Features 16 Jul 2013

Catching Up: Zac Levy

Australia's European Junior Cup contender shares his thoughts on the first-half of 2013.

As a support series to the World Superbike Championship, the European Junior Cup aims to allow up-and-coming riders to hone their racecraft in competition on the circuits used on the world stage.

Emerging local talent Zac Levy identified the championship as an ideal ground in which to develop his skills and further his career prospects within the paddock.

Levy, who turned 18 last week, has impressed in the first four rounds, finding himself well in contention for race wins. We caught up with him as he sets his sights on the next round of competition at Silverstone.

Zac Levy rode to a season-best finish of fourth at Monza.

Zac Levy rode to a season-best finish of fourth at Monza.

There are a number of options for local riders looking to establish themselves on the larger international scene. How did you determine that the European Junior Cup was the right path to take?

Last year we had a pretty good season in the Australian Superbikes on the Moto3 and 250 Production, and we were looking at going abroad this year for 2013. We got a lot of offers from Moto3 and the Spanish Championship. We don’t have that kind of money to pay, especially if you have a bad year, you’d blow it .

We looked into the Junior Cup and it was the cheapest series running and probably the best promoted running through the World Superbikes. We threw in an application and knew within a day that we were in.

It’s a controlled-class, with identical bikes. Tell us a bit more about your impressions of the series and the bike to ride.

We all ride the CBR500, and we’re all on identical bikes, so it’s very even between the riders. There were 36 of us to begin with, I think there’s probably 33 or 33 competing now. The championship has two huge semis which they used to house the hospitality and bikes. They basically transport their entire pit setup in these to each race we go to so we just rock up and get on.

The bike is good and there’s plenty we can to do it. Suspension-wise, we’re on the Ohlins rear shock so you can change things like rebound and compression. You can also change the front suspension to whatever suits you. The gearing is all able to be changed. There’s a lot you can do really, apart from touching the motor which obviously has to stay as is.

On a race weekend I’ve got my own crew with me. My uncle, who was my mechanic in the ASBK, is here, and my pop is here too. He’s backing it all and he’s our team manager.

The European Junior Cup competitors race aboard identical Honda CBR500s.

The European Junior Cup competitors race aboard identical Honda CBR500s.

You’re four rounds in and you’ve already come very close to a podium place in the race at Monza. Can you tell us a bit more about that race?

Monza was definitely my best race meeting all together, though maybe not in qualifying. I qualified 15th, I think, and made a really good start. By the first corner I was fourth. The race went on and I dropped back to about 10th as things settled down a bit. I followed the other guys for six or seven laps and tried to stay close.

On the last lap I was able to get a good slipstream down the front straight and was first into the first corner. I led it about half-way around until the other riders got in my slipstream and got back past. I think I ended up back in ninth. On the last corner I got through to fifth, and a rider crashed in front of me, so I picked up fourth. It was frustrating to just miss out on the podium!

What’s it like being part of the World Superbike paddock and having access to the top riders for advice and tips?

It’s definitely a good stepping stone to be in there. We have the Pata Honda boys, Jonny Rea and Haslam, and they’re always there and available to talk to. Having two world-class riders there to help is really good – in the GP paddock you just wouldn’t get that. The World Superbike paddock seems pretty friendly and has a good atmosphere which I really like.

Silverstone is next on the calendar, followed by rounds at the Nurburgring, Magny Cours and Jerez. Are there any tracks you’re particularly looking forward to in the second-half of the season?

I’ve never been to Europe or raced any of the circuits so I can’t really say one over the other. It doesn’t really matter, I have to take each for what it is. I’m looking forward to all of them. My only impressions are what I’ve seen on TV and the rest of the tracks look good!