MotoOnline.com.au speaks to the Australian Off Road Champion about his switch to Motorex KTM.
Switching team as the defending champion is a massive thing in modern racing, leaving the comforts of a proven stable to take on a new challenge in a different environment.
For Australian Off Road Champion Chris Hollis, the switch from Ballard’s Yamaha to Motorex KTM Off Road Racing for 2012 was a relatively straightforward move, and something that he is very familiar with.
Hollis also won the AORC title in 2008 for Yamaha before defecting to Husqvarna with the number one plate, but returned to Yamaha this year and won the title again.
Today saw the 27-year-old officially introduced on the KTM team, joining fellow two-time champion Toby Price, Ben Burrell and Ben Grabham. MotoOnline.com.au sat down with Hollis to speak about his transition, as well as what his plans are for next season.
We’re here at the Motorex KTM Off Road Racing team launch and you’re in new colours for 2012. It must be an exciting time for you, something fresh…
Yeah, that’s it. Something fresh, new team and they are a good lot of blokes. Everything’s been pretty good so far, but I haven’t actually done that much riding yet.
I’ve been on standard bikes just to make the transition, because they are different, so it’s important for me to get a feel for the stock bike before I start changing things.
I’ve had about a month on the KTM now, had a bit of time off as well to recharge the batteries, so now I can get ready for next year.
So what’s the plan? You’re riding the AORC series obviously, but will you be doing the major desert races as well with Toby and Grabbo?
I probably will be. Our main focus is the off-road series and the four-day, but I’ll definitely be at Hattah and I think I’ll be at Finke.
I’m going to go out and pre-run, but if it scares me then maybe I’ll back it off a little bit. I’m pretty keen to have a go at it, just to experience it.
It will be good to mix it up a bit, because I’ve been doing enduro for a lot of years now, so some desert racing isn’t going to hurt me. It will be good to try something different.
Yourself and Toby are the most successful guys in the AORC, both two-time champions Outright, so what’s it going to be like beneath the same tent?
It’s not going to bother me. It’s fine because we race against the clock, it’s not like we’re out there on a motocross bike battling eachother or taking eachother down. Whoever’s fastest is going to win, really.
We get along good, he’s a good guy, plus Grabbo and Benny as well. There won’t be any problems. At the end of the day we are out there racing, so it’s just part of it.
Do you know what bike or class you’ll be riding in the AORC?
Not yet, no. It will probably be E2, maybe E3. The 350 and 450 are both good, while I rode the 500 for the first time yesterday. I’ll see what I think, but it’s probably too much for that sort of stuff.
I’ll see over the next couple of tests and make a decision then.
KTM has teams worldwide and you do have experience in Europe. Is that in the back of your mind, or are you happy with what’s happening here in Australia?
I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing here, but if there’s not much happening at some stage I can always jump on a plane and KTM has such good contacts and teams that they can usually get a bike for you pretty quickly.
That was another point that excited me to ride for KTM, because if I wanted to race in Europe or America, they have bikes and teams available to us.
It was one of the worst kept secrets that you were switching to KTM, so when did it become a reality in your mind that you were going to switch from Yamaha even after winning the championship?
Pretty much just after the championship. I’d been talking before that and Yamaha was trying to make me sign before the final round. I sort of wanted to sit back, not wanting to sign with anyone until the championship was over.
Luckily I won, because otherwise I wouldn’t have the number one plate and everything could have changed. But pretty much as soon as that race finished, I was ready to go.
KTM had a good package and I didn’t have to change anything from the first proposal. That’s a good thing, I think, because they respect me as a racer and I respect them as a team.
It’s a good company to ride for, so as soon as the series finished I knew that I would be going there.