I enjoyed the atmosphere, I met a lot of great people and I met my wife out there so I've got some good memories. I'm a racer though and I didn't have a good season even if we did beat some top riders in factory teams.
How did the move back to England (in 2008) come about?
From that I could see that you needed a factory ride to succeed and none of the factory seats were available in AMA that year. If there had been a factory ride I would have stayed there.
I've got a good friend, Robin Croft, who's Mr SMT and we've been in contact for a long time and he always has my best interests at heart and followed my career since 2004, even flying out to MotoGP tests in Malaysia and Qatar to support me. He'd heard on the grapevine that Shaun Muir was looking for another rider so he recommended me to him. I don't think Shaun was all that keen at first because he didn't know what I was capable of and wanted someone who could run top ten. Robin pushed it and pushed it and we finally came to a deal. We ended up having a good year and got our first podiums.
I like the way Shaun works and I enjoyed that year I had with him in 2008. He wanted to keep me on, but I'd been offered a two-year deal with GSE, and you don't turn that down. The split was pretty amicable in the end because he knew I had no choice with an offer like that.
What was your understanding of the contract you were offered by Paul Bird to go to MotoGP last year, was it a one-year contract?
That was the thing, it wasn't. When we first spoke, it was for a bare minimum of two years, or potentially three depending on how the second year went. The problem was there was no contract, it was a handshake, there was meant to be a contract though.
Before I left for Texas that winter, I'd sorted the ride with Paul and I said I needed a contract. Paul said 'I don't do contracts, just ask Stuart [Easton]'. I knew he'd had contracts with Shakey and other riders in the past, so I said 'Look mate, I do do contracts'. I'd been let down previously so wasn't prepared to ride without one. So he said that if it made me feel any better he'd draught one the same as Shakey's for me and Paul Risbridger (team manager at the time) would get that done.
I remember sitting down with Paul Risbridger at the Aprilia stand at the NEC and him clearly saying that he wanted it to be a long term thing and a two year deal to develop the bike and said that he'd get the contract written when he got away from there. It kept going back and forth between me, Paul R and Paul B and still nothing was turning up. I was then told it'd be emailed to me in the States, still nothing, and still nothing after I'd come back for testing. I then found out that Risbridger had been given the flick so there was no hope in hell that I'd get that contract.
After Qatar I came back again to try and get the contract sorted and again it was that he didn't do contracts. I was getting paid for the job but we still hadn't decided on a contractual figure. When he told me how much he was going to pay me for the year, I said 'Mate, I just can't survive on that, it wouldn't even pay the travel expenses'. He basically said that if I needed money I had to get it myself by looking for sponsors or even getting another ride, and this was after the first round. There was nowhere I could go though as I'd made my commitment for the year and all the rides were gone. We shook hands on it because I knew I had no choice.
In that respect, he's a man of his word as he still paid me, I had to chase him every month, but he did pay me. If it hadn't been for my personal sponsors SRS rail systems limited, Robin at SMT and my parents bailing me out when I needed ferries or flights paying for, I wouldn't have been able to get to the last round in Valencia.