Interviews 15 Sep 2009

Moto Talk with Craig Coxhell catches up with CJC Racing privateer Craig Coxhell after his Australian Superbike Open race win last Sunday.

Coxhell leads Maxwell, Allerton, Waters and Johnson at the ASO. Photo: IEG

Coxhell leads Maxwell, Allerton, Waters and Johnson at the ASO. Photo: IEG

The career of Victorian Craig Coxhell has been an intriguing one over the years, entering the Australian Superbike Championship as a fresh-faced teenager before going on to capture the premier domestic crown in 2003.

A stint racing overseas in Europe and the UK produced limited success after that, returning to Australia with Suzuki in 2007 to partner Shawn Giles once again on the team he took his ASBK title with.

Coxhell, now 27, finished third in the championship that year before struggling in 2008 as his results didn’t meet his high expectations, losing his seat at the end of the season and bouncing back with his highly professional CJC Racing privateer outfit.

Last weekend’s Insure My Ride Australian Superbike Open marked Coxhell’s first race victory on the Bisley Workwear-supported Honda CBR1000RR, winning race two and finishing third overall for the weekend in a great result for the team with limited resources up against the factory efforts. spoke to Coxhell about his success and what life’s like as a privateer in Australia’s leading road race category.

Craig, congratulations on the success at the Superbike Open, it must be a very satisfying result for you and the team?

Yeah, thanks, I think that it’s probably more a great result for the team, I mean, I’ve been wanting to win for a while now and only really wanted one for the year. It’s just really good for the team, they were starting to get a little bit down in the dumps when we were finishing in fifth and six, occasionally seeing the light a little bit with a third, but to get a first gives us great motivation to keep pushing on.

It’s been a tough year for everyone, not just financially, but we thought the job might have been easier than what it has been. We’re chipping away and for the team to get a win at Phillip Island is just great.

Coxhell on the gas at Phillip Island. Photo: IEG

Coxhell on the gas at Phillip Island. Photo: IEG

As a former Superbike champ, I guess it’s expected that you will get results whether you’re a privateer or not, but just how difficult has this season been?

It’s definitely been hard, I guess there has been pressure from myself more than anybody else to win a race. I knew that we had the potential to do it, but we just weren’t close enough. We didn’t have the pace that we needed at Phillip Island and we’ve been struggling for rear grip at the last couple of meetings, but when it started to rain it came down to the riders rather than the machinery, kind of putting us on more of a level playing field. I’m not in the running for the championship and the other guys had a lot more to lose than me, so I kept my head down and just pushed on.

It’s a family operated team with your dad, Rob, as the crew chief, so did you honestly expect that you guys could pull together and win a race this year?

Well, we were hoping so. Our goal was to win at least one race and we would have liked to be a little further up in the championship, but things were promised, financially, at the start of the year that never come off, so a lot of the money that’s been put in has been from our family business, Shepp Motor Body Builders, and it’s been hard in that respect. So to be able to do what we’ve done with our sponsors that have stuck by us like Bisley Workwear, we’re over the moon. We’ve still got another four races left in the series so if we can get a few more podiums and maybe another win then we’d be happy.

From a privateer’s perspective, what was the V8 Supercars weekend like for you, interest wise for your sponsors, etc?

It was really, really good for us. When we won that race there were a few important people watching and it looks like we may have picked up a sponsor for next year out of the V8 weekend. I’m all for it, it’s really good exposure and that’s where we need to be – in front of those corporate people and the big crowds like we had down there at Phillip Island. I really enjoyed it, it was a little bit more laid back and if we can do more of them then both myself and the team would be really happy.

And those events should essentially help teams like CJC Racing and other privateer efforts that rely on outside sponsorship to maybe showcase yourself in front of these corporate sponsors more often, won’t they?

Coxhell and his Superbike Open trophy for third overall. Photo: IEG

Coxhell and his Superbike Open trophy for third overall. Photo: IEG

Exactly. We only did the meeting because we wanted to support Australian Superbikes, we didn’t have the budget to do it, but we thought it would be good for the team to be competing in front of those sort of people. It’s a little bit disappointing that some of the teams didn’t turn up, and I understand there are budgets, but if a privateer tea, can find the extra budget to race and support the Australian Superbikes then I can’t see why the factory guys couldn’t. That was a little bit disappointing, but we had a really good weekend and I think that we should keep on going with events like that.

Looking at the title, overall you’ve had a consistent season and currently sit sixth in the series with a legitimate shot at the top five. Are you happy with your progress?

Yes and no, I think we could be further up. We’ve had a few problems with the bike and I was sick with the flu at Eastern Creek, but we’ve learnt from our mistakes and our new goal is to try and finish fourth in the championship. It’s definitely doable, and that would mean that we’ll be in front of four or five factory bikes, which we’d be very happy with.

So where to from here for Craig Coxhell? Is building up your own team something you can realistically do, or do you want to get back in a factory truck?

The way things are looking we are probably better off continuing what we’re doing now. I’m enjoying working for my dad at Shepp Motor Body Builders and earning a wage from something separate takes a lot of pressure away from my racing. It’s helped me enjoy my racing, not having to think about winning races to earn a wage, and I’m enjoying racing as a privateer. If we can get the sponsorship that we need for next year and continue with the people who have worked with us this year, then I’m more than happy to continue with CJC Racing.

Alright Craig, well good work again and we’ll see you back down the Island at the MotoGP round.

No worries, mate.