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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Eric Bostrom: The MD Interview

Eric Bostrom Is Right At Home With The World’s Best — Including Brother Ben (Number 155)

Eric Bostrom has been showing a turn of speed lately that belies the Kawasaki 750’s age and highlights the benefits of racing a superbike on the world level. Some of it is engine parts for the straights, but much of it is the level of communication between him and the team, which accounts for his speed into, through and out of the corners. Confidence in the bike, which results from the team understanding his needs in bike setup, gives him the mental edge needed to take advantage of the setup, running the bike in deeper on the brakes, taking it to, and a little beyond, the traction envelope mid corner and then get on the gas earlier for the best drive onto the straight for the highest possible top speed.

Running at the front of race two for four laps in the American round of the World Superbike series showed the world Eric’s – and Kawasaki’s – determination to get the most out of the bike in what is likely to be its last year of competition with the official factory team. His performance saw him finish 6th in race one, and 4th in race two, both times ahead of the Kawasaki World Superbike team with Chris Walker aboard another Kawasaki. It also gave the twins riders something to think about, and to be thankful he wasn’t on something newer and more competitive that day. MD sat down with Eric last Friday after a frustrating WSB qualifying session and debriefing with the team. Here is what he had to say.

MD – Eric, how’s the bike working for you today? I see you’re on pole position for the AMA, not quite at the top of the leaderboard for World Superbike, but I know you’re working towards the top. How do you feel?

EB – Yeah, you know for the AMA qualifying, really we just had to go out there and dodge traffic and try to put in a quick lap, and that’s what we did. We really didn’t get to work on our bike setup at all, because there was just too much traffic, and not enough time. Obviously we missed WSB practice this morning, due to, I don’t know who made the rule, but we got out there this afternoon finally for the first time really on a clear track where we could, you know, we could put together some consistent laps, and found out that there was this huge chatter in the shock and it transferred to the front. We pretty much changed around most of the bike, and we changed a lot of different things and we just couldn’t figure out how to make it better and we never made any headway against the chatter. So I had to go ahead and ride at what I’d say is a fair pace and, I guess in one way I’m kinda bummed out because the bike’s not working, but, maybe I should be optimistic that if we fix it, you know, I’ll be up at the top.

MD – So maybe with a click here, a turn there, you feel you might be up there giving Bayliss a hard time?

EB – Well that’s certainly the idea. You know it’s like my brother was saying we need to beat that guy — he’s like, you know, “Bring the giant down.” Ben said the other day, and it’s true, you know he’s won all the races, and we gotta take some of these wins from him and I’d certainly like to do that in front of the home crowd, on one of the greatest race tracks in the world. I know it’s gonna be tough to do, because Troy is a great competitor, as are all the guys on the grid.

MD – Well if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

EB – Yeah, that’s true.

MD – Speaking of your brother, I was watching practice, and saw a pretty quick climb up the board for him. Is there something he found with his riding, or his setup?

EB – I hope so for him. I haven’t spoke to him, we are kinda just back here working on our bikes. I hope they kinda sort things out, because he was, pretty average this morning and I was like “Come on Ben, get on it, get on it.” I was kinda waiting for him to jump up there, and he never did. It was nice to see him make the jump this afternoon.

MD – That certainly bodes well for your brother. With you competing in AMA and World Superbike, is Kawasaki running two different bikes, or is the team switching components on the bike, depending on which series the bike is being run in at the time?

EB – We’re running two different bikes, and that also is where I think it’s been tough. We are switching back and forth on the bikes, and you know one bike is never quite like the other one, but we’ll hopefully get it sorted out.

MD – Since you’ve been running the European rounds, we’ve noticed here in the AMA a significant increase in your speed on the track. Can you shed a little more light on how you picked up the pace?

EB – Well, you know, certainly I’ve learned a lot in some of the WSB rounds, but a large part of that is, you know, losing Al (Ludington) as my crew chief over the winter time. We kinda went into a brand new testing program, and certainly we took a bit of a nosedive and pretty much had to start from scratch. And I didn’t really gel instantly with the new crew. We didn’t seem to have the same ideas, and then, finally, both sides kinda said “Hey, we gotta kinda bring this thing together.” We started working a lot more together, and it’s made an incredible difference. I mean it’s made an incredible difference in my confidence, and I also can feel the difference when I get on the motorcycle. I can send it through the corners at pretty good speeds. This weekend, we’re gonna need more corner speed than ever before.

MD – Communication in the team, and compatibility between the crew and rider, make all the difference in the world. I guess that’s why they call it a team.

EB – Yeah it sure is!, You know, obviously I couldn’t be here by myself doing this. It’s not like individual sports, but when the green light flashes, it’s you and the bike. At that point you gotta make the most of what you’ve got and that’s where you have to have a good crew that has given you the right machine to do the job. I think we’re getting closer.

MD – Sounds good. This next question seems to have an obvious answer, but I must ask you. Do you have a strategy, or mission for yourself or for Kawasaki this weekend?

EB – Well, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we could win, you know? Same with entering the WSB race, and I think, you know, everyone knows that we’re a little bit the underdogs, but, it would be really sweet to get that underdog victory. I think that everyone would really appreciate it. I think that it would be a huge feat for myself and for the team.

MD – Everybody loves an underdog.

EB – Yep. (Big smile)

MD – Since Kawasaki has been entering you in WSB, is Kawasaki prepping you for WSB, or with rides on the MotoGP bike, are you headed to MotoGP next year?

EB – We’re supposed to test the MotoGP bike, but we haven’t yet, and certainly you know I’m looking to get into the World championship competition. If nothing else, it’s been preparing me for it and we’ll kinda see where that takes us.

MD – Apparently, Kawasaki does not plan to re-homologate the 750 for WSB, so does that pretty much channel you into MotoGP,? Has it been discussed with you?

EB – It hasn’t really been discussed. It’s kinda early on, but, certainly, that’s what I’d be hoping for. I’d like to go in that direction [MotoGP].

MD – Are you contracted for next year?

EB – No. I’m free next year, so hopefully we’ll go get that GP ride.

MD – Do you feel comfortable enough with the team, and Kawasaki, that you’d like to sign with them for next year?

EB – Yeah, obviously I feel a bit brand loyal. Kawasaki has done a lot for me, but when it comes down to it, you know I want to further my career, and I need the ride to do it as well. So it’s gotta be mutual on both ends and they gotta understand that you know. I want to go places.

MD – Laguna is generally considered a Dunlop track. Watching WSB this year, you see Michelin doing better than Dunlop at what is considered Dunlop tracks, and the Dunlops seem to be doing well at qualifying, but fade as the race goes on. Are the tires you have from Dunlop special in any way?

EB – No, I mean, certainly that’s been the case all year long [Michelin winning], and I think that the reason for this [Laguna] being a Dunlop track is that, in the past, the guys who go good here have been on Dunlops. I’m hoping that, you know, Dunlop’s got us some new tires and I’m hoping that they work well enough to hang in there and stay around. I think we have a front tire that will go the distance, and we’ll need the rear grip to get around for 26 good laps.

MD – Rumor has Kawasaki making a new ZX-10R for next year. With AMA adopting a new 1000cc rule format, has it been proposed to you to ride a Kawasaki in AMA competition next year?

EB – It’s kinda all up in the air. I know that none of the manufacturers are very happy about the rule changes . . . at least what they look like right now. Other than that, I haven’t discussed it with anybody, and I really don’t know what’s going on . I will just say it seems like the rules need to change to make the 1000s competitive with the current superbikes.

MD – Back to your brother. Are you getting to spend any time with him while he is in California?

EB – Not this weekend, but actually the past two weeks we’ve been able to push some things aside. Just been surfing, rock climbing and really that’s pretty much it. We’ve just been spending some good time together. I’m happy that he’s been home. He’s off to Italy on Monday (the day after the race), so I probably won’t see him until sometime in the middle of August.

MD – Thanks for taking the time to tell us what’s going on in your life and here at the track. We’ll be watching you during the race, and hoping to see you at the top of the box. Slay the Bayliss dragon!

EB – Alright, we will, that’s the plan.

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