Features 23 Mar 2010

Moto Talk with Billy MacKenzie

Australian Motocross has a new face for 2010, with Scottish international star Billy MacKenzie set to debut with Kawasaki at Horsham this weekend.

BillyMac is a new face in Australian Motocross for 2010.

BillyMac is a new face in Australian Motocross for 2010.

While Australia’s top Motocross stars are desperate for a shot at international fame, it’s almost unheard of to see a world championship calibre rider from Europe move to Oz in search of success on two-wheels.

But that’s exactly what Scottish star Billy MacKenzie has done for season 2010, moving to Queensland with the Kawasaki Racing Team under the watchful eye of 12-time Aussie champ Troy Carroll.

MacKenzie is a proven World Motocross GP winner in both the MX1 and MX2 categories, suffering an injury-plagued season in 2009, however he’ll enter the MX Nationals as an unknown quantity against the likes of defending double champ Jay Marmont and co.

MotoOnline.com.au gave the 25-year-old a call to see how he’s settling into the Aussie lifestyle and to find out what his expectations are for this weekend’s season opener at Horsham in Victoria.

Billy, first of all, it’s midday right now and I’ve just been speaking to TC to get your number – he wanted me to make sure you’re out of bed!

Of course, I am [laughs]. I was up early today because I went to bed early last night actually. Yesterday I had to get up early with Troy, had to get up at 7.00am to test my race bike at half past eight, but then he didn’t turn up until 10!

So I was there an hour and a half before him, which could have been an hour and a half more sleep. I was feeling ill all day yesterday, had a fever or something, so I went to bed early last night. After that, I woke up early this morning and I’ve been on it ever since [laughs].

Now on a serious note, this weekend marks the first round of the MX Nationals down at Horsham, so what are your expectations?

I just want to ride like I know that I can. I’ve been doing a lot of laps recently, I went and did a club race at Toowoomba at Echo Valley, which was really cool. I had Andrew McFarlane there to judge my speed on, and I was going fast that day. I’ve been feeling good on the bike and it’s working perfectly, so as long as I ride how I know I can and don’t have any problems then I’m sure I can pull off a win. But I don’t know, I haven’t seen much of the competition here in Australia yet, so I’ll just go and ride how I can and see what happens.

You’re basically an unknown quantity to the local guys, but I guess the entire field and series is just about all new to you, right?

Well yeah, obviously [laughs]. Is that the question? [more laughter].

[Laughs] Yeah, pretty much stated the obvious there huh? What I mean is that while the Aussie riders at least know who you are, all that you can basically do is turn up and ride your best at this point to see how you stack up against the locals on home soil…

That’s it, I don’t really concern myself with what other people are doing or anything like that, I just like to concentrate on what I’m doing and that my lap times are fast without making mistakes on the track. As long as I can do all that on race day then I know I’ve done everything that I can do to win the race. I don’t really check what times other guys are doing or anything, I just make sure my program is good and everything else takes care of itself really.

It’s kind of an unusual move to come from Europe to Australia to race Motocross, so how did the move with Kawasaki come about?

Basically, I had a really bad time last year. I wasn’t enjoying racing, wasn’t enjoying the tracks and wasn’t getting along real well with my bike. I had a lot of injuries and just got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying my racing, and that really worried me. I looked for options for me to enjoy racing my bike again, and Australia was definitely one of them.

I wanted to get back with Kawasaki because we had some really good results back in 2007, so I looked around and heard that Troy’s team was cool, I’d heard a lot about him, and I was told Australian Motocross is really good at the moment.

After all that I thought ‘you know what, why not?’. I thought ‘hey, I’ll give it a shot and if it works out then cool, if it doesn’t then I’ll just see how it goes’, so here I am.

Are you planning on staying here, or is it a matter of rebuilding, having some fun and then returning to the world championship?

Ah, I don’t know. I haven’t made my mind up with that, I’m just basically seeing how things pan out. I like it here in Oz, I’m meeting new people and I’m getting comfortable, but I also miss my friends and stuff back home. As long as I’m enjoying racing my bike and getting good results then I’ll pretty much just go wherever the next offer is, I guess.

I’d like to go to America, that’s a big reason I came to Oz is because I want to learn Supercross so then maybe I can have a shot at it in America, but I’m free to go wherever I want really.

MacKenzie rode for CAS Honda last year, but has returned to Kawasaki and has made the trip down under this season.

MacKenzie rode for CAS Honda last year, but has returned to Kawasaki and has made the trip down under this season.

I just like having my own choice, deciding what I want to do rather than what everybody else wants me to do. I just want to do my best here and then we’ll see what the best choice for me will be in the future.

How does your equipment in Australia compare with the factory bikes that you’re used to back in Europe?

It’s hard to say, really. 2007 was awesome and again in ’08, but last year we had problems because I was injured and we didn’t have a lot of time to set up the new bike with CAS Honda. I feel better with the settings I’ve got now back on the Kawasaki, but obviously the factory teams’ bikes were really good in Europe. What we’ve got here is good enough to win and I enjoy riding it, so there’s no problems at all right now.

Australia is a pretty cool place in the world to live, especially as we’ve just come out of summer, so how have you been finding it behind the scenes, away from the track?

It’s cool, there’s a good little crew up here in Queensland. We all play football, go out riding together, and I’ve also got my girlfriend out here so it’s been really nice. We’ve got a house I’m renting, just making the most of it really and having a blast. I’m looking forward to the travelling when the racing starts, just to get myself around a little bit.

What’s TC like as a team manager for you? It’s strange for us because we are used to him as a racer, but did you know him beforehand?

He’s just TC the team manager to me really. You know, I saw him race a little bit last year, and I’ve heard a lot about him. I heard that he was pretty fast, but I guess last year when I saw him he was just having fun at the end of his career and enjoying it. I’m sure when the racing starts I’ll notice the influence, encouragement and the tips that he can give me, I’ll be able to see how good he was when he was racing.

Okay Billy, well I guess we’ll catch you down in Victoria this weekend!

Yep, alright sounds good. Thanks!