Production to race pace-setter: 2021 MXGP work continues for SS24 KTM MXGP

Great Britain will count on just two Grand Prix winners in the MXGP class for 2021 and one of those, Shaun Simpson, will be fighting back from a forgettable year of injury and frustration. The 32-year old will again compete in the FIM World Championship and British Championship from the confines of his own team and posted an image on his official Instagram channel last month of six brand new KTM 450 SX-Fs being collected from the Austrian factory in Mattighofen. “Those six bikes will be my race machinery for 2021 and we’re already busy getting the preparations made,” the Scot said.

Converting a stock SX-F into a racer good enough to hold-its-own in MXGP requires a number of modifications and Simpson will again rely on his effective technical collaboration with Dutch specialists Volleberg Motorsports – the tuning acumen behind his 2015 GP win in Belgium. Simpson is currently at his home in Scotland (and awaiting the arrival of his second child with wife Rachel in the next two months) but has work and plans in place both in the UK and his workshop/base in Belgium.

“I have two of the bikes at home with me in Scotland,” he said. “We’ve stripped one already and gone through the engine to make a few adjustments. John Volleberg will tune the heads and we’ll get the unit built-up as a race engine. We try and keep everything as standard as possible, especially with regards to the bottom end and the gearbox; the KTM 450s are generally fantastic, so there is not much more you have to – or need to- do.”

“Overall the six bikes will be stripped down and certain parts replaced, like the HGS exhaust, the carbon fibre from CRM, the X Trig clamps, the Renthal bars, Talon wheels, Michelins, R Tech plastics and then the Enjoy stickers kits,” he adds. “The engines will be tuned by John in Holland and we’ll use the Carrot ECU just to get the whole package sorted. We’ve put the WP 48mm cone valve aftermarket suspension as well as the TRAX shock and, more-or-less, that’s how we turn a stock bike into my KTM race bike.”

Simpson, who won a moto and took 2nd place overall at the 2020 Hawkstone Park International and was running top five in the Grand Prix of the Netherlands – round two of MXGP – before the Covid-19 induced lockdown, has been off the bike since a practice crash in Austria led to two fractured vertebrae. The recovery time has enabled the multi British Champion to take care of the management side of the SS24 KTM set-up; the squad is now nearing a full year of existence and has managed to retain the same small fleet of loyal sponsors but is on the hunt for more for what could be a racing term of thirty weekends. He is also sifting through the 2020 equipment. “Most of the 2020 bikes didn’t have the hours we anticipated because of the lockdown and the injuries,” he says. ‘So, we’ll modify some slightly and put them up for sale. There’s a chance for anyone to own a SS24 bike actually. Normally we’ll race one and once it has a set number of ‘hours’ then we’ll convert it to a practice bike, use it a bit more, then overhaul it and prepare it to be sold. That’s how it works every year.”

“I’ve kept two of the 2020 racebikes, they’ve done a little under ten hours each and are in really good knick, so they’ll be my winter training bikes,” he adds.

Simpson has fully healed from his injuries and has begun training with Kevin Maguire (the same specialist who helped Dean Wilson and Max Anstie, as well as Simpson on-and-off since 2015). He expects to be back in the saddle for the first time since the summer by mid-December when he aims to start WP suspension testing. “We’re busy in both territories with planning but obviously there is not much we can do in terms of travelling,” he comments. “I’ve been to look at a new training track in Scotland, which is actually sandy, and I’m really happy with that. I’ll be back on the bike in a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait.”

Author: 
Adam Wheeler

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