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EXCLUSIVE Christian Iddon - Q&A

9 October 2013

By Christian Tiburtius

An exclusive interview with ParkinGO MV Agusta World Supersport rookie Christian Iddon, who claimed a debut podium with third place in Sunday's Magny-Cours round - despite a fall on the last lap!

Crash.net:
Your Wikipedia page is in Italian, why is that?

Christian Iddon:
Oh right. I spent a lot of time out in Italy, a lot of the people who follow me and support my racing are from there. I did a lot of Supermoto in Italy and it's very popular. It could be because of that, I didn't have anything to do with writing it though.

I've tried to learn Italian this year but couldn't quite manage it. Between the working and racing I spent a few hours every night for about 3 months trying to learn it and to be fair I've spent a lot of time around Italian teams so now in the garage I can understand just about anything technical. I just can't speak back to them. On a race weekend you can't afford to get anything wrong so if they can, I'm better off speaking English.

My mechanics don't speak to me in Italian anyway. I've got a varied team, I've got an Argentinian, an Italian that now lives in Spain and a Frenchman and they all speak English.

Crash.net:
What kind of racing did your father do?

Christian Iddon:
My dad did road racing and was second in the F1 TT world championship which then turned into World Superbikes. At the time the championship had road circuits and short circuits and you could score world championship points riding at the Isle of Man. He rode GP's, he rode World Superbikes and F1 TT. He had a pretty good career.

Crash.net:
Was there ever any question of you not being a bike racer?

Christian Iddon:
If your dad's a footballer then you kick a ball about and if your dad's a racer you sort of grow up with it don't you? When I was young my dad was still racing and I'd been half way around the world by the time I was a couple of years old being dragged around in the caravan. You just become part of it and I got my first bike at two and started racing at six.

Crash.net:
How about your brother, is he into racing?

Christian Iddon:
No, me and my brother are sort of opposite ends of the spectrum. He's more of an indoor person and I'm more outdoor.

We did try and get him into racing but he was never that keen. He's quite headstrong my brother. I remember one Christmas he got a PW50, rode it round the back of the house and fell off. We were like 'Get back on it' and he just said 'No, it hurts' and that's just about the longest he's ridden a bike. He just doesn't want to do it. He's got the brains of the family and is off to university at the moment.

He used to come along to my races but now I'm in worlds it's more difficult obviously.

Crash.net:
So do you have a bike that you ride on the public roads?

Christian Iddon:
No, I haven't got a license, though I am scheduled to do it in November. I'm a bit worried in case I fall off going round a cone and they all laugh at me.

The problem about biking on the roads is that it's dangerous. On a race track everyone's going in the same direction, you know what the track surface is and you've got run off and everything. I guess if you're a racer you get most of your biking kicks at the racetrack and there's not really a great deal of need to do it on the road. I can understand people who don't race wanting to ride on the road but having raced for my whole life it's not something I'm too bothered about.

Crash.net:
So someone who had such a highside just two days ago is telling me that riding on the road at 30mph is too dangerous?

Christian Iddon:
If you'd done that on the road there could have been a car coming in the other direction...

Crash.net:
You say your brother had the brains but you went to university as well didn't you?

Christian Iddon:
I finished Motocross at 17 and went into Supermoto and at that time it was university time and I was getting paid reasonably well by Aprilia and I think my mum just got fed up with me being at home and said that you either go to university or get yourself another job.

So I said, 'Right I'll go to university' and went and did Sports Science at Huddersfield University. I was interested in it, it helped out with racing and I'm now a fully qualified trainer.

I've been lucky to have a good family behind me and they've always said that you can do well at racing but it's a short career and you have to be prepared so my mum has always pushed me on the academic side of things. I do like to keep my feet on the ground and that's why I've always tried to keep doing some work through my racing.

Even when I was in Supermoto and earning pretty good money I still worked. It was stupid really because I used it as an incentive and always thought that if I didn't go fast enough I would have to do that job every day, but I was doing it every day anyway.

Crash.net:
What job do you do?

Christian Iddon:
I'm a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades really. I've been working as a builder since I left Uni and I work with a friend of mine who's also my training partner. He's a really good guy and if I need some time off it can always be arranged. I also work with another friend of mine who's a tree surgeon and my girlfriend's dad's got a tyre garage so when he's off I go in and help there. I try not to be work shy. This year has been more difficult though and work has taken a massive backseat because when you're in worlds you can be away from Wednesday through to the Tuesday and then there is also lots of training to be done.

Crash.net:
When you look at your career it's virtually wall to wall Supermoto…

Christian Iddon:
It's something that I love definitely. To be honest with you, if I watch motorcycle racing it will be Motocross or Supermoto. Watching short circuits doesn't really interest me a massive amount.

I got out of Motocross because my parents made me, I had a lot of bad injuries and it was getting a bit silly. I was not too bad and was British Champion at junior level but I wasn't going to win any big championships. Basically at the time I got out of racing and that was pretty much me done.

It was my dad who bought the Supermoto bike and he let me have a go so I then got into that. I think I saw it as a stepping stone in that I couldn't afford to go road racing and the next best thing was to go into Supermoto. Off the back of the first race I got some support from Dave Clarke Racing and it pretty much went from there.

Crash.net:
What exactly is Supermoto?

Christian Iddon:
Motocross is fully off road whereas Supermoto is basically a Motocross bike with slightly bigger brakes so that you can stop and road tyres. The Supermoto course is 70% tarmac and 30% dirt.

Crash.net:
And then you stayed in Supermoto for a number of years…

Christian Iddon:
We stayed in it for a long time because I was chasing a world championship. Unfortunately that never came but we had a lot of success along the way. It's hard to come out of something when you're getting paid to do something very enjoyable and you're at the top of your game.

I was making a pretty decent living there, not the standards that you might see in WSBK or MotoGP but certainly comfortable. The wages you got might be comparable to a doctor's and when you're 18 years old it's mad.

It's a bigger sport in the continent but it's the same as anything in that if you're at the top of your game in any sport the rewards are much bigger and you start getting all the bonuses and you start getting the sponsors so it all starts adding up massively. It's a very fine line between getting nothing and doing well. I didn't get a lot but I did a good few years at reasonable money.

Road racing was always the goal but I didn't have the funding and I was chasing a world championship where I was. So at the end of each year it always got to 'What shall we do' and it got to the point where we decided 'Right, now's the time, let's move'

I got into SM as a stepping stone but it was that enjoyable and that good that we stayed in it longer than expected

Crash.net:
Do the skills you learn in SM transfer well to circuit racing?

Christian Iddon:
I don't for one second class one of those years as wasted because it's such a good platform for learning race craft and bike control so I don't think I could have been better placed for learning racing.

For bike control it's fantastic because a Supermoto bike can get very loose and you can sort of play with it. A circuit bike is far more on a knife edge whereas on a Supermoto you can slide it around and play with it under power so you're not afraid of it when you encounter that on a more rigid road racing bike.

All the time you're in a race you're learning race craft anyway, it's just something you pick up. A lot of racers when not on the circuit will ride Supermoto and Motocross and I don't know a better place for learning bike skills.

Crash.net:
Reading through your career you seem to be continually breaking your wrists, how often have you done it?

Christian Iddon:
Oh, about twice per side. But I had one really bad one, I had a really bad break in 2008. It was actually at BSB where I was riding in a junior Superstock race just to see how I'd go. Everyone was saying that at Snetterton you have to be careful of the left hand side onto the start finish because the tyre gets cold, and they were right, all of a sudden I was flying through the air.

The doctor at the circuit actually said that I might not be able to ride a bike again because of the injury but 4 weeks later I was racing the British Supermoto round and won with a cast on. When I took the cast off though I realised the extent of the injury and went through an awful lot of painful physio. Now it's not perfect but it's rideable and ever since then I've always ridden with a brace on.

Crash.net:
So you got into circuit racing quite late?

Christian Iddon:
My first circuit racing was actually with an Aprilia Tuono in Thundersport. It was really enjoyable and we were all doing it for a bit of fun. KTM also gave me a ride in the KTM cup which was run at BSB events. I also had one round Superstock 600 and put it on the front row and a year later on a Superstock 1000 where I'd never seen the bike before but jumped on it to finish 6th, if anyone came past me, I just followed them.

Crash.net:
Would you say that your heart is still in Supermoto?

Christian Iddon:
I don't know about my heart being in Supermoto, but I'm definitely an off road sport person. I'm more interested in that side of things, there's a lot less show involved. People just get on with it. In road racing there's a lot of stuff that doesn't really need to be there and a lot of people who talk too much and that kind of bores me a bit. In the Motocross paddock, which I'm used to, everyone's down to earth and you can crack on with things.

There's definitely more politics in circuit racing. I'm very happy to do publicity duties particularly for my sponsors and the team but maybe when you get to the higher levels it may get too much. I'm good friends with Eugene Laverty and I know that he has an awful lot of press activities to do, at my level though I haven't experienced that.

People who come from an off road background are just much more down to earth and in the road race paddock there can be people who are only there to big themselves up and there are people out there you've got to be careful of.

Crash.net:
So did circuit racing come easy to you?

Christian Iddon:
Relatively, yes but there are some very big differences with off road riding you can have more fun with the bike but circuit racing is more mentally taxing. You have to be much more accurate and switched on in that respect. I went straight into BSB in 2010 but for me I was perfectly happy to be there and there was nothing untoward so I just cracked on.

Crash.net:
So how did you make the big step up to a WSS factory MV?

Christian Iddon:
It was a dramatic step. 2010 was my first full season circuit racing, I went straight into BSB and was happy with the kind of lap times I could put in but things went a bit wrong with who I was riding for and everything and in the end my season was pretty much non-existent.

I did some rounds on Superbikes and pretty much any bike available to jump onto. It was a very difficult introduction to the paddock and the extra politics. I think there's a lot more money, set up and mechanics involved and you get much less chance to prove yourself.

The following year I got in with TAG Triumph who were pretty much exactly what I needed, they're a family team that put a great organization together. They gave me a good base, didn't put any pressure on me, didn't ask anything of me and by the end of the season we were consistently on the podium.

To be fair when I got into road racing I had pretty much a 3 year plan to win the championship so I was disappointed in myself that I didn't win it. We had a slow start, a few bits of bad luck with bikes and a few mistakes I made personally. The end of the season was amazing though and we weren't out of the top three I think for the last 9 or 10 races, had some lap records and a couple of wins. We ended the season on a high but things were still uncertain for this season.

I then did a Supermoto race out in Italy, the Simoncelli one, with Rossi and Dovi and all those people.

Crash.net:
And did you beat them?

Christian Iddon:
Well, that's what I was excited to see, not really if I could beat the road racers because that should happen anyway but basically all the World Supermoto paddock were there too and it was them I wanted to pit myself against. I didn't know how much speed I would have lost. Every year since I left Supermoto I've raced the last round of the British Championship and won but the British level isn't world level so it was the first time I got to pit myself again those contenders. I was excited about that and luckily I qualified first and my team finished second. It was nice to know I still had it!

It was a team event and Dovi's team beat us by four tenths of a second I think after over an hour of racing. We beat Rossi's team into third which was nice. It was nice to share a podium with him and that's probably the first and last time that's going to happen. It's got to be said that he's a cool guy.

Crash.net:
And continuing with how you got the MV ride...

Christian Iddon:
At that event was Giuliano Rovelli. Giuliano set up his team in WSS racing Triumphs a number of years ago and when he did he took two of my mechanics from Aprilia Supermoto.

Whenever I was knocking around the WSS paddock I'd always gone in to say hello to them so I knew Giuliano through that. He did this event, and he's quite a fast rider to be fair, and we were just joking around afterwards and I was being quite cheeky. He told me what lap time he had and I said 'That's pretty good, if I give you a contract for Supermoto then maybe you'll give me one for World Supersport', he'd just done a deal with MV.

He laughed about it, it was all a bit tongue in cheek, but you never know. He said it wasn't going to happen but that he'd look out for me in the paddock.

When I got home I got a phone call and I was expecting him to tell me what teams he'd been speaking to but he just said 'Right, I'd like you to ride for me'. It was just unreal. It was a great day.

I'd made a gentleman's agreement to ride with a team in BSB and I had to OK it with them because I really don't like going back on things. I explained the situation to them and they were very good about it. We hadn't signed a contract; we'd made plans though.

It was all a bit of a dream and I couldn't comprehend what was going on, looking at a picture of this beautiful little MV and thinking 'I'm going to race that!'

Crash.net:
How are you paid?

Christian Iddon:
Haha, It was a bit of a shock to the system the whole road racing enterprise.

I'd spent a good few years in Supermoto and I decided, 'Right we're going into road racing and it's going to cost us a lot of money'. I had a lot of good sponsors behind me such as Silicone Engineering, when I went into racing in 2010 and that's pretty much the only way to go straight into it. I don't really have commercial sponsors, I class them more like friends who happen to have good businesses and help me out which is just amazing.

2010 was a difficult year in that I was about half way to budget and had to make the rest up from savings and then the last few years have been pretty much at a level. There's no real financial incentive, I went from being at the top and earning money to learning the trade again.

When you get near the top again though you can start getting bonuses and it can go from, a negative to a massive plus but I wasn't really thinking about the money side or else I could have stayed doing what I was doing. I wanted to prove myself at something else after Motocross and Supermoto and once I finish with Road Racing I already have an idea of what I want to do next!

Crash.net:
Have you ever worked with your current crew before?

Christian Iddon:
No I haven't. Funnily enough my crew that had gone to Giuliano have now gone to Yakhnich and Sam Lowes so they had a good year.

My crew this year has been fantastic. My main guy is Flavio, very understated and quiet and looks like he's in slow motion but does a huge amount of work, it's just the way he goes about things. He worked with Sylvain Guintoli last year so he's got a good pedigree. Then I've got 2 Simon's who are my bike mechanics and as a group we get on really well. That's really important, it's something that happened in my Supermoto days, I had that atmosphere again at TAG and I've got it again this year. A fantastic productive atmosphere.

You're in a very pressurised situation so if you're with people who are your friends and you respect it works.

Crash.net:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the bike?

Christian Iddon:
The massive strength is the chassis, it's absolutely phenomenal and the front end is spectacular. It's amazing, it really is.

The weakness all season has been the engine. At the first round we didn't realise what a deficit we had because Philip Island is such a flowing circuit. We went there with 1 days testing done and we were instantly running top 10 pace and in the race probably would have scored top 10 were it not for the tyre which proper fell apart.

So we left there thinking 'Great, this is just the start of it we can continue running top 10'. We then got back to Europe and Aragon and it was a massive shock to the system. We were at a different style of track that needed a lot of grunt out of corners and we were basically nowhere.

The top end of the motor is there when you eventually get there. What has troubled us all season is basically second or third gear roll on and anything which needed any power out of corners. Basically the opposite of what you'd think from a triple and very different from the old Triumph. The new MV and Triumph are very similar though, they're much shorter stroke and rev a lot harder. The MV's more like a 4 cylinder or perhaps a 3 1/2 - it didn't have the torque of a 3 or the top end of a 4 cylinder.

For the first part of the season it depended on which track we went to. At Donington the bike was amazing, if I hadn't got involved in a little collision we had a chance of a podium there, Assen wasn't too bad but at other places we were absolutely nowhere and there was nothing we could do about it.

Crash.net:
What factors came together to allow you to run so strongly at Magny-Cours?

Christian Iddon:
The last few rounds before that we'd finally managed to find a good base setting and we don't have to change a good deal. I can just set up and go fairly hard from the off. Donington was the first real show of speed we had and our p2 qualifying at Assen showed what we could do, it was just that we had to be able to do it regularly.

At Silverstone things started to click, it's a fast track, but it's not a power track. You keep the speed up and it flows. From then on it's all been going well except for the fact that we were being passed on the straights a lot like you could see at Nurburgring.

At Magny-Cours we had our first engine upgrade of the season which was only three horsepower but all of a sudden I wasn't being passed down every straight. Before we were an easier target than we should have been and then we had to work harder in the corners.

At Magny-Cours it was the first time that I could control the race a little more the way I wanted to. In the race I felt that we were slightly down on power but only very slightly, I could sit at the front and lead the race, which was very nice.

I could sit in Kenan and Sam's slipstream. I was never going to pass them down the straights but they weren't going to drop me.

Crash.net:
You mention that you got an engine upgrade, what MV factory involvement is there in the team?

Christian Iddon:
We have an engineer from MV that comes to pretty much every other race but all development work is done in house by ParkinGO. I don't know the exact relationship, but yes it is a factory team. I usually deal with ParkinGO rather than MV.

Crash.net:
Can you take us through the last lap and why you crashed?

Christian Iddon:
Before the race I spoke to Giuliano and said 'I've got nothing to lose, I'm not really bothered' and that was in my head as I was riding. I'd made a mistake, I almost went into the back of Kenan because he'd braked a little bit earlier than I'd thought and that just dropped me back a little bit with six laps to go.

I saw my pit board and it said +12 seconds or something and I thought 'Right I've got two choices here, I can ride around to finish third or we could go out and try to win this' and I thought 'Yeah let's go for it'. I got my head back down and managed to close the gap to the leaders.

On the run in to the last lap I'd again made a slight mistake in the same corner and but kept my head down, I knew that Sam was going to have a go at Kenan and vice versa. Sam's a pure racer, he didn't need to do what he was doing and if there was an opening there he was going to have a go.

I thought that if those two were going to duff each other up I needed to be right there. So going into the last lap everything was all good and coming out of the hairpin to be honest with you I don't know what happened. I don't know if there was something down already or what. The data showed that nothing strange had happened with the throttle or speed or anything. It wasn't a conventional highside where the revs rise, that's not what happened. Basically the bike just spun 90 degrees and I just fell over. It was strange.

I was on the floor and I couldn't quite work out what was going on. I'd gone from racing and battling to being on the floor and I felt confused about the whole thing. I got the thing up until the red flag came out and to be honest with you I didn't know what the ruling was. I went back to the park ferme area. They waved me into the cool bit and I was like 'Oh nice!'

Crash.net:
So you were going for the win?

Christian Iddon:
Yeah, why not. We weren't just there for a podium, we had the chance to win a race, so why not. I had nothing to lose as far as I was concerned.

Crash.net:
Didn't you have your first podium at world level to lose?

Christian Iddon:
It's fantastic to get the podium but you know, you can't be scared about these things. I was feeling really good all weekend, the bike was really good underneath me and I could really play with it. That's why the crash was so strange and why I think there may have been something down. Three people went down on the same lap so I think there was a good possibility there was something.

Crash.net:
There was no rain?

Christian Iddon:
No, there was no rain.

It's the first time I've had that chance though and you don't know how often you'll get the chance for the win.

Crash.net:
Do you feel a bit of weight off your shoulders now you've bagged a podium?

Christian Iddon:
Definitely. I think the last few rounds have been a bit of a weight off my shoulders because we're getting to where we need to be.

When you start on a new bike you don't know how good it's going to be and it's also hard to compare it to the opposition given that there's only me and Robby on them. You can look at the other guys on track though and I can tell that I've got one of the best chassis out there.

I've pretty much got no excuse because the bike's amazing and if it were made by one of the big Japanese manufacturers I don't think it would be any better than what a small Italian manufacturer has done.

Crash.net:
Is anything sorted for next year?

Christian Iddon:
No, not at the moment.

The plan at the beginning was to have one year learning the bike and circuits and then to have a crack at the title next year but plans change and I'm not entirely sure what Parkingo are doing. There are also a lot of rumours about MV switching to another team and also a possible move into Superbikes.

I do have the full support of Giuliano and I'm letting him do a fair bit of talking for me and I'll see what he decides and I'm waiting for his ideas regarding his team and set up. I am along for the ride with Giuliano.

I think with my riding style and liking to play with the rear end I would be good for a bigger bike with more power so WSBK or WSBK Evo would suit. Moto2 is also a slight possibility. Going to the bigger paddock would be interesting but only on the right bike. At the moment I don't have a decision to make because there's nothing there. I'll just have to wait and see.

Crash.net:
Thanks Christian and good luck.

Christian Iddon:
Cheers.


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