NEWS: Craig Dack Interview
With six rounds under the belt for CDR Yamaha, Team Manager Craig Dack speaks candidly about the inner workings of one of the most successful race teams of all time ahead of this weekend’s Round 7 of the MX Nats in Shepparton.
The first half of the season has been unusual for CDR Yamaha. How are you feeling about 2015 so far?
Look, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster really. Firstly with Jacob getting on top of things and riding very well leading into the start of the season, and then blowing his knee out. That was a big blow for us. But luckily we made the decision to put Reardon (Dan) on, which was a positive. You know, the start of the championship was very good, but then unfortunately the Broadford round and what happened with Kade and Daniel, it was sort of a catalytic moment for the future of the year for us, and it sort of changed the context of the whole championship for us. Our Superpole efforts have been inconsistent, and it’s been the same with the races. We have seemed to have a bit of bad luck along the way, and we have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but ultimately the riders have shown good signs of speed, but they haven’t yet been able to put this championship together correctly. There have just been silly mistakes that shouldn’t be made at this level.
Kade and Dan obviously had that incident at Broadford where they came together, and their relationship seems to have mended now, but how hard was that situation to handle from a team manager’s point of view?
Well first of all, I had to settle myself down – I really had to be careful of myself, so the first work I had to do was counsel myself for several hours after the whole thing. In terms of race team owners, it’s sort of the number one thing that you don’t want to happen. You encourage your riders to race hard, and not give each other any room, but in the context of how that situation was, they were ten minutes in to a 30-minute race, and both riders were pulling away from everybody by a second a lap. Kade was clearly faster than Daniel, so he sort of had to wait for the right time to go past him and it was looking like we were going to dominate that moto. It was probably the worst whack across the chops I’ve ever had. It was tense for the first day but we had a test day on the Tuesday and I don’t usually go but I went and had a meeting with both of the riders and I made it very short, sharp and sweet. All that was said was it’s the start of the year, no one is happy, we want to wipe this out of our heads and we don’t even want to talk about it again. To both of their credit they were both mature enough to rise above it, and we’ve all moved forward.
Both Kade and Dan this year, generally have one great moto and one poor moto at most rounds. How frustrating is that for you and is this something that the team is working on specifically?
The answer is yes. And to be completely and brutally open and honest with you, at this level it just shouldn’t be happening. Things happen from time to time, we are all human but really when you look at Dan and his experience, and Kade who has been around a long, long time too, they should be on top of this sort of stuff. We can do everything we can, put good equipment around them, have chats to them, and all of that sort of stuff to make their lives easier, and the results better (which we do, do) but that part of it is ultimately up to them. It’s their responsibility to make the right decisions at the right time and that just hasn’t been happening. On the positive side though, I suppose it is more frustrating because they can both win races – they’ve proved it.
Round seven marks the return of the series to Victoria (your home state) does that give you any added confidence?
Not really. Being a national team for 23 or 24 years, a track is a track, and a race is a race – whether you’re in Zimbabwe or the Bahamas (laughs). It doesn’t matter really. Sometimes you will see advantages when you go to deep sand tracks like in Western Australia, the local guys there will do well, but apart from that it doesn’t matter where we are.
How is Jacob Wright’s recovery going and when should we expect to see him back this year?
He’s going very well. I actually spoke to Jacob just before and his rehab has gone exceptionally well. He’s grabbed the recovery and the rehab by both hands and he’s done a tremendous job. He’s had an ex Melbourne Storm physician working with him and he’s due to get back on the bike in about three weeks. He should have a solid two months build up to Supercross – He could probably come back for the second last or last round of the MX Nationals but why would we risk it?
Silly season is starting to fire up and you have three good riders in your corner already, what are your thoughts in terms of team set up for 2016?
Ultimately as a pureblooded sports person, and as a passionate motocross person, I would like to have the guy who can win the championship and then the development guy – in it’s purest forms, that’s how I’d like to put the team together. But, if I have good backing, and some good dollars with sponsorship then that can change. The thing with sponsors is they want results straight away, so I will always put on the two best guys I can afford at the time. But I mean you fly between two positions. You look back to a few years ago and we had Jay Marmont and Josh Coppins, and they were fighting like cats and dogs for a championship for two years. You go through different eras and stages with your race team where you need certain results for different reasons. I can tell you one thing for sure, CDR needs to win. That is the number one priority, and we are going to do whatever it takes. We had that intent this year, and it’s the same every year, but when you look at the last eight years of the MX Nationals Championships, CDR has won five of those, and finished third the last two years. If things keep sliding the way they are at the moment, we are looking like we are going to have our worst year in eight years. But in saying that, there’s still a long way to go in the championship and we will keep fighting. In terms of who we are going to choose, with what we want to do next year I completely haven’t got my head around it yet.
When you are head hunting/scouting where do you look? Is it only the MX1 class or do you keep your eye on the MX2 guys as well?
I look at everything. Usually its very rare if you want someone who can win a championship that you’d pick someone who’s dominating the MX2 class, and expect him to be your winner in the first year on a 450.
Who would you say is Australia’s new rising talent?
I think there are a few. I was glad to see Kawasaki get Dylan Long. He was someone who was impressing me, but I had all my positions full. I think Jacob Wright is an untapped talent, and we haven’t seen the best of him yet, and he’s done huge things in a short time already. And then Caleb Ward, he’s got some nice attributes about him. I don’t know him, I don’t know his background, what his attitude is like, or how much he puts into training, but technically he’s a really nice rider.
Do you currently have your eye on anyone for 2016?
Yes. Lots of riders, lots of options and lots of ideas. As I said, reading between the lines of what I’m saying, I’ve got huge wraps on Jacob, and it would be hard for anyone to claw him away from me. But who the other guy or guys are, I’m not sure of that at the moment. My mind is very open.
Do you think we will see CDR finish on the championship podium this year?
That is a hypothetical question that I can’t answer, but the intention and the drive internally within CDR Yamaha is to make that happen. We don’t want to not be on the podium at any stage, let alone off the top step at the end of the year. Our Championship has gone a bit haywire – we’ve been talking with the riders to identify why that is. It’s not the equipment, so it’s fundamentally something that’s happening with them. The championship over the last few rounds has gone off-track, so we’re trying to put it back on track so we can at least achieve a podium for 2015.