3 July 2014
MotoGP Q&A - Anthony West
Eleven years after his only previous grand prix victory, at Assen, Anthony West won last Saturday's Dutch Moto2 race from 23rd on the grid!
Hi Anthony, have you stopped buzzing yet?
Not really. I still can't stop smiling. It was a bit unbelievable and it's a really good feeling.
What were your expectations of the race?
Honestly, because our qualifying was so bad, I didn't expect to be anywhere near the front. I was hoping for top ten if I was lucky, I sure didn't expect to win it.
After the first lap though I started to bed in and feel good, the only problem was the changing conditions as it started to dry out. Every lap was different and I felt that just finishing would be achievement enough.
There was a huge change from the start of the race until the end. As you saw, it had stopped raining by the time we started and I could see that it was going to dry quickly and after a while I could see some dry patches appearing but then it started to rain again and I thought 'Great!' because that helped to keep the track a bit consistent.
The problem was that I had to push harder and harder to make some impression on the race but I also needed to remember where the wet and dry patches were. I had to find the line every time and it was like having to learn the track afresh each lap. Man, it took a lot of concentration.
Didn't you start in 23rd?
Yeah, I had to get going strong so I'd already passed quite a few people on the first lap and I think I ended up 10th or 11th. I don't know how I did it but there was full commitment there.
It's something I've had to do a lot recently because my qualifying form hasn't been good. In the last race in Barcelona for example I qualified 27th and after a couple of laps I was already in the points and finished 10th. In the rain though it was a little bit easier because everybody else was being a bit tentative as to how hard they could push.
It may have helped that I really had nothing to lose so that put me into a pushing frame of mind.
Do you think that experience helps you not to be tentative on the first laps?
I think so. Looking at some of the other riders at the front such as Corsi or Kallio, they also had a lot of experience so I guess it helps a bit.
But I also have a technique that when I get on the track in the wet in sighting laps I always push very hard whereas other riders may try to build up speed. From the very first corner on the formation lap I was trying to get my knee down so that I could gauge what the track was going to do when pushed.
Pushing it that hard allowed me to make a suspension change on the grid which made a big improvement for the race. We actually went quite a lot softer because I had no grip coming onto the throttle.
I noticed that other guys weren't quite pushing as hard for fear of crashing before the race and it was that experience of a hard ridden sighting lap that allowed me to start confidently. I try to use the sighting lap as a wet weather test and it's only when you're pushing the bike that you can feel for example when the suspension is wrong.
It can be risky but I've been riding long enough to know when I'm overdoing it. There is a way of pushing in the wet which doesn't risk crashing so much such as not leaning the bike so much. You can still brake hard though and also give it hard gas out of the corner so that it sits down and you can feel what the grip is like. You can always control a rear slide if necessary. There are all sorts of way to feel the conditions.
How were your tyres by the end?
Not too bad actually. They didn't feel good for sure and I was sliding all the way round the corner but as it dried out I could hear some of the guys coming behind me so I had to be aggressive on the throttle and spin them up. I guess you could say they were better than expected but pretty awful. Smoothness meant that the tyres at least weren't totally destroyed.
I could often hear Maverick behind me and was just pushing and concentrating so hard so when I caught up with Aegerter who held me up for two laps I wasn't too happy. I tried to pass him but I don't know what he was thinking because he tried to come back at me. I actually had my elbow into him at one point to try and make him get out of the way but he didn't give easy.
Luckily you couldn't see that in the replay and you can't see me giving him a push but the problem was that that allowed Maverick to get on the inside of me. There was no way I was going to let that happen though and I just got him straight back on the next corner.
The elbow isn't a recognised riding technique but in Moto2 it's pretty common, Moto2 riders can be pretty aggressive. In the last race I actually had black lines on my boots and elbows from Alex De Angelis' bike where he put his front tyre into my elbow.
Was there any chance of you settling for second at the end of the race?
In the middle of the race I started feeling happy with where I was and was thinking in terms of 2nd or 3rd but there was a moment after Corsi crashed where I just thought 'No, this is for win'.
In my first year in GP at Assen I was leading a wet race and because it was drying at the end I kind of settled for 4th place and for months afterwards I was kicking myself and wondering what would have happened if I hadn't. That kind of went through my mind this weekend when I was leading and I thought that this time I was going to go for it and there was no way anyone was going to pass me. I was pretty determined.
Do you get any kind of bonus from the team for winning?
Just a small one but it's just something to show their appreciation. I didn't get any bonuses for the other podiums I got so that kind of made up for that.
It was such reward for the team and I came back to a very happy garage. It's been such a struggle for them over the years and it was great to give this back to them. The team boss called me from Qatar to congratulate me and he was definitely over the moon.
It was my first win since 2003 at Assen and it was quite strange because at that race unusually my dad had come along to watch so got to see me win. My dad doesn't usually come to a lot of races but for some reason he said he'd come over to see this race and he said to me that it was going to rain and I was going to win like 2003 but I didn't believe him then, I do now. Having him there made the win even more special, I think I'll have to bring him to all my races because he seems to bring me luck.
What are your feelings about the season up to Assen?
I think my races have been pretty good but my qualifying has been so bad and it feels really frustrating because I think that I could have done so much better.
My goal for the season has been to be more or less top 10 and I feel I've got near to that but you feel disappointed for what you could have had. Finishing top 10 when you're starting in the 20's means quite a lot of hard work and I know that if I could fix the qualifying it could be better. It's a little frustrating.
Also the bike hasn't been easy because there are only three riders developing it but the bike has been improving and we actually got a new frame a couple of weeks ago. I don't think I can blame the bike though; it's more the way I'm riding.
Mentally I'm putting so much stress on myself to qualify well and I'm just riding too hard. I feel I tighten up a bit and get too aggressive on the bike and we've been trying to analyse why that happens because once I'm in the race I pass everyone who was around me on the grid. In qualifying I maybe brake 20 meters later than in the race so perhaps I just need to calm down a bit.
In the race I sort of get into it and don't think so much about the problems and technicalities of the bike and just get into that mode of thought. Just thinking about getting past the guy in front of you. It's almost like a trance. When the race starts your mind just goes blank apart from the guy in front whereas in qualifying you've got too much chance to over think things.
Racing is a weird thing because once those lights change and you start, your mind's in a different place and in a way you feel free and in that state you sometimes do things on the bike that you normally wouldn't if you could think about it more.
Was Sam Lowes also using that chassis at the weekend?
Yes he was, he always gets the updates one race before me. We got the chassis at Barcelona and used it there from Saturday and tested it afterwards.
Do you share information with Sam's team?
Yeah, kind of. We have each other's data from what we're doing on the track so that we can see where we're going faster. We more or less get the settings from them.
More or less?
Well, at the end of the day we're race teams and because they're a different race team maybe you can't always trust the settings they're giving you 100%. That's just the way it is, it doesn't matter how pally you are, we're still in competition.
We can't trust 100% what they're giving us because sometimes what they give us doesn't make any sense so we're pretty sure we're not getting all the info. It's not sabotage but maybe a number is different here or there. It's close enough though so it is useful.
In a formula as tightly regulated as Moto2, is there a lot of skullduggery like that?
It is possible to bend the rules a little, for example there are a number of ways to affect the engine with fuel and oil, people will always find a way. I've heard of lighter oil being used for qualifying which will spin more freely and that can obviously be drained before an inspection.
Or the engine has a stator that charges the battery and if you can find a way to disconnect that then you might gain a horsepower or two and run the engine on a total loss electrical system.
Also at the beginning I heard that someone had managed to hack the ECU and get some extra speed that way. The ECU only allows a limited range of mixtures and will only allow a range of lean to rich settings which won't harm the engine, but I have heard of people cracking the ECU and allowing more extreme settings to get more power.
In the early days many teams were complaining because the engine allocation was supposed to be random but it didn't seem so random at times. You can be allocated an engine from last year, this year or the year before and we were one of those teams who often seemed to be getting an older one. That's been sorted now.
It seems to be a bit fairer now than in the past and I would say that 90% of the grid are now on pretty even equipment.
But there was none of that on Saturday?
Oh no, there never has been in our team and the rain made all that kind of stuff impossible anyway.
Well, in which case I would say congratulations on a very popular win and thanks for taking time out to talk to us.
Thanks, I'm pretty keen to use that motivation to pump me from here on in and try not to be so hard on myself. Cheers.
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