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GP Week : Issue 19
5 Minutes with ... ANTHONY WEST ANTHONY West is the archetypal Aussie Battler. His whole GP career, mainly in the 250 class, has been an uphill struggle ever since he was plucked from national racing as a greenhorn to join a new Shell-backed team in 1999. Brilliant in the rain, he’s been almost constantly thwarted in the dry by inferior machinery. Last year, about to turn his back on GP racing mid-season and take up a World Supersport offer for Yamaha, the chance came to join the Kawasaki MotoGP team. At first, it went well, but this year has been a back-of-the-grid disaster, on a bike that seemed to have taken a wrong turn in development. We caught up with him before and after the German GP, where he’d charged through the field in the rain, crashed, and still finished 10th. GPWEEK: Your dream ride of a year ago hasn’t turned out as you’d hoped. What’s this year been like? ANTHONY WEST: It’s definitely harder work than ever – so much harder this year to get up those places. Everyone’s so close. To get one place is a lot of work. What does it do to your mind? Depressing, for sure. I’ve been really down, just don’t know what’s wrong. Feel like shit really. Struggling is pretty normal for me, but it’s getting to me more, because I made it here, and I don’t want to lose the ride. I’ve never really been in last position before. Being last is the worst feeling ever. Hopefully it’s over. How did you get into bike racing? I started riding when I was five, in the bush, and I went dirt-track racing when I was 12, for something different to do. My father was more interested in boxing and cricket and football – he thought it was a bloody shit sport … you just go round and round. But he supported me because I wanted to do it. Your father was a boxer, and you used to box too, I believe. Yeah – sort of as training when I was racing in Australia. I had a few fights. A few people saw me box and they said to my dad he should get me training with them and they’d take me to the Olympics. But I wasn’t interested – I was only doing it because my dad wanted me to. He’d been a professional – had something like 40 fights, then had had his own boxing gym. What’s not to like about boxing … getting hit? (laughs) Yes. I don’t know. To me, the hardest thing is to step into the ring and fight with someone. Much harder than getting on a motorbike and racing it. I didn’t have that many fights, mainly a lot of sparring in the gym. I was only 15 or 16 and he had me fighting all the older guys, who were like 20. So they used to thump the shit out of me every week. And every now and then when I was getting too smart I’d have to jump in with my dad, and we’d go a few rounds. I could jump around a bit quicker so I could not get hit as much. But when he did hit me he nearly knocked my head off. You got a modified chassis for Donington after testing in Japan – basically back to last year’s settings, you told me then. Have you been going further with those mods? Here in Germany was something different from Donington. I broke that one crashing at Assen, and yesterday I destroyed the one I preferred here. Today I raced something else again, that we’re not even sure if it’s better or not. You were flying in the wet today, and then you crashed. What happened? I don’t know. One minute everything was feeling good, and I was quite comfortable. Then for no reason I lost the front. The data showed I didn’t go in any faster than before. I’ve hardly crashed all year, and now I had three this weekend. All the same … losing the front. It’s a bit worrying that all John Hopkins’s accidents have been losing the front, and now I’m losing the front. I’m starting to lose confidence in it. The team has supported you so far. What’s the story for next year? I know if I was a team manager I wouldn’t want to keep anybody who was coming last, and this race and next week in the USA are really important to convince the Japanese to keep me for next year. So I’m not real happy with the way things panned out. Today I was comfortably keeping up with Chris (Vermeulen), and I think I could have had a top five, but it turned to shit again. Season 2008 has been anything but easy for Anthony West, but as MICHAEL SCOTT found out, he is not giving up just yet ... 18