Shaun helped Team Great Britain to their third consecutive podium result at the biggest race of the year and through some of the hardest conditions at a rainy Assen
A re-think was needed. Shaun struggled through the last rounds of MXGP. Unhappy with the set-up of his RFX KTM and dismayed when the team elected not to contest the season-closing Grand Prix of China, he decided to take a ‘left turn’ with his own tuning and preparation process for what was the biggest and most famous race of the schedule.
Simpson trained, and worked on the engine of the stock 450 SX-F together with father Willie and friend John Volleberg: the technical nuance of the pair are expected to form the basis of his new SS24 race team in 2020. He took delivery of his custom Bell helmet, Leatt brace and Fly Racing gear for what would be a seventh ‘cap’ representing his country and at the venue of the Dutch Grand Prix; an event he won in 2015.
Assen welcomed a mammoth attendance and large media presence for the 73rd edition of the world’s oldest and most prestigious team race. Lining up with Adam Sterry (in the MX2 class) and Nathan Watson (MXGP class) Shaun negotiated a fast and damp new layout on Saturday for practice and qualification.
On Sunday the heavens opened. The sandy Dutch course was almost flooded through the incessant rain and presented a slick, swampy and treacherous prospect. In these technical and challenging conditions Simpson’s acumen came to the fore. His first moto (the second of three on the day) saw the Scot start brilliantly in 2nd position and then secure a fantastic 3rd place finish. Together with Sterry’s 12th spot, Team GBR were suddenly in with a shout of the podium.
Both Shaun and Nathan Watson circulated in the top ten of the wettest and hard-hitting final race of the event as the general standings jumped around between the British, the French and the Belgians for the two rostrums steps behind clear winners Team Netherlands. When Gautier Paulin’s Yamaha expired on the last lap then the Brits had the breathing room they needed to confirm 3rd.
“I was so emotional at the finish,” Shaun said. “The weather had made it a difficult day for all the riders but I knew a good start and keeping mistakes to a minimum would be the key. I nursed the bike through the second moto once I was clear in third, and that result was a big confidence boost after a difficult season with a new team and another hand injury. Full credit to Adam for his ride in that race and then Nathan produced the goods in the last one with me and we were able to get on the box. It’s hard to describe how ecstatic I was: seeing my wife and baby and all my family and friends there made me crack-up a bit. It’s been seven times trying to get a result at this race, all the way back to my first appearance in 2008, and to do it at the end of this season especially is a big cherry.”
“We’ve now got some work to do,” he added. “We’ve been busy over the last weeks trying to click pieces of the new team together and working on the puzzle to make it happen. We won’t slow down now. I think I showed with something-close-to the right equipment I have the speed and knowledge to make a good showing of myself and anybody associated with me at the highest level. It doesn’t get much bigger than the Nations in our sport. The way I feel right now I cannot wait to compete again around the world in 2020.”
Thanks to Ray Archer for the photo