Features 27 Feb 2020

Debrief: Daniel Milner

Toowoomba AORC E2 winner recounts victory in Queensland.

It was amazing start for KTM Enduro Racing Team’s Daniel Milner at Toowoomba’s first and second rounds of the Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC), the reigning E2 championship winning both days in E2 and the outright scores.

Image: Foremost Media.

It was a strong weekend for yourself, winning both days outright and in the E2 class…

Yeah, for sure. It’s one of those things going into the first round – you never know where you’re at. I knew I put in the work, but going there, you’re still a bit nervous and don’t know where you’re at. It’s good to get the first two rounds out of the way, and it’s good to know I’m on the pace.

Considering you didn’t do the ISDE last year, you had an extended off-season. How important was it for you to get those two wins?

Yeah, it was pretty important, especially because I’m on a new program now. I guess from where I was at to now, the old program was getting a bit stale and I felt I was just going through the motions. Now I’m back working with Ross Beaton and we’re working really hard – we’ve got a program that we’re doing week in, week out. Having something to stick to has helped a lot with my fitness, and then obviously bike time as well. Going into round one, I had probably done more than previous years – it stabilised everything I guess – I didn’t burn myself out before round one. My goal to go into round one was to make sure I wasn’t burned out and ready to go. My race days went pretty well – the second test on the first day, I had a massive cartwheel. To be honest, I’m still pretty shocked I walked away from it – lucky I’m in some pretty good protective gear, and it saved me from being worse. Aside from that, the rest of the weekend pretty clean and I just tried to minimise my mistakes.

Image: Foremost Media.

It was a nice debut for the 2020 KTM 450 EXC-F – it’s brand-new bike this year, so that was cool to win aboard it first time out…

The bike is cool – it’s a lot lighter than the old one, and being a 450, it feels like a 350 to be honest. We have a new set of forks I’m running – the WP XACT, last year I was on the cone valve [forks]. The technology just keeps getting better every year. I’m pretty excited for the new shock to turn up – we’re still running the Trax shock, so as soon as the XACT shock shows up for the PDS, then it will be even better. Having that and working hard with Choice Suspension to get my setting right has been smooth sailing. Hopefully we can keep pushing forward – there’s still a lot we can learn. Having Scotty Keegan as team manager, he’s young and keen and pushing real hard for us.

You mentioned before that you had a big get-off, and you weren’t the only one in that top group of riders. Is that because the intensity between you guys is so high, or was the track pretty gnarly on the weekend?

I think the track was pretty gnarly – the day one test, I found it was pretty fast with little sketchy rocks – it could catch you really quickly. That’s what happened to me – I got on the gas out of a corner, caught a rock and flicked me sideways into a tree. It was a third-gear corner where you were on the gas pretty hard. On Sunday, and where I heard [Luke] Styke crashed, it was a bit of a sketchy section. We’re definitely pushing each other harder and harder, and I think that’s obviously catching us out every now and then. All in all, we just have to race the track how it is and try to be as safe as we can.

You’ve been working closely with your teammate Mason [Semmens], it must be cool to see him score a win in his first weekend as a full-time off-road rider…

Honestly, expectations for him going into the year, I always knew he was going to be strong. We’ve done a lot of work together, and just knowing his speed wasn’t too far off me at the practice track compared to others. He’s willing to learn and listen, and he has a bit of a different riding style – watching him, he looks a bit like me. He’s got me to learn off, and I think that’s going to help him.