Since making their debut in the BSB paddock in 2016, the team has gone from strength to strength. Taking their first podium in 2018, the team made their maiden Showdown appearance in 2019, securing two wins in the process.
With further podiums in the shortened 2020 season, the team are now set to challenge for honours this season. Retaining the services of Lee Jackson, FS-3 have also signed reigning British Supersport Champion Rory Skinner, with both riders set to compete on the all-new 2021 ZX-10RR. Taking delivery of the new Ninja late last year, the team has been busy prepping the machine ahead of the opening test of the year at Silverstone on April 28th and 29th.
Over the coming few days, we’re going to be catching up with some of the key team members, alongside both riders, to get their thoughts on the season ahead and find out a little more about what it takes to run a successful Superbike team.
In this first part, we had a chat with Team Owners Nigel Snook and Darren Fry alongside Team Coordinator Anne Loveridge to understand a bit more about the management side of things:
How has the winter been for FS-3? What has the team been up to since leaving Brands Hatch last season?
“Although the season might be starting a little later than normal this year, the team has been incredibly busy since we packed up the truck on the Sunday evening at Brands! Operating a British Superbike team is just like running a small business, and our core team works all-year round.
My main focus is on sponsor liaison and ensuring the riders and mechanics have the right equipment and resources to challenge at the front. A lot of my personal role is spent on budgeting, which is a mix of closing off the previous season and getting everything in place for the upcoming year. This effectively requires a full audit of the team, looking at what we need new for 2021, what might stay the same and seeing what can be supplied by our team partners.
Securing sponsorship to keep the team operating isn’t straightforward at the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even more challenging. The past 12 months have been tough for everyone and it has been a real curveball for every team in the paddock. We had our own title sponsor pull out mid-way though the season last year, but thankfully, we have a number of key partners and suppliers whose support has been fantastic and allows us to focus on the year ahead.
With testing coming up imminently, we’re all now in the final stages of prepping the bikes, signing contracts with partners, designing leathers, livery, and clothing and getting our trucks ready for Silverstone.”
This year the team will be running the all-new Ninja ZX-10RR, does that impact your preparations?
“As the official representatives of Kawasaki in BSB, there’s a bit of extra pressure on us. The benefit is the help and support we get from the Kawasaki UK management in getting bikes and engines to us in good time and supporting us with technical information, including from the factory team.
“We’re really pleased to have an upgraded ZX-10RR which should give us an extra edge. Our initial impressions are very positive. Obviously, having a new bike requires a bit more work over the winter as it means new parts and development, but thankfully the new Ninja shares certain key components with the 2020 model, which has helped ensure we’re not having to start completely from scratch.
Turning a standard road bike – however good – into a full-on superbike is a real skill and we are fortunate to have a great team of very experienced operators in the workshop. The guys are now busy getting both machines ready for Lee and Rory, and we can’t wait to see how they’ll get on when they hit the track for the first time.”
Speaking of the riders, what are your expectations for the 2021 season?
“I think everyone is confident we are going to have a strong 2021 season. Lee had a fantastic season last year and I know he surprised quite a few people with his speed and consistency. We are confident he’ll be able to build on that this year.
On the other side of the garage, we’ve got a rookie superbike rider in Rory, and this will be his first year on a 1000cc machine. He has been very focused since signing with the team, and has been very active over the winter riding a Superstock-spec ZX-10RR. All the signs are very encouraging, and Rory is loving the extra power and speed”.
Two talented riders combined with the new and improved bike will support our aim to be regular podium finishers and Showdown contenders.
You oversee the workshop side of the team’s operations. What does that involve on a day-to-day basis?
“Effectively, a bit of everything! The team actually operates from the same factory as my company, which means I can keep a close eye on what’s happening and am always there for the guys when they need me. This time of year is busy for everyone, and we are working on getting the new ZX-10RR’s prepared for Lee and Rory to hit the track ready for testing.
The new bike looks an incredible bit of kit, and the new aero package should definitely help on the track. Despite there being major upgrades, lots of core parts of the bike are the same, which has really helped us to get the bike builds completed. It also means we can utilise a lot of the same parts and have a knowledge of what will work best on the bike, and ensuring we have all of the components when needed is a big part of my job.
This winter, we’ve moved buildings into a new purpose-built workshop, which we should be fully operational in within a couple of weeks. From the early days of running a single-rider team, this is another big step forward and a lot of my time over the last few months has been focused on getting this ready.”
How will the new workshop help the team?
“The new workshop has been completely designed for the team and features a lot more space. This is really going to help the team with getting the bikes ready, and we’ve kitted it out with everything a top-level BSB team needs.
Alongside the engineering and workspace, the new workshop also has meeting rooms and space to showcase the team to sponsors, helping us to take that next step.”
Are you looking forward to the season?
“I can’t wait! It’s going to be really interesting to see how the new ZX-10RR gets on and I’m really excited to see what we can do. After a fantastic season last year I’m confident Lee is going to be able to take a step forward for 2021, while I think Rory is also going to surprise a few people with his speed and talent.”
Running the administration for a superbike team is like running a small business, what’s involved?
“There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that I’m sure most fans probably don’t realise! I’m involved in everything that needs arranging for the team, acting effectively as the back office. That means arranging entries and HR, helping Nigel with budgeting and accounts, ensuring all entries are sorted for the season, booking all the hotels, creating team itineraries and everything in between!
There is a lot of admin that needs to happen to make sure everything is running as smoothly as possible, and as Team Coordinator, I also help with sponsor liaison and ensuring that everything that needs to happen as set out in their contracts. This could be everything from social media posts to ensuring that each sponsor gets the relevant grid time and clothing they want.
This is particularly important on race weekends, and a lot of my time is spent ensuring that the team are all OK, the riders are where they need to be, and all of our guests have the best experience possible.
There’s also a lot of health and safety training and briefing that needs to happen. From ensuring all of the team are aware of the hazards and first aid protocols to making sure the relevant fire extinguishers are in place, I have to carry out the correct risk assessments.”
You’re also involved in ordering parts and liaising with suppliers?
“That’s right! This year I’m working much closer with the crew chiefs to ensure that we have a more streamlined process, particularly with the new workshop ensuring we are all operating in one place. As soon as the new bikes came in, we created a huge ‘to do’ list that had everything needed to get the bike built and ready for testing, with key deadlines for when parts and items need to be delivered.
This is a big task and requires regular discussions with the team and suppliers to ensure everything is in place, ready for when the riders go testing. We also need to have a constant level of spares and suppliers at the workshop. This means having a full stock take at the start of the year and deciding on the number of spare or replacement items we need. Then after every test or race meeting, we will work out what was used before replenishing the stock. This not only helps the team with the bike builds, but it’s also vital for accurate cash flow and budgeting.”
What about the upcoming season, what are you looking forward to most?
“Outside of seeing what Lee and Rory can do on track, which I think we’re all excited to see, I’m really looking forward to hopefully having some guests and fans back at the circuit. Last year certainly felt strange, so hopefully, this season can go ahead with packed crowds!”