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Moto3 Interview: John McPhee - EXCLUSIVE

“When I came into the garage after the first outing I got a bit of an eye-opener. There were about ten HRC guys waiting for me” – John McPhee
Scottish rider John McPhee speaks to Crash.net at the launch of the new British Talent Team in London about his recovery from a punctured lung, early impressions of his new squad and machine, and expectations for the 2017 Moto3 season...

Crash.net:
You missed the final two races of 2016 through injury. Physically, how do you feel at the moment?

John McPhee:
Physically I've come on leaps and bounds. I was really well looked after by all the medical staff over in Australia. With the punctured lung I was stuck there for six weeks. But it's not a bad place to recover! I enjoyed some sunshine after getting out of the hospital. Then I got back home in mid-December. I didn't really have so much time to be honest. A few weeks and before you know it, it was the start of a new year. I was under strict instructions not to train again until after the 20th of January. I was so tempted just to carry on and get on with it. But we don't really have much time throughout the year to properly recover so I thought I'd take the time off, do it wisely, and do as they asked of me. So come the 20th of January I started training again. I'm feeling good. My fitness is coming back up to scratch. I'm feeling quite strong on the bike so all is quite promising.

Crash.net:
You moved out to Spain in January. Has that been good for training?

John McPhee:
Yeah, I'm staying out there with a couple of other guys, other racers. It's been brilliant. We actually did it last year. It's through Chaz Davies. He gets a house and then takes a couple of us on. We're all good mates and all train together and push each other on. It's good because we're all working with the same ethic and have the same focus. It's a perfect set up.

Crash.net:
I guess it allows you to see up close how certain riders are preparing to fight for world championships…

John McPhee:
Like I said, Chaz is there. Michael Laverty too. These are guys that I've looked up to for years. So now we've been training and riding with them every day on different bikes, motocross and supermoto. It's really good for me and it gives me a good feel for what I should be doing. Even going out there last year for the first time was a bit of an eye-opener, just to see how often they're riding some kind of bike. It's a perfect opportunity.

Crash.net:
The full details of the British Talent Team weren't confirmed until quite late on…

John McPhee:
At the back end of last year, I still didn't fully know what was going on. I knew there were talks and things going on behind the scenes. When you're a rider, you always get to that time of year, just after the summer break, when everyone's talking about deals for next year. People are getting signed up and there are less seats available. I was a little bit nervous not knowing quite what was going on. Then after the crash in Australia, when things still weren't fully confirmed, I was thinking, 'Now we might struggle a little bit.' So I've been given a great opportunity and it's an honour to be in this position.

Crash.net:
You've ridden a Honda in Moto3 in the past. Are there any similarities with those bikes to the latest '17 model?

John McPhee:
Not really. In '15 unfortunately the team was slightly underfunded and we ran the '14 bike. So there's now been three years of development. Going from a '14 Honda to a '17 [spec bike] you can't really compare. It feels almost like a different bike. Going from the Mahindra to the Honda, they're both highly competitive machines, but they're both totally different to ride. I have to change my riding style and the way I approach corners. It's a lot to take on. I feel like I've clicked really well with it. It kind of suits my style. Both wheels like to be in line. You have to be smooth with it and carry lots of corner speed. That's what I've been working on when I've been training over the winter, so it's been a really promising first couple of tests. We can look forward toward some good races.

Crash.net:
What are the main differences between the Peugeot/Mahindra you were riding in 2016 and and Honda's latest NSF250R?

John McPhee:
The Peugeot was really, really strong when diving in late on the brakes. If you were close enough to any riders on a Honda or a KTM you could dive up the inside of two or three of them. The trouble then was it didn't quite have the torque on the exit of the corner. Nine times out of ten they could come back past you again. You'd find yourself stuck in a rut where you couldn't really do anything with it, or you couldn't jump forward. We saw plenty of times last year that if you got away at the front of a group and you were in the front pack, you could sit there quite easily on the Peugeot. It had the potential in the corners and on the straights you could stay in the slipstream. But the Honda seems a lot easier to do the lap time alone. I've been focussing mainly on that in preseason testing: doing lots of laps alone. It's one of them that doesn't shine in any particular area. It's just strong all round. You've got good braking stability. You can roll into the corners with lots of speed, or you can park it if you have to. Then it's got the grunt to get out of the corners. It's just an all-round well built package.

Crash.net:
And you're receiving full factory support from HRC?

John McPhee:
Yes. When I came into the garage after the first outing I got a bit of an eye-opener. I think there were about ten HRC guys all stood around me, waiting for me to come in. I was still struggling to get my gloves off and they were asking me questions. It's nice and it's good to have that support.

Crash.net:
Who do think will be the main players in Moto3 this year?

John McPhee:
It's difficult to say at this early stage. Both the Sky boys were looking strong. [Andrea] Migno and [Nicolò] Bulega were looking really strong at the start of testing. Obviously you've got [Enea] Bastianini there and [Aron] Canet, his team-mate. They both look strong. But you can never really tell. Going from what I had last year results-wise I can't imagine anyone will be looking at me, thinking that I'll be that strong. But I know inside we're going to make a big step forward this year. You never really know what guys have and what they're going to bring to the table. So we'll wait and see. I think it will be interesting.

Crash.net:
Does that suit you in a sense, to go into the season slightly 'under the radar'?

John McPhee:
I don't know. After the first official tests we'll see where everyone is at. Until the Qatar race, no one will know who's got the race pace and who can keep that pace for the full distance. I don't mind. I know I can be strong and I'm confident and looking forward to showing people.

Crash.net:
The British Talent Team rider coach Jeremy McWilliams said top ten or top eight finishes are the aim for the first few races. Is that fair?

John McPhee:
It's nice that their expectation isn't overly high. I think that's 100 percent achievable. Where we are at the minute, I think we're in a strong position. We should wait and see. A rider's expectation is always to win races and that's what mine is. I know realistically it's a long season. There are 18 races across the year. The main focus is to be in that front group and always scoring points.

Crash.net:
Have you had a rider coach to assist with your riding and training before?

John McPhee:
Through the Racing Steps Foundation they try and introduce that kind of thing. What they've done for me in the past has also been really good for me, in terms of training. But to have someone like Jeremy – someone I've got loads of respect for -, and Alberto there, they've both been there and done it. I think that's almost like another level again. They know exactly what you should and shouldn't be doing; what worked for them and what didn't work. So I've got two really good guys there to bounce ideas off and to ask what I should and shouldn't be doing. Already I've got experience. I know myself the dos and don'ts. To get these small details, if we're ever stuck, I know I've got both of them to work with. I think that will help massively throughout the year.

Crash.net:
Finally John, your position has changed greatly from a year ago, when the team was underfunded, and didn't know its own future race-to-race. It must feel great going into the season to have that full security secured...

John McPhee:
That makes a massive difference. You don't fully realise until you've got all the boxes ticked. We really do have everything ticked off this year. Everything seems to be running really smooth. The team's working almost like a family and we've got the funding, we've got the support. It makes a massive difference, not only to the rider, but to everyone in that group. I think at this precise moment things are looking really promising. For me it's just such a relief. Like I've said, it's an honour to have this opportunity.






Tagged as: Eugene Laverty , McPhee

Related Pictures

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John McPhee British Talent Team
McPhee, Moto3 race, Grand Prix of the Americas, 2017.
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McPhee, Moto3, Grand Prix of the Americas, 2017.
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McPhee, Argentinian Moto3 race 2017
McPhee, Argentinian Moto3 race 2017
McPhee, Argentinian Moto3 race 2017
McPhee, Argentinian Moto3 race 2017
McPhee, Argentinian Moto3 race 2017
McPhee, Argentinian Moto3 race 2017

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