races and it was a real whirlwind effort! I left South Africa on the Tuesday, arrived at Heathrow on Wednesday and was on my way to Donington Park on the Thursday …. awesome stuff, my feet hardly touched the ground!
The first race did not go to plan at all, I made a good showing in qualifying, if I remember correctly I was ninth in Q1 but a slip up down Craner Curves in Q2 saw me join the illustrious list that forms the ‘Craner Club’, causing me to be bumped to 12th on the grid for the race and then the worst thing ever…a fall in the warm up lap at Redgate, the first corner! So my first appearance could’ve been better…but I don’t get down-hearted easily and learned as much as possible from the experience, and vowed never to repeat it again.
From there it was on to Silverstone, but with a disappointing qualifying leaving me stranded in 27th on the grid, I fought back as hard as I could and after a great 12 lap race I finished up 12th overall securing the Rider of the Day for STK600 and getting my first bag of British points, I was so happy!
Then came the awesome race on the full circuit at Brands Hatch with a 5th place that was the highlight of my year for sure, and what a majestic circuit to get the result. A massive thanks at this point must go out to Martyn Phillips and his Becsport racing team, who put it all together for me and was spannering at the rounds too, also to my loyal Sponsor NFB Financial Services Group for letting me live my dream as I couldn’t have done it without either of their help and support.
You rode for Seton Yamaha last year in STK600, can you sum up the season for us?
Yeah, it’s a tricky one to try and sum up 2012, I arrived with a lot of faith in myself and the Seton team and was full of confidence come the pre-season tests and round one at Brands Hatch Indy circuit. I seemed to have the measure of everything and was going about my business, as I do, placing very satisfyingly through all sessions but made a crucial error in the race slipping out of 5th place at the time, I think, at the drenched Clearways bend.
After this I always felt that I was racing against myself and put a bit too much pressure on myself personally and believe that this was detrimental to my season overall and the results that I achieved. However, the team are a good bunch of guys and girls that work hard and play hard, I made a great friend in my crew chief Scott Maclennan and he stood by me through the good and the bad tmes. At the end of the day it was my debut season in a new country with many new exciting and challenging obstacles presenting themselves along the way. I enjoyed being a part of the paddock and learning so much that I can now use for a successful 2013 on board the Appleyard/Macadam Yamaha.
What was the biggest thing you learned last year that you’re carrying through to 2013?
The biggest thing would have to be that ‘what’s done is done’ and always look ahead to the next exciting and positive opportunity that WILL present itself if you “look” in the right places and also that the twist grip can slow you down too… (laughing)
You’re stepping up to BSS with Appleyard/Macadam Racing, you must be excited to run with one of the top teams in BSS and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jack Kennedy?
I am extremely excited to run with the Appleyard/Macadam Team, they are a great bunch of guys and in my team mate, Deane Brown, I have a talented rider who I can only learn from and is also a good friend. In Robin I have a proven British champion and successful manager and mentor that can only help in my development as a rider, you only have to look at the progress Jack Kennedy with the team before his back injury. Will has proven his ability to provide race winning motorcycles and even the lads on the stock bikes, Dan and Matt, are good guys. I thank Colin, Dougie and Robin for putting their trust in me and providing me with such a great opportunity to develop and hopefully shine on a very prominent stage. I look forward also to meeting the rest of the team that I will working with in the approaching season. Also, through Paddock Chatter, I would just like to congratulate Colin Appleyard once again on his deserved MBE award
It’ll be good to draw on the Supersport success you had back at home, how different is it to ride a Superstock 600 over a full-spec Supersport machine?
In actual fact, South African Supersport is actually STK600 as we only have the two classes at National level so just call them Superbike and Supersport respectively, as they are the premier motorcycle racing categories over here. So what I can say is I’m chomping at the bit to get going on the Supersport machine with the team and begin the journey together. Is it March yet?!
What are your goals for 2013?
My initial goal is to take in and learn as much as possible from Robin and his team, thus developing me into the racer I wish to be and accumulating the successes and glory we all are so determined to achieve. In addition, I would love to have a real go for the Supersport Cup Championship to repay the team for the faith they’ve shown in me.
What have you done to keep fit over the winter break, are you fitter and stronger than this time last year?
Well at home it is full blown summer and we have had many days 30 degrees plus. Johannesburg is also high altitude so there is a lot less oxygen to take in whilst training and getting the job done. I have worked a lot on my cardio fitness by doing plenty of running, touch rugby, cycling and also core strength and balance too.
I have been out on the supermotard and dirtbikes just to try and get my eye in and get rid of the cobwebs. I believe these are critical ingredients in mastering the Supersport machine and I will be back much fitter and stronger as also I’m also not carrying injuries as I did at the start of 2012.
What’s your plan for the next 3 years?
I would love to be in the British Superbike Championship and really become a household name and hopefully a favourite with the paddock and the fans. I love it in the UK and feel right at home in the environment. I dream to make a career there, firstly as a rider, and later involved in the industry and give back to the sport what it’s given me and I am determined to achieve exactly this.
You have possibly one of the biggest personalities in the paddock and in this day and age its great to see, does it get you in to trouble at times?
*laughs and blushes* first off thanks for that, it’s very kind and I was not aware of that perception which is greatly appreciated ha ha! I try my hardest to be the best I can be and to be honest with the loyal and passionate BSB Fans, Marshals and Organisers as riders are actually not much without any of those people. These are the people who make the sport we love so worth it and each and every single one deserves the time of day when I have a chance to catch up or chat.
I try my best to make contact with the fans and get involved and interact as much as possible and when time allows obviously as race weekends are hectic sometimes. Also I pride myself on always trying to have a smile on my face as its contagious, and a happy person is a successful person. As for the trouble part…well I have always been known to get up to mischief as a young boy and I guess this has just carried on into my passion and love for racing bikes. What I do try is to always have a great time, you only live once and its all important to have a good laugh.
What other sports/teams do you follow away from racing?
In the Barclays Premier League I support Newcastle United but as a patriotic South African, I love the Springboks (our rugby team ) and definitely also enjoy watching and supporting Jenson Button in F1. On the sly I do enjoy a good game of tennis now and then too.
2013 is going to be big season in the short career so far of Bjorn Estment, but it could well be one that defines his career path towards his dream of riding in British Superbikes in the seasons to come. First off is the assault on the Supersport Cup Championship, and with his fierce determination and hugely positive outlook, we wouldn’t bet against him ruffling a few feathers amongst the championship front runners either.
If you want to know more about Bjorn, and follow his season as it unfolds, then be sure to follow him on twitter @bjornestment27.