Despite the fact that the Moto2 grid has nearly 40 regular riders, the class has also featured a regular stream of wildcard riders as well. With the Spanish CEV championship the only series featuring a competition for the Moto2 bikes, it is unsurprising that most of those wildcard riders have come from Spain. More of a surprise, perhaps, was that one of the riders in the running for the title in Spain is actually a young Scot, the British rider Kev Coghlan, who rides for the Monlau Competicion team in the CEV aboard an FTR machine.
Coghlan was a wildcard at Silverstone back in June of this year, but the young Brit will also be racing in this weekend's Moto2 round at Aragon, a track he already has some experience of, having raced here in the Spanish championship. Coghlan started out racing Supersport in Spain, and was closely involved in the development of the FTR Moto2 chassis throughout the end of 2009.
Reason enough, then to catch up with Coghlan, something which MotoMatters.com did at Silverstone. We spoke to him on the Saturday after qualifying, and the day before the British Grand Prix. Coghlan had a tough weekend at Silverstone, qualifying in 30th and ending the race in 22nd. Here's how he saw his weekend at Silverstone, and how he got there:
MM: How did you end up racing in Spain?
KC: Budget really. Trying to get off of a 125 and basically, everybody was just asking stupid money to run in British Supersport, and I got the offer to go out there with a free ride, and basically I just jumped at the chance. It was a good series out there as well, learned a lot from it and got some good opportunities to come into Moto2.
MM: It's also an advantage because you're racing some of the Grand Prix tracks. You're racing Jerez, you're racing Valencia, you're racing Barcelona.
KC: This year we'll be at Aragon as well, the new track. It's better than running around at the likes of Mallory Park!
MM: You've been running Moto2 in Spain using the Michelin tires instead of the Dunlop they use in the World Championship. How has that changed the way you ride, and how have you found it to adapt?
KC: It's not been too bad. We ran the Dunlops in Supersport last year, obviously it's a different tire, but you get more or less the same feeling for it. Took a little while just getting used to them again. Obviously I've not been on them for a while. So that was one of the biggest worries I'd had before coming here, but it's turned out not to be too bad. It's more the front tire to be fair. You can push a lot more into the corners, into the corners the Dunlop's just that little bit better, and having that confidence to really run in hot on the front, but other than that it's not been too bad. We've had the Suter clutch to get used to as well, which comes with the engine package. So that's been, the tires and the clutch have been the biggest difference.
MM: What clutch are you running in the CEV?
KC: It's an STM clutch. It's another slipper clutch, but it does have quite a different feel to it.
MM: This is the only time you've had on the official MotoGP Moto2 engine...
KC: Usually in Spain we just run a stock CBR 600 engine. The rules there are is to, they kind of half thought about running Supersport, but in the end decided to go with stock engines, more to keep it slower than the World Championship, you know? You can't have a national championship being faster at the GP racetracks... At Jerez the other week, we were only about half a second slower than their race pace, so, yeah, it's more for that reason.
MM: How close is your relationship with FTR?
KC: It's been really good. Joe Darcy, the team I race with in Spain, they helped develop the bike last year, done all the last three rounds in the CEV I think, and I got to know them over the past year or so, and it's been really good, they've helped out a lot, and it just seems to be anything they can do to help, and they've really been pushing. They've obviously got a good relationship with Alex Debon's team, and they've kind of helped us out by getting a bit of data from Debon, you know it's been really helpful.
MM: So you've had some of Debon's data to help set the bike up, for the clutch, for the tires,
KC: Yeah, we've got a bit of a base setting to help us out a bit. I don't know if it's helped an awful lot, I would say each rider is different, but you've got to set up the bike for yourself, but it's a starting point at least.
MM: How does the Moto2 bike compare to a Supersport bike?
KC: It's a lot different to ride. The actual style, the way you ride it's the same, but the feeling is just totally different. It's a lot more rigid and sensitive. Just every little thing you do on it you've got to be really careful. Especially on the Michelins, they seem to be really nervous, so just touching a kerb at the wrong place, changing gear at the wrong place, it just starts a big shake, you know. It's not like a big, heavy lump of the Supersport which you can throw around and fight it all the time, you've just got to be careful with it.
MM: So the fact that it's lighter is actually a disadvantage, because you're having to be so much more precise.
KC: I wouldn't say it's a disadvantage, it's more that you've just got to treat it in a different way. I don't know if makes you slower or faster...
MM: You've just got to change your style. Have you found that you've had to change your style drastically since switching to the CEV?
KC: I wouldn't say drastically, but it has changed a little bit. I think I've learned a lot more in the first part of this year than I have all last year in Supersport. Especially, Moto2 has been promoted now to the main class in Spain, replacing Formula Extreme, which was like the Superbike class. So the guys from the top class have come to Moto2 and it's a really strong quick championship. So it's like when you're running with quicker guys you always improve yourself.
MM: The chassis of the Moto2 bike is much more adjustable than your Supersport bike. How much more have you had to learn? How different is it?
KC: To be fair, it's got to be, because like I was saying before, with the bike being a lot more sensitive, you go from one track to another and on the Supersport, you'd give it another couple of clicks here and there and it would be fine. With this, you turn up at a different track, and you say like where's my bike? It feels totally different. So we've had to work a lot more on setup than we did on the Supersport bike.
MM: What kind of setup? Geometry? Weight transfer?
KC: Everything. Geometry, weight transfer, the suspension setup itself, you know clicks here and there, springs, pretty much everything we've tried. We seem to be getting different problems at different tracks and it's like we're trying to remember what was effective at the previous races to change different things.
MM: Do you have a decent base setup when you get to a track? Or do you just have a rough idea and just go out and see whether it works or not?
KC: At the moment, we're just taking it from the last race, and seeing if it works or not. We're still not happy with the setting we've got in Spain at the moment, we got the fastest lap at the last race and just missed out on the win. So, we're obviously going well, but I'm still not happy with the bike, it's got a few problems that we need to get around. You know from the first moment we've always had something that's not been right, we've not been able to think of anything that's good for a base setting. But if we get it right one day, that'll be quite a big step.
MM: That's the problem with adjustability, the more options you have, the easier it is to get it completely wrong.
KC: Yeah, that's it. In theory there's more options to get it right as well, but we're struggling to find it at the minute. But obviously, you've got your Supersport bikes that have been developed over the last I don't know how many years, and yes, it's a streetbike, but they're built for racing, you know, they don't mess about. And I think that this class has proved that at some of the tracks, they're not matching the times of the Supersport yet, so it's obvious that the stock bikes are pretty good. I think for all these manufacturers to jump in in the first year and be as competitive as they are, they can't be doing badly to jump in and be competitive against the likes of Honda and Yamaha in the first year and be doing more or less the same times.
MM: With a completely new bike and just a standard engine. How does the engine compare to your Supersport spec engine?
KC: Not sure about the Supersport engine, but compared to the stock engine we run in Spain, it's a lot stronger. It goes a lot better. I don't know if they've had a lot work done on them, and they've obviously tried to keep it a reliable engine, because you can't have them breaking down. So yes, it's got a bit of punch in it. A lot more than the Spanish championship engine.
MM: The level of the Moto2 championship in Spain is very high, it's basically the same guys that people like Kenny Noyes were running against last year.
KC: Yeah, I think Kenny was maybe 2nd or 3rd in the Extreme class last year, and Carmelo Morales who won it last year, we're battling with him now. Yeah, it's quick, it's not got the depth of field that you've got here, I mean, I don't know, we were 30th today [during qualifying for the Silverstone round], and a second would have put us maybe 15th, so it's not got the depth of field, but the guys at the front are really really strong.
MM: One of the things that Kenny Noyes said when I interviewed him at Qatar was that the difference between the two paddocks is those final ten minutes in qualifying, people just go insane, and for the first couple of races, that really caught him out. Have you noticed that as well? Is there anything you could do to prepare yourself for that?
KC: Not really. To be fair, I made a mistake in qualifying today [Saturday at Silverstone], we went up to 14th or 15th in mid-session, and came in, changed the tire, went back out, and I was getting held up at the back of a group. And I thought "I'll knock off for a lap and try and catch them up," and the checkered flag came out and that was my lap done. But I looked after and seen that the guys that were holding me up were like 18th, 19th, 20th, and I'm back in 30th. I should have just kept that lap going and I probably would have been closer. But live and learn.
MM: How frustrating is it to be caught up in that? Because this is what everyone says, two or three tenths can be ten places, where two or three tenths in the Spanish championship is probably two or three places?
KC: Yeah, it is frustrating, but I think for me anyway, I've seen the guys further up the field, and I can run with them and can run faster than them, so it's positive for tomorrow. We'll get a good start and hopefully just keep moving through the field [Coghlan eventually finished 22nd at Silverstone]. But, yeah, it would have been nicer to be starting a bit further up the grid.
MM: Are you worried about the first corner?
KC: I wouldn't say the first corner as much as the chicane after that, it could be a bit frightening. But you just have to see how it goes, you can plan as much as you want for what's going to happen on the first lap, but at the end of the day, you've just got to be there when it happens. Hopefully make the right decisions at the right time, get through it. I don't know, we've been getting really good starts in the Spanish championship, for the past two races I've got the holeshot and led the first lap, so, hopefully we can get a good start in this race and get up the grid a little bit before the first corner.
MM: How does the level of the Spanish championship compare with this, with the Grand Prix Moto2 field?
KC: Basically, you can see the money that's about here, it's just crazy, but the riders, the bikes are pretty much the same. I've brought my own bike here, and it's competitive, it's a pretty good package, it's the same bike that Debon's been running really. But, yeah, the depth of field, you've not got that. Every single rider here is fast, you know, where in Spain, you've got maybe ten, fifteen riders are fast, and then the rest of them are not going to be winning any races any time soon. But like here, you've got Kenny Noyes who was running up the front, he's had a pole position, now he's well down the grid.
MM: You're coming to a new circuit, nobody really has any data, how are you at learning circuits?
KC: It's not been too bad this weekend, I've not had too many new circuits in a while, so it's been like something a bit new, but usually I pick it up quite quick. But we had a wet session yesterday which kind of throws things out a bit, but this morning, a lot of the guys were just on it straight away, they just seemed to take to the track really quick. I took a bit more time, and this morning we weren't that quick, and we've just been sort of chipping away at the times all through the first session and the second session. But I suppose at the end of the day, if you can be there at the end of qualifying, then that's all you need. Free practice doesn't really count for much at the end of the day. So, yeah, it's been alright, but it's been harder than I thought learning the place because there's that many bumps and strange lines.
MM: A lot of people have commented that because the circuit's so wide, it's hard to figure out reference points, braking points, and also, because the circuit is almost flat but not quite, there's actually lots and lots of blind corners.
KC: Yeah, you can't really see where you're going as much. I think the biggest thing is it's that long, it's over 2 minutes a lap. I think it was this morning, I was running 2:15s and dropped 2 seconds on a lap, because there's that many places you can make up time, and from one lap to the next, you can just make up lots of ground. So, for that reason as well, I think it's a bit more spread out than it has been before.
MM: Coming here, finding yourself where you are, how achievable is it to come here and be competitive if you were to come full time next year?
KC: I think it's not out of the question. I'll be disappointed if we're not in the top 20 tomorrow. And for a first race, getting used to the tires and the clutch and whatnot and the general, being here, you know, it's not too bad. I think if we were running from now to the end of the year, we'd be regularly in the points. At the tracks I know a little bit better, like Jerez, Valencia, the ones out in Spain, there's no reason I couldn't be in the top 10.
MM: It's sort of your home Grand Prix - even though Jerez would be more your own home Grand Prix than here, I suppose - and also, the CEV, it's a national championship, it has interest but not at the same level as this championship. How much extra pressure does that put on you, the fact that this is the World Championship? And also you're a British rider in the British Grand Prix?
KC: I don't think it's put any more pressure on me as such, it's more trying to prove myself against these guys. Obviously we're running at the front of the Spanish championship now, so it's to sort of gauge myself at the two levels of the championships as well. As for home pressure, I'm based out in Spain anyway now, so they can put in the papers whatever they like and it doesn't really affect me, I don't see it anyway. So I'm not too worried about that.
There's definitely more pressure than the likes of Jerez and I've got to learn it. And I dare say there's a few who expect me to do well because it's my home Grand Prix as you say, but no, you've just got to kind of get on with it and not let it affect you really.
MM: Obviously, this paddock is fuller, wealthier, like you say, that doesn't overawe you or intimidate you? It's just guys on bikes?
KC: Yeah, pretty much. I don't know like, there's a few people have said "How do you feel about riding against the likes of Toni Elias, and MotoGP riders?" But you've just got to get on with it. It's just another bike. If you start thinking about "Oh, it's so-and-so" it's just going to mess you up. You can't give them half an inch, just because it's some big-time fella. It's just another guy you need to beat. As for the paddock, it's impressive walking about, with the big hospitality units and that, but it's just for show at the end of the day, isn't it?
MM: Do you know what you're doing next year, or is it far too early to be thinking about it?
KC: Hopefully I'll be here, but it's a bit early to say yet. We're just going to have to get some good results in Spain and hopefully that'll put me in the spotlight a bit.
MM: Does the team have plans to step up into the World Championship?
KC: The team itself won't be stepping up, but I know that Emilio Alzamora, the team manager, obviously he's got Marc Marquez that he manages, he's got a few contacts in this paddock, so, we're not sure if he's going to try and put together a team, or push me into that team, or what.
MM: Because Alzamora's taken you under his wing a little bit has he?
KC: At the moment, he's more of my team manager rather than a personal manager. But he has spoken about in the future if there's possibilities we might do something. But at the moment, I'm just riding for his team. So we'll see what happens for the future.