Features 26 Sep 2023

Industry: Ohvale Australia's Wayne Maxwell

FIM MiniGP Australia Series promoter on completion of 2023 season and series future.

Multiple Australian Superbike champion Wayne Maxwell continues to invest a lot of his time and knowledge into developing the next generation of emerging junior talent, and is a key figure in the distribution of Ohvale in Australia. The GP-0 and GP-2 models provide the platform for the FIM MiniGP Australia Series, and CycleOnline caught up with Maxwell – who retired from competing himself at the end of last year – for this Industry interview following the completion of the fifth and final round of the 2023 season at Oakleigh. 

Image: Foremost Media.

Give us your rundown on the MiniGP season as a whole. Are you happy with how it’s all progressed so far, seeing as it’s only the second year that it’s been run here in Australia?

Yeah absolutely. To see the growth of the kids that are in it for their second year in the 160 class and even the ones that have stepped up to the 190 class, it was amazing. Obviously, last year we didn’t really have the structure of enough coaching or training, even showing the kids how the bike needs to be ridden and working on the basic skillsets that are missed across all the other junior categories in Australia. So we’ve worked really hard on that this year, and obviously the results have shown. We have probably the best juniors in the country riding in our category over any other junior category, so that’s pretty cool.

You mention improvements in structure and coaching compared to last year. Can you go into that in a little bit more detail? They obviously have you to look up to as a coach and a mentor, but you’ve actually spent a lot of time on these bikes as well. So in a wider sense, how have you seen things improve and where are you looking to take things in future?

Obviously, riding the motorcycle we’ve been a little bit behind probably, in certain areas in Europe in our junior categories for a long time. So to be able to basically teach them how to ride, there are so many components to riding, it’s very difficult and more having a curriculum based structure in an academy style is where we want to take it to try and improve, because it’s not fair on our kids to expect them to be able to compete at a world level when we’re giving them no skillsets or no correct pathway to try an arrive in Europe.

You mentioned going to Europe. The top two out of the 160 class and the top three out of the 190 class get the opportunity to go to the world finals in Valencia. It must be an exciting prospect to be doing that again?

We’ve got a few training days that we’re going to come up with and try to work with it. We’re lucky with the timing with the Australian GPs coming up, we get to take all the riders there and they get to hang out with the ambassador, which I think this year is going to be Jack Miller again, he’s our Ohvale ambassador. So we get to do a pit tour with him and get to experience that. But more to the on-bike stuff, having Moto3 guys like Joel [Kelso] and during the off-season this year we got to see Senna [Agius] ride, and Harrison Voight, and then at the last round we saw Carter Thompson. Those guys have been exposed to Europe for over 12 months or so, so they’ve had the opportunity to work out what they have to do. The competition is what improves them, working in a confined space is what we need to do. You know, riding a 25-horsepower bike on a go-kart track is very similar to riding a 200-horsepower Superbike on a full-sized track. Unfortunately… any junior racing is great, but not having any other junior racing to be on big tracks, you really start to see the deficiencies. You’ve got so much time around a track like Phillip Island and you don’t have to have fantastic technique, so when you’re on a slow bike, you need to have that rushed feeling of being in a confined space. That’s what the go-kart track racing at the MiniGP does.

Image: RbMotoLens – Rob Mott Photography

Personally, how fulfilling is it to see these junior riders come up, improve and set them up to go on to achieve great things? Do you get itchy feet watching these young guys go at it, and does it make you want to get out there, even if it’s for a cameo?

It’s super fulfilling. I’ve had my time, sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind having a ride around with them, cause I think if they could possibly learn one little thing from me being on the bike… Sometimes I ask them to do stuff and it’s difficult for them to do it. But as soon as one person does it, then you see it evolve. That’s what competition creates, having the one kid that can take it on, then go from there.

With the series this year, there was a bit of international flavour in the mix for the last rounds?

Yeah, we’re lucky to have a great Chinese community that come to our events regularly, each week they’re at our ride days. So they were talking about trying to bring a kid from China over, which was really awesome. When he came over he did some coaching days, then he did the first round in South Australia, then he came back and we did one more coaching day, then some rounds in Oakley. So to see his improvement over the journey, it’s been sensational. He went back to China and improved his lap times by over one second on his personal best after racing here, so for them, they can see the benefit in that and hopefully can continue to bring some more Chinese kids and kids from other countries over to help boost up our field. Having him there was really good. To see his improvement in the race was also good along with all the other kids. I guess that what I said, it’s really exciting. So we just got to reset and make a plan for next year and try to go again.