MAX ANSTIE INTERVIEW: COMPARING THE AMA AND MXGP SERIES’ WITH A RIDER WHO’S DONE BOTH
Although the 2020 Pro Motocross season has recently come to a conclusion and most riders are taking time off right now, MXA ran into Max Anstie while he and his H.E.P. Suzuki team were testing outdoor settings at Glen Helen to get a head start on 2021. Max is a European transport from the MXGP World Championship who has come to America to chase his dream of racing under the lights in Supercross (again). The Suzuki rider grew up in Great Britain before moving to the United States to race the amateur nationals for KTM. Max turned Pro in the U.S. and raced for a few years, but his career really took off when he went back home to race the MXGPs. So far his career highlight came in 2017 when he went 1-1 to win the MXGP class at the Motocross of Nations. Max came to America just over a month prior to Anaheim 1 and unfortunately an injury to his achilles tendon just before the first round sidelined him for Supercross. Still, after 4-1/2-months off the bike, Anstie was impressive during the Nationals. We caught up with him in the midst of some offseason testing to learn more about the Brit and get his opinion on American motocross and Supercross versus the MXGP World Championship in this interview.
By Trevor Nelson
CAN YOU GIVE US A LITTLE BIT OF A RUNDOWN OF YOUR TIME IN THE STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN? So I was born in England and raced in England until I was 8 years old up until I went to Holland where I raced a lot. I raced a lot with Jefferey Herlings and that was definitely the place to be over there in Belgium and the Netherlands. When I was 14 I got the chance to come over here in the states with KTM’s factory Junior team. I raced amateurs when I was 14 and 15 and I was supposed to turn Pro a year later but they had changed the rule. They changed the age rule from 16 to 18 so someone said I had to either turn Pro now or wait two more years. So basically everyone around me was telling me to go pro. Went from Superminis to Mini O’s in November to lining up at Glen Helen for my first Pro national in April. And then in 2010, I rode for Star Yamaha when I was still 16/17, and then decided to go back to Europe where I raced the Grand Prix up until this year.
“For the Europeans, we ride outdoors all year, that’s what they’re paid to do, that’s what their contract has them do. That is what they are training and putting all their time toward. Whilst in America they do a lot of Supercross.”
SO COMPARING YOUR TIME IN GREAT BRITAIN TO THE U.S., DO YOU PREFER ONE OVER THE OTHER? I think both the MXGP and US Championships have great qualities about both of them and I am super excited to go into the Supercross series next year. That’s what you always see in the magazines and TV so anyone from Europe definitely wants to end up racing Supercross. Coming out to do that is gonna be fun but I would have to say that the MXGP Grand Prix are run very professionally, it’s a lot like Formula 1, if you know what I mean. But the AMA Motocross Championship and Supercross are both run very professionally and you got great riders as well. I think both do a great job when it comes down to the racing.
WHICH CONTINENT HAS STIFFER COMPETITION, EUROPE OR THE UNITED STATES? It really is completely different. I get asked a lot about this especially when referring to Motocross des Nations. For the Europeans, we ride outdoors all year, that’s what they’re paid to do, that’s what their contract has them do. That is what they are training and putting all their time toward. Whilst in America they do a lot of Supercross. Of course you would expect the World Championship guys to do well on their own tracks, because that’s what they do, but the Amercians also do really well on their own tracks. Now I am only talking outdoors, but compared to GPs and it is its own, completely prepared different than the GPs. Whereas GPs I have the experience and I know how the track is going to perform, how the dirt is going to develop, how the bike is going to perform. Things like this are going to make a big difference.
“I was at MXON in 2018 where the Europeans beat the Americans. It was a European prepped track, it was a European style thing. One week later, Eli Tomac won a million dollars at the Monster Cup.”
THERE ARE BIG DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE U.S. AND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TRACKS, BUT IT’S A POPULAR TOPIC TO ASK WHICH RIDERS ARE THE BEST. The top level of any sport whether it is in Europe or America is really high. I was at MXDN in 2018 where the Europeans beat the Americans. It was a European prepped track, it was a European style thing. One week later, Eli Tomac won a million dollars at the Monster Cup. If you put the European guys there, I am sure Eli would have lapped most of them. The Europeans and the Americans, the top level of each are very, very high level athletes. And it just comes down to which one is trained to do more than the other. One is trained to do more outdoors and the other trained is trained to do more Supercross.
IS THERE A SKILL THAT YOU’VE LEARNED WHILE RACING IN EUROPE THAT YOU’VE BROUGHT TO THE STATES? I feel like it is the mentality in Europe of working hard. I am not saying the Americans don’t work hard but working hard is a loose term. I would say it’s the pre-season preparation. I know I was injured a bit but I tried to simulate the same pre-season feeling going into the American outdoors, because I know what level that brings you to. In Europe, you have a longer offseason and it’s all about building that base level and about being solid and consistent.
“Let’s say we’re at Glen Helen and you get here and there’s the Star Racing team, the Honda guys, the Kawasaki guys absolutely flying, risking it all on a practice day. Whereas I will turn it on when it’s time to race.”
SO KIND OF LIKE WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER—RIGHT? Yes, the biggest thing about this year, and with the experience that I have, is to not burn myself out before race day. Let’s say we’re at Glen Helen and you get here and there’s the Star Racing Team, the Honda guys, the Kawi guys absolutely flying, risking it all on a practice day. Whereas I will turn it on when it’s time to race. I think learning that from Europe when it’s a long season, is when to turn it on when it’s time to race. I don’t want to go home and be stressing out how I was three seconds too slow today because then we make it to the weekend and I beat all the guys that were going the same speed as me here at Glen Helen. I know how and when to race. You don’t want to worry too much about training but obviously developing the bike is another thing. You got to test it and feel happy with it but don’t show everything when you’re at the practice track.
BASICALLY YOU’RE MANAGING YOUR ENERGY LEVELS THROUGH THE WEEK. Exactly, you’re energy levels need to be high when you show up to the line on race day. One thing I’ve definitely noticed is how hot it is in America. I can do two 30-minute motos on a practice day but then I have to go do it again on the weekend so it doesn’t make sense to me to completely burn myself out before the day comes and might as well work on some slightly different things. It’s all about managing that mindset and when and when not to push yourself. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I am not perfectly comfortable right now, let’s take a hot ten, and then go back and try to improve the bike next moto.” Much rather do that than crashing my brains out because I don’t feel like I am fast enough. I’ve learned to listen to myself and trust myself and the we can start battling for podiums but the whole package has to be correct before we do that.
AT LORETTA LYNN’S 2, YOU GOT YOUR BEST FINISH OF THE SEASON WITH A FIFTH. WERE YOU HAPPY? Of course! It was great for the team. I led a lot of laps in that second moto until two laps to go a lapper crashed right in front of me. I’ve learned what’s taken will be given as well and if you stick to the game long enough, you can be lucky and you can be unlucky. I put myself in a good position and I rode fine, didn’t even feel like I was riding that great to be honest. I was happy, I was stoked, I was glad that we put the team on the map. That was my goal, is to elevate the profile of the team. I believe in my guys, I believe in the people that I got around me. I believe in the brand, I believe in Suzuki, and I believe we can be a contender for podiums, race wins, and top 5s consistently. It’s just going to take a little work. We had a solid season, I ended up top 10 in the championship, top Suzuki and it was the first time the team has ever raced outdoors. A lot of learning had to be done and when it came to Colorado, we had to run a completely different bike setup. We’re only going to get better from here and those top 5s are going to be more consistent.
SUPERCROSS WILL BE ALL-NEW FOR YOU AS WELL. Yeah, obviously going into Supercross it’s going to be completely different and I am not going to underestimate that and I lack the experience of Supercross and we’re both going to have to learn, both myself and the team throughout. I’m up for the challenge and we’re going to start from there, I am happy with my people, the guys around me, and we have potential to grow and be a really strong solid team.
IT WAS REALLY COOL TO SEE SOME STRONG PERFORMANCES FROM THE SUZUKI RIDERS THIS OUTDOOR SEASON. Yeah. especially with people on Instagram giving their opinions. They don’t really like the Suzukis but we really are trying to make the best program we can. For instance the electric start. They could put one on but we’re trying to make the bike as light as we can and when you add an electric start on there, it also adds weight. It is actually more beneficial for me riding to not have one on there because that’s how I have gotten used to the weight on the bike. We’re still trying to improve the bike.