Jack Valentine looks ahead to the 2015 British Superbike Championship, as he leads Halsall Racing's challenge as a Suzuki GB supported team with new riders Josh Waters and Christian Iddon.

Crash.net
This week saw the announcement of your riders for the coming season - Josh Waters and Christian Iddon. It's certainly an intriguing line-up, so can you firstly just talk me through the process of approaching and signing these riders.

Jack Valentine
We [Halsall Racing] knew we were going to a two rider team for this year anyway and I was looking at riders as far back as the middle of 2014. We spoke to Josh early and he was going to come to us whatever bike we were racing - this was long before we decided to go with Suzuki -, so he was happy to come to the team. Then we got the official Suzuki deal and Josh wasn't bothered because he likes riding the Suzuki anyway, so that took care of itself. For the second rider, we were hanging on to try and get a really top rider from World Superbikes who was maybe dropping back to BSB, but it all slotted into position in WSBK so it wasn't possible. So I was looking outside the box because I wanted fresh blood in the team and somebody who I think has the aggression. There were quite a few riders still available, including the rider we had last year [Jon Kirkham], but I have always admired Christian and I think he did a particularly terrific job on the MV Agusta in 2013, which was a new bike and was at the sharp end despite technical issues. Then last year on the Bimota, he rode extremely well so he fit the bill and we went from there. I think I have a really good little team there and they will complement each other well.

Crash.net
This will be Josh's third season in BSB and he will stay on the Suzuki. Last year he came on significantly, particularly during the latter half of the year, so what do you expect from him in 2015?

Jack Valentine
I think 100 per cent that we have not seen the full potential of Josh Waters. He is a great rider, he has been on the podium at the Suzuka 8 Hours, which is no mean feat, and I am hoping that with some good pre-season testing under our belts and some hard, aggressive riding from the word go, it will be good. If Josh had been scoring points regularly at the beginning of the season, he would have been in the Showdown. He had a couple of wins in damp conditions, but it shows how good he is at handling a bike and even in the dry he was in the top six towards the end of the season. We just need to concentrate on the pre-season preparation, get the miles and making sure the riders are happy so when we come to the first round we are focused on racing. The results have always come by doing that.

Crash.net
Josh won two races in 2014, both in wet or greasy conditions, but he is yet to get a podium in the dry. Are you hoping for a wet season or do you think Josh's dry weather form will come good in 2015?

Jack Valentine
I don't think anybody wants wet races, but it is useful to have a rider who is strong in those conditions. The bike is set-up well for it too. He has proven good in those conditions on numerous occasions but that is not the reason to sign him. The reason is because we haven't seen the true potential of him yet. If he can do that in the wet, if we can get the bike set up for him in the dry there is no reason to suggest he can't do that too. By the end of 2014 he was there or thereabouts and he impressed on the Kawasaki in 2013 when he took over Tommy Bridewell's ride. We just need to work hard with him early in the season.

Crash.net
As for Christian, he hasn't had a full season in BSB before, but has impressed in Supersport and World Superbikes. How happy are you to have secured him for 2015?

Jack Valentine
I am really pleased with that. He has been at the front in World Supersport on a brand new bike which had technical difficulties, just like mine did that year in the TT [laughs], but he was up against the best in the world like Sofuoglu, Sam Lowes, van der Mark... When the bike was right, he was in the thick of things. He is an experienced rider, a natural rider - he has shown what he can do on a Supermotard bike, so he won't be frightened to let it hang out a bit. Last year with the Bimota, which was a difficult package, again he had various issues but he showed his maturity, got stuck in and got decent results on it. He has got potential and I don't think we have seen the best of Christian Iddon yet either.

Crash.net
Francis Batta described Christian as one of the most naturally talented riders in terms of bike control he has come across - given the onus bike control and limited electronics in BSB, compared to perhaps WSBK, how much do you expect that to work in his favour this year?

Jack Valentine
I think it will help him tremendously. Like I say, he is not bothered to have it stepping out, he is not bothered to back it into the corners... I think the same applies to Josh, because he comes from dirt track experience. We have two really naturally talented motorcycle riders. It is going to be a tough year, I am not saying it will be easy, but it is my ambition to see one of those riders in the Showdown - get both in I will be really happy. Second and third in the championship isn't worth a dime, you just need to be in that top six, that Showdown because that is where the publicity and sponsors come in.

Crash.net
Halsall Racing are a relatively new team but clearly very ambitious - how did the factory deal with Suzuki come about?

Jack Valentine
Martin Halsall wanted to step up to a two-man this year anyway, so the plans were going ahead with that. Then the rumours suggested Suzuki were looking for another team, so I made an initial enquiry and it became apparent that they were definitely looking for another team. I was happy to be approached by them, we had a meeting, they came up to the unit and it was all pretty straightforward from there. Martin has put a lot of his own money in it the last couple of years, so this is the reward he deserves for that. Obviously my past background with Suzuki helped smooth things alone, because I know a lot of people in the Suzuki racing department, Yoshimura and Suzuki GB, and I still have a close relationship with Crescent Racing too. So, in a way, it was a natural move and it is nice to be back in the Suzuki family.

This year will see the new Yamaha R1 debut, BMW step up its involvement and Honda return... By contrast, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 is one of the older machines on the grid. As someone who knows the bike better than most, how more do you think there is to come from the bike?

Jack Valentine
I think there is quite a lot. You only have to look at the Crescent Suzuki in the world championship. There is a lot of potential, but I think I am correct in saying heavily disadvantaged with the electronics compared to Aprilia and Kawasaki because the budget hasn't been there to develop at that level. But with the rules being changed a little bit, the Suzuki can be competitive. The Honda 'blade is an older bike but it is still winning races. With the Suzuki we should be able to get good horsepower out of it, we have always built a strong 1000cc engine and the chassis is good. We don't have the luxury of too many electronics, so that levels the playing field as well. The new R1 is still going to have to be BSB regulations, so while the 'stock bike may have 'all singing and dancing' traction control on it, the BSB bike is using the same ECU as the Suzuki.

Crash.net
Finally, can you describe in a few short words where, in 10 months' time when the season is over, you expect to see Josh, Christian and Halsall Suzuki?

Jack Valentine
I will go away saying it is a good season if I have them both riders in the Showdown. If I got one of them in the Showdown I would be very happy too. To win the championship - and this is no disrespect to my riders -, to win the championship you can probably count it on less than one hand. It's going to be Shakey again for sure, Kiyo if Buildbase have it all together, TAS will be strong with BMW, Laverty and Bridewell, so maybe there are four of five riders that could go for the championship. But you need to be in that Showdown, be in it to win it. If your rider is in the Showdown, then I think you can say you have done a good job!

 

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