Future currently unclear following split with 727 Moto Racing team.
A ‘shell-shocked’ Paul Free will take time to assess his next move after departing the 727 Moto Racing team this week, the renowned longtime team principal, manager and crew chief considering whether he wants to remain within the Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) paddock altogether.
The Queensland-based 727 Moto team advised Free following Wakefield Park that the decision had been made to part ways just three rounds into the 2022 ASBK season, in which Free had been operating as team manager in addition to being Broc Pearson’s crew chief.
Dismissing Free comes as part of what already appears to be a broader downscaling of the 727 Moto Racing organisation owned by Travis Schmitz, which made headlines during the off-season in signing premier class rookie Pearson alongside the experienced Jed Metcher in a program meant to be led by Free, but has so far fallen short of making any major impact on-track.
It’s already been confirmed that 727 will be absent from the Darwin two-plus-four alongside the Supercars in June, instead focusing on a development program in a bid to become more competitive in the second half of the season, however, the commercial effects of sitting out one of the headline events on the calendar can’t be understated. It will also be a lost opportunity for Pearson in particular to gain vital national race mileage at this point of his young career.
It’s expected that Free will have no shortage of opportunities in ASBK, but he’s planning on taking his time in order to move past this high-profile and sudden separation. And there’s no guarantee that he will in fact continue within the sport while also operating his long-standing Motologic business on the Gold Coast.
“It’s obviously only a day since I was informed that my services were no longer needed within the 727 team, so I’m still a little bit shell-shocked to be honest, of what’s happened, what’s been done and what’s been said,” Free explained when contacted by CycleOnline on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m sort of just trying to recover from that and I think it’s going to take some time – not just a couple of days or a week.
“But anyway, once I get through that and past that, I’ll start looking at what I need to do and what I’m potentially going to do. I know there are some other opportunities within the paddock, but honestly, I don’t know what I want to do or whether I even want to do that. I feel pretty scarred at the moment and… as much as I have got a solid reputation in the paddock from my previous 25 years within the sport, I’ve never, ever been in this position.”
Free transitioned from being a factory racer himself and working alongside Phil Tainton at Suzuki to managing Honda’s official road racing effort in 2003, going on to capture double Superbike and Supersport championships with Adam Fergusson and Josh Brookes in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Brookes also won the Supersport World Championship race at Phillip Island as a wildcard in 2004 against the odds.
From there, Free’s Motologic-operated Honda team won the 2008 ASBK crown with Glenn Allerton, an assortment of titles in the Australasian/FX-Superbikes era between 2014 and 2015 with Wayne Maxwell and Troy Herfoss, plus another ASBK championship with Herfoss in 2016. After exiting team ownership ahead of 2018, Free was appointed as DesmoSport Ducati head technician that season working with Troy Bayliss, then clinched a title again with Mike Jones in 2019. He had been at Penrite Honda in 2020 and 2021 as crew chief before the 727 opportunity beckoned.
Considering his extensive list of achievements in a variety of positions and organisations, Free isn’t planning on rushing a decision on his personal future at this moment, but maintains that should he return to the ASBK paddock it would have to be in a suitable role with a group that shares the common goal of competing for championships.
“I just feel scarred, that’s all,” he added. “I don’t know what I want to do next and if I want to do anything there at all. My whole motive and drive within the sport is to be successful and no amount of money can pay for the effort that you have to put in to ultimately be successful with the motorcycle and the rider that you’re working with. My level of dedication to who I’m working with is… I put my heart and soul into everything.
“Once again, looking forward, if I was to do anything with someone, I could guarantee that my heart and soul would be in it – if that’s what I want to do and if I think they’re worth it. There’s not enough money in this industry to make a fortune from it and neither to be paid for what you do in my position. You don’t get paid for what you actually put in, but that’s what you do in this game and, for me, those rewards and accolades come through the results. It’s not about going to the track and fist-pumping about qualifying 14th.
“It’s about getting a result and being right at the pointy-end. That – to me – is the reward. Nothing else. For some people, I’ve been told I don’t fit in certain teams and organisations and I suppose that is possibly right. If I’m not at the right team then, hey, I don’t fit in, because if we’re not where I think we should be with my rider and the motorcycle I’m looking after, then for me it’s not that rewarding and not that much fun. To me, it’s not about going away and drinking beers to have a great time, it’s about getting results and that’s my motivation.”