Shaun Simpson interview - Surprise
Posted on February 10, 2020
Shaun Simpson of the brand new SS24 KTM team is known as a worker, a grafter, who has had major success in his career through hard work, putting his head down and fighting until he has nothing left. A proud Scotsman, the GP veteran has a handful of Grand Prix victories in the MXGP class and has contended for World MX2 championships earlier in his career. I doubt even Shaun himself could have imagined the results he has achieved in the tough era of Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings.
Now, in what you could say is the twilight of his career, he still surprises people, and last weekend at the Hawkstone Park International, with the stress of his own team, he once again had people watching on with their mouths open as he took a moto win, and second overall.
Now as team owner, team manager and team rider, Shaun Simpson might just be having more fun than ever in his career. We caught up with the sand/mud specialist about his second place overall in the Hawkstone event.
If you want to help Shaun out in this his first year as a team owner/manager, you can go to www.shaunsimpson.com/simpson-army/ and become part of the team and its future.
MXLarge: Firstly, congratulations on your first result as team owner/manager, you must have been over the moon after that first race?
Simpson: To be honest I was already over the moon after qualifying. I felt we had some speed and coming into the weekend you have done your homework, but I have been doing a lot of stuff recently and my mind-set wasn’t really focused on my riding. I was busy with setting up my new team awning, I had sponsors there, my mind was elsewhere. When I went out on the track for first practice, I was like, oh, here is the fun part, lets go and do some riding. I was just enjoying riding my bike. I was second behind Jeffrey, which was a big confidence booster. Then to get a top three start in the first moto and getting into the lead on the first lap and a start to finish win was perfect.
MXlarge: Obviously Jeffrey crashed in the first lap, and he was never going to catch you anyway. He was coming back through the pack, did you see him coming at all, in some parts of the track could you see where he was?
Simpson: No, I had no idea where Jeffrey was in the first race, and the second race I could gauge where he was compared to me, and I can say I wasn’t losing a lot of time. I must admit, in the first race I totally turned off the gas. At one point I had a 30 second lead on Glenn. Last year I am not sure if you remember, I was leading the first moto and ended up crashing and hurt my shoulder. I thought I have a big enough lead to just cruise it home. I had nothing to prove, and I was just making sure I got the win. In the second one I did put on a charge to see how my pace was against Jeffrey. I was closing in on Glenn and I made an error. It was a day all three podiums guys had a crash, and it was just tough conditions.
MXLarge: Obviously race conditions are totally different from practice. You have your own team now and can do whatever you want with the bike. How did you feel your bike was under race conditions?
Simpson: We were just sitting around the table talking about that, and the bike set-up is just like I want it for now. I am really comfortable with the power delivery the bike has, we are working close with some guys at Carrot ECU in Holland and I am really confident in all conditions, like deep muddy conditions on the weekend, or last week on hard-pack quick circuits. I feel like we have a fantastic base package and I don’t feel like changing at all, although John Volleberg my engine tuner has some stuff, he wants me to try.
MXLarge: Being that you run your own team and can do what you want. What is the most important thing for you, the power of the bike, or do all 450s have enough and it is the suspension set-up that is most important?
Simpson: I think with a 450 straight out of the crate, for maybe 90% of people out there, a KTM is a fantastic bike. There is plenty of power, but usable power. A few years ago, you could have gotten good results on a stock bike at the Grand Prix’s, but anyone who is telling you there are getting good results on a stock bike, is lying, because you need extra horsepower to get out of the start. All the starts are deeply ripped, and you are up against factory bikes, and everyone is trying to get to that first corner. I might get the jump and the first four or five metres, but after that, when you get into the deep loamy stuff, you need more power. So, work on trying to get three, four or five more horsepower at the top end, but making sure you keep the usable power right through the whole spectrum of the power curve. That is the trickiest part to get. You can get power, bottom end, mid-range and top end, so you don’t have to use the clutch and it is all throttle control, that for me has been the biggest challenge. We seem to have that figured out now.
MXLarge: Hawkstone was just a pre-season race, with maybe five or six of the top guys there, but still you finished second behind Herlings, do you now have to re-set for Matterley? I would imagine even just a top ten in Matterley is a great result first up in your own team?
Simpson: Well, I have to be realistic, second overall was great and Jeffrey and Glenn on the podium are two of the best in the World, going off results from the end of last year. My pace is showing well, but the problem is, if there are 10 other guys in the mix, you could be on the same pace, but running eight and ninth, and then podiums are a question mark. I am running my own team, managing my own team, working on my own bikes and I need to be realistic and maybe I am not running with these guys every week. If I can go to Matterley and get two solid top ten results and start my championship off on a strong note, I will be over the moon with that. If we can get two 12th places and we worked hard, I will be okay with that. I am so confident in my bike and not at all edgy with my set-up, and I can’t see why after four or five GPs and people are starting to lose motivation, I can’t see why we can’t start racking up the top ten’s, top eights, top six’s. I don’t need to come out of the blocks with podiums. I just want to be consistent, but I also want to do as well as I can.
MXlarge: You have ridden for so many teams, different team-mates, different pressures. Now you are the team owner, did you feel a massive difference in the pressure involved?
Simpson: Yes, it felt different. What I said a minute ago, I had so many things to think about, I wasn’t focused on the nerves of racing and when it did come time to race, that was the fun part. I just got stuck into what I like to do. When you have other people in your ear, team managers or other people telling you maybe a podium is possible, or whatever, but I just wanted to ride well, I had no expectations from myself. Obviously a podium is fantastic, but I just got stuck in and I am my own boss and if we had problems, we would have gone back to the drawing board, but the weekend was a testament for the work we put in.
MXlarge: I wanted to ask you about Glenn (Coldenhoff), because we obviously have the big four (Herlings, Cairoli, Prado and Gajser), which are all World champions, multiple GP winners, but I struggle not to put Glenn in with that group, despite his statistics not being anywhere near those guys. What is your opinion?
Simpson: I think you have to. On paper he isn’t the race winner like the others, but you have to put him in there. His results from last year prove he is a front runner and people might not agree, but for me you have to have him in that group.
MXLarge: I mean 1-1-1-1 at the Nations, that is pretty special.
Simpson: Exactly. At the same time, you can see guys like Cooper Webb in America, who was great last year and now it has taken him five rounds of the championship to get back to winning ways. That isn’t to say Glenn will come out of the blocks straight away. I mean I have kept my eye on the Italian championship, and you have somebody like Mitch Evans, who is riding really well. He might come out of the blocks and steal some of those top positions. I remember Jeremy Seewer told me an older person told him once that the GP season really starts at round five or six and my dad said the same thing. You shouldn’t get a false sense of security from the first few rounds.
MXLarge: You mentioned to me last interview that you are Scottish, so tight with your money. Did the manager/team owner (himself) give the rider a bonus last weekend?
Simpson: Yes, there is always a rider bonus this year, I am making sure of that.
MXLarge: So, you ride France next week?
Simpson: Yes, we are in Scotland now, although we have snow at the moment, and we are trying to clean everything up. Thursday, we head to Lacapelle.
MXlarge: You get the feeling winter has set in now.
Simpson: That doesn’t surprise me, because the last few years December and January have been okay and February, March have been what you need to watch out for.
MXLarge: Anything you want to mention?
Simpson: Yes, a final note to everyone who has made this all possible, yourself included. The media, everyone who has backed me, all the British fans yesterday, just the enthusiasm that has been shown to me over the last three or four months. It has just been incredible, and I can’t think all the sponsors who jumped in to help me. I am still looking for sponsors and I even had people who called this morning after the weekend and they are looking if it is possible to join us. Just a massive thanks to the whole motocross community for making a fuss about it.
MXlarge: Going on that, the first thing I thought after seeing you won the first moto, I thought, this should help the momentum of the whole project?
Simpson: That was my secret goal. Get some good results on the board at Hawkstone Park, Lacapelle, Matterley, so people can actually see what we are doing. It is one thing telling people and showing them. We had a nice set-up, coffee machine was on, home made food was made, the sponsors were all there, it was really nice. People could see we had a very professional show for a small team, small budget and small crew. Most people helping were family and friends. I mean I was washing my own bike between races and some people saw that and wanted to help out. I am still lacking sponsors to make it easy to get through the season.
MXLarge: It would be cool if you could do some type of Vlog, those video things like Christian Craig does from the supercross?
Simpson: Funny you should say that, because somebody is doing one of those for me from Hawkstone Park, it should be out this week.
Ray Archer and Shaun Simpson images