“I’m loving it, the way the Talent Cup is set up, the whole process from being in there at a set time, and then being in there doing different things, press activities, warming up, all of the different routines you have to go through, getting on the bike, you have to do everything, and I love it, because it is all structured.”
We sat down with Thomas Strudwick earlier in the season at Brands Hatch British Superbike Meeting to discuss everything British Talent Cup and find out just who Thomas Strudwick is and more, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the first part of a two part interview with the current British Talent Cup championship leader.
OM: Hi Thomas, thanks for chatting with us. You are in a very unique position, having won the first ever British Talent Cup race. Talk us through the weekend, and how it developed from Free Practice one to the race win.
TS: Over the winter, I’ve done a lot of work with my crew chief and technician Matt, we’ve been in Spain over the winter working on my style and the way I ride the bike, so the free practice 1 session was the first time I’ve ridden in the UK. We just built our way into it slowly, the weather didn’t help, but we were able work on what we’ve been doing, and be confident with the bike. I knew going into qualifying I could do the lap time, and I managed to do that but essentially got mugged on the last lap, I knew there was more to come from myself . For the race I knew there was going to be a group of riders, and I had to break away because if you’re not at the front you are not in control of the race. On lap three, I had a tenth of a second gap and just kept saying ‘keep going, keep going’. Luckily two or three of the guys made a mistake pretty much on the same lap, and I got a big enough gap to break the slipstream and I was able to keep on progressing.
OM: To win any smaller class race by 5.5 seconds is pretty incredible, there’s not even a lot of riders in the Moto3 World Championship that can do that, so that is a pretty special margin to win by.
TS: Yes it was nice, it was nice also that the main group was a lot further back as well, because there were two or three riders that were five seconds further back from me, and if you take in to consideration where everyone else finished they pretty much finished at the same time. They were twenty seconds back and that was a real confidence boost.
OM: In the British Talent Cup who do you see as your biggest competitor for the championship?
TS: They are all competitors, but I think the biggest ones are; Max Cook who I have raced with in the standard class (British Motostar Championship), Rory Skinner from the RedBull Rookies Cup because that style of racing is similar to what we are doing here, Also there are some riders from the European Talent Cup like Josh Whatley who finished third, who are quick and will be riding with a lot of quick riders, so it’s important to keep them under control I guess and make sure you can be in front of them.
OM: Two weeks ago you were doing the British Talent Cup, which I believe is a different format to the Motostar championship, what is the main difference in the format and what is like for a rider to adapt between the two different events?
TS: In the Talent Cup we get slightly longer sessions and the build up to the sessions is a lot longer so you get a lot more time to prepare, and also in the races we run on the FIM rules which is the MotoGP spec rules which means if we crash we can rejoin in any session. We can do other things that we can’t always do in BSB such as there is no safety car. The Talent Cup is very much trying to prepare you for MotoGP, whereas here (Motostar) it is still with the BSB regulations where the biggest thing has to be that if you crash you are unable to rejoin. At the end of the day when you are in a field where there are twenty of you and so close together if you crash and rejoin realistically you will never get a point anyway. So I don’t think the rules are too far away but the British Talent Cup is more to prepare you for MotoGP.
OM: And the bikes. They are the same class but different spec, what are the main differences between your Case Moto Rapido Moto3 bike and your British Talent Cup Bike?
TS: So the biggest difference is the Case Moto Rapido Moto3 has a quickshifter and the Talent Cup bike hasn’t, that for me is the biggest difference, the suspension, the way they set their bikes up and the size of the bikes; I am a fairly tall rider now on the Moto3 so I have extended seat units and bars. Coming onto my Motostar bike it is alot smaller than my Talent Cup bike, so it is adapting to that and trying to work in between them and being prepared to switch and change, I’m still building up to it at the moment, but at the moment it is.. yeah, good.
OM: So you are enjoying the Talent Cup races?
TS: Yeah, I’m loving it, the way the Talent Cup is set up, the whole process from being in there at a set time, and then being in there doing different things, press activities, warming up, all of the different routines you have to go through, getting on the bike, you have to do everything, and I love it, because it is all structured. This is what you have to do, and this is what you will do. And that’s the important thing, when they say you have to do something, you do it because it make the whole weekend run a lot better.
OM: You have two massive events this year. You’ll be linking up with the MotoGP at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, and also the Valencia Grand Prix for the final round. How different do you think these events will be to you compared to BSB, as MotoGP has a much bigger fan base?
TS: In terms of the paddock in the evenings, yeah it’s completely different. But in terms of actually riding, it’s the same process as the Talent Cup, whether you’re at a MotoGP round or a BSB round, it’s exactly the same. The riding part isn’t going to be far off, the biggest thing is going to be the different environments with MotoGP, World Superbikes and BSB, while also jumping between the Motostar and the Talent Cup at the same time, it’s a bit of everywhere really which is quite cool.
OM: I know you watched the Argentina MotoGP, it can only be described as a perfectly timed win by Cal Crutchlow, just one week after the inaugural British Talent Cup race, was it inspiring for you to see someone like that winning in MotoGP?
TS: Yeah, it is. I want to be in a similar position, if not better than that. I want to be in MotoGP, but if you’re in MotoGP you want to be on one of the factory teams. For him to win just after the Talent Cup was brilliant, and I’m looking up to all the British riders to be honest, including Danny Kent in Moto2 and Bradley Smith on the KTM. You have to respect them all in different ways, with Smith the bike isn’t always there but you have to respect the fact he is getting points finishes, still proving what the bike can do. The fact that there are a few riders at the highest level, including Sam Lowes, in Moto2 and three British riders in MotoGP is brilliant, because it means that the Talent Cup progression is there, and will give me the chance to beat some of the Spanish and Italian kids.
OM: We first met you at Silverstone MotoGP 2017. I think even back then you knew you were ready, but you still seemed to be in disbelief that you had been selected for the Talent Cup. You looked tired because it was such a massive weekend for you. You had been at Silverstone all weekend with Alberto Puig, and even Shuhei Nakamoto was there, all the Honda Racing top people. We understand Cal Crutchlow invited all the Talent Cup riders to his garage, what advice did he give you?
TS: He was really cool, and I’m thankful he took the time to show us all around. It was nice he was able to give such a detailed talk to us, he opened it up and asked ‘What do you want to know?’ There’s lots of stuff I’m not allowed to talk about to anyone, he showed us his bike with some factory parts on it and the HRC mechanic would say ‘You guys can’t see this’ and cover it up! He was open about it, and said as some of us could be there some day he let us have a look at it, and that gained a lot of respect, from me and a lot of the other riders too.
OM: So as we’ve seen, Cal didn’t take the ‘conventional’ route, he went to World Supersport, won the title, went then to World Superbikes, won a few races there and ended up going to Tech 3 on the Yamaha. Do you have any idea which route you want to take? Whether it is through the Superbike paddock or do you want to go through the CEV Junior World championship and into Moto3?
TS: To be honest, it’s easy for me to say what I want to be doing. It’s a lot harder for me to say ‘this is what will happen’, because even though I’ve done really well in the first couple of rounds, we have to see what the rest of the year will bring really. I would love to be in the CEV championship next year, whether it’s with the British Talent Team or another team, but unfortunately it isn’t as easy as saying ‘I want to do that’, it is down to a lot of things, such as availability and financial backing. We need to see how this year goes, we will sit down at the middle and end of the year and then assess what to do next, we will put all the options on the table and see what happens. Personally, I feel you need to stay on a Moto3 bike all the way through to the World Championship, to then go to Moto2 to progress. I think it’s a lot harder to go to World Supersport then Superbikes then hop on a MotoGP machine. As proven from some riders going the other way too, it isn’t as easy as they think it is to ride, and vice versa. There are different parts on each bike that isn’t on the other, and it is so different that you HAVE to stay on the Grand Prix style bike, I think.
OM: You touched there on money and sponsors, I think people looking from the outside think you got sponsored and got given a bike, but it’s not really like that is it? As some of the other young riders are self-funding, how difficult is that?
TS: Case Moto Rapido Moto3 has been really supportive to be honest, I’m really thankful to my sponsors, my supporters and my family. It really helps and we’re always looking at ways to continue investing, you can never stop training and riding so if something comes up and we say ‘I want to do that’ then with financial help we can do it. It is hard, but I’ve been talking to some of the Spanish riders I’ve been training with over the winter, and it is difficult for them too, but in a different way. There are a lot of Spanish companies who are prepared to sponsor riders, which is the good bit. The hard bit is that there are so many, you have to really stand out to get it, because there aren’t enough sponsors to go around all of the riders. The UK is the opposite, in that we not only don’t have enough sponsors, we also don’t have enough riders. You have to be presentable, and I’m always looking for partners to come on board with me all the time and that never stops, whether they invest in Moto Rapido or me personally, I’m thankful for every penny that helps me to continue my dream, and that’s what I want to do.
OM: It’s no secret that British riders struggle to pick up sponsors, we rarely see Brits in big factory teams, do you think the British Talent Cup will help in that respect?
TS: Yeah, of course it will help, I don’t think it will help in the respect that loads of sponsors will come in, but the support from Dorna will be hugely influential. I think it is important if someone is supporting a young British rider, or anyone for that matter, to promote the brand they need to be the best that they can be. I’m trying to promote brands myself, from British brands to worldwide global brands, and that’s the important part. It doesn’t need to be a British brand to support a British rider.
The second part of this gripping interview will be coming later on in the season, you can keep up to date with how Thomas does during his British Talent Cup season right here on Overtake Motorsport.