Shaun will be the first MXGP rider for two years to attempt a round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Nationals with a wild-card appearance at the tenth round of twelve in the American series at Unadilla, NY this weekend.

The 27 year old Scot and winner of last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix will count on factory support from KTM and some key personal sponsors to make the trip over the to States in what is a rare gap in his Grand Prix and national championship duties; some twenty-six weekends of racing from February to October. Here – just prior to his fantastic result at Lommel – ‘SS24’ discusses the trip, his expectations and some of the details behind the transatlantic hop…

An MXGP rider in AMA 450MX; interesting enough anyway but is there even more pressure now with the factory getting involved?

I don’t think so. I’m going to go there and hope to have even more fun because I was taking my own stuff in the beginning and planning to build my own bike when we get there and now we have the factory bike. I’ll do press day on Thursday so that will give me two twenty minute sessions to get it dialled in and to see how I feel. From there I will just try to enjoy the weekend. From KTM’s side they have provided a bike to ride and there is no expectation or ‘want’ for results. We’d all like a nice result but I want to just enjoy it and ride well.

You initially did this on your own steam but it seems that some fairly influential people – like Roger De Coster – are now taking notice. Is that a sign of your increasing value to KTM?

Yeah. It is nice. In the beginning I was doing this off my own back from start-to-finish but then a few doors started to open when I began asking a few questions. I suppose you could look at it that way but I haven’t dwelt on the meaning of it too much. It is an event outside of the championships I am focussing on. I am obviously looking forward to it but I also want to come back and ride well at Mantova [Grand Prix of Lombardia]. I haven’t been putting hours and hours of planning into one event when I am already busy with a full racing schedule. The guys at the factory and in America did not have to do all this for me so maybe it is a sign of my worth to KTM. With a couple of the factory GP guys being injured or struggling at a couple of meetings I have been their top scorer or top guy in the races and getting those manufacturer points. It is one of those things where you look at it [Unadilla] and think ‘it’s nice to have the opportunity’.

It is less than a week away so what prep have you done? Have you looked at some videos and photos?

Yeah, off-and-on, but I have watched races at Unadilla numerous times so I could almost draw the layout of the track. I watched the GoPro footage from Ken Roczen last year and a couple of snippets on Youtube to get an idea of how the track roughs-up. Some people have said it did not get that rough in 2014 and I heard others say it is one of the bumpiest on the calendar and not just with ruts. Some people say it will suit me, others say it won’t but it’s a motocross track at the end of the day, it has corners, jumps and some rough ground. I don’t see it being too different to racing over here. This is my living and what I am about so I’m going to give it everything I have, like I do every week.

What are the details on the bike?

I guess I won’t know the full spec until I turn up and see what I have but I do know that it’s provided by the factory team, so will have the ’16 engine and suspension [Simpson rides with the 2015 450SX-F]. I’m not saying it will be the same as what [Ryan] Dungey and Dean Wilson are riding but on the whole it will be prepared by the factory set-up. From there I will be able to put all my stickers on it because there would have been too much confusion with conflicting sponsors. I will have my ‘274’ number, the Dunlop tyre service should be that same and that’s it. I’ll have a couple of personal touches with the suspension setting and special seat that I will be taking with me.

Will you have another chance to ride apart from press day?

No, unfortunately because of the travelling in the U.S. and where the team are I think my bike is being transferred to another truck just to make it there in time for press day. Being able to ride at press day is not a bad option and is better than just turning up and riding the bike at the race. I don’t think I would have been able to get there in time to do a full day of practice somewhere else anyway. On the whole the plan has come together well. Just from me sending a few emails and making a few phone calls things have worked out, so I have to say a big thanks to everyone involved. Especially a sponsor from home, an Aberdeen company TWMA they’ve come on board to sponsor me for this event and together with Dyce Carriers we’re going over. It will be like a mini-break…but riding at the same time.

What will make you happy from the whole experience?

I think if I have two results where I feel I have put enough into, have ridden well, enjoyed the bike and come back healthy and smiling then that is the goal. I could say the ultimate aim could be two top fives or top sixes but I don’t really know…but I also have the feeling that something like that is not out of reach. I feel like I am riding well and running everything on one day is what we have been doing at the British Championship…even with three motos there. Two good starts and away we go.

Photo by Ray Archer