With no prior testing and only limited experience on MotoGP tracks, Tarran Mackenzie’s job of adapting to Moto2 machinery was never going to be straightforward, but the Scot feels he is a much improved rider at the close of 2017 thanks to 13 races in the intermediate class.

The reigning British Supersport champion was drafted into the Kiefer Racing squad to replace Danny Kent from the French Grand Prix, meaning there was little time to adapt to his new surroundings.

Aside from a lack of world championship experience, there were several obstacles to overcome. Learning the workings of a new team, bike, tyres and opponents when the season was well advanced was a big ask. Crew chief Lucio Nicastro was sacked before Misano, with the team feeling he was overcomplicating matters with continual set-up changes, which disrupted Mackenzie’s flow.

Then came the tragic passing of team boss Stefan Kiefer on the Friday morning at Sepang, which led to the team’s withdrawal from that event. Returning to race at Valencia was far from easy. “It was difficult for the whole team but we got through it,” said Mackenzie. “It shows how professional they all are to go on as normal.”

There were signs of progress in the second half of the season; Mackenzie scored his first top 20 finish at the Red Bull Ring, his first world championship point at Motegi, and by Valencia his consistency in the race’s final third was much improved when compared to his earlier outings.

Small steps, but the 22-year old, who will race a competitive package in the British Superbike Championship next year, feels the experience in grand prix will serve as better preparation for ’18 than continuing in the national Supersport class.

“It’s been character building,” said Mackenzie after the final race of the year at Valencia. “The experience as a whole has been really good. I always said that the people at home when they look at the screen and see me in 28th or 29th, it might not look that good.

“But I know and the people around me know, that I’ve improved a lot since I came here. Taking that into next year should help massively. If I stayed in British Supersport I would have maybe won a few more races, but I wouldn’t be as good a rider as I am now.

“Learning these tracks is good for the future as well and riding around with the world’s best, you can’t really have much more than that. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. When I first got here, the races felt really long and today was one of the longest races in the dry, I think. It felt alright and my lap time on the last lap wasn’t far off my best time from the race. It was all OK.”

The Kiefer team was prepared to offer Mackenzie a first full season in the class in ’18 only for lead sponsor AirGrinder to announce it would not continue, meaning the squad required the Scot to pay a substantial amount for the seat.

“I’d have to sell my house or something like that to come and ride here,” Mackenzie said at Aragon. “I don’t want people spending that kind of money on me. I’d rather go play golf or do something else in that case.”

Mackenzie’s stunning start to 2017 – during which he won six British Supersport races from as many starts – was not forgotten, however, and the Scot soon signed up for a first shot at the British Superbike Championship. 

“I’ve got a test in Almeria on the first of December on the Superbike,” he said. “It’s all prepped and ready to go so I just need to wait until the first of December. It should be quite exciting. It’s another new challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”

This year’s BSB season was notable for the emergence of young talents Jake Dixon – twice a race winner – and Bradley Ray, who scored a podium finish at Oulton Park, results that give Mackenzie confidence going into ’18.

“The thing is, like any championship that I’ve entered, you try and score points first and try and progress from there. I’d love to say I’ll win a race or get on the podium but I won’t know until I’ve ridden it first. I don’t know if I can even touch the floor on it, yet! We’ll see about that.

“Looking at previous riders like Dixon and Bradley Ray, people like Glenn Irwin and [Luke] Mossey they haven’t been that bad straight away. That’s coming from British Supersport. So coming from here it could be a bit better. But I don’t know. We’ll have to see. I’ll tell you after the first test.

“Jake was really strong in the middle part of the year and you see when he comes here, it’s not so easy. Looking at those guys, there’s no reason I can’t be doing what they’ve been doing this year.”


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