In the first of a series of interviews with BSB team managers/owners, Mark Smith-Halvorsen, Team Principal of GBMoto talks to PaddockChatter about expectations for his team in 2013, the gap between the “top” BSB teams and the rest, the winter testing ban and World Superbikes. GBMoto are entering their second year in the British Superbike championship, this year they will field Peter Hickman and Dan Linfoot.
|A Southerner with high expectations for 2013.
It looks like GBmoto have put in a lot of effort over the last 6 months to launch a strong campaign for 2013. What do you think the main differences are for this year in comparison to last year?
We have used what we learned about the strengths and weaknesses of last years bike and think we have built a much better superbike as a result. It is lighter, better balanced and more powerful, without giving any of our ‘secrets’ away. In addition we have actively sought more SBK experience and credentials in the team that we have put together for this year. I have a great amount of respect for the guys that have got us this far – they are like family – however even they were telling me this is what we needed.
You’ve signed two riders who have at times shown a lot of potential, with podiums in BSB for Hickman and even on the world scene for Dan Linfoot. For what reasons did these two stand out to you?
Three things: Their ability to ride and race a motorbike, their desire to do that in the British Superbike series and their need to be in a team that will support them, build their confidence and do the things that are needed to bring the best out in them.
Some people are of the opinion that only the “top teams” (Milwaukee Yamaha, Tyco Suzuki, Samsung Honda, PBM) will win in BSB, despite attempts at tightening regulations to make competition closer. What’s your view on this?
I have the utmost respect for all of the top teams, their owners and the people that work for them – I understand what commitment and dedication it takes – I have been a big part of running teams at various levels for ten years. I believe we are moving out of an era where “some can and some can’t” and “some have and some have not”. People in the paddock still get treated differently and I oppose that. I am a businessman as well as a motorcycle racing enthusiast and a team owner and I do not believe in that and I never will – no matter how GBmoto progress or how far we travel. I will do my best (as long as I see an opportunity) to change that.
With regard to who will win the championship and feature the most prominently – look at the list you have printed!
Who do you think will surprise in BSB 2013?
Depends on how you categorise a ‘surprise’? I think we all know who should be in form and what the Top 6 should look like – I don’t think much should vary there. In terms of who will make the most progress or feature more than expected – then I would say look at GBmoto… However, there are a lot of other teams that would feel the same, so good luck to everybody.
What are your thoughts on the overseas testing ban given the poor conditions faced in the UK tests?
I understand the reasons for MSVR wanting to do this – however in practice it has not worked. They have been brave enough to admit that, but allowing teams to ‘go abroad if they want’ with one week to spare is not going to make it right – despite the gesture. Had the rule not been in place, we would have tested at two circuits in Spain in our preparations for this years championship – and probably had much better track time and conditions as a result.
We are not particularly happy that we have had such limited testing and poor conditions prior to the 2013 BSB championship. It hampers our preparations and compromises the investment we have made over the closed season.
Financial constraints aside, would you ever consider taking your team to World Superbikes?
Yes, I would consider taking our team on, to compete at World Championship level – however I feel we need to grow and progress some more before it becomes the right time to do that. It would depend on the financial and practical support being offered, but it is part of GBmoto’s current racing goals and ambitions.
I find and maintain all of the sponsorship we are lucky enough to have with our current partners and fund the very significant shortfall from my ‘children’s inheritance’ right now and I will not do that in the long term. British Superbikes pays and returns me nothing for being there and for the Team working flat out to ‘put on the show’. Do you think that is either sustainable or justifiable?
We are there because we have desire, ambition and drive and a real passion for racing motorcycles – but we are not there to remain a long term sponsor of BSB. I think I echo many of my peers in saying this. The organisers needs to start listening and reacting to this message.