Interviews 20 Feb 2014

Catching Up: Rick Olson

Yamaha's Olson discusses 2014 EWC and ASC campaigns.

Long-time Yamaha rider Rick Olson will be a rider to watch in 2014 as he chases success on both domestic and international fronts.

A top contender for the Australasian Superbike Championship title, Olson will also look to make his mark in the Endurance World Championship (EWC) after landing a ride with the Austrian factory-backed Yamaha effort. spoke to Rick about what is shaping up as a landmark season for his burgeoning road race career.

Image: Keith Muir.

Image: Keith Muir.

Rick, you’ve scored yourself one of the Endurance World Championship’s most prized rides in a seat with the Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART). Can you tell us how this opportunity came about?

I think with Broc [Parkes] racing here in Australia and him racing with the team last year he was trying to get a few guys over there to sort of help a few of us out. He let Mandy Kainz, the team manager, know about a few riders here and he put my name forward as one of them because I ride Yamaha here in Australia.

Mandy contacted me and asked if I wanted to sign the contract for the year, I said, yeah, no worries. I talked to Yamaha Australia here and they were all keen on it so he went ahead with it.

The YART has favoured Aussies as part their line up for a few years now and 2014 is no different. What are your thoughts on being part of an all-Aussie squad for at least one of the rounds, if not more?

At Qatar, the last round, it looks like the three of us will be on the team together. That’d be pretty awesome. Obviously I’ve raced with Broc as a teammate last year so we’ll be able to work together. I haven’t really worked with Wayne [Maxwell] before, but I know him from around the track when I raced ASBK and he’s a pretty cool guy.

They’re both really strong riders, with Wayne obviously winning the ASBK championship and Broc with what he’s done overseas and also winning the Australian FX-Superbike Championship last year. It’s a really good opportunity for me to work with some guys with great experience, and it will be cool to be teamed up together in a world championship race.

The EWC is obviously a completely different format to anything that is run domestically. What are your thoughts on racing events that span, at a minimum eight hours, and up to a full 24 hours?

I don’t really think I’ve ever done anything close to it! The races here in Australia are pretty short, and even when I was racing dirt track I don’t think I’ve ever done anything quite like it. It will be something new for sure, so I’m looking forward to being part of it.

We understand you’re only a few days from jetting off to your first test with the team. Where’s it taking place and what’s your main objective in heading over there?

We leave on Saturday. We’re off to Spain – Almeria – for a four-day test with Pirelli. That will be pretty cool. Four days on the bike is a good starting point, as for me it’s going to be a big learning curve. The bike over there has a lot more horsepower than the ones over here, and a lot more gizmos than the bike I’m used to.

One other thing is that I run a road pattern here in Australia, where as in the EWC running the race shifter is a must. Every one runs it, so that’s something I will be adjusting to in the four-day test because that may take at least a few rides on the bike to get used to.

Image: Yamaha Austria

Source: Yamaha Austria.

You started out in the one-make Yamaha FZ6 Cup a few years ago and have remained loyal to Yamaha over the years. Has sticking with the same brand been an important factor to your progression through the ranks and to the forefront of Aussie competition?

Ever since me and dad decided to go road racing the FZ6 Cup was the best opportunity, or most affordable at the time, and it was something I’ve always wanted to do so we went with it. After that there was the scholarship, which Yamaha jumped on board with and supplied the bike. And after that, in 2010, we got a factory ride with them.

So Yamaha has been a huge support, even from the start of my career when I was a privateer. To remain with them has been really good and I’ve built up a good relationship with the whole team, like Kev Marshall and John Redding.

The team has a good atmosphere, they’ve been good to me, I try to do my best for them and am happy there. So yep, they’ve been a huge support.

Momentum is building behind the Australasian Superbike Championship, which your team has been a part of for some time. What are your thoughts on the strength of the series as the top teams and riders get behind it?

I think it’s great for the sport. I think all of the top riders, or most of them, will be in the one championship, so it’s only going to help the sport. The fans will be able to go to the one event and see the top riders and not have to try to pick between the two.

It’s definitely going to be tougher with all the added competition, but that kind of makes you just want it even more. I’ve wanted to win the championship since I got on the superbike in 2011, I’ve gotten third, second and fourth, so I’m really aiming for that number one plate. The guys in the competition are tough riders so it will be a good, close season.

Thanks for the chat Rick and best of luck with your local and international races.

No problem, thank you.