Max Anstie lived every professional MX riders’ dream with a perfect 1-1 day at the 2017 MXoN in front of his home country of Great Britain. Photo by: Ray Archer
As we all know, Max Anstie has gone from MXGP, off to race the AMA 450 supercross and motocross championships. Personally, I think it sucks that we lose such a good rider with such a strong personality, but I guess that is what MXGP has become with so many young riders coming through and pushing out the more experienced guys.
While Anstie is looking forward to racing America and was even swaying towards going there anyway—even when some MXGP rides did turn up—he goes with some supercross experience and no doubt if fit, a great shot at finishing on the podium a lot of AMA Nationals rounds.
We caught up with Max earlier this week and he gave us some really good information about his plans for 2020 and also a nice little story about the number he will carry into the American season.
It is obviously sad to see you go, as you are one of the really nice guys in the paddock and also one of the best riders. So, what happened with racing MXGP, why didn’t it happen?
It wasn’t so much I couldn’t get a ride. About five or six weeks ago, my main focus was MXGP. I almost had a deal with Dixon, that I thought would have been good, because I was going to get support from Kawasaki and I also spoke to Jacky Martens and a lot of the teams and it wasn’t that there wasn’t anything, but there was this opportunity in America. That for me, and I have said it before when I was 16, and before that, it was always about going to America and racing supercross. I am good in the sand and that is all I did as a kid, and also supercross. It was just the fact I got to a point where I felt if I don’t take this opportunity, I might never get this chance again.
You still had rides in Europe?
It was down to I had some rides in MXGP, but something was pulling me to the states. I was coming out to get married after the MXoNations and I had this test planned with this Suzuki team. They had been messaging me since May about a deal and I didn’t know much about them and my main focus was still GPs with Standing Construct and there are goals I hadn’t achieved, and I was getting closer. This year I won a moto and I should have won an overall and I wanted to get that overall victory. Then it came about and we came out and got married and I got a few messages all at once that some of the deals would not work out and it wasn’t about money, but some things were not coming together to I wouldn’t have been competitive and I am expected to do well in Europe and I want to be able to perform. I know how hard it is even this year on Standing Construct and they are a good team, so starting again, on a new bike and a new team, when I had something similar in America, where I was excited to do it, I thought, why not. Instead of doing the same thing again, a different brand again and a different set-up, I thought I might as well do that in America. I got on the bike, did some testing, met the team and I felt not too bad. I just thought, alright, this feels good. I thought if I didn’t take it up, I would regret it.
I can imagine the whole supercross thing because you did it at a young age, it comes back to you quicker, like riding a push-bike, or playing football. I have two daughters and they both played football, one started when she was like five and had a great technique, the other started when she was 12 and her technique wasn’t so good, and I think that whole doing something at a young age makes it so much easier. Was that the case?
Yes, I mean, I have always kept my hand in. In England I have my own track and a facility with an outdoor track and a supercross track and it isn’t like an American supercross track, but it is supercross and I am always playing on it. I raced in America when I was 16 and I accepted it easier. Even when I go for the photo shoots with Standing Construct this year, there was a supercross track and I jumped on it and was playing around. It just comes easier for me than some other things do. I am not taking anything easy, it won’t be easy, there is a difference between riding a track and racing it, but at the end of the day, I have some experience. The experience from the GPs I will take that with me and learn from it.
Do you think because some of the GP tracks are more technical than they used to be, and we have wave sections and some really technical sections that might help you a little more than the guys who went in the 1990s?
I mean, I hope so, I will take all the positives possible and not look at the negatives. I know it won’t be easy, but I will do the best I can. Nobody has done this, normally they come when they are young, and they do the 250 class. Thinking about it, I can’t remember the last time a premier class rider went to America.
The last to actually leave the premier class was Gareth Swanepoel in 2010 (a decade ago) and before that Ben Townley in 2005, before him Chad Reed in 2001.
Yes, and they all went to the 250 class, none of them went to the 450 class.
Well, the last guy to go to the 450 class was Sebastien Tortelli in 1999. He did race the opening round of the 1998 AMA supercross as a wildcard rider and won it at the LA Coliseum in the mud. So maybe you need some mud for A1?
Then I have something for your interview. I nice bit for your story, it is looking like I might be number 103 and the only rider I can think who rode that was Tortelli.
Chad Reed also rode with 103 in his first year in America, but he was in the East Coast 125cc championship and won it. That would be cool to have that number considering those two guys had it, and I guess all you have to do now is win A1 in the mud?
Oh my god! At the end of the day, it is so confusing here with numbers. I can’t be 99 because you need to a three-digit number. I wanted to be 109 but some South American guy has that number and won’t give it up, and then I thought 103. I know Brian Morea is 104 and we are just trying to get any number we can get but is looks like 103 will be my number.
I get the feeling a handful of leading GP riders could handle supercross, but the biggest problem would be the whoops, where they would all suck, but how are you in the whoops after your experience when you were younger?
I am good at the moment, but it is difficult in training, because here, everyone trains on their own, on their own test tracks, so you can’t gauge yourself on the others. Even when you go to Milestone, there are no whoops there. I have been on the Suzuki test track in central California and I feel good compared to my team-mates, but you can’t go to Glen Helen like you can do an International race at Hawkstone Park or Lommel and half the GP riders are there. Here you don’t find out where you really are until you get to A1. I would have liked to have done Geneva and Bercy, but I have only been on the bike a week.
You must have some feel for how this bike is compared to say your Standing Construct KTM was?
I do, there is potential there. It is so different for supercross. If we were going into testing for outdoors, then I would know what we need to improve on, but we go into supercross and the bike is shorter, more aggressive and stiffer and you need to case jumps and hit the whoops.
As a fan looking in, I would imagine you would be happy to just qualify for the main event at A1 and then work your way up from there. What are you thinking?
I mean, at the end of the day, I am underprepared and undertrained. I just signed the deal 10 days ago and I have had a week on the bike, and I have four weeks until A1. So, I haven’t had a lot of time on the bike and I don’t have the experience on the other guys. I wanted to do 250 in supercross, that would have given me more time to go outdoors, but that deal didn’t come together. Going into the 450 class, it isn’t going to be easy. I am not going in with high expectations. I am just going in and see what happens in timed training and who knows maybe I won’t be too bad, or I might have a lot of work to do. Whatever happens, it is something I want to do, and I know it won’t be easy. I would rather take on this or go into the GPs again where I know I am fighting an uphill battle with things. I am excited for this challenge and I will give it a shot. You never know, we will give it our best shot, but it might not be for me, but if I don’t do it, I will regret it.
At least you know what to expect with the big stadiums full of 70,000 people, so that shouldn’t be a shock for you?
No, and the thing is, I know stadiums and I have raced in them before and people seem to forget that. And Matterley Basin (MXoN) was probably the highest pressure I will ever have, leading the Motocross of Nations at home, I don’t think leading a supercross race would even match that type of pressure. Being at Matterley in front your home crowd and all your eyes on you. I remember thinking, Jesus, I can’t mess this up. I am sure it will be up there, but I think I am much more ready when I was a kid. I can deal with that side of things better.
Does the team have any expectations?
No, we are just testing and getting things done now, and in supercross, it is about having the experience of getting through it and making the best of each race. I want to do well, but as long as I am strong going into Outdoors, then we will be strong for the final rounds of the supercross. People are getting injured already, and it isn’t easy.
With all the injuries that happen in supercross, did you think at all about just waiting for a ride to turn up when somebody got injured?
I have been waiting around for so long and not knowing, and in saying that, I did have an opportunity to be a backup rider, but you feel like you are the second option and you probably won’t get paid and when he comes back, you are out. It is a weird situation. I am really happy with this team and I see the potential and they want to improve and be better and better. I get a full season to improve and I know with the 450 it is easier than the 250 class because you might come up against somebody on a really fast 250 and they are hard to beat, but with the 450, they have enough power anyway. We just need to develop it, so it is usable.
Obviously being married and having your wife there, that must be a plus having somebody there supporting you.
It would be if she was here.
Are you divorced already?
No (laughing), literally, we got married and I had this deal done, but we came here to get married and then go back to Europe. We were on our honeymoon in the Caribbean and I said we need to make a decision. Do we get on a plane and go back to Europe, or get on a flight back to America? Our house in Belgium is a rental, but it has been our home for four years in Lommel and when it looked like we would stay in America, she has to fly back and sort the house out and other things. Luckily it looks like Ben Watson will take over the house. We have all our stuff, bikes, rowing machines, everything. I brought holiday clothes here and that is it. She comes back on Christmas day.
How excited are you for Outdoors, because while it won’t be a piece of cake, but there are some beautiful tracks in America and the Grand Prix speed seems to be better than the AMA guys, so that must give you confidence?
Exactly. First things first, I need to feel good on the bike and I have been doing more motocross practice on the bike, because I just need to learn the bike first. Once I get comfortable, we do more supercross training. I think as long as you get to the Outdoors healthy and I have done some good testing and training, but when you look at the schedule, we do 17 races in 18 weeks, so it doesn’t give you much time to prepare for Outdoors. I know from testing supercross already, the outdoor bike is a lot different. I mean, I am looking forward to it and I think it will be a good direction for me, but I first need to get there.
What will you miss from the Grand Prix series. I mean the schedule in America is a killer, it seems like the riders don’t mix like they do in MXGP or MX2. How has that been so far for you?
I actually noticed that the other day for a media shoot. They are definitely a bit stiffer over here, if you know what I mean. We all respect each other in MXGP and give it to each other on the track, but we are pretty happy with each other and here it is a bit more distant. I mean I don’t know anyone here and my team-mates are good. I am sure we will get into it. I don’t know what I will miss. At the end of the day, what I have learned, 2016 in Maggiora I thought I would never ride a 250 again, and I hadn’t achieved what I wanted to achieve. I nearly got a 250 deal here in America and I can still go down to 250 near year, or I might not like it in America and get a ride in MXGP again. It isn’t over until it’s over.
What would be cool is if you are struggling in supercross you take the final few rounds off and prepare for the AMA Nationals doing maybe the Spanish and Portugal Grand Prix’s.
(Laughs) Exactly, line up at Matterley in March.