“Every rider now in Europe is paying for their ride or on a team that they ride for free.” — Anthony West
“It’s a drug,” says Australian motorcycle racing journeyman, Anthony West. “I race, then I’m all depressed and moody and I need to go racing (again). It’s a real drug. That’s the problem. It’s like I’m a junkie. I just got to keep doing it even though I’m hurting my life. I’m getting older. I’ve got nothing to show for it.”
That statement gives you an insight into the psyche of a lifelong motorcycle addict, and is also a glimpse of what the current state of professional motorcycle road racing is.
West’s career is one that’s seen him go from dirt track and national level road racing in his native Australia, to factory MotoGP racer and almost everywhere in between. Currently competing on a shoe-string budget in the WorldSSP series on a privateer Yamaha YZF-R6, West’s recent racing past reads like a who’s who of world road racing championships.
In the last three years, West has been on the start grid for MotoGP, Moto2, the now defunct Qatari Superbike Championship, Endurance World Championship, Supersport and Superbike World Championship, Australian Superbike Championship, Asia Road Racing Championship, Suzuka 8 Hours and now the MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 Championship, thanks to a one-off ride on the Fly Street/Motul Oils/ADR Motorsports team run by compatriot and current MotoAmerica rider, David Anthony.
“I wouldn’t do it again, definitely not,” says West of his wide and varied career. “I’ve had some good years and good experiences, but I’ve never really been satisfied with results in the end because I never really got on great bikes. (I) Had some decent bikes, but you need to get on a factory bike if you’re going to win. All I want to go racing for is to win and right now I’m just racing to survive.”
In an international career that started only three years after Valentino Rossi’s in 1999, West has seen the money come and go, and is living the twilight years of his career in an era where most riders pay to race, rather than the other way around.
“To be a professional rider now, it’s impossible,” West says. “In Europe, I’m not the right nationality that a sponsor wants to help out.”
A statement that should ring bells for most Americans trying to break into the world scene. “There’s no money in racing anymore. Every rider now in Europe is paying for their ride or on a team that they ride for free.”
West sees racing in America as a lifeline to a career that promised so much.
“I want to come to America,” West states emphatically. “I really tried to come here end of 2015. I came here for three weeks and I did just a fun day race down near Mexico. Then I went to Vegas to do that flat track thing (Superprestigio of the Americas). I was just trying to show that I was here and want to race here. I just couldn’t find a deal. There were some deals, but they didn’t want to pay me and I can’t ride for free.”
His weekend at Laguna Seca started well. If nothing else, the huge range of machinery West has ridden in recent times has enabled him to adapt to new surroundings quickly, as he demonstrated by taking second place on his MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 debut behind South African, Mathew Scholtz.
“That went pretty well!” a beaming West said after the race. “We are still struggling with some set up issues with the suspension but the race went well. I could see the leader (Scholtz) at the finish so we’ll try something different for race two and hopefully take a win.”
A massive set up change on the Kawasaki ZX-10R actually dropped West’s finishing position in race one to third place in Superstock 1000, but the Queenslander was more than happy with his day and once again reiterated his desire to call the MotoAmerica series home.
“In this second race we found the set up, but it’s a bit late now!” West said. “We completely, completely changed the bike—frame, engine, fork, shock—I don’t think there’s a part left that we haven’t changed. It’s been a big weekend, and now this is a package we could have had an even better result if we knew then what we know now.
“It’s been tough but I’m really happy to finally have the chance to race in MotoAmerica. The last two years I’ve really tried to come here, then I gave up and I got an offer to race! It’s weird what can happen. I still hope for the future to spend a full season here. I see what (Toni) Elias has done and it gives me extra motivation because I’ve raced him all my career, we’ve always battled each other, so it’d be great to come here full time and really go for it.”