Exclusive interview with 2021 British Superbike champion Tarran Mackenzie

Crash.net’s exclusive interview with 2021 British Superbike champion Tarran Mackenzie, who discusses winning the title, staying with McAMS Yamaha for 2022, his aim to join the WorldSBK paddock in 2023 and more.
Exclusive interview with 2021 British Superbike champion Tarran Mackenzie

Here it is… Crash.net’s exclusive interview with 2021 Bennetts British Superbike champion Tarran Mackenzie. 

In this interview Mackenzie spoke to us about his 2021 season, on-track rivals, staying with McAMS Yamaha, the potential of joining WorldSBK full-time in 2023 and much more. 

Crash.net: Before getting into your new deal with McAMS, can you just reflect on the 2021 season after winning the title - your first in BSB and also winning 25 years on since your father Niall did so? 

Mackenzie: "Yeah it was pretty cool really. We didn’t really think anything of it being 25 years until the last two rounds really. Because Jason had such a strong points lead during the year it was a case of getting down to these last three rounds and focusing on the championship really. 

"For me, up until Silverstone - last round before the showdown I wasn’t thinking about the championship at all. I was just trying to get as many podium credits as possible. When I came out of Oulton Park leading the championship then there’s a bit more pressure and people were talking about it a bit more. 

"When I left Donington Park with a bigger points lead, then after the first race at Brands I had an even bigger points lead, it’s like okay this might happen 25 years on since my dad. It was an incredible weekend at Brands and forget winning the championship, just winning three races was great and winning 25 years on is a bit surreal. A bit of a fairy-tale really." 

Crash.net: Was that your mindset throughout the season then; you mentioned how Jason had a really big points lead and a really strong season, but when it got to the showdown that’s when you were at your best and matched your win tally from the pre-showdown rounds. So was it about getting as many podiums, staying as close as possible to him and waiting for the showdown?

Mackenzie: "Yeah, it’s a strange championship. Obviously it’s worked out for me because if we didn’t have the showdown; you don’t know what would have happened, but it’s very likely that Jason would have won it. 

"You always want to be leading the championship like he was, but when that kind of gets away from you, you kind of just think about the showdown is coming, so you just want to get as many podium credits as possible. 

"Suddenly it goes from if I had a crash and Jason won he would only gain five points, whereas when you get into the showdown it goes back to the normal championship. When I crashed at Cadwell and missed three races; well I crashed in the first race and missed the two Sunday races and Jason had a really good weekend - he had a strong points lead at that point, and then it went away from me a lot. 

"At that point it was just about trying to focus on not having any DNF’s and trying to claw back some of the points that Jason was gaining on me. Then I went to Silverstone and we had that coming together again! I broke my hand, broke my wrist and at that point I thought it’s going to be tough now. 

"I thought Jason was; he was injured as well, but when we went into Oulton Park I still had a broken hand and broken wrist before going to a track where he had previously done the triple at the start of the year - was a track where I’d never won at or was on the podium at in Superbikes, so it was just about getting to the showdown fit and healthy. As we’ve seen in previous years anything can happen and as we saw Jason had two DNF’s and I came out leading." 

Crash.net Could you talk a little bit about the battles you had in 2021, particularly the main battle which was with Jason O’Halloran, but also with the likes of Tommy Bridewell and Christian Iddon because we’ve seen this year; if you take WorldSBK for example and the incredible fight between two riders; Razgatlioglu and Rea, but then also in F1 you have Verstappen and Hamilton. So from your perspective how was your title battle? 

Mackenzie: "I think it was pretty much all fair. I think some weekends Bridewell might have been stronger than Christian, then Christian might have been stronger than Tommy. We might have got to Oulton Park and been a little bit weaker and Tommy was a little bit stronger, so everyone had their strong tracks, but there was never a week-in-week-out scenario where we were going at each other's throats really. 

"That was mainly me and Jason at the end of the season before the showdown. But what I really liked going into Brands and we mentioned it in the pre-interview, was that with 26 points between us, I was leading and Tommy was fourth 26 points behind I think and we went into a track at Brands Hatch where I won a race in the middle of the year, Christian had won a race, Jason won a race, I think Tommy was on the podium twice so everyone was strong. 

"What I liked about who was going to be champion was that it was fair going into it, no one had a real advantage over the other one really. Came away from Donington Park where Christian had three podiums I think and Tommy was strong. 

"It was just fair and that’s the best way to describe it. Even during the weekend, there were no red flags, no one crashed aside from Christian in the last race. There were no coming togethers and no long lap penalties and that’s what was nice for me. 

"To win a championship was great, but to do it in that way and everything be fair was the right way for me. I wouldn’t have liked it if Tommy had crashed and gifted it to me really or something like that. We’re all rivals on track but we all get on with each other off track. There’s no bitterness between us."

Exclusive interview with 2021 British Superbike champion Tarran Mackenzie

Crash.net: Do you think that’s crucial in a title battle; not needing to be best friends with everyone, but to have that level of respect when you go racing? 

Mackenzie: "Yeah I think so! You’ve seen rivalries in the past, especially in MotoGP where they don’t get on and I think everyone sitting at home knows they don’t get on. Me and Jason have had a couple of coming togethers the last two years but we’ve always had a mutual respect and good sportsmanship between us. 

"Especially for me and Jason being teammates and being employed to do the same thing which is to win a championship, it’s hard to be friends. But we’ve spent a bit of time in the off-season at Yamaha do’s, went to Italy together. Christian and Tommy I’ve known for a long time but it’s hard to be a bit of a friendship with them - they’re a little bit older than me, but we’ve always got on well off track. 

"I think BSB kind of attracts that. It’s amazing racing, it’s competitive, but off the track we can shake hands and have a laugh about it really. I think if it was a strong rivalry like we’ve seen now with Hamilton and Verstappen - they obviously hate each other and it’s going down to the last round and on equal points. 

"They will probably do anything and everything to win and that’s when it’s not nice. But it makes it so exciting to watch. Watching it is great, but when you’re involved in it it’s not so nice." 

Crash.net: Just looking ahead to next season you re-signed with McAMS Yamaha, so how pleasing was it to get that done?

Mackenzie: "Yeah it’s really nice for me. Coming back to BSB with the number one plate is going to be a new experience and I’m really looking forward to that. It’s going to be my fifth year with McAMS Yamaha in the Superbike class. It’s a really nice opportunity and I didn’t want to ride for anyone else in the UK. 

"I’ve got a really good relationship with all of my crew, the team, the team sponsors and having Jason there, which you might not know but that gets announced tomorrow. But to have him as my team-mate again is great for me. I think we won something like 21 out of the 33 races which is just over two-thirds and is mad really. 

"It’s just a nice team atmosphere, and although it didn’t work out for Jason this year, we had such a great year as a team and if we can carry that on to next year and hopefully improve the bike a little bit then that’s great. I’m just looking forward to getting going again and working with these guys. Then having the three WorldSBK wildcards is something new for me which is going to be really exciting. So yeah, I’m enjoying the off-season but I’m looking forward to getting going again next year." 

Crash.Net: You mentioned the WorldSBK stuff; how important is it for you to have those three wildcards next season and is a full-time ride in 2023 your main objective? 

Mackenzie: "I made it no secret this year and the team were pushing hard for me to go to WorldSBK for 2022. But it just wasn’t right for me to go, which is why I’m really happy to stay in the UK. 

"But Yamaha has been really good with me and they’re going to supply a bike from their WorldSBK program to do three wildcards which is really, really cool. 

"It will be a really nice experience for me. There’s nothing set in stone as in if you do x, y and z then you’re going to go in 2023, but I feel like if I have a good performance in some of these races that I’m going to get to do - nine races, so nine opportunities then that will be great. 

"But yeah, WorldSBK is still the target. I’m only 26; there are some who are younger who are racing there already, but there’s also older guys that race in Superbikes, so I feel there’s still time yet and I want to first come back and prove a point next season by winning the BSB title with number one plate. 

"But I also want to push on and try to move the goal post out a little bit more in WorldSBK. My hope and aim is to be there in 2023." 

Crash.net: With yourself being with Yamaha and the level of success they’ve had across all championships this season - winning in MotoGP, WorldSBK, BSB and MotoAmerica, is staying with the team and moving to WorldSBK with Yamaha you’re main priority or would you be open to joining the world championship with a different manufacturer? 

Mackenzie: "I’d really like to go with Yamaha. It’s going to be my fifth season on a Yamaha. For me it’s probably the best bike in WorldSBK at the moment and if the opportunity was there with Yamaha then that would be the perfect situation for me. 

"That would be my main goal, to go there with Yamaha. If there was a competitive bike; I don’t know, I'd be surprised if I got offered something, but you don’t know and if there were no opportunities with Yamaha; the goal regardless is to get to WorldSBK, but I don’t want to just go there for the sake of it and ride in a sort of b/c team. 

"I want to go there properly and do it properly. The main thing for me is I’ve got to perform in BSB, it’s not really about these wildcards. I’ve got to continue the progression that I’ve shown in recent years in BSB. So I just want to carry that on, have this taster of WorldSBK next year and if it’s on a Yamaha for 2023 then that would be even better."

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