The last two seasons have been a real roller coaster ride for Chris Walker.
After winning his first ever World Superbike race for Kawasaki, Chris Walker got his dream ride back in British Superbikes, but his year with Rizla Suzuki proved to be a tough one and he struggled to get the new GSX-R1000 up to speed against the factory supported Honda and Ducati teams.
With no top British Superbike rides available for 2008, Chris Walker turned his attention back to the World Championship with the factory Gil Kawasaki Supersport team who he begins testing with on Sunday in Spain.
MCN sat down with him between his hectic book-signing schedule for his take on his year in British Superbike and his move to World Supersport.
MCN: Has it been a tough decision to leave British Superbike?
Walker: “When I came back to BSB a year ago I didn’t see it as a one-year plan, more like two or three years at least. The aim was to go, learn the tracks and have a couple more years digging in and try and put a title challenge together.
“I knew that wasn’t going to happen in one year and I wasn’t daft enough to think that. Having done a year it was a very hard decision to then walk away from it.
MCN: You finished seventh in the championship, scored 225 points and got two podiums with only three DNF’s, but you weren’t able to run at the front consistently – why?
Walker: “It was an inconsistent year. I didn’t do as well on the Rizla Suzuki as I would have hoped and obviously not as well as Suzuki would have hoped otherwise they would have offered me a ride for next season.
“When we went testing we were always one of the slowest on the first day and then by the third day one of the quickest. The bike this year seemed to just take a long time to get the best out of and with about two out of four practice sessions at BSB rounds being wet this year we didn’t have the time needed to get it right.
“A bit of that was down to me being away and not having seen the tracks for seven years and a bit was down to the bike being a bit difficult.”
MCN: There’s new technical rules in British Superbikes next year and Suzuki will start the season with two new riders and new team manager, but with a year’s worth of development on the bike, how do you think they will do in 2008?
Walker: “Genuinely think that irrespective of rider changes or management changes they’ll have a lot more success next year. The bike will be a lot more like the factory bike, they’ve got a Japanese rider and they’ll have the factory Showa suspension.
“They stepped it up for 2007, but at their first test they’ve got Japanese technicians and two Showa technicians so they’re stepping it up a level again in 2008. I think they’ll be title contenders next year so it’s a shame not to be with them.”
MCN: After a year in 500GP’s and five years in World Superbikes, what was it like coming back to British Superbikes compared to the last time you were there in 2000?
Walker: “As daft as it sounds, one of the things I really noticed was that the last time I was one of the young and up and coming riders and I was racing against older riders.
“I was up against Troy Bayliss, John Reynolds, Niall Mackenzie, and Steve Hislop, but now you’re up against 20-year-olds who’ve won a British Championship and never had a job.
“It’s a different place to be but no less exciting.
“The thing is with all types of sport, not just motorcycling is that one minute you’re the rookie and the next minute you’re the veteran, there’s nothing in-between!”
MCN: Why did you choose World Supersport?
Walker: My decision was made easier by the fact that I wasn’t being offered any of the rides that would have given me the chance of achieving that.
“I’m a racer and I want to be at the sharp end so as that didn’t seem an option in BSB, so when I was offered a chance with Kawasaki, a manufacturer I’ve spent a lot of my career with and in a World championship on a bike that has won a race and finished third in the championship – it was a bit of a no brainier really.
MCN: So how do you feel about being in World Supersport next year?
Walker: “It’s going to be a bit bizarre, I’m 35-years-old and I’m going to be a rookie again – that’s cool. It’s going to be different, but that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it.
“I’m really excited especially as it’s a completely new challenge for me. I’ve never struggled for motivation, and this year I’m even more fired up because it’s all going to be new and different for me.”