Features 16 Apr 2013

Catching Up: Ben Henry

CycleOnline.com.au speaks to Cube Racing owner and rider Ben Henry about his team's start to the 2013 ASBK season.

Cube Racing owner and rider Ben Henry has been a part of Australian motorcycle racing community for a number of years. Largely self-funded, his earlier years saw him graduate from state to national-based racing, where one of his greatest achievements was taking out the 2007 Superstock 600 championship.

He stepped up to a 1000cc bike where he would place third in the Superstock class after another strong year. He chipped away at results for two years, winning West Australian titles on the way, before venturing into the team owner and rider role in 2011 with the help of his major sponsor, Australian Outdoor Living. It’s been a long and hard road to the top but his privateer Suzuki team now shines as one of the biggest and most professional in the paddock.

CycleOnline.com.au caught up with Ben to discuss the start to his 2013 campaign.

Ben Henry on track at Symmons Plains earlier this month. Image: Andrew Gosling/TBG Sport.

Ben Henry on track at Symmons Plains earlier this month. Image: Andrew Gosling/TBG Sport.

2013 has seen the open tyre rule put in place and as a result your team made the move to Pirelli. Can you tell us how that has been so far?

I think it’s a step in the right direction for our sport. For me it’s worked out really good because I’ve been fortunate enough to get some support directly from Pirelli and I’ve been with them for quite a few years. I reckon it’s also given Dunlop a chance to support the people they do a bit better, they’re not trying to spread themselves so thin. Both the tyres are pretty competitive so its certainly not a whitewash of one brand, it’s working real well.

How would you rate your team’s performance at the opening round of the year at Phillip Island?

Unfortunately I had a crash in the second race. It was tough for everyone, tyre-wise, because the track was new. It was weird. It was almost like a motocross track in that each time you went out it was different. It’s not something we’re used to in road racing. You get the temperature and pick the tyre to match and off you go. Because the track was changing so much, becoming more coarse, and then changing back, we were all struggling and in a way that’s possibly what brought me undone. My results there were okay, as a whole.

Next up was Tasmania, alongside the V8 Supercars. It also saw the first time the new Superpole had been run to set the grid. Do you feel you achieved the results you were chasing after a strong run at Phillip Island?

I didn’t achieve as much as I would have liked to. realistically expect myself to be racing in the top five and I just wasn’t there. I was about ninth, outright. From a personal point of view, it wasn’t good. I have got plenty of wheels in motion to fix that issue. It’s not a lot. I got a little bit caught out in the new Superpole. It’s something we hadn’t done before and I missed the Q2. That was a bit of inexperience there. I probably came in with too many minutes on the board. I soon found myself tenth and out of the Superpole and stuck on the third row. I’ll need to improve there. The team were aiming to put a new tyre in it and go again so it was a big learning experience.

With a track like Tassie where the first few turns are so close to the start line and so tight, anything can happen and when you’re that far back, chances are you’re not going to make up the ground you want. The race pace of my little bunch of guys I was racing was very similar to the guys racing for fifth. There was probably only a tenth a lap in it. There were a few lessons learnt there.

Being on the grid at V8 Supercar events is of vital importance to Henry's Cube Racing team. Image: Andrew Gosling/TBG Sport.

Being on the grid at V8 Supercar events is of vital importance to Henry’s Cube Racing team. Image: Andrew Gosling/TBG Sport.

Being a team owner you have a lot on your plate. Did you have a chance to go and check out the V8 Supercar setup and see what they do?

It’s good that they’ve [ASBK] got a lot organised for us. We’re busier than you think we might be. By the time you go through some data, talk through any changes or ideas and then head off to a signing or something like that then there’s not too much spare time. I’d like to have looked around a bit more, for sure.

And how important is it for your team and the ASBK to be racing at these events?

Those events are really, really crucial to the survival for our sport. For me, one of our biggest sponsors flew in from different states around Australia to come and watch that race. It’s a big event. it’s not that Australian Superbikes aren’t worth going to on their own but something like that really takes their fancy because it’s run with the V8 Supercars. For me, in my position, trying to go from a privateer team owner, to generating more income for a bigger team and better operations, it’s really important.

I was really disappointed to learn that we only had one this year. There was talk that there would be a minimum of three with the V8 Supercars. It’s hard to be able to tell sponsors that you’re going to be on TV when you don’t really know. TV is something you need to be selling forward last August, to get the sponsors on board. It’s too late to be informed about that sort of stuff. We’re in a position where it’s so variable that I can’t go forward to sponsors with something because I can’t reliably say we’ll do it.

Would you support any changes to the specs of the bikes for 2014, in the direction of a more stock machine that has been hinted?

It wouldn’t be a good thing for my team or the championship. The way the bikes are right now the parity is quite good. Any brand can win, there’s no real massive advantage. BMW is good, but it all ebbs and flows. I reckon you’d find there would be two brands of bike that would be really good – BMW and Kawasaki. The others would fairly struggle.

Looking forward to Queensland Raceway, now your local track. Is there any major work to be done to change the bike to suit after Tasmania?

Nothing major. The only real changes are a bit of electronic trim and spring rates. Spring rates are what we’d change the most, the rest is really just minor tweaks to suit the surface at the time of day or to match the weather.

Thanks Ben, best of luck at the next round.