Wednesday 12th & Thursday 13th December: Tracks closed. The rain up here in the hills keeps coming.

Josh Coppins Interview

With MXLarge

maddix park mx
www.mxlarge.com
Former GP winner and all round good guy Josh Coppins is a guy who hasn’t changed from the moment he stepped off the plane in Europe some 20 years ago. Now long retired from GP action the New Zealander is happy to be back home and running a successful Yamaha team. Having just signed another GP winner in Dean Ferris for the New Zealand championships he is looking at having a good year in 2016.

Coppins is one of the really intelligent guys of the sport who can see things happening while many don’t. His wealth of GP experience as a racer, and now as a team manager back home makes him a little special in a sport of great athletes, and while many disappear from the sport as riding was their only real talent JC battles on, enjoying it as much as ever.

We gave Josh a call in his beautiful home nestled on the countryside in one of the most spectacular parts of the world. He was kind enough to give us his ideas about the current MXGP format, the racing and a little look at his career. He also gave us his opinion of good friend Ben Townley and his comeback.

Mxlarge: Josh, you still living in the same house down there in New Zealand?

Coppins: Yes mate, I love it here, and am pretty settled.

Mxlarge: Whenever a rider from New Zealand or Australia tells me he’s going home I really think, you lucky bastard. Like Dean going back this year. I mean you live a great life down there, but do you also miss Europe and the whole scene here?

Coppins: Definitely, still being involved with racing and coming back and seeing the level of the Grand Prix circuit and the teams there are things you miss. But you can’t have both, but I miss it for sure, that’s a given.

Mxlarge: The level of the MXGP class at the moment is really high, and I often think about that 2005 season with yourself, Everts, Smets, Pichon and Townley. That was a pretty special year. How would you rate current depth to that season?

Coppins: I think the level is higher now, I like the Grand Prix’s I think it’s heading in a good way and the level of the riders is really high, a lot of positives about the MXGP series. The thing I see when I visit is how professional the teams have stepped it up and the support of the rider and the desire to win. The testing program, the technology of the bikes, that side is probably for me changed the most.

Mxlarge: When you see Stefan (Everts) taking over Suzuki, which was already run well by Sylvain, but some new blood and somebody like Stefan, it is a great move and I think he will improve it there a lot with help from the right people. Then you have HRC being so involved now, building like it was in the 1980s and of course KTM have invested a lot into the MXGP series. Then you look at the Youthstream side of it, the VIP tents, the mechanic area tents, the whole infrastructure is just so good at the moment. It’s just amazing.

Coppins: Being a team owner in New Zealand and taking sponsors to different events, I can now see what Youthstream are trying to do on a different level. Being able to take your sponsor to big events and give them that VIP treatment, it can be critical for getting sponsors. I mean we have all had times when we thought were is Giuseppe heading with that, but if you look at the 150cc class, the EMX, and the development of the riders, it seems really good now and there is a good structure for riders to get up into the bigger picture. I think there are more positives than negatives in the MXGP series.

Mxlarge: I was listening to a podcast from Steve Matthes with Shayne King the other day and Steve (Matthes) was saying how it’s difficult for riders to get a GP ride now. With the current structure for riders moving into the EMX series and the 150cc series, doing well, and I think it’s just as easy now as it was before to find your way eventually in a good team, if you have the talent.

Coppins: Yes I would and I have ridden in two of those eras and we are now in the third era. When I first rode there were no support teams, there was the factory teams, and then everyone else was on their own, more or less. Then we had a lot of development teams and now we have the development through those EMX races. I think there are a lot of opportunities and right or wrong every ride has a different way of getting there. I think the top guys will always get there and now the other guys have a chance to get through the EMX system. I think it’s promising.

Mxlarge: Ben is coming back, and I think everyone feels Ben would have been a Cairoli, or a Villopoto, but due to injuries he didn’t get there. He has the chance to come back and maybe kill some demons from his past. How do you see it panning out?

Coppins: I see it being tough. We all know Ben has the speed and the desire to do the job. Its 18 rounds a long series and I see Ben in a different place as he was before. He has a family and when you are the best you have to be really determined and very selfish, so that could be an issue. It doesn’t matter if you are Ryan Villopoto or Ben Townley, you have to be in Europe, you have to ride in the cold and wet days, spend time with the team, develop the bike and do all the work. And I see those last few things as possible being an issue. Doing well in one race and doing well in 18 is very different.

Mxlarge: What stood out of you in your career? Could you pick five moments?

Coppins: Probably the first would be 1999 when I led my first GP as a semi-supported rider. Holeshot the GP, led, went away from the first round in a good position, and felt I could succeed after four or five years of trying. 2002 when I battled for GP wins with Pichon, had like 10 out of 13 podiums, finished second in the championship and sort of knew how it was at the top. Then 2006 even though I spent half the season injured I was the only guy to beat Stefan that year and lapped up until third place in Ireland. Obviously 2007 was special and that was about it. The fifth thing would be racing for Craig Dack in Australia. I really loved it, and it was a good time. It wasn’t career changing thing, but the funnest moments of my racing.

Mxlarge: Going back to Australia or New Zealand after a Grand Prix career, and you have had to do it tough and you have had to ride in the winter at Lommel or have bad injuries, then you get home and you can hear the birds singing and the sun is always shining and the beach is around the corner. That must be like arriving in Europe for the first time?

Coppins: I would liken it to be pretty similar and it also added a couple of years in my life. I had been away for 15 years of my life and to be back home and racing for a team that was really good, it was a nice experience.

Mxlarge: When you and Dacka did the press conference at the MXoN for signing Dean Ferris for Australia I was thinking maybe you and Dacka were starting a GP team with Dean as the lead rider. Obviously that wasn’t the case, but is that something you would like to do?

Coppins: Definitely, and that is part of the season I go back to Europe each year. I miss some things in Europe and it is something I would like to do. I learnt a lot of things, but the right sponsor would be the big issue. I learnt a lot from all my team managers and for sure somebody like Dacka. He is more ground routes, while guys like Rinaldi are a much bigger budget.

Mxlarge: MXGP in 2016, we don’t know if Herlings is going up yet, but there are a lot of guys moving up and Cairoli and Desalle will be back fit. Do you watch much of it and what do you think will happen in 2016?

Coppins: Yes I watch a lot of it. It is hard to say, had you asked me this question a year ago would I have said Romain Febvre is going to win, for sure not. I think it’s going to be tough for Tony (Cairoli), I think the stranglehold that he had isn’t going to be there. He will still be a contender, can Romain back it up, winning it is hard, but backing it up is harder. The HRC guys will be good. I would probably say it will come down to Romain and Tony again, those two are consistent.

Mxlarge: Dean and Todd going back to Australia. How is the series in Australia?

Coppins: It’s really good, well run, well supported, and well followed. The racing is good and the level is high. With those two guys coming back it will be exciting and there are already a lot of young guys moving up, so the future looks good.

Andy McGechan image

 
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