Paul Cooper is the British 250cc National Champion.
TransWorld Motocross: How many times have you done Hawkstone?
Paul Cooper: I did it the year before last, so I did it in 2001 and I think in… 1997 or something. Not that many times.
TWMX: So, how do you find the track, compared to others?
PC: It’s kinda what I expected, ’cause always this time of year the ground’s got so much moisture in it that it’s really tough to ride ’cause it’s so heavy. You know, it doesn’t behave like sand, it behaves more like mud, which is a bit weird. I prefer it a bit drier, so the line that’s going to get dry first, is going to become the racing line really.
TMWX: You are going to do the GP’s as well, is that correct?
TWMX: You are riding for SoCal Honda… not anymore?
PC: You can quote this… T-Multitek Sport.
TWMX: Since you are doing the GP’s, how does this track compare to some of the GP tracks you’ve done last year?
PC: It is a GP-standard track, they’ve run quite a lot of GP’s here in the past, obviously, this being the first meeting of the year, it’s sort of a warm-up round and the crowd is a lot smaller. Generally, the track and the organisation is on a par with the GP’s.
TWMX: What do you expect to achieve in the GP’s this year, as well as the British Nationals?
PC: I definitely want to retain my title in the British Championship. In the GP’s it’s quite a strange one really because a lot of people are starting with a clean slate because a lot of the Open bike riders come to the 250 class and they’re riding four-strokes, everything’s unknown. No-one really knows where the advantage is, whether it is on a 250 2-stroke or maybe it’s going to be the same, whoever is the better rider. My main goal is going to be on the podium as many times as possible. I’ve only had two podium positions in my whole career, one in ’99, one in 2000, it’s definitely what I aim to do.
TWMX: Who do you think is going to be your biggest competition in the GPs and also the British Nationals?
PC: In the GPs there’s a list so long. You have to start at the top with the world champion, Pichon, Stefan Everts, Smets, Marnicq Bervoets, Yves Demaria, the list goes on. It’s easier for me to determine my British competition ’cause it’s obviously going to be Gordon Crockard, Jussi Vehvilainen, Carl Nunn, all the regulars basically that were in there last year. Josh Coppins was going to do the whole series, but I presume he’s going to miss the first round because of his injury, he obviously wants his back to strengthen. He’ll also be a major threat.
TWMX: You’ve heard about Jeremy McGrath’s retirement, and the news that the KTM 250 SX team in the U.S. is currently non-existent, you rode Matchams Park last weekend and saw Pit Beirer take the win on the KTM 250. Why do you think does the bike work here, and not yet in the U.S.?
PC: That’s a big question. I don’t that is the case, I don’t think it was the bike that made Jeremy retire at all. To be honest, my opinion of it is that it literally comes down to top riders testing and racing. Racing a brand makes it get to the level where it’s at and that’s why the Japanese bikes over there are above the European bikes. It’s simply because they run full factory teams who race them week in and week out, year after year after year to get to that level. I think KTM took the right step by taking Jeremy and putting the KTM into that mix to test and be right on that very top level to make themselves competitive. That’s what the top factory teams are, they are R&D, they know the things that work, and put them into production. So I think they were taking the right steps to get up there.
But here, we haven’t seen a KTM 250 win a GP in a while. I’ve got no doubt that they are capable of it but it’s the same thing. They need to doo what they’ve been doing. You’ll have noticed that they put a big effort into the 500 and spent hours and hours and literally millions on it and eventually it became THE 500 to ride and win world championships on it. Then they concentrated on the 125 and they did the same thing on the 125. They actually got it so far that it was above everything else, and it’s purely from research and spending the money. Now they’ve turned their attention to the 250s, and I think it’s just taking a little bit longer and I think the 250, because it’s considered to be the premier class, the factories have put most of their effort in that. Apart from Yamaha and the 500s, all the factories, you’ve got HRC here, Yamaha with Rinaldi, Suzuki with Pichon, they’ve all been pushing, pushing, pushing, and it’s harder for them to break into the 250s. There wasn’t an opening, and that’s basically what it comes down to in my humble opinion.
TWMX: Thank you very much, much appreciated. I hope that the race goes off as well as you’d planned. Where are you standing in the qualifiers?
PC: I think I was 14th in the qualifiers.
TWMX: Good luck!
PC: Thank you.
Paul Cooper ended 6th overall in the 250 class, and 4th in the Grand Final. He rides a Honda CR250 for T-MultiTek Sport and is sponsored by, among others, SoCal, Gaerne, and Smith.