Interviews 20 Jun 2017

Profiled: Zak Small

Learn more about the Husqvarna-supported MX1 rookie.

First swinging his leg over a motorcycle at the age of three in Roma, Queensland, Zak Small made the natural progression into the racing world at a young age. Now based out of Bundaberg, the 19-year-old has quickly risen through the junior and development ranks to find himself competing in the premier class for 2017 at the Motul MX Nationals.

Following a strong junior career, Small contested the national MXD championship for three years as he ironed out the bugs in his program and continued to progress both on-and-off the track. It was then that the Husqvarna-supported racer made the decision to completely skip the MX2 category and move to the MX1 class after realising he was quite comfortable aboard the larger capacity machine.

“All through juniors I was in that top group, but I never really won anything,” Small told MotoOnline.com.au. “I was always sort of that second, third, top five kind of guy, but then I jumped into MXD and struggled a bit for the first year or so.

“I had really bad arm-pump, I wasn’t fit enough and I didn’t really find my feet until the last year in that class. I had the help of John Hafey and a lot of guys around me like Peter Hull who really helped me with my fitness and I was able to really step it up in the off-season.

Image: MXN.

“Last year at the state races I rode the opens bike and I really enjoyed it, I actually felt like it suited me a lot more – so it was a pretty easy decision for me to skip MX2 and go straight to the MX1 class. I feel like it has really worked for me and I’m progressing every race, so it was definitely a good decision on my behalf.”

Not only did the Queenslander skip the MX2 category and take a unique path to the top of the sport domestically, but he also opted to ride the Husqvarna FC 350 instead of the more popular 450cc option taken by many riders in the class.

“We were going between both bikes last year and we had a bit of a base setting with the 350, so we just rolled with that,” he explained. “Stepping up to the longer motos it was definitely on our minds that riding the 350 would help us with that, but we didn’t really have any motivation to jump on the 450 at all, I was already comfortable on the 350 so we just went with that.”

Making steady progress throughout the 2017 season, Small scored a 10th-place overall finish at Murray Bridge, a result and goal he had been working for throughout the opening five rounds.

“I was stoked with Murray Bridge that was the goal we’ve been working towards all year,” he commented. “We’ve got closer every round, expect for Horsham where I had a DNF, and it really pays off when every round you seem to get better and better. It really motivates you to go back and work harder during the week to come out and improve again.”

Image: MXN.

Using the mid-season break to his advantage, the MX1 rookie who currently sit’s 13th overall in points has his sights set on breaking into the top 10 rankings before the season’s end.

“In the break I’ve had a little time off the bike and I’m just really getting stuck back into the riding now,” he said. “My goal for the rest of the year is to just stay as close to that top 10 as possible and work towards getting there overall by the end of the series. That was my goal at the start of the year to end up 10th overall in the championship so I’m going to work hard to get to there.”

With aspirations to continue climbing through the MX1 ranks in the future, Small remains grounded and grateful for the current level of support he currently receives as a newcomer to the premier category.

“Obviously I want to race again in the MX1 class next year and just try to do better than I did this year – I want to make sure I’m always improving. It’s everyone’s dream to be picked up with a little more sponsorship, but I’m pretty blessed with what I have at the moment and I’ll just keep chipping away,” he concluded.

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