Monday Conversation: Billy MackenzieTuesday, May 29, 2007 | 6:07 AM
In three years of racing in Japan, Scottish rider Billy Mackenzie has gone 1-1-1, taking three GP victories around the technically draining Sugo circuit. Two MX2 overalls and one MX1 victory place him amongst the most successful in Japanese Grand Prix history.
When Mackenzie signed to ride for the Kawasaki factory team he knew it was his chance to go to another level in the sport. We often had contact with the Scottish rider early in the year and he continued to tell us how good he was going to do, and how confident he was on a bike like the Kawasaki 450. The season didn't start so well for Mackenzie as he struggled with his body and starts. He was outside the top ten in the world and had not put together two good motos in the opening five rounds. His best place to date had been a fifth place in the second moto in Spain. Working on a new diet, he had taken the wrong turn in the road and was fighting to make the top ten in an MX1 class loaded with talent.
Mackenzie, though, isn't your typical motocross racer, and he isn't taking the same route as a Stefan Everts or Josh Coppins and when he realized he was working the wrong diet and working situation he returned to his original pattern. Amazingly, the night before he won the Grand Prix of Japan he ate Steak and french fries, not a diet you normally see by a leading sportsman, but a diet that made him feel comfortable and relaxed. We sat down with Billy Mac today and asked him about that Grand Prix victory last weekend.
Billy Mackenzie: Well, I kind of had a plan, and I remember the last two times I won in Japan and it was the British anthem they played. I didn't really mean anything to me. I class myself as British, I ride for the British team, but I am more passionate about being Scottish. There is something about Scottish blood that nothing else can replace. I said to Adam (Wheeler) after qualification on Saturday that we have to have the Scottish National anthem for the podium. He said don't get ahead of yourself, but I said get on the internet and get it. I said after I win the second race I want that anthem. When I got off the bike after the second race Adam said I gave it to the organizers, and it was up to them to play it or the British anthem. When it came on I was so emotional, not crying, but I just felt so proud. I was really emotional, not tears, just a lot of adrenalin, like goose bumps, and a sense of achievement.
How did the MX1 win rate with the MX2 wins in 2005 and 2006?
Winning in Japan was great before, but there was something missing. I didn't have anyone to celebrate with, but this year I brought my dad. I really felt like I got something special, with it being the first for Kawasaki on the 450. It was a massive thing for Kawasaki having their first 450 win, first moto win, first overall, just a massive thing. They worked so hard to develop the bike, and they were all there. The whole Kawasaki effort is a huge set-up, even the top guy from Kawasaki was there. For sure this was the biggest win of my career, without question.
What about the crash in the second moto, what happened there?
I watched the video and I hit my head hard, maybe I hit neutral, maybe the kicker got me. All race I had been hitting the kicker, sometimes the speed didn't get me there and sometimes I was hitting the kicker, and this time it rebounded and the bike kicked right up. I just jumped off. When I crashed I really thought I had lost the GP. I thought I had broken my toes. I have a black nail, but I didn't notice when I was riding.
Did you know where you were on the track?
I wasn't sure. When I was in third or fourth, I thought I was further down the pack. I hit my head and I smashed my peak. I crossed the line and I was so angry that I crashed. I wanted to win both motos, I was more angry with myself. They gave me the pitboard before I crossed the line and I just threw my head back because I crashed. I felt relieved, massive relief. This is the best of my career. It used to be the Isle of Wight win, but the Scottish anthem and my father being there, all the Kawasaki people, it's a MX1 race, so much more important than MX2.
The thing was, I had been confident, I knew I had the speed, but I just been having problems. It's not for a lack of trying. When I signed that contract I put big a effort in. I just couldn't handle the text book way to do it, but my speed has been there. I have not had a good start yet, but I never had a problem with my speed. When I hit the wall in Germany, I said I have a problem. People where doubting me, everyone was talking about me, saying stuff, people on the internet. Everyone was going on about stuff, even Dobber (James Dobb) was saying the way I am riding he wouldn't put me in the British des Nations team. People don't realize what was happening. I knew something was going wrong. My blood was wrong, my sugar level was down. I stuck to this diet that I thought would be good, but it wasn't working for me. In Japan I was flat out on the chocolate. I ate what made me happy, I felt good and none of this pasta and vegies stuff. The night before thee race in Japan I had steak and chips and I felt great.
What about the time difference; was that a problem in Japan?
I felt fine, I didn't set my body clock, I just went to sleep when I was tired. Sometimes I was awake at four in the morning and I would just walk the streets until it was time for breakfast. It was funny, on race day everyone was watching the MX2 races, all the MX1 riders I mean. I was laying down listening to music in the team truck, but I was so relaxed. Laying on the start before the race and thinking to myself - "I am laying down because I think I am superstitious about it." I didn't care if people thought I looked stupid or something, I was so relaxed. I wasn't even thinking about the race, I knew this was my race. I only thought that because I felt so relaxed. I ride better when I am relaxed.
How did you feel in the races before Japan? Were you relaxed?
This is the thing, the races prior to Japan I felt nervous in the stomach because of the food I was eating, and I felt like I was questioning something, but in Japan I had to eat. I ate anything I wanted. I wasn't thinking anything else but enjoying myself in Japan, and being relaxed.