Former British MX1 champion Kristian Whatley is hungry to get back on top of the UK championship. Armed with a Husqvarna 450, he’s lean and loves his new bike. The former Honda rider, who now lives in Oxford just a few miles from the opening round at Culham on Sunday, joins Jamie Law and Matt Burrows in the revamped Apico Husqvarna team.
Check out what the team had to say in our exclusive video, and read Whatley’s thoughts on the 2017 season.
Last season didn’t bring the results we’re used to seeing, can you tell us a little about what happened and how you felt about it?
“Last season was a bit of a struggle for me. I got off to a pretty good start, but had a few personal issues and I didn’t really feel like I was putting it there and gelling with the team like before. My best result was actually at the last round I did at Blaxhall, it was a hard day but I came from around 12th to third in the second race, then I had a fourth too for a podium overall. It was too late for the season but I finally started to feel like I was gelling with the bike and suspension, so it came together a bit better.
“It was a tough time. I went to Steve Payne who found me a really good setting, and I felt a lot happier overall with the bike. The results really showed. It’s hard when you’re riding round wondering what you’re doing and why you’re there, I literally just wanted to cry and go home after some of the results. Then Multitek came out with me and found me a different setting at Mildenhall on the Thursday before the last race I did, then by Sunday the result was a lot better. It was a good way to finish my season.”
You have recently signed for the Apico Husqvarna team close to the opening round of the season; have you had much bike time to set the bike up and prepare for racing?
“I’m feeling really positive and happy to be onboard with the Apico Husqvarna team. There are some good guys behind it, the bike is good, and I feel great on it – like back in the day in 2013, I’m riding how I want to, like a bit of a Harley-Davidson for me. The Husqvarna really suits my style.
“Having said that I’ve only done about 25 hours on the Husqvarna so it’s not that much, and I had a bit of an injury when I was out in Dubai around a month ago – I ended up hitting a cameraman when he ran across the track. I thought I’d killed him! I was just about to take the lead, he ran across the track, and I only got the brakes about two feet from him, so I hit him hard. I went down and hurt a ligament in my shoulder. Preparation has been slow and hard really. Changing teams has not been easy, and we’re not really completely there in terms of set-up, as I’ve not done much testing at all. We’ve got one base setting, but despite that I’m feeling happy. I guess you don’t know until the gate drops.”
What are your thoughts on Culham making a return to the British Championship calendar after a major revamp and several years off the schedule?
“I love Culham. It’s a proper man’s track! I think everyone has had their fair share of get-offs and getting hurt there, especially on a four and half! I’m living in Oxford, it’s my hometown race really, the whole family will be there loving it and cheering me on, so hopefully I can get on the podium. It’s a track I enjoy, I’ve crashed there a fair few times, been knocked out, done my collarbone, done my clavicle with plating and everything like that, but besides that I do love riding it! I like the ground, it’s rutty, it’s technical and it’s hard going. You really have to find your lines, be creative, and you can get away with things, but if it goes wrong you’re going home. It suits my style, and if the ground is right it will be good.”
You won the 2013 Maxxis ACU British MX1 Championship, do you feel this year you could bring the championship back home?
“Definitely, 100%. The team is fully behind me, and I know it’s been a bit slow for us to get going, but if we can get everything set up in time we can do it. It’s been hard for everyone; Husqvarna have had to pull out all the stops to bring me into a different team so I’d like to thank Dave Edwards (Husqvarna), Dylan Brown (Apico) and Sean Burrows (Apico Husqvarna Team Manager) for pulling all the stops to get me there.”
Who would you say are your main rivals for this year?
“I think Jake (Nicholls) will be the biggest rival. Tommy (Searle) will be there taking points off people when his knee is ready, Graeme (Irwin) and a few other guys will be fighting for it. Some guys are coming up from MX2, and there will be rounds where other guys will be strong like Ando (Brad Anderson). Everyone is going to have their fair share of good days and bad days, but I’m not really looking at the competition. I’m getting on with what I’ve got to do. We know we need podiums to get where we want to.”
What are your expectations for 2017 and your strategy for the year, as it’s a long season?
“Go hard or go home I suppose! And consistent podiums.”
Being a local rider to the opening round of the Maxxis British Championship should the locals get behind this event?
“Yes definitely, it’s a must to have the local support. My family will be there, my mrs’ family, mum, dad, granddad and having the locals get behind me will be great.”
The eight round Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship series kicks off at this spectacular old-school track with three classes, MX1, MX2 and MXY2 where racers will battle it out on their motocross machines in a two-race format during the day. Catch all the high-octane action, thrills and spills by heading down to Culham Moto Park, which is situated off the A415 between Abingdon and Clifton Hampden. The entrance to the site is through Culham No. 1 Industrial Park – nearest postcode is OX14 3DA. More information: www.rhlactivities.com