BSB: Who's the kid with the hair?

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Getting to know BSB’s latest star – Bradley Ray 

20-year-old Bradley Ray charged into the limelight with a stunning start to the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike season with an impressive double win at Donington Park.

He’d then go on to cement his championship lead at Brands Indy with a second and eighth place finished and now sits ten points ahead of six-time champion Shane Byrne heading in to next week’s third round at Oulton Park.

We caught up with the wild-haired young gun to find out more about BSB’s latest front runner.

For a 20-year-old you’ve already got quite a colourful racing career! 

I’ve been here there and everywhere with my racing! We’ve raced in all sorts of championships over the years from Britain to Red Bull Rookies to Spanish Championships… 

What was your career highlight before your double win?   

BR: It has to be winning the Red Bull Rookies race in Austin, Texas in 2013 – it was the first race of the year and a great race to win as it was the first ever motorcycle race around the Circuit of the Americas. I cleared off as well! 

Just how hard is it to be a young Brit trying to make a name of yourself on the international stage? 

It’s difficult. When we were out in the Red Bull Rookies and doing Spanish championship, for the Brits you have to stand out massively from the likes of the Italians and the Spanish to get an opportunity. All the teams out there are Spanish and Italian and those countries have so many good kids coming through, so understandably they go for their own riders. That meant for us the only way to get into a team was to pay the money. I went with Mark Keane and KRP and did a year in Spanish championships with him. To try and make it out there was difficult. 

You’re still young though, so what are your long term aims?

If you ask any youngster on the way up that question, the answer is always going to be MotoGP and that’s no different for me. Of course, it’s where I want to be, but I’m going to have to take a different route to get there. The step after BSB has to be World Superbikes and then see where we can go from there. If it ends up with me being in WSB for a while then that’s it, but the ultimate goal is MotoGP – whether that’s possible I’m not too sure. 

It is still possible to get there through that route, Cal Crutchlow did it and also Sam Lowes. Alex Lowes also got chosen for MotoGP wildcards based on his World Superbike performances. It’s difficult, because GP teams so often look at Moto3 and Moto2, but it’s not impossible and Crutchlow proved that. 

Is it weird racing people like Haslam and Shakey? 

It’s bonkers! Last year racing against them and being behind them was one thing, but to be battling with Haslam, Byrne, Ellison – who I used to watch as a kid when I went up to Brands on the back of my Dad’s bike – is insane. I used to walk up and down the paddock thinking these guys were amazing, so to be looking down from the top step of the podium with Shakey and Haslam next to me was a surreal feeling. I was speechless.

What made that first round double possible? 

I think it’s a combination of things. The team have worked really hard over the winter to improve the bike in the areas where we struggled a lot last year, but I’ve also changed my riding style quite a bit to ride the bike more like a superbike and less like a 600. I think I still am riding like a 600, with the Suzuki you can get away with that a bit but I do think my style needs to change a bit more. 

When a new rider reaches the front there are always questions about fighting for the title. Have you thought about it much?

Yes, everyone keeps asking me about it! I’d like to think it’s possible after the weekend, it’s early days and there are 24 races to go. The first race was bone dry, the second race was iffy conditions, warm-up was piss wet through and every time we’ve been out we’ve been around the top six and that’s a big confidence boost. We’ve got good pace in all conditions which bodes well for the rest of the year. It’s difficult to gauge it on the first round with everyone getting into the swing of things, but I’ve got more to give too so I hope we can be there at the end of the year. 

You don’t look like a motorbike racer do you?

Not at all! I think it’s great, I love the idea of coming in from riding and shocking people when I do take my helmet off and all the hair comes out, the glasses go on and there’s a goofy little kid stood there! It’s brilliant. 

I used to have a grade four all over my head, but then I just grew my hair out and it went massive and curly so I thought ‘fair enough’. Each time I go to the hair dressers I get more and more spontaneous, it’s good to be different! 

Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing