Most riders would say they don’t want to think about the championship, but that’s why we’re here. From Road America, where I took the championship lead, it really hit me that I need to consistently finish on the podium.
On Saturday, I wasn’t feeling good—running wide, almost crashing. Jake Lewis and Bobby Fong definitely had the pace. In the first few rounds, I definitely would have tried to hang on, but I was thinking about the championship and settling for what we could get.
Today, I got the jump and knew that the two guys following me in the championship were right there. If they had started putting out their elbows, I would have backed off. That was definitely the hardest race ever for me. I could barely hang on to the bike.
It’s a pretty solid championship lead if you finish every race. If you end up on the ground, it’s a huge points swing. The Westby guys have really been focusing on consistently finishing. If we carry on doing what we have been doing we can take the championship.
Our preseason testing wasn’t so good. We had so many problems. At every round, we’ve slowly chipped away and made our bike more suit my riding style. We are looking at doing more private testing to make the bike easier to ride for the rest of the season.
We know for a single lap, I would be fastest, but over race pace we seem to be dropping off the last few laps. We have to go back to the drawing board and work on that, but the bike has definitely gotten better every time we have gone out on the track.
From last season, the Superstock 1000 bikes have been allowed a lot of extra bits that have really helped us close the gap to the Superbike guys. I’m not one to try to fight with the Superbike guys because, as we’ve seen, that can really bite you.
Over four or five laps, we can be there, but as the tires really start to drop off, the Superbikes definitely have the advantage with their electronics and other things. Tracks like Road America and Utah Motorsports Campus really favor the Superbikes.
Josh Herrin has shown that it’s possible for a private Superbike team to be up there. Of course, it will be really hard because the Yamaha Graves guys and Yoshimura Suzuki boys really have their bikes dialed in, but it’s not like they are seconds up. It’s tenths.
When I left the MotoGP Rookies Cup, I didn’t think I was ever going to see JD Beach, Cameron Beaubier, Jake Gagne, Hayden Gillim, and Benny Solis again. For 2018, I think it will be possible to see more guys battling than just the top four factory riders.
Westby Racing is like a second family to me. We’ve basically said that, as long as I’m racing here, I plan on being in the Westby squad. I love those guys. They saved my motorcycle racing career. I owe them everything.
I’m assigned to the Westby team, and if they don’t give me a contract, I get shipped back home to South Africa. I’m really thankful that they have given me the opportunity to be here. I give my heart out to them.
For 2018, I’m going to be permanently based here. I moved to Georgia, where the team’s workshop is located. It’s a really beautiful part of the country, and I’m absolutely loving it. South Africa is home but I plan on finishing my motorcycle career here.