We grabbed Tommy Bridewell for his thoughts on the revised 2020 Bennetts British Superbike calendar and the well-known talk-a-holic gave us a juicy interview with highlights including his penchant for property development, the upgrades to his V4R, how Ducati is his perfect match, his thoughts on World Superbike wild cards, what he’d say to the haters, Scott Redding’s WSB chances, his Endurance World Championship entry… and how his brownies tasted like the sole of his shoe.
Sit back, relax and enjoy!
Here’s the transcription of the full interview:
How have you been keeping busy during lockdown?
Oddly, it’s been a tough time with knowing what’s happening and it’s only recently that we know when racing is going to resume so I now turn my focus to training… like a triathlete who starts training three months before their triathlon. A boxer doesn’t train all year, every year for a fight. Once they know the date of the fight then two months before they start their training camp.
It’s a little bit easier now I have an inkling with the (BSB) dates, now we can get the training back on the road and I can be more specific.
Lockdown has been busy, oddly! I enjoy property. I live for racing motorbikes but outside of racing, I used to work at the garage with dad but property really interests me and to cut a long story short, I bought a house to renovate at Christmas and it was going to be a year-long renovation scenario whenever I can between races, bit-by-bit. And then the lockdown happened but I got an inkling it was going to happen so I went to my local builders merchants in my little tipper and filled the thing to the brim! It was probably the first time I got something right, and I was like, if everything gets locked down and they weren’t going to be open then I needed something to be getting on with. Now, the house is pretty much complete and we’re a couple months from starting racing – so it’s worked in my favour really, it’s not been too bad. I probably shouldn’t be saying that because of the world crisis but I’d much preferred to have been out fighting and racing on a motorbike and winning races.
I hear you’ve been baking…
You know when I was bored (during lockdown) at home my wife, Stacey, came into the kitchen and caught me looking at a Mary Berry cookbook, and said, “what are you doing?”. I had a go at making chocolate brownies but they were like eating the sole off your shoe they were that dry, I reckon you could walk 10 miles on them!
Have you been keeping fit, and keeping training?
Normally my day is, I’ll get up and go training then come home, breakfast, walk the dogs, tinker around and do whatever I’m doing then go training again at 3 o’clock. Where now, it’s get up, walk the dogs and then go renovate the house all day, then I come home and ought to go training but I’m absolutely exhausted before I start! So, that’s where I’ve been able to keep fit.
Above: TB in pre-season testing at Monteblanco and Jerez
What about the bike, has much changed? You’d had the official pre-season tests at Monteblanco and Jerez – did they go well for you?
Monteblanco was <pause> good, and if I’m honest, there’s a few areas on the track that scare me a little bit, so I never really fully commit when I’m riding there. I’m never really like, right let’s rally go at it. I always feel like there’s more time in me and the bike there, so to end up fastest was a strong start.
Jerez, I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little bit disappointed because I set a target for myself of what kind of lap time I wanted to achieve and I didn’t achieve it. We had a few issues with the bike there and we couldn’t get on top of them, if I’m going to be 100% honest. But, as far as those two tests go they were more than a success. And what was also nice for me and the team, that bike we rolled out on was the bike we finished on last year, nothing had changed. But the nice thing after it, that’s when we got the new engine spec, the new exhaust and the new swinging arm so we’ve not even kind of showed our hand. And a specific part on the bike we’ve recently done has made a big, big, big difference so I’m quite eager to now actually try it to see if it helps on a certain area where perhaps we were certainly not weak but where we could have improved.
Keeping your cards close to your chest!
I was waiting for the comeback to try and get it out (of me)! It’s nothing that underhand, it’s developing that’s all it is. You could argue that from the outset the Ducati was dominant last year, you had three strong riders in it but it’s like anything – my team, PBM, Ducati, every other manufacturer and team are always still trying to be the best or to catch the best. The pressure is on us to stay that one step ahead and if we don’t continue improving they will catch us, it’s that simple. You’ve got the new Yamaha, that’s proven in World Superbikes at Philp Island, that was strong out of the box. I know Kawasaki have got a few bits, the BMW is going to be a bit stronger, and Honda… bar the recall!
With the V4R finishing first, second and third last year, what do you say to the haters who think you only finished third because of the bike?
I’d say, ‘you try and ride it as fast I can then!’
People will turn around and say, ‘you only had your best season in BSB because you were riding a Ducati’. Cool, no problem but that doesn’t hide the fact that I’m the lap record holder at Donington and I’m the lap record holder at Oulton. The lap at Oulton is faster than most people’s flat-out, bite-the-screen lap in qualifying… and I did it in the race. I won at Oulton Park and if I chuck that all in the hat and then back myself up by saying, yes Scott and Josh beat me in the championship which is fair enough but look at the ratios, I would normally always beat one of them. So, if Josh beat me then I’d beat Scott, or if Scott beat me then I’d beat Josh, so I found that I was in the middle of the PBM bikes. If they were one and two and I was sixth or seventh and I was a second off them per lap, I’d say fair enough. But I went toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in BSB with no restraints on their budget and direct factory support, so if anything I was the one on the backfoot and I could still match them, so the haters can stick that in their pipe and smoke it!
Do you fell the bike has brought you on as a rider, has it given you more confidence?
The team has. I’ve worked all my career trying to find a team as driven, focused and passionate about racing a motorcycle as much as me, and I’d almost given up trying to find that because I almost feel it’s not possible. People don’t tend to share the same drive as me. And then luckily, I joined up Moto Rapido and found that they were a small bike shop who go racing because they want to go racing and for no other reasons. And technically they are so far ahead of any other team I’ve ever worked with and it inspire you knowing that you’ve got a team that give back exactly the same as what I put in. That is genuinely down to the success we had in 2019.
Would you ever want to work with another manufacturer?
I would struggle, if I’m brutally honest because I always am, I would probably find the enthusiasm to ride for another manufacturer. Purely for the fact that, one, the way my team works because they’re obviously Ducati. Two, because of the way Ducati as a manufacturer work, and three, the way out of all the manufacturers I’ve ridden for, Ducati’s top wigs – Paulo, Gigi – all of them know you by name and they can tell you exactly where you finished at Oulton in race one, race two and race three.
I did the Suzuka 8hr race in 2018 and finished fourth on a Suzuki and we beat the Yoshimura team and I didn’t see one person from Suzuki come and say well done. It’s not a dig at Suzuki, perhaps their focus is on the road bikes and I get that. I went to Le Mans to the Grand Prix and Ducati’s passion for racing, and it goes back to me saying, I struggled to find a team that had the same passion as I do. But Ducati are that manufacturer. They’re more passionate about racing then selling road bikes!
I think the combination of me, Ducati and Moto Rapido, is genuinely for me as a rider for confidence, are a match-made in heaven.
If would have to be a good deal (to make me want to ride for another manufacturer)!
So, Ducati’s passion gives you the fuel for success?
Yes. Basically, their philosophy for making the best possible motorbike for racing and reading the rulebook and making the rulebook to the bike’s advantage, no other manufacturer would do that. And that’s it, and I would argue that with most people.
The V4R was successful enough last year, and already this year in World Superbike. Are you surprised with Scott Reading’s early pace?
No, because it’s like people were saying about Scott in BSB. He won a good amount of races and then he won the championship. 100% yes, he did a much better job than many people thought he would but you’ve got to remember Scott’s been brought up in Grand Prixs and there’s a certain pedigree they seem to breed, let’s say. It’s not your average motorbike rider. And for Scott to come to BSB he had to be able to adapt fast, which he did. And he had to adapt fast when he went to World Superbike but he probably felt much more at home. When I rode the Go Eleven bike last year, Ducati said to me that they have more parameters and more electrical stuff they can mess about with than in Grand Prixs. To be fair to Scott, I think he is Ducati’s best hope at the minute to be fighting for the World Championship and I think they probably have a good chance at doing that.
Above: TB during his Imola WSB wild card ride
Speaking of the World Championship, is that unfinished business for you or are you happy to be ducking in and out when required?
Ha! I like the ducking and diving in racing. Probably, I got to the point when I wondered if it was my main desire but now I would like to have a good shot at World Superbikes. I love BSB, I love everything about it, I love the way the rules are and I’d love to see a better collaboration between BSB and WSB so then it would allow for someone like me to not necessarily do all of World Superbikes but it would allow me and my team to do twelve rounds of BSB and we’ll get some sponsors to do three or four World Superbike wild cards like Imola, Jerez and the European stuff. I wish the rules would allow us to do that in a more competitive way. For me to then be competitive in World Superbikes you’d need to be on a World Superbike-spec bike. I must be honest, that is my focus and desire to go to World Superbikes but I’ve got to twist Wilf’s (Team Owner, Steve ‘Wilf’ Moore) arm and say ‘come on, let’s have a go at it’.
What are the chances?
Depends on what mood he’s in, maybe I’ll buy him a nice bottle of red wine! Our focus is BSB for 2020 and we’ll take it from there.
Above: TB at Suzuka on a Suzuki he shared with Brad Ray
Is that the same for Suzuka and the World Endurance Championship, perhaps with Ducati?
Yes, it’s something we’re working on. World Endurance I actually enjoy but I’ve not done a 24hr. Suzuka is a very prestigious race and for other manufacturers I’ve done it for, it’s the one time they say, ‘racing is amazing’ but it’s maybe not as crucial for Ducati, perhaps because of their Italian. It’s something we’re trying to iron out for this year, to do Suzuka and potentially Sepang. If you’re lucky, you’ll get Suzuka on not such a hot and humid day but that’s very lucky but you’re still talking about nearly passing out before you get on the bike. Last year, I went out at 71kg and after a 50-minute stint at 67.8kg… and that’s just one stint. The hard bit about endurance is refuelling fast enough to be able to go and do that again 50-minutes later, and do that again four times. Last year, it was only me and Brad Ray doing it as a two-man team, it’s not an easy race.
Bennetts BSB 2020 revised calendar; are there any circuits you’d have like to seen?
Quadruple header at Oulton Park! Circuits I would have hoped for are all on there, because it’s a reduced calendar, the circuits I would have opted against would have been Knockhill because it’s 450-miles from my house, it’s a very long drive... and it’s not the easiest circuit for me. I’ve been vocal about whether superbikes have outgrown it, I must be brutally honest. I had an engine blow up on a bike going into turn one and it’s probably the one time I thought, ‘Christ’, and I had to jump off the bike at about 150mph.
Thruxton, it pains me to say, because it’s 20-minutes up the road and the support and following I get there is so, so mega but it’s just never clicked for me. So that’s off the calendar.
Assen I love, every rider does so that’s a shame that it’s not on the calendar but with e quarantine business it’s understandable. So, that brings us back to the actual calendar of BSB this year, and it’s looking good for us really.
How do you feel about the lack of, or limited, spectators?
It’s a big shame but if you took a percentage of spectators and said, ‘you can have racing but it’s on TV and you can’t go, or we have no racing’, they probably say it’s better than nothing and we’ll watch it home.
It’ll be quite an eerie feeling I reckon because when you do the race all your focus is on looking ahead, you don’t hear or see and nothing is in my mind. Then at the end, you’re then waving to the spectators thinking ‘look at all the people’. I think my natural instinct will be at the end of the race is to wave! I do hope that in some form we can get a number of spectators because it’s what our sport is about. When you look at it, we all race motorbikes to put on a show.
You and Josh Brookes must be starting the season as favourites, and you know each other well but are there weaknesses you can exploit?
I think that boils back down to the team scenario. PBM had a bit more resource, budget and support to allow them to be a tiny bit ahead. They’d get a new swinging arm, for example, that might mean 0.3s better, they’d get it a round or two rounds before us, so we were always chasing a bit. Now I feel like we’ve had a year under our belt and we understand for me and the team what will be a benefit and we now we can go on our way and again, that’s when I said about the new stuff on the bikes will allow us to get out of the blocks fast. Josh is going to be a headache for definite and it’s finding a way of beating him. I know that I can beat him from self-confidence. I beat him when we were on the Yamaha, when we were on identical equal machinery so I know I can beat him as a rider. He’s got a very good backing, and last year I thought they had an edge but not anymore because they’ve lost, in my opinion, one of the king pins in that garage who brought a chunk of wealth (knowledge), he’s now gone with Scott to World Superbikes. So I feel like if it was a straight-out fight technically, between team to team I feel like my team is stronger. We might not see it immediately but after two or three rounds, I’d like my vision and my outlook is that we’ll be the ones taking the stride forward. I have to say that but one, I genuinely believe it and I know it will be the case, and two, I have that much confidence in the team, I feel like we will do it.
How about the other competitors this year, there have been some changes, new bikes, some young guns but who’ll be running you close?
It’s a tricky one really because there are riders and certain candidates, like Ryan Vickers for example, he’s had his first year on it and he’s been strong in testing, so maybe he might be the one to put the fight to us but the bottom line is, I don’t discount any of my competitors, that’s the worse thing you can do as a rider. I don’t expect just a fight between me and Josh Brookes because we’re both on Ducatis and we were strong last year. The chances are we’ll go there and there’ll be like, ‘oh, bloody hell, we’ve got the Yamahas now and the Kawasaski and so on…’, there’s always that unknown. If you asked me ‘who are the top three strongest riders going into 2020’, I would say myself, Josh Brookes and Danny Buchan but then you’ve got the new Hondas and so on and so on. For me, it’s just about staying focused on what we’re doing as a team. I couldn’t care less what anyone else is doing in that paddock, whether Honda is trying to put the back wheel into the front wheel, or trying to reinvent the wheel. All I’m concentrating on is what we’re doing as a team to give us the success. When you start worrying about what other people are doing, that’s when you start to lose sight of what you’re supposed to be doing.
You and Oli raced for the Vivaldi Potato team which wasn’t the beautiful of liveries but what has been your favourite you’ve raced in and seen?
I could list them all! But the two that stand out, I like the Rothmans Honda, that was always a beautiful livery and I know it’s not changed that much but I liked the Reposol / Mick Doohan livery on the 500. So that would be my two favourites but the liveries that I’ve raced haven’t been that spectacular! The Vivaldi Potato got such a media blast, it was quite fun. The rest of them is all predominantly about exposing sponsors which is what makes our sport go around. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to have some wild, wacky colour scheme on anything I’ve ridden.