Features 24 Jun 2014

Catching Up: Rick Olson

Yamaha Racing Team talent talks season 2014 to date.

Yamaha Racing Team with YMI rider Rick Olson has had a mixed start to the 2014 Swann Insurance Australasian Superbike Championship, splitting his time between the ASC and the FIM Endurance World Championship with Monster Energy Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART). CycleOnline.com.au spoke to Olson about his form to date ahead of this weekend’s Queensland Swann Series round.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Rick, thanks very much for giving up your time. Let’s start off by asking how did the test go for yourself the other week at Queensland Raceway?

For me the test wasn’t so good. I seem to have dragged my form from Mallala to the test. I wasn’t happy with the times I was doing, and we did a lot of work with the bike. Kev [Marshall] and the team really put in a lot of effort to make some changes to make the bike good. I think the bike was good and I thought I was riding pretty good, but the lap times just weren’t there. In regards to the team, it was a good test. The other boys had really good pace and that shows that the Yamaha R1 is working well and it will be competitive there with the times they doing, so that’s a good confidence booster. For myself, I don’t know. I struggled to get the times together. I have the Friday practices now before the races, so I just have to try and find some more speed because I know I can go faster. I have been faster there than what I have before. I just seemed too struggled a bit.

Well that leads me into my next question. So far this year you have seemed to struggle a bit on the YRT with YMI R1. What can you pinpoint in regards to why are you having such a ‘drama’ at the moment with adapting to the bike compared to Cru and Robbie, who seem like they are gelling with the bike at the moment? From your point of view, what exactly is it?

The first round at Wakefield Park was not too bad. We stayed with the front group. But when we got the new tyre, which is a new shaped tyre it doesn’t go into a ‘point’, it’s not as steep as the other one. I really struggled to get it working on the R1 and even Kev said throughout the years we have struggled with this shape of tyre on the R1. It was moving around a lot and it was quite hard to push the front in. So that was a little bit. But I still thought my performance at Wakefield Park was better than what it was at Mallala. At Queensland we actually have a new front tyre, which is more like the one we had last year, so it’s got more of an edge on it, which made me pretty confident at the test. So I should be able to get some confidence back and go faster. You know I have been on the Yamaha R1 since 2011 now, so I’ve got no excuses. I can’t say ‘the bike is doing this or that’ because this is my fourth year on the bike having that many years doing development on it. So it’s just something I need to get some confidence back. I don’t know if it’s because I’m riding the YART Yamaha overseas as well and that bike is a completely different R1 to this one and the change from going to that to this. But yeah, as I said, I just need to get a bit more confident in the R1 and ride it like I did like last year.

Can you explain the biggest differences between the YRT Yamaha R1 that you ride here in Oz and the YART machine that you ride overseas?

For me the biggest difference was the feeling of the overall bike, like the chassis, the forks and so on. The R1 here in Australia seems to move around a lot more, where the R1 overseas seems like it’s a lot more ‘braced’ – it’s really solid. So when you’re going through the corners and braking and exiting the turns the bike doesn’t seem to move around. It’s like an R6, really solid. Compared to the R1 here where it moves around a lot more. Also the settings are a lot different over there as well. We can change the swingarm settings, also the front-end geometry for the head stems. That’s a bit of an advantage where you can work on the bike. And the horsepower, the horsepower is a huge different. Also on the YART R1 we run traction control where the one here we don’t use the traction control because it doesn’t really suit our races here and the bikes. Because of the rules here we have to use the standard components, so it doesn’t really work for the race unless it’s wet. I like it in the wet, but in the dry I think it cuts in a little bit too much and you lose time. But the biggest thing for me was the movement of the bike. The bike over here seems to move around a lot more compared to the bike over there that feels a lot more planted to the ground.

Staying on the topic of your overseas racing. The next outing for yourself would have to be one of the biggest race events of your career; the famous Suzuka 8 Hour next month. What’s your thoughts going into that?

I’m really looking forward to getting back on the bike over there again. It’s going to be difficult because we will be running Pirellis and in the past they have seemed to struggle there with the heat. They don’t seem to work as well as the Bridgestones in the heat over there. But I will just go in there and try and do the best that I can and go as fast as I can for the team. What I learnt at Bol d’Or was consistently is always the key. Everyone knows endurance racing is all about being consistent, but when you’re on the bike and you go out for a race, and you’re in race mode it’s in your head you that all you’re thinking about is going as fast as you can, so that’s the hard part to try and back it off a bit and ride smarter because you’re racing for ‘X’ amount of laps. You’re doing a 32-lap stint instead of a 10-lap stint here. So you really have to try and think about it and be consistent and try and stay on the thing. The team that won at Bol d’Or crashed, but after their crash they just stayed consistent and kept on the bike and pushed out consistent lap times and that is what worked. So I’m confident going there. I think if we can just stay consistent and just do what we can and will see where we are at the end.

Have you ever been to Suzuka before?

No, I haven’t.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Are you playing video games or watching YouTube clips to get a better understanding of the track?

No, I haven’t. I think about the race, but I more try and think about the next race, which is Queensland here. So I haven’t really been thinking about Suzuka a whole lot. As for watching YouTube clips of the track, I know it will be the longest ever track I have raced on, so it will have a lot more corners that will be much harder to remember. But we get two days of riding before we have the official practice, then the qualifying and the race. We have been to tracks before where we’ve had no experience. Once you do the first two sessions you should know where all the corners are. Then you just have work out how late you can brake, and the best way you can apex the turns and get out of the corners and that sort of stuff. I’m not really worried about remembering the track or anything once I’m there, I just want to go there and make sure I have confidence. When I have confidence I can get aggressive with the bike.

In regards to your finishing position at Suzuka, what would you be happy with?

Realistically for us, I think top 10 would be great. There are going to be a lot of riders over there on Bridgestone tyres. Once we get into ‘X’ amount of laps we are going to struggle with the heat and the tyre wear, but if go out in qualifying and do a good time and try and be competitive there and like what I said be consistent for the race, I’m hoping for hopefully a top 10 finish would be good.

And what is it like teaming up Wayne Maxwell? You duke it out with him during the FX-Superbike season, then you team up with him in the World Endurance races.

Wayne’s good! It’s good to have another Australian over there to talk to. You know what he is like; he sure is a character. He likes to have fun and he is not afraid to say what he thinks. I’ve known Wayne, but I have never worked with him before with bikes or anything. One thing I have noticed is that he is a hard worker. Not just on the track, but off the track as well in the pits to get the bike set up right. He gets right into reading the data and getting the bike set up – he will spend a lot of time in the garage with the crew chief and the technicians to try and get it all sorted. It’s good having him over there and his experience. That was definitely a bonus for us at Magny-Cours, he helped us with the bike a lot.

So now looking towards the next round of the ASC at Queensland Raceway, would a top three be a realistic goal?

Yeah, I don’t see why not. I know if I can be fully confident and ride aggressive that I can challenge to finish on the podium. At the test I think the other boys showed that the Yamaha R1 is more than capable of doing that with the times that they were doing. I have looked at the rider list and there are 13 riders that can potentiality win races. So when you think about, top 10 would be good, but for me, it’s time for me to start getting back onto the podium again. My goal is to try my hardest to be in the top three in every race.

One final question; how’s fatherhood going?

It’s great! It’s unreal. [Jesse’s] starting to walk around. It’s a real eye-opener and he’s just funny to watch. I will just sit there and watch him play and try and talk and do what he does, it’s really good fun. It beams you up and keeps me motivated.

Well, thanks for that Rick, all the best in Queensland!

No worries, thank you.