After three seasons in British Supersport, Sam Wilford is moving to the British GP2 championship. We asked him about this and looked back at his 2018 Supersport season.
Tim Davies: How are you feeling after your 2018 season in British Supersport?
Sam Wilford: It has been a really strong year for us in British Supersport. We managed to start from zero again after last season and ended up achieving two podiums and multiple top ten finishes. I guess if we had started the season strong there would have been a realistic chance of getting fifth in the championship. But overall, I’m really happy how we have all worked together to keep building on the results and always reaching the goals we set out to achieve.
TD: What was the highlight?
SW: The highlight for me was the podium at Brands Hatch GP. Coming back from last season after such a tough year struck by injuries it was such an emotional high. It really is the best feeling coming out of the other side and reaching the podium, after all of the pain and hard work put in to get there. Also, it’s nice to reward the team for all their hard work they have put in over the past few years, just a very good day.
TD: And the lowlight?
SW: To be honest, there hasn’t been any lowlights this year. After last season I really worked on focusing on the positives and not letting bad results get me down. If we had a bad race or a session where things didn’t go to plan which is inevitable, we looked at the reasons why and moved on to the next thing. This has been a big game-changer for me and is also down to working with sports performance consultant Craig Muirhead.
TD: What have you learned from your three seasons in British Supersport, and do you think you have improved as a rider?
SW: I think we as a team have improved in many ways. Every season you get a little wiser and stronger. Also, I think we have had a nice progression curve over the three years but we still have a lot to learn.
TD: You are moving to a different class for 2019, the British GP2 championship. What are the reasons behind that decision?
SW: It has always been a dream for me to ride a Moto2, which is a Grand Prix bike. It’s also a class that is lacking at the moment in the UK. I’m hoping we can learn as much as possible riding a Moto2 and then who know what is next. But I think it is important to be learning to ride a race bike if you want to end up in the GP paddock.
TD: This season you have raced against only a small number of bikes from GP2 whilst in the Supersport class, but next season the GP2 class is likely to have more entrants and you will be racing against a large number of Supersport bikes too. How difficult will it be to race against more bikes of a similar pace knowing that you have nothing to gain from getting in front of them, but everything to lose if you tangle with them? Will you have to reign in your natural racer’s instinct?
SW: We have spoken a lot about this over the last two years since this class was introduced. But at the end of the day I think if you are winning races or finishing in the top three it doesn’t matter what you are riding, whether it is Moto2 or Supersport. After racing with them last year it seems a very even match at the moment and if anything, I only have to gain from the change to the GP2. I think we just need to be focusing on the best overall results we can achieve.
TD: What are the main differences between a Supersport bike and a GP2 bike?
SW: It is a completely different machine to the Supersport bike. For a start it’s much lighter than the Supersport bike which is mainly down to the chassis and wheels. It also has better brakes and forks which are more similar to the GP bikes. The only thing it lacks in is power, but due to the power to weight ratio Supersport and GP2 seem to be pretty evenly matched.
TD: Without going into specifics, is there a large difference in cost between buying and running a Supersport bike and a GP2 bike? And if so, have you brought any new sponsors onboard alongside your existing ones?
SW: It all depends on what type of bike you are running. As the GP2 runs a stock engine that won’t need as much maintenance as the highly tuned Supersport bikes. But to buy outright they are dearer as the equipment is much more refined. At the moment we are looking to partner with new company’s and brands to join us on our journey.
TD: Have you set yourself any goals for the 2019 season yet?
SW: The first goal will be to get comfortable on the bike and get a good feel for things. After that we will know roughly where we stand and can work from there. We will have an even greater and more knowledgeable team next year to help me hit the ground running. The ultimate goal will be to win races that’s for sure.
TD: When do you get your first taste of GP2 machinery and where is it likely to be?
SW: I had surgery on my leg two weeks ago to have all of the metal removed out of my femur. So, I am currently in recovery again but we will be fit to start testing in January, I hope. Somewhere a bit warmer than the UK at that time for sure. There are plenty of tracks in Spain to get the testing program kicked off. Preferably we will test at a GP track first as the team Gresini and Kalex have given us plenty of data and information for these tracks.
Two Wheels or More would like to thank Sam for his time and wish him all the best for 2019.