CHRIS WALKER took the stand this week to answer the questions you wanted the answers to just days after he signed to Kawasaki to race in WSB next season.
The questions ranged from the serious to the absurd with everything in between. It was the first time Walker has spoken about his signing and also the first time he has chatted in-depth about his sacking from the Shell Advance Honda team midway through this season.
Q How difficult has the past year been for you?
A It has been the toughest year of my life without a doubt. Last year the Neil Hodgson battles made it tough but they were like that for all the right reasons – this year was a bit different because I was battling for my job. And not very well obviously because they sacked me.
Q Do you regret going to GPs?
A I made the decision to do GPs based on all of the information I had at the time – the bike, the team and the set-up looked perfect so, no, I don’t regret my decision to go there. I do regret leaving Suzuki like that because I was so happy there. But that’s with hindsight which is a beautiful thing.
Q Why did you go for the Kawasaki WSB ride?
A A lot of people have been asking me if I think the Kawasaki ride is good enough but I don’t think they realise that I actually chased the ride because I know what the bike is about, I know the team is very good and I will be in familiar surroundings. It’s a case of getting my confidence back before I think that I can get on the pace.
Q Do you know if the Kawasaki ride will lead onto anything in the new four-stroke GP class that the company recently committed to?
A At this stage I haven’t even talked about that sort of thing but looking at the way the championship is going it seems that might be the way things will go. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Q How competitive do you really think you will be on the Kawasaki?
A If I didn’t think I was going to be competitive up to a certain level – and that means race wins and podiums I wouldn’t have got involved. Gregorio Lavilla proved the bike could be competitive this year with some podium finishes. And Noriyuki Haga proved a four-cylinder bike can be competitive in WSB because he nearly won the world championship. The team has already told me they are committed to testing a lot before the start of the season so I should be able to get used to the bike.
Q What about all the tracks you don’t know – do you think that will hold you back?
A I should be able to do some of the tracks before we have to race there. I’m off to Sugo soon. There’s official testing at Kyalami before the start of the year. I know Brands Hatch, I know Assen and Valencia, I’ve been to Imola. Silverstone – depending what track they use. I don’t know the others but there aren’t that many left after that really.
Q Do you think the weight changes will help you much?
A Not much – the difference is too small. It’s like the difference between a short and tall rider. The 825cc increase in capacity would have made a lot more difference but it will be the same for all 750cc bikes.
Q After your first test on the Kawasaki how different does it feel to the one you rode in Britain in 1998 and 1999?
A I only really had a bit of a wobble around Oschereleben so I haven’t had a chance to really get a feel for the bike yet – I’m sure there will be set-up stuff to make it fit me better but nothing major at the moment.
Q Which part of the NSR500 would you like to have on the ZX-7RR?
A None of it.
Q Who do you rate as the best riders in WSB?
A Troy Bayliss is awesome. Obviously I raced against him in Britain so I know what he can do. Ben Bostrom has shown what he can do as well. Troy Corser, Colin Edwards and Neil Hodgson have all produced brilliant rides this year. The usual suspects really.
Q What about GPs?
A Again it’s the top guys who are there every week who you have to rate. Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi, Max Biaggi.
Q Who do you rate as the best?
A For me it is Capirossi because he has a bike that is vastly inferior to Rossi’s and he’s having to ride the wheels off it to keep up. He was awesome at Phillip Island last week.
Q What is the most difficult aspect of being a famous racer?
A The travel was the thing that took most time to get used to this year. I was used to leaving home on a Thursday afternoon and being home on a Sunday night if I wanted to. With the world championship stuff you were leaving on a Monday, driving for two days in the motorhome before leaving to come home again, doing your washing and then setting off again. It did take some time to get used to and it did leave you tired.
Q What about being noticed all the time?
A It’s not that bad really. If you want that sort of thing be a footballer because they are on the television all the time and most of the time I am on TV is when I am wearing a lid and leathers. Even when I am recognised people are usually really cool about it and never become a problem.
Q How do you rate Leon Haslam as a rider?
A I really rate Leon – he thinks a lot and he has a great mentor in his dad Ron who is a legend. His future will all depend on the breaks he gets over the next couple of years. Unfortunately he’s been riding the V4 Shell bike and I do feel sorry for him about that!
Q What about any other young riders?
A James Toseland has been really good this year – he’s done everything right and looks like he has been not only getting better all year but also looks like he has been enjoying himself at every race which is half of the battle. I would love to see any British world champion – to see someone like Jamie Whitham out there and winning a world title in the Supersport class would make me a happy man.
Q What do you think your chances of making a return to GPs are?
A I would love to make it back to GPs at some time and that might be possible after a decent year in WSB. All of the manufacturers are pushing that way and I now have a full-factory ride in WSB for the first time so that might be something that is possible.
Q Do you feel bad about what happened with Suzuki at the end of last year?
A I don’t like upsetting anyone but I ended up doing that to Suzuki by changing my mind not to go to WSB at the last minute in favour of GPs but it was the hardest decision of my life. I don’t regret my decision but I do regret the way it happened. That was never the plan.
Q Do you think you will ever get to ride a Suzuki again?
A I would never turn down a ride with Suzuki and while I was there we did a fantastic job together but I would be lying if I was to say that relations with Suzuki were great at the moment. As far as I am concerned I understand completely where they are coming from though.
Q What have you gained or learnt in you time in GPs?
A It’s tough at the top! It was a hard time but I got to see some of the world and although I never got the results I wanted I learnt a lot about the level of commitment and professionalism that it takes to be a winner.
Q Do you see a difference in people like Rossi, Capirossi and Biaggi?
A At the end of the day the riders like these guys are the same as anyone else – Garry McCoy is someone who can do things on a bike that are amazing but he is still one of the nicest and top blokes you will ever meet.
Q Will you be wearing an Arai or a Shark lid next year? And what about the design?
A I don’t know for certain what will be happening but I think it will be a Shark one with a different design incorporating a Union Jack design and Stalker written in ripped out newsprint like the old Sex Pistols album cover. I think it might be an end for the Stalker snake design though – I’ve gone off that a bit.
Q Are we going to see the old Hodgson/Walker fairing bashing back on track?
A Not sure if that happens so much in WSB – the tracks are a bit wider than Cadwell or Oulton for a start but I am looking forward to getting the old rivalry going again as it will be good for both of us.
Q What was the latest CD you bought and is that typical of you taste in music?
A The latest album of Jamiroquai I think – and it’s not typical of my tastes because I love everything from that to Frank Sinatra. When I was at Kawasaki in BSB we had a competition to see who could bring in the worst music possible to play in the garage but I ended up liking some of it and it’s made my tastes a little strange.
Q Did you have any other job offers when you were " between rides " ?
A Yeah. A mate of mine runs an aerial fitting firm and he told me it was about all I had left at the time. It was tempting though because the job came with a van and a fuel card.
Q Is there anything else you like to do apart from bikes in your spare time?
A My girlfriend Sarah Tunnicliffe is my hobby when I am not out motocrossing or moutainbiking.
Q What was your first race?
A I was about 14 and it was a youth motocross – I was total crap but I did enjoy it.
Q Out of all the races you have been in which has left you with the best memory?
A Getting my first world championship podium at Donington last year was the best. I know the national anthem was playing for Hodgson who won but it still felt fantastic being up there at the time.
Q Do you think you have changed as a person over the past year?
A Not much but I have realised having a stable environment at home helps me to concentrate on riding better. Losing the British championship in the way that I did affected me and is something I will never forget. I think that had some bearing on my decision to go to GPs.
Q Do you think the playboy lifestyle that a lot of riders get involved in has to come to an end?
A If you look at the top riders like Edwards, Bayliss, Niall Mackenzie and Mick Doohan they all had a stable life behind them. The job is hard enough and you need a companion who will be there to take the knocks with you. My dad is like that and Sarah has been with me all through this year and will be there next year. It’s perfect.
Q When are you riding the Kawasaki again?
A Hopefully a test in Japan in a few weeks will be a proper test at Sugo. I have to check with my Dorna contract though…
Thanks to everyone who emailed questions for this feature.