David Knight has had a long season already, but he needs to perform now more than ever. After fighting bad luck all season in the Can-Am GNCC Series, the Isle of Man native leads the standings by just four points over Barry Hawk heading into this weekend’s race at Unadilla. Knighter is making it hard on himself with a dizzying schedule, as he still lives back in the UK between races, and has a full slate of other events planned around the GNCCs. Can he hold on? We talked to him yesterday to find out.
Racer X: David, how is it going?
David Knight: I’m good, just riding a bit right now. I just got back to the States last night.
It seems like you just show up at any race you feel like, on any bike, at any time and win. Is there more of a structured program than that?
Yeah. You know, if I did all of the races I get asked to do, I would be racing three times a weekend! I want to do things if I feel I can be prepared properly, but some, like the Australian Four-Day Enduro this summer, I showed up and we were really behind. It made it tough. Other things, like the Red Bull Last Man Standing and that, and these indoor races, they’re totally different types of races. It’s getting harder and harder to win an indoor one weekend, a GNCC the other, and a Last Man Standing-type race the next, because it’s totally different type of racing, and people are starting to specialize in each one. It’s probably like, when motocross and supercross started, the same guys won each, and now you get a lot of guys who are better at one or the other. The same thing might be happening here. The most important part is getting the right bike setup, but that takes a lot of time to set up completely different types of bikes.
Well everyone knows you’re strong in the extreme stuff, but were you eager to show people you could be fast on more varied terrain, like in the GNCCs?
Yeah. You know, World Enduro, most of that stuff was very fast, and we get a lot of riders who switch over from the GP motocross events and last year we had better speed then what them boys had. The last race looked like a motocross GP, and in a one-lap test I was faster than them. I’ve ridden some British Championships, and guys like Coppins and Ken De Dycker ride those, and in practice for one lap I’m right there with them boys. But that’s for one lap. Again, a race situation with them guys is completely different. Last year, I would get better results in the second moto than the first when I tried it, because I was learning. Same thing with GNCC. I don’t think the pace is as fast as World Enduro, so I know I have plenty of speed. But it’s a long three-hour race, so you need to know when to go slow and when to go fast, save some energy and stuff like that.
Yeah but really, the problem hasn’t been speed or strategy for you, it’s been stupid luck!
No. I noticed on the fourth lap it was steaming a bit. But sometimes the bike will start steaming in the slow stuff, and then once you get out in the fast stuff it’s fine again. But this time it started getting worse, and I thought “oh no.” I went by the pits but no one was there, I think they were inside the truck looking for a new radiator hose. If they had made me stop maybe I would have and even if it took 10 minutes or so, I still could have gotten in the top four or five. It just broke where there’s a T in the hose. I had it happen in World Enduro last year, but the bike kept running because you have breaks between tests there where you can slow down. You have to keep pushing here. The same thing happened, the radiator washers weren’t big enough, and the radiator was bashing around. That’s the third thing this year that’s gone wrong, and it’s not even a mechanical problem with the bike, or something I did, it’s just the guy that was bolting it together.
So you have a new mechanic now?
Yeah I’ve got another mechanic now. Shawn, my mechanic this year, doesn’t have too much experience, so he’s going to stay with the team and learn. Now I have a guy named Timo, who built some engines with KTM and also worked for Samuli Aro in the World Enduros when they were winning World Championships. We can’t afford any other problems at this point, and it will probably do Shawn some good to sit back a bit and learn. It’s just little things, you know, just experience more than anything. But bolting a bike together is not rocket science. It’s harder for me because I work on my own bikes at home, so I know straight away what was wrong as soon as I looked at it.
You have been starting nearly last in every race. How the heck do you pass twenty guys within a few minutes on a trail?
The worst was at that field in the start of the last race, I couldn’t see nothing, I almost took Whibs (Paul Whibley) out on accident. I passed maybe four or five people in the field, and I got into the woods and saw a lane I walked in the morning. I passed a few guys there. Then there were some rocks and guys were crashing in there. (Charlie) Mullins gassed it and had his chain come off, but I was surprised how quickly I caught Barry (Hawk) through them. I didn’t know he was in the lead or not, but I thought I was good if I was up there with him. Then the same thing happened again that I do every time—I missed the track and went the wrong way. So (Garrett) Edmisten got by me, and I had to pass him back. It makes life difficult when you start in the back, because you use a lot of energy trying to get to the front. The second lap I always have to go slower because I’ve used up so much energy on the first lap trying to pass everyone.
Well you used even more energy at the end. You pushed your bike a mile to get to the finish!
Well I was trying to start the thing for like 40 minutes, and that just knackered me, and we got it going. There was a big steep hill in the fields before the finish, and the engine was getting real tight, and I pinned it into the field, and then it just blew. I knew it was a long ways, still, and probably some uphills and downhills, to get to the finish. I just always have to get to the finish, I don’t care if it’s one point or no points, I will never give up and not finish.
I heard the fans were cheering.
Yeah, people were cheering and that’s what kept me going, it drives me on. Some woman, her husband and a couple of kids walked with me, it makes it worth while. I realized when I got to the end I had done the right thing, even though I didn’t get any points.
They’ve been really good. I didn’t know what to expect coming into an American series, they obviously want an American rider to win. But they are nice at the races, and they go to my website and say nice things. It’s different than in Europe. You have fans in Europe, but when you’re racing a French rider for a win in France, they’re not going to cheer you!
What about Unadilla?
The only time I’ve seen it is on TV, and from what I’ve seen it can get a bit wet, but this weekend it looks like the weather is good. Every track is the same thing. I have a good all around bike setup, and then we try to find some places to ride nearby that are similar. Last race, that was an open practice area and I know Hawk and a lot of them guys practiced there before the race, it shows you don’t need to practice where the race is to be able to win, because I turned up and had the speed to win. The key is to get a good start and follow them guys.
Why bother? Everytime you start last you get into the lead anyway!
[Laughs] Yeah but it would be easier if I could see those guys and learn the track from them! That’s what I’m doing right now. We’re 40 minutes from Unadilla just trying to learn the terrain.
Well I’ll let you get back at it. Thanks for the time.