By Christian Tiburtius

An exclusive interview with British Superbike star Tommy Bridewell, who recently switched from Bathams Honda to Halsall Kawasaki - and claimed his best ever BSB result with an emotional second place last time at Cadwell Park...

Crash.net:
It's a beautiful Tuesday today [directly after Cadwell] isn't it?

Tommy Bridewell:
Yeah, it was a great weekend throughout. I'm over the moon and really happy and everything, but I genuinely felt it was time for me to finally step up to the mark and I'd expected that of myself. I'd had a year and a half of chasing it and chasing it and it got to the stage where I was just getting frustrated.

I had a good feeling for a podium at Cadwell, didn't quite get onto the podium in race one, made some changes to the bike and did the job in race two. We realised that the in race one the bike wasn't using all the fork travel which meant that we were struggling in the last part of the corner. It was just a question of changing some oil heights in the forks, changing some shock springs and the bike was a lot easier to ride at the end of the race.

Crash.net:
Why do you race with the number 46?

Tommy Bridewell:
When me and [brother] Ollie first started racing we went down to sign on in our first minimoto race, Ollie was given number 46 and I was number 47. I didn't stay with 47, I went to number 18 which was my grandpy's old number from his grass track days. When Ollie was killed [at the 2007 Mallory Park BSB round] though I went to 46 in his honour.

Crash.net:
You dedicated your second place to Ollie's memory, does his memory inspire you when you race?

Tommy Bridewell:
Yeah, it's everything I race for. I have no interest in racing motorbikes if I'm not racing for my brother. I surely love this fantastic sport but I only want to succeed for me and Ollie. If I didn't have his inspiration I wouldn't have the passion I've got now for racing.

Ollie put every ounce of everything he had into being successful in racing, endless training and effort and he is my complete inspiration in life and racing. Everything's for him, not for me and I don't think or worry much about myself. For me the only way I can do him justice is by continuing my good form and eventually moving on to the world stage. I do enjoy the world paddock and there's a feeling of living our dream there.

It's not like I've got no passion for motorbikes, of course I do, it's my whole life and I couldn't bear to think of my life without them, it's just that it's part of a dream that Ollie's part of and that dream doesn't end with a podium at Cadwell and doesn't even end if we win the BSB championship. Maybe that dream will end when we're a bit older and get a world title under our belt, maybe then I'd feel that was mission complete.

I ask him to keep me safe before every race. Sometimes we don't get a good result and sometimes we have accidents, but as long as I know that he's riding with me and keeping me safe then I'm happy. As long as I don't let him down then I have no problem.

When me and Ollie were both in the same team in BSB it was one of the best years of my life, that year was the only year when I wasn't too bothered about beating my team mate. When I see the Lowes brothers supporting each other and the Espargaro brothers doing the same, it's something that I really, really miss and it makes me sad.

Crash.net:
Do you think the changes and difficulties in your career have made your personality?

Tommy Bridewell:
It's almost like, if you look at Leon Haslam he's done so many things; 125's, 500's, BSB, WSBK and you kind of think 'How has he packed so many things into his racing life?' I do almost feel a little like that because I have been here, there and everywhere but I'm still only 25.

Where I've been unfortunate is that it's taken me such a long time to get the right people around me.

Crash.net:
Do you think that the chopping and changing has been bad for you career?

Tommy Bridewell:
Yeah, for sure.

But the reason I went out to Italy in 2008 for example is that I needed a year to get my head straight. I needed to come back racing a motorbike after Ollie was killed but I didn't want to race in England. There were too many memories and too many people saying they were sorry and when you go racing you can't have that. I wanted a complete fresh scene to take my mind off things.

I had a great time in Italy and met some amazing people there. In Italy nobody knew me and about my story and nobody tiptoed around me. It almost allowed me to have a year which wouldn't be considered in my career but also one where I was still racing on a bike. 2008 was almost where I restarted my career. In Italy they've got huge passion and if your face fits they take you in as one of their own, I remember sitting on the grid in Misano in the last race and I could remember seeing this massive 'Rock on Tommy' banner and it made me realize that it was the way to make my brother proud.

Crash.net:
Has that got anything to do with why you recently said in an Interview that you 'had all your Italians around you'?

Tommy Bridewell:
No, not from there.

Last year 4 days before the first race I didn't have a ride and Stuart Higgs phoned me to ask if I'd like to ride for Danilo Soncini (Supersonic BMW) for the first 2 rounds to help them out because Anthony West had dropped out. Stefano Caracchi (team manager) was also there and he has an amazing pedigree in racing and when I got there we got on like a house on fire.

At the beginning it was almost as if I was there to help them out to get the bike on the grid but after the great results I got and the work ethic I showed Danilo had a contract waiting for me at Thruxton for the rest of the season and in the end they asked me to stay for the year. At the end of the year with a bit of shuffling around we eventually found a full time crew in Saverio (chief mechanic), Alessandro (chassis technician) and Stefano (crew chief).

Crash.net:
Your season at Supersonic BMW looked as if it was your best yet.

Tommy Bridewell:
The BMW was fantastic for me last year. Unfortunately at the end of the season where we just had to up our game a bit by getting a tuned engine the resources weren't quite there. For sure I could have been further up on the BMW with a stronger engine. I do understand Danilo's position with that though and am grateful that he put together such a fantastic team and gave me a lifeline.

It was a lack of funds that meant he couldn't continue this season and unfortunately I'd put all my eggs in his basket for this season. I said I was happy to ride for him in 2013 but then I saw an interview he put out where he said he was struggling for sponsorship and that if he could get the sponsorship that I would get the ride but it wasn't to be.

Crash.net:
How did you feel about the Bathams Honda deal?

Tommy Bridewell:
Obviously I'd ridden for Ian Woollacott before in 2010 and we enjoyed a successful season with an older bike. We parted company mid season 2011 for one reason or another and I then went on to ride for Rob Mac.

Bathams Honda is Ian Woollacott's team. It's Bathams because Michael Rutter brings that sponsorship to the team. I like Ian a lot, he's a funny guy, but we had to part company again in 2013 for obvious reasons. The whole team was fine, I had my Italian crew, but we just had too many mechanical DNFs and I was just getting a bit too demoralised. I went from being on such a high at the end of 2012 to being very down and disappointed.

I had nothing else lined up when I left the team. You could say it was a brave decision I had to do it though to keep my head up. What I achieved in 2012 by riding strongly and consistently seemed to have disappeared.

Crash.net:
Initially you had a reputation for being fast but wild, would you agree?

Tommy Bridewell:
For sure. I never knew my limit, for me there wasn't a limit, there was no backing off it was always full gas. If there was a two second gap on the last lap I'd still have a go at catching them. I can remember after I'd got on the podium in the first race of 2011, in the second race I didn't look at my pit board once. All I could see was Hopper 2 seconds in front of me and didn't even know what lap it was. I pushed over the limit and had a humungous crash and it just went to pot then.

It was Rob Mac who coached it out of me. I went out at Cadwell for him and nearly crashed in race 2 and I was thinking 'He's not going to like that' but he was fine about it. He has definitely been a strong influence on my career. I went in there saying I was going to go brilliantly and run top six and lah di dah just to get the ride from him and he just said 'Tom, that's not what we're looking for, we're realistic' and that meant I had less pressure on me.

Rob Mac is an absolutely fantastic guy who I still believe to this day gave me the boost I needed to move my career forward and gave me the discipline I needed to get on. Basically he helped me to stop cocking about and to realize that I was out there to race and had to do my job properly. I learned so much from Rob about being professional and being more political and saying the right things. He helped me so much with my race craft and going into 2013 I felt a lot stronger.

I would love to work with Rob again, we got on really well and I think the reason we got on so well is that he was so committed as a rider and he could see that in me.

Crash.net:
At Cadwell, you were in second place within sight of the leader and brought that home, was that a sign of the new maturity of your riding?

Tommy Bridewell:
The old Tommy Bridewell would have 100% gone for the pass, I don't know how, why or when but I would have 100% got past and maybe I would have gone on to win the race, or crash. There were maybe a couple of places I could have tried it but I was that determined to get on the podium I didn't want to go out trying to be a hero. I needed and had to get a podium, I needed to get it done to get the weight off my shoulders. I just stayed with Alex because I knew that if I didn't the others would catch me, what he done, I done and now I've got that weight off my back.

Crash.net:
Have you still got your Italian crew with you at Halsall?

Tommy Bridewell:
That's it, yeah.

Crash.net:
Did you discuss it with them before leaving Bathams?

Tommy Bridewell:
Yeah. Italians are very passionate and they could see how down I was and that made them feel the same. They supported me fully even though there were no confirmed plans with Halsall at the time. There was a rumour that there might be a second ride there though.

I went out to ride in WSS at Imola with Larini Honda and had the option of staying with them. After my time at Bathams, it was just fantastic to be able to enjoy riding a motorcycle again.

Crash.net:
Where does you income come from, sponsors, the family, the team?

Tommy Bridewell:
I've got no sponsors, nothing. It's just me and Dad and Mum. My sister Charlotte's hair dressing salon Diffusion in Devizes also do all they can to support me. Stacey, my partner, is putting in a lot of time to try and find sponsors.

Crash.net:
How about your Italians?

Tommy Bridewell:
They've done a deal with Martin and that goes through him.

Crash.net:
Didn't Bathams pay you a wage?

Tommy Bridewell:
No.

Crash.net:
Given that commitment and the tragedies in the past have your family ever put pressure on you to stop?

Tommy Bridewell:
They never tried to get me to stop, they may have wanted me to though.

I remember I did an interview about that years ago after leaving Mallory Park. I was 100% dead certain I wanted to quit; I absolutely hated motorbikes and thought they should be banned. But a month later I got on a GSXR1000 for a road test, got to 185mph on a private road near me and thought 'I need to race motorbikes again'. It's lucky I live in the country and can do that.

We've got a car and motorcycle repair shop. Ollie used to run the bike side of things and he absolutely loved it, I was working on the cars at the time. After Ollie died, I took over the bike side to keep it going for him. I can remember when Ollie got caught by a customer on his wife's Bandit stood up on the back wheel doing a wheelie all the way up the hill and when he got back the customer and his wife were back at the garage waiting. Luckily she loved it and saw the funny side.

Crash.net:
So your day job is motorcycle repair

Tommy Bridewell:
Yeah. I had great success yesterday, but I'm in work this morning, all be it an hour late because I'm so tired. I'm actually putting a new exhaust pipe on a Triumph Rocket 3 at the moment.

Crash.net:
How did you link up with Martin Halsall?

Tommy Bridewell:
Stacey knows Martin and she was chatting away to him and heard about the second bike that Martin was planning and Martin just told her that I should call him. I called him, went up there, he said he was running a second bike and asked me if I wanted the ride and I said yes. It was quite a simple deal to be done really.

Crash.net:
Is it true that the first time you rode the bike was the Friday before Oulton?

Tommy Bridewell:
The bike still wasn't totally ready on Friday morning and we were lucky that the conditions meant that not many riders were going out. Initially it was only running on 3 cylinders but after 20 minutes we got it running and off we went. Even by Friday evening we still had to sort out the idle control so the first proper run we got was Saturday morning. We managed to pull it off, I really don't know how though.

Crash.net:
As a bike mechanic, do you get involved in fettling the bike?

Tommy Bridewell:
No, I leave that to the mechanics 100%. Sometimes I can start stick my nose in, but luckily for me I have such a great relationship with Stefano that he'll just say 'Tom, p*ss off!' so that he can get on with his job. We know each other well enough that we don't take offence at things like that. Now I have so much trust and belief in my crew that I don't need to get hands on, I just turn up and ride the bike and try to keep my mind clear and on that.

Saverio has got his own workshop in Italy and a motorbike to him is just a motorbike so adapting from the Honda to the Kawasaki was no problem for him. It's got to be said though that race bikes are so stripped down now that they're all very similar to work on, they've all got the same Motec ECU as well. Now that you haven't got the glitz and glamour electronics, there's not so much on 'em.

Crash.net:
Are you happy with the current electronic level?

Tommy Bridewell:
It suits me because I've always ridden without them in the various motocross and grasstracking riding I've done where you just need good throttle control. I'm quite happy to ride without electronics and to be honest, the lap times are no different without them. Without traction and wheelie control you have to think a lot more and riders who have been raised on electronics might have difficulty riding without them.

Crash.net:
How would you compare the Kawasaki with the Honda?

Tommy Bridewell:
I've ridden a lot of bloody bikes now and the Kawasaki is definitely a very strong package. It was good for me to see that it wasn't just Shakey who could ride a Kawasaki fast in BSB. Keith [Farmer] and Chris [Walker] have been doing alright on their's, week in week out though Shakey has been the one to beat on the Kawasaki. Previously MSS hadn't got the best results on it so I was genuinely a bit nervous in case the bike didn't suit me. It just is easy to ride fast and if I can't go fast with the bike I've got now then I'll never be able to.

Comparing the Kawasaki with the Honda and BMWs I was riding before, the engine's a lot stronger and it's producing 197bhp out of the crate which is why there are such a lot of them in superstock. With the Kawasaki the engine is strong and we could adjust the electronics to give maximum power and the thing would be like a rocket but it would be too brutal to ride and would destroy the tyres. So with the electronics on the Kawasaki, despite there being a control ECU, you can still adjust the ignition timing and fuel timing and so on. It was that and some different mappings that we worked hard on before Cadwell Park with the help of Saverio and Andrea [a contact out in Italy] - there were a lot of phone calls going on at Cadwell Park.

The results I got at Oulton were on a bike on which I'd changed virtually nothing, we didn't touch the mapping and only did minimal changes on the suspension. At Oulton we actually took the suspension out of the bike just to see what was in it and put a couple of clicks on the front and maybe a 5Kg extra spring on the back. At Cadwell Park we worked a lot harder and the results came.

Crash.net:
How long is your deal with Halsall?

Tommy Bridewell:
I believe I'm with the team until the end of the season.

I think people would be silly to think that if the ride was there that Martin might not try to keep me on board for next season and I'd be silly not to want to. He's done an amazing job for me in just 2 rounds.

I think for Martin and me the main goal is to continue raising people's eyebrows until the end of the season. I haven't signed a deal with Martin for next year though.

Crash.net:
How is it at Halsall racing?

Tommy Bridewell:
All I can say is that Martin's a fantastic bloke and a great boss to have. He genuinely just loves motorbikes. He owns the team and I believe that it's all funded by him. I think that needs addressing for next year and we really need to get some sponsors on board to run a bit easier.

Lee Costello is also a great kid and I've got a lot of time for him. Since I've come on board though and the results have been a bit stronger I think that Martin is now more driven to get Lee closer to what we're achieving now.

Lee is on the same bike as me, but it seems as if he's beating himself up because he's expecting too much. I've been in exactly that position before and hope that I can be of help. I think he needs to step back a little, relax and just enjoy riding a motorbike. I've said to Martin that I'd try to work a bit closer with Lee and perhaps push some of my Italians to help him as well. Lee's a good rider though and having someone like Martin behind him will mean that he'll come good.

Crash.net:
Do feel any pressure of expectations now after these good results?

Tommy Bridewell:
No, not at all because I've always known that I could be a front running contender but unfortunately I've not had the easiest of paths to get there. Alex is a good example of that, he instantly showed that he could run up the front when they got the WFR bike going properly. I think race 2 shows that I've now got the bike and as far as riding ability goes I think there's not that much between the front runners.

There's riding the bike fast for a lap, riding it fast for a race, riding it fast then crashing, I've done it all but now I feel as if I've refined it and can ride the whole race strong. I think that Josh Brookes can, James Ellison can, Shakey can, Alex Lowes can and I think I can too, I do like to think of myself as one of the front contenders now.

I just hope that it's not too late to make the showdown, going into Cadwell I was 49 points behind and coming out I've pretty much halved the gap, the only problem was that that was with a great weekend for us and a bad one for Buildbase, anything can happen though...