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EXCLUSIVE Q&A - Mark Smith-Halvorsen (GBmoto)

28 November 2013

An exclusive interview GBmoto team principal Mark Smith-Halvorsen, who has signed James Ellison and Chris Walker to race the team's new Kawasaki machinery in the 2014 MCE British Superbike Chamionship...

Crash.net:
Exciting times for GBmoto, could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and the team's background?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
The team was originally formed in 2000 and raced in the World Endurance series for two years, before having a break in 2002 and starting back in UK Endurance in 2003. Team GBmoto as it was known then, won the UK series in 2004, 2007 and 2008. It then stopped, primarily because I decided to retire as a rider. Drive and passion for the sport created a new five-year Racing Plan in 2010, which began with a year in the National 1000 Superstock Series in 2011.

Crash.net:
What has been the catalyst for the big team changes for 2014?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
The desire to be competitive and win races. When you are spending this much time, effort and money on something, the outcome has to be good in my opinion.

Crash.net:
When did you start talking to Ellison and Walker? Did it take long to reach a deal?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
Being honest, Chris and I started speaking in July and James in September - we also spoke with him in last year's pre-season. So far, they have been great to work with and I genuinely feel they are very much looking forward to racing with the team in 2014.

Doing a deal was fairly simple with both of the guys, we all knew what each party wanted really - so it was no drawn out drama.

Crash.net:
What do each of them bring to the project and what do you expect from them next season?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
They both bring masses of experience and talent. James has had some of the best racing experiences in the world recently - BSB, WSBK, MotoGP, AMA - and is riding with such confidence and maturity. I believe he is at a point in his career where he takes that on to achieve the things he truly dreamed of; it is our job to make that happen.

Chris had a fantastic 2013 and really surprised a lot of people with his form - including us! He is a very talented guy and a bit of a legend to be honest and with his fantastic knowledge of the series, the ZX-10R and racing at this level, he is going to feature in all the races at every circuit.

We believe that both can make the Showdown and we believe that we can win races. It's up to us to go and do that now.

Crash.net:
What made you chose Kawasaki machinery?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
Because unarguably it works. Here in the UK, at world level and in all relevant classes the bike is very competitive and regularly winning races. We also wanted a real manufacturer tie-up having had no support at all from Honda over the last three years.

We have been quite blown away by the relationship we are forming with Kawasaki UK - they have been brilliant to date. We are extensively researching exactly what specification to build the bikes too and already have not only a mass of really important information, but some great technical partners lined up - so I feel sure our bikes will be very competitive from the off.

Crash.net:
Do you think the BSB rules offer a relatively level playing field? What do you believe are the keys to BSB success?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
The BSB rules are actually getting better and better to be honest. I feel pretty sure that we will be a BSB team that will have gone from 'new boys' to race winners and challengers in three seasons.

We could have never have achieved anything like that in previous eras with the manufacturer influence and the rules that existed. There is stability in the regulations, good communication from MSV and each real change, like this year's move to 17 inch tyres, is well thought out and signposted - all credit to Stuart Higgs for his work here.

Being successful in BSB is the same as being successful at anything in life - you have got to try really hard, work out how best to do the job, and have the drive, passion and stamina to make the top grade.

Crash.net:
Is there anything about the championship you would change? Should BSB have more overseas races for example?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
We are all getting used to the Showdown [points format] now really and I think it will survive for a few more seasons yet, so despite contrasting views, maybe we should stick with it for a while? I know some of the teams and riders believe there should be more help for them so maybe that's something that MSV will be looking at for the longer term.

I like the overseas round at Assen and wouldn't be adverse to more overseas races - but to be the British Championship, any more than two or three would be a bit crazy. Although I love Brands Hatch, I guess three visits is a bit much? Although it is great for crowds plus other UK race venues are coming under real pressure to offer enough 'loud days' to hold these types of meetings - so I don't know the best outcome to be fair.

Crash.net:
Can you tell us about your winter testing programme?

Mark Smith-Halvorsen:
We will build, prep and dyno-test our race bikes before a simple shakedown test. Following that, we are planning to test at two Spanish venues in March, subject to the rules relating to BSB testing allowing that. Indications are that they will.

After that we will have three days at two different circuits in the UK at what are almost certainly going to be official BSB tests. Then we are going to Brands for round one, to see how we shape up!


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