Mark Heckles: In his own words

Published: 11 March 2002

Daveb: What was it like lining up on the WSB grid for the first time?

MarkHeckles: In a word … amazing. To come so far so quickly was amazing really.

Namezippy: What are your hopes for this season?

MarkHeckles: My hopes...are to progress even further as a rider and to be competitive at such a high level. As a rider I have no doubt I've got what it takes to be worthy of being one of the strongest Brits, but from the weekend it's obvious that you need the strongest equipment. But I'm sure that myself and the team have what it takes to progress. I'd like to think I'll be able to score points and a ride in Superpole as the year goes on, but from last weekend, we've got a lot of work to do

Faz: Which circuit are you looking forward to the most? And which rider do you rate the most in WSB?

MarkHeckles: The circuit? They're all good...one I'm looking forward to is Laguna Seca...but also Phillip Island next weekend and Kyalami...I look forward to them all to be honest. But Laguna Seca for the environment and the Corkscrew, much like Brands Hatch. As for a rider this year, it'll have to be Tory Bayliss. It's both for his results and as a person to do what he's done in such a short space of time. He started his career very late, came to Britain and won, and he's already shown he's not going to give up his number one plate very easily.

Jo d: Being honest, I had never heard of you until about a week ago! Does your low profile in the British bike press bother you or is it nice not to have the hopes of a nation on your shoulders?

MarkHeckles: It's nice not to have the hopes of the nation on anyone's shoulders! When I look at Neil, James and Chris, they've achieved a lot of press in england, and have such expectations from the public. But hopefully that will change this year, I'll get some results and some more attention from the press.

Kaimira: How have your fellow Brits riders taken to you?

MarkHeckles: Very well...I think! I haven't spent an awful lot of time with them, but I knew James Toseland from when we raced together in 1996. But, James, Neil and Chris are all great guys.

Pete: How did you get the nickname "Danger Scouse", and does anyone really call you that?

MarkHeckles: Not really, no...It's something that stems from when me father raced. He had the design of one of the very first cartoon characters on his helmet from a series called the Bumblies, and he painted the graphic himself. Wen I started I used it but thought it needed bringing into the 90s and Danger Mouse was a cartoon I watched after school. Of course, being from Liverpool Danger Scouse was born

Redbricktigger: How have you adjusted to the change from European Superstock?

Markheckles: It's not been easy. It's very, very hard. The level of competition is incredible the machines are...the top eight, the machinery they use in incredible and the rest are all just fast! So there's no one slow. Even just after one race you can see it's not going to be easy, but I'm sure I'll adjust. Like I said before, it's just getting to terms with the levels of competition and equipment.

Namezippy: How does your bike compare to Colin Edwards SP2 for example?

MarkHeckles: Erm, the bike is very similar to the machines that Okada and Colin rode last year but if you compare it to Colin's bike this year, it's quite drastically different the bike this year is similar to the bike they ran last year.

Mezzer1: Any help from HRC?

MarkHeckles: At the moment, I'm not a hundred percent sure that they know the situation we are in. They know what the bike is capable of, so I think once we start to progress and make up time I think the help will be more forthcoming. I know we are getting parts, but I don't really look at them before I get on and race. It's not really my concern my job is just to go as fast as I can with what we have.

Chimps32: How much testing did you get before the first round?

MarkHeckles: None. The bikes turned up on Monday 4th March. Prior to that I'd tested one of the very first kitted sp2's at Valencia on which I'd done about 35 laps on Michelins at Valencia at a 3 day test.

Gsxer400: Do people in the paddock know the reputation of Scousers and start hiding all the shiny tools when you turn up?

Markheckles: *laughs* No, because a lot of them haven't seen Harry Enfield! And not all Scousers are painted with the same brush!

Faz: Who do you predict will win WSB, BSB and MotoGp this year?

MarkHeckles: Erm.... BSB, I have to say John Reynolds. The GP1 class is going to be called the Valentino Rossi class, he's just going to walk away with it. Superbikes is a really tough call at the moment. I reckon Bostrom, Bayliss, Edwards and Haga. I'd like to say Hodgson as well but I just don't think so. It's machinery again. The speed of those four at the weekend...

Alan: Do you ride on the road? If so what bike do you have?

MarkHeckles: I don't ride on the road...the only bike I ever had on the road was an AY50 moped Suzuki, Katana, big bore kit! I haven't even got a road licence!

Tony: Did pulling 200 yard wheelies in front of 3000 drunks in the street outside Bushys pub at the TT on the chicken chaser, with the blessing of the IOM Constabulary, help your WSB career?

MarkHeckles: The chicken chaser was a step-thru moped which we converted to do an 8 hour moped endurance race when I was fifteen, and I was able to wheelie it for as long as the road was. We took it to the I.o.M for a couple of years. 95 I think it was, and I used to do stunts on it like Gary Rothwell. Wheelies, burnouts stoppies etc, and I've still got it it's in my dad's shed. He built it beautifully. He took it apart and tuned it. It was absolutely beautiful. It was a good laugh racing it round the airfields for 8 hours.

Tinkytot: Have you ever raced a twin before?

MarkHeckles: No never...or ever used slicks! I don't think there are many WSB racers who have gone into the first race with 35 laps, never ridden a twin, never used slicks, and qualified 21st, and there were a few who didn't qualify at Valencia.

Dpc: What do you think you have to achieve this season in order to call it a success?

MarkHeckles: I'd like to achieve World Championship points. If I can achieve points then I'd say it's been a success.

Carly18: Where are you hoping to finish in the series this year?

MarkHeckles: I've no idea...if we can just finish with points, then I'd think we'd all be happy.

Daveb: What bike would you love to ride?

MarkHeckles: I'd like to have a go of Mike Hailwood's 6 cylinder Honda and I'd like to ride, on the road ...the NR750. That's the bike I'd like to play around on, just cos it's so rare. They're all the same road bikes, R1, Suzukis, Ducatis.

Carly18: Is it a daunting thought riding in front of your home crowd at Silverstone and Brands or an exciting one?

Markheckles: No, it's not at all daunting. I'm really looking forward to both venues. I've raced and done reasonably well at both tracks, so I'm really looking forward to both, especially cos of the British fans. The amount of people that turned up for Brands Hatch and Donginton last year was incredible.

Mezzer1: Mark, I’ve heard your old Aprilia RS125 handles better than your sp-2 Honda ; is this true or just Unilever talk ? Wes Merrall

Markheckles: It's not true...and the new Honda is a damn sight faster than the aprilia!

Carly18: Who is your all time hero?

Markheckles: I get asked that one a lot...I can never be sure between Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey. But I'd probably say Kevin Schwantz, just because when I started to really watch motorcycling, it was the years of Schwantz on a Lucky strike. I had a friend who supported Rainey and I loved Schwantz because of his riding style. He'd either crash or win! But there's many people I admired. Hailwood was one. But Schwantz was because of my childhood. He was just an amazing rider

Markheckles: Thanks to everyone for all your support and questions and I’ll be back for more questions soon.