24 July 2013
James Ellison - Q&A
I won two European Superstock championships back to back, a World Endurance championship and then won the Privateers' Championship in BSB, so I was always in front of something.
The reason I got the MotoGP ride was that the year I won the Privateers' BSB cup with Yamaha we got a wild-card entry in WSBK and I was the highest scoring Brit out of riders like Toseland and Walker, and that was our first go at it. We came sixth and sixth, Peter Clifford was watching that race and that's how it started.
A guy who was working for Peter Clifford, Jez Wilson, one of the mechanics for WCM, said to Peter Clifford 'Look mate I think you need to give that lad a ring'. So he did and I ended up doing the rest of that season and stayed on for the following year. Jez Wilson is my mechanic again this year.
The bike we were on was basically just a glorified R1 and they didn't even think it would qualify in 2005 but we ended up getting some good points finishes and had a mega time. All this time Herve Poncharal was watching and he told me we needed to talk when he met me after the Laguna Seca round.
The main reason I got that ride was more to do with Dunlop because towards the end of that season Tech 3 were on the brink of folding and Dunlop had approached them and said that they would support them if they'd use their tyres. Herve said yes, that was fine with a one rider team and at the time they were on the point of signing Robby Rolfo. Because Robby was moving to Tech 3, I got the opportunity to test Robby's Ducati at Valencia and I ended up being sixth in that test and faster than Sete Gibernau. Dunlop were watching that test and said to Herve, 'Let's put Ellison on the Tech 3 bike instead' and Herve agreed.
It should have been just a one rider team with me doing development for Dunlop. We went to the third test in Sepang with me again running top six on the 2005 bike and then I think Dunlop kind of got ahead of themselves and thought 'if we run a proper MotoGP rider on this we'll get a good result' so they brought in Carlos Checa.
That's when everything just fell to bits for me. Once he was there, I was just an afterthought and doing long runs on the tyres, all the focus went onto Carlos. I don't want to go into it too deeply because I'm with Yamaha now and they've been very good to me and it's all in the past, but let's just say it wasn't what I originally signed up for.
It was the lowest point in my career to be honest, I'd got this mega opportunity which behind the scenes really wasn't one. Walking away from that felt like I'd have to start from scratch again and all the good results I'd got in the past were kind of deleted.
Do you think your move to AMA (in 2007) was dangerous for your career?
Again, I was promised that it was going to be a factory Honda team. That couldn't have been further from the truth. I actually helped build the bike at the guy's house I rode for. I stayed in the wendy house in his garden and helped to sand and paint the fairing and, having just come from MotoGP, that was a bit of a reality check. I just thought 'This is the situation, let's make the most of it'.
The bike was just basic, I could have built it on my own, just a disaster. We had no electronics, nothing, and Mladin, Spies and all them boys were running serious bits of kit. I tried my best every round, got some top five finishes and finished tenth in the championship, but it was basically just an amateur team with an underprepared bike.
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