Shaun Simpson interview - MXoN
Posted on October 04, 2019
A veteran of the sport RFX KTM rider Shaun Simpson has seen and done just about everything you could hope for. Factory rides with the biggest teams in the paddock, a handful of Grand Prix victories, British championships and he has probably raced more than anyone over the last 15 years.
Simpson is without question a racers racer, and as the 2019 season closed up, there was one thing he hadn’t achieved and that was a podium at the great race, the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations. Well, last weekend, the Scottish hero crossed the finish line at Assen, and suddenly realized he has led Team Great Britain to their third straight podium finish.
Rather than bother him during the busy Sunday afternoon, we called him up on Tuesday and had a chat. As always, full of important, and great comments.
MXlarge: Shaun, how are you feeling after Sunday night at Assen. Tired from partying or tired from racing?
Simpson: Yes, both, but we still have some washing to do, there is sand everywhere.
MXlarge: If is funny, I saw your gatedrop interview and you mentioned that you didn’t know you were going to get on the podium in that last lap, then Paulin pulls out and you come in and Mark tells you, you are on the podium. How was that feeling?
Simpson: I think, you know, they way it started for use, with Nathan going out with a DNF and Adam not really getting a result he expected, that sort of put us on the back foot and then our second moto put us back into contention a little bit, I was third and Adam was 12th, so going into the last moto, we felt we had a shot, but I actually had a problem with my clutch in the last moto and I was struggling a little bit. My pit signals were good, but nothing about the overall result. Three laps to go I was looking, two laps to go I was looking, and then on the last lap, the sign said bring it home and that to me meant the bike, as we were losing water and that, and I rolled around and I didn’t hear any extra cheers for me as I passed the grandstand area, which I was expecting if we made the podium. Maybe because France had the podium spot locked up and unless you were watching a television or monitor, nobody knew, so it wasn’t a surprise I didn’t know. So, when I crossed the line, I was positive we had finished fourth, until I saw Marks face and he gave me three fingers and I felt like I had dodged a bullet again. For so many years I had finished fourth at this event and this time the bad luck was on somebody else’s team. France have had so much good luck to win it, I felt it was my turn. At 31 years old, I am not sure how many times I will get to represent my country and if this is the last time, then it was a bloody good one.
MXlarge: I was looking through your results from the Nations before the event, and I felt bad mentioning it, but you had never had a top ten in a moto at the Nations and here you are 31 and you get your best individual result ever and your best team result. Life is good in your old age isn’t it?
Simpson: It definitely is, and it is testament what we did before the race. My dad said I had a good chance, and this was when we still had Ben (Watson) and Max (Anstie) on the team. I wasn’t happy with my bike, the team were doing a good job to keep it running and make sure we would finish races, but I wanted more from the bike, and of course at this time of the year budget needs to be taken into consideration. I asked them if I could just take the bike and make some changes myself, at my own cost. They agreed and I thank them for that, and I proved with the bike more suited to me, my starts were better, my races on the weekend were good and I felt I managed to restore faith in myself. I had people mention my body language was better. The Shaun Simpson that was riding around lately was just a ghost of his former self. I am now sitting on a few weeks break, building my own team and it give me confidence and the energy now to go into the off-season that I needed.
MXLarge: As you mentioned you didn’t look yourself, and when the team was first picked, I was thinking the team has to be, Shaun, Ben and Max, but after they got injured and there was a question mark about the team, and your results were not that good, I was starting to think maybe Nathan would have been a better pick. So, you dodged a bullet maybe even from those late season results?
Simpson: Yes, and to be honest, Mark had done a fantastic job. He called me a lot, asking how I was getting on with the bike, what I was thinking. I had a couple of decent results and he picked me for the team and he was asking can I get another engine and he knew what was going on and he backed his decision 100% and he knew when I got there, I was going to pull it out of the bag and I have to thank him for that and he also gave me some of the motivation to do it. It was the first year I rode for him as GB team manager. The team atmosphere was a lot more vibes, a lot more atmosphere, a lot more team merchandise, it was more like Team France, or Team Australia, or Team USA, there was a gang of us, and it was cool we had that support.
MXLarge: I spoke to Mark last year for the first time and I was just impressed by the way he spoke and the things he said. All about the team bonding and getting the correct budget for the job. I was really impressed, and he has a pretty good track record now hasn’t he.
Simpson: Yes, and I think if you look at his career, he has always been passionate and the way he ran his team, unfortunately he had to close the door on the team because if budgets, but his love for the sport didn’t go away and he has channelled all the passion into this once single event. His whole family are involved, his mum making pasta and selling t-shirts. His wife and kids, his brothers, they are all involved and that makes a difference. He went to the ACU with a five-year plan and the plan was aiming for podiums and within that five years a win. I think keep doing what we are doing any anything is possible.
MXLarge: When I mentioned that you guys must have thought it was sunny on Sunday morning, I meant most people wake up and want sunshine, but you guys must have woken up Sunday morning at Assen and felt pretty confident and happy?
Simpson: You know what, nobody likes to wake up on a rainy day. If you are in the camper and you hear the rain on the roof or the windows, you just want to pull your blanket over your head and go back to sleep. But you have to use those moments to your advantage. We knew we needed to use those conditions to our advantage, we are from Britain, it rains a lot over there. You have to harness that. Most of the riders will be thinking about the rain, it being a lottery and thinking about their goggles. And we just said let’s keep charging and we knew there wasn’t much in it for the points and Team Estonia were just four points behind us.
MXlarge: You have won GP’s, what was the difference standing on the podium at the biggest race of the year?
Simpson: It is completely different, and I said it to the boys. A GP wins is incredible and it’s a personal victory and I wasn’t that happy with my second race because of the problem, and we got rid of Nathans first DNF result, but you are up on the podium with your team-mates at the biggest motocross race of the year and with Holland winning the atmosphere was just amazing. The press conference goes longer and there is more buzz, and I will remember this for a long time.
MXlarge: How is that at the end, because it is a long process the media stuff. I mean for the Dutch, it was ridiculous because they had national television there, national newspapers and national radio, and Glenn (Coldenhoff) said he was more tired from doing the media than doing the racing. How do you find that?
Simpson: I woke up expecting to have a sore head from the party and also physically drained, but actually I didn’t feel too bad. The race wasn’t that physical, it was just very technical. A lot of picking your lines, being careful with your bike, but it wasn’t physically exhausting. Friday for me was heavy, a lot going on, and Saturday was okay, then Sunday was busy, but not a patch on what Holland had to do. It is the biggest event on the motocross calendar.
MXlarge: Just finishing up, how is it going with the team for next year. Your own team, so a big job ahead?
Simpson: As far as the team goes, I am probably 60% there and I think there are a lot of things I haven’t had time to do, because I was racing. I am still looking for some budget, some money. I don’t want to put my own money into it, that is the beginning of the end, I think. I will pull in some favours from current sponsors and I know enough people in the industry to get some good help. I think paying the monthly bills will be the difficult part, paying a mechanics, truck drivers, flight bills and travel costs. I haven’t taken this lightly; this is something I believe I can do properly, and I have a lot of people around me who believe in me and I need people like that now. I am 31 and I know what I want and what works for me, and I need everyone in the same place.
MXlarge: What about the off-season and races, Weston maybe?
Simpson: No, unfortunately we will miss Weston, but we go away for a couple of weeks with the family, going to California for Max (Anstie) and Millie’s wedding. It is a race I like to do, it is always a good weekend and a great buzz around it, like 100,000 people watching. I am really going to buckle down and make some good choices, getting bikes, parts, building the first race bike and testing maybe in Spain. I also have some riding schools coming up and that will all keep me busy until Christmas.