With a career that has brought him so much success, with GP victories, British championships, and racing for his country, Shaun Simpson can be pretty content that he has done his best and produced more than most riders will in their racing careers. His GP victories have come on gnarly circuits—tough to ride and demanding on the mental side—and he’s used a lot of knowledge to edge out the other MXGP riders.
Now spending a season where the Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP Team rider, he has missed more Grand Prix’s than in his whole career. The Scotsman is looking at coming back, and trying to do what many would see as impossible, and race the deep sand at the Assen GP in close combat with Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings. He also has a goal to be in Team Great Britain at the Matterley Basin held Monster Energy Motocross of Nations, and try and help his home team make a top three result.
Two very tall orders, but it’s typical of the attitude of the Yamaha rider. Despite winning a Grand Prix in 2017, he hasn’t really had the year he probably wanted. But things can change with a little luck in the next few months.
As always, he gave Geoff Meyer of MXLarge a lot of his time for a nice interview with some insightful information.
What’s the latest with the injury?
Basically, I have been out of my cast and I just have a small brace. The injury has been pinned and it isn’t giving me pain, but it’s another four weeks before it has strength.
Ok, I saw your name on the start list for the last round of the Dutch championship this weekend and thought you might be there.
No, I won’t be back for a while.
Tell me, the [Arnaud] Tonus deal, I thought he already had a two-year deal?
No, he has just a one-year deal with Yamaha and I don’t know what type of option he has on it, I don’t know. Between me and you and after his podium in Italy, they were talking about renewing his contract.
So, will you be back for Switzerland?
I am going to miss that whole section to be honest. It just isn’t sure when I can be back on the bike. I will be able to ride in maybe a month to five weeks, but realistically I could be back for America, but I think I need to look at the bigger picture. America is great if you are really fit and healthy, but it’s a week wasted for training. I think I will come back for the last two Grand Prix’s. I think that is disappointing for everyone, I think I need to come back and feel good on the bike, and ready to really race.
The fact that it’s going to be pretty warm in America, around 35 degrees with 90% humidity doesn’t seem like the best place to come back?
That is what I have heard. The racer in me tells me I want to go. A new Grand Prix on the calendar, and to miss that one is disappointing, but I need to go on the plan we made and come back knowing I can do well. Coming back for Assen makes sense, I will be able to ride in the sand a lot, and hopefully come back and show a good result there.
I actually ran a poll on my website, can’t remember if it was who wins Lommel, or who wins Assen, around 44% went with Herlings, 30% or something went with Cairoli and the others went with somebody else. I am guessing a lot voted for you. Do you give yourself a chance against those two guys? Is that a goal, and realistic?
Definitely, I don’t see why not. I think last year in the second moto at Assen. Maybe it’s easier going there, I won’t have any pressure, just going there for fun and do well. They probably won’t be battling for the championship. I think I can go there and battle with them. It’s a technical track, while Lommel is more speed and endurance. Assen is about using your brain to carry the speed in the tight turns and that comes naturally to me. I have shown I know what I am doing in the sand. So, if we have the bike set-up and I am on my main game, then why not.
You have had some really nice GP wins, in really tough conditions, but to win at Assen, against those two, who at the time could both be world champions (Cairoli the 2017 MXGP champ and Herlings the current MX2 champ), with them both in really good form, that would have to be the best win of your career?
Yes, probably. When I won at Lommel Cairoli wasn’t there and the first time I won in Assen he wasn’t there. I beat him in Lierop in 2013, but he had problems in the first moto. I mean a GP wins is a GP win, and it would be amazing even if I can battle with those guys and take a win. Maybe I am setting the bar too high, I will be coming back from two six-week injuries, so three months of the season. I am doing everything to be ready, and I will have three weeks on the bike before Assen and I can do my training to peak for Assen. We are doing everything we can, but maybe I come there and am under the mark, but I will go there and give it everything I have.
The schedule for 2018 looks like one of the best schedules was have had for maybe 10 years in my opinion. What do you think of it?
Realistically it is sensible, to be honest. I have been nice calendars before and they have been ruined, so I hope this one doesn’t get changed. It looks good the tracks, the gaps between, one less fly-away race. Speaking to the teams the price doesn’t makes much difference, it’s still a lot of races, and the fly-aways always cost a lot. For a rider, it’s a nice-looking calendar with good sensible venues.
I did hear you contacted Youthstream after finding out they moved to a drier season in Indonesia and ask them for a mud race (joking)?
Yes (laughing). We actually checked one night over dinner and we were not sure they are actually out of the raining season and we might still get rain, and thought that would be great. All joking aside, it wasn’t just the rain season, it was also the type of soil there. There was one turn that was slightly sand based and the conditions of that one turn was perfect. So, if we get rain with that type of soil, the it shouldn’t be a problem. I am looking forward to going back.
The des Nations, I mean this year the brits have had so many injuries, even stupid injuries without crashing. Tommy is still out, or out again, you have had your problems, Max (Anstie) is riding well at the moment, Dean Wilson is riding well at the moment. What team would you pick for Matterley Basin?
I was confident I would get picked before this injury. I feel I have more to bring to the team than results. I have done a lot of these and I have experience. If there are younger guys on the team, I can bring sensible comments to the table. With the situation at the moment, we have three or four good MXGP riders with Dean [Wislon], Tommy [Searle], Max [Anstie] and myself, but we lack a top five guy in the MX2 class. We have Ben Watson who has had good results, [Adam] Sterry who has been injured and Conrad [Mewes] who sometimes gets a good result, but consistently being top five we are struggling. Tommy and Max can ride the MX2 bike and do well, so my idea was to have one of those two guys in the MX2 class. Then myself and Max, or myself and Tommy in the 450 class. I think it will come from that pool of MX2 riders who will come into contention on the future, but at the moment I think it will be a toss up between myself and Tommy for the final place in the team. Tommy has a good 250 in the Dixon team, which we don’t have. I am not saying we couldn’t do it, but it will be a toss-up and with a few months go to before the MXoN, anything can happen. I have spoken to Mark (team manager) after my latest injury and said I still want to be taken into consideration, and he said anything can happen. He wants to leave it until the very latest moment to have the best riders. He has come up with some good idea for preparation and I think he is doing a good job and he wants a sensible team. I would love to ride at Matterley, I didn’t ride there in 2006 because I wasn’t good enough, and looking at my career, this might be the last chance to race at home at this event. I would be really disappointed if I wasn’t involved. If we could pull something out of the hat and grab a podium, that would be nice. That is why I want to make a push and I hope Dean, Tommy, Max and I are all riding great around that time and it’s a hard decision for Mark.
Last question, because how is the beard, because I know it’s become rather famous in the GP paddock?
Yes, the beard is doing well. It wasn’t something I planned. Just before Qatar I didn’t shave and I planned to shave on the Thursday before Qatar, and everyone said it looked great, so just run with the stubble. I ran it and Indonesia I ran it and I won and I kept it, then I had it longer, then I got it trimmed and then I got sentimental. I was getting 50/50 with the comments, some liked it and said it looked cool, some said it looked stupid, shave it off, you looked better before and you look older. But I like it and I will just keep it for now. It will probably be just a 2017 thing and after that we will get rid of it.