Moto3 Exclusive: John McPhee Interview
John McPhee enters his ninth Moto3 campaign as one of the title favourites after further showcasing his potential with Petronas Sprinta Racing last season.
A promising start saw the Scot win at Misano and secure podiums at Losail, Jerez and the Red Bull Ring. Unfortunately, some bad luck in the middle of the year halted his momentum and McPhee ultimately dropped out of title contention, finishing seventh overall.
McPhee was sixth overall at the three-day Qatar Test, topping day two, and also has a new teammate this year in Darryn Binder. MCN caught up with McPhee ahead of the new season.
Is this the most important season of your career so far?
I approach every year with that kind of feeling but in terms of everything aligning and falling into place, this year is definitely the year in-which everything has come together for us. We have the team, the package, and all the people around me are all great people, it’s a fantastic group of guys working behind the scenes. It’s definitely been the most exciting pre-season for us coming into the new year.
The top five from last year are now in Moto2 and you're one of the title favourites for 2021. Do you feel that pressure on your shoulders?
Not at all. Obviously, there’s always pressure with this job, that’s part of it, but like I say, everything is prepared, and everything is falling into place. We’ve got all the boxes ticked that we need to have ticked coming into the year. It’s more excitement than pressure.
Last year was a season of two halves for you. What do you feel went wrong in the second half of your campaign?
It’s hard to pinpoint it really. Obviously, we started the season how we’d hoped to and I was in the title hunt. There were two races back-to-back in the middle of the season where I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and we had two DNFs which put us on the back foot, so we just felt like we were just chasing our heels from then on.
We still had some really good results. Aragon, okay result-wise it wasn’t necessary the result that I wanted, but coming from 18th on the grid, doing the long-lap penalty and still only being three tenths off the win, I think that was actually one of the strongest rides I had all year.
It shows that the speed was there even at the end of the season, we just missed that little bit of luck and everything coming together like we had at the start of the season.
Where do you think you can improve as a rider this season?
There are quite a few different areas but one of the biggest things is to apply myself a little bit differently throughout the race weekend, in qualifying and the race. I think having a fast, frontrunning teammate who I can work with in qualifying will make a big, big difference. We saw already in our first test that it was working really well, we were helping each other and working well together.
For me, it’s just positioning myself a little bit better in the final laps of the race because I seemed to be in the hunt for the podium or the win in every race last year but maybe in the last laps I ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve been analysing that quite a lot to see what I can do differently.
Who mentioned your teammate...Are you looking forward to working with Darryn Binder and do you prefer having a fast teammate?
Definitely. In Moto3 I think it’s so important because last year I felt that I had the pace to do the lap-time alone at 90% of the tracks, but when it comes to qualifying and you’re looking for that extra couple of tenths, having a teammate to work with and being able to gain a slipstream from each other is something that, it doesn’t matter how fast you are on track, if you don’t have that, you’re going to lose out.
Quite often last year I tried to do the laps alone in qualifying and sometimes I pulled it off, but more often than not there would be a group of riders working together that would then jump ahead of me, so I think for both me and Darryn that’s something that we’ll look to improve this year.
It's your ninth Moto3 campaign. Does it get harder to fight the younger riders or does your experience ultimately overcome that issue?
I think experience is something that you can’t buy so that’s massive. It’s something that definitely plays into my favour. As you said, the top five guys have stepped out of the championship, but it still seems that every year, no matter who is in the championship, the races get faster, the lap-times get faster, and the competition gets tighter.
It’s definitely not going to be any easier this year. It seems that for the last five or six years it’s got tougher every single year. I'm not expecting it to be an easy challenge.
The 2021 Moto3 season gets underway at the Losail International Circuit this Sunday (March 28) at 3pm (UK time).