I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve put in writing that I’m officially now the back-to-back World Superbike champion! It’s a great feeling but probably one that hasn’t really sunk in yet. Since Qatar I’ve hardly stopped as November is usually busier than the actual race season for me. I’ve only had a few nights at home, and I’ll have been to Italy, the USA, Spain for testing, home for a night then to the UK for the Motorcycle Live show, back to Spain for a test, on to Germany for the FIM Awards, back to Spain again and on to my home city of Belfast for some celebrations.
Winning world championships is such a childhood dream (for most of us), that when you achieve it, it almost feels a bit surreal – like it should feel something different. But to be honest, it’s not something which you celebrate on that day, at that moment, but more something which you know will stay with you, and keep coming back to you, for the rest of your life. This is something which makes me feel very content. I feel strangely calm knowing that I have achieved a dream, and now it’s about living with the reality and continuing to make your dreams come true. I’m lucky that I have this chance and I never take it for granted. But we never have much time to sit around thinking about one moment as the bike world quickly moves on. We are now flat out testing for 2017 and our goal shifts from ticking the box for 2016 and straight on to our new targets for 2017.
At this early stage it’s been one of the most positive winter tests I’ve ever had. I feel very comfortable on the bike and much more relaxed riding it. Despite what it might have looked like on the TV, and the results we have had, this year was never easy for us. We worked tirelessly on the new bike set-up, and with the race schedule changing to races both on Saturday and Sunday it only ever gave us Friday practice to fine-tune our race package. It never felt like we had enough time on the bike so I really did feel like I was riding with a blunt knife a lot of the time. So it makes me very happy knowing that I pretty much won this championship on a bike which I never really fine tuned. We are now in a position to sharpen this ‘new’ bike (only out in 2016), and to fully understand the package. You never stop learning about the bike, and we are always searching and seeking more from the package. At this level you can never afford to stand still.
I will finally stand still a little, however, coming up to Christmas when the test ban comes into play. I will escape the depths of the European winter to Australia (my wife’s homeland), and enjoy the summer out there with her family. My boys can play on the beach rather than brave the gale-force winds of the Isle of Man. It’s an easy choice.
Come January I will return to Europe for a few weeks to test and attend our team launch before getting ready for the first race back in Australia in Phillip Island on 26th February. I can’t wait.
In the meantime, I’d like to thank my loyal supporters, fans and my sponsors, such as Carole Nash, for standing by me and believing in me. Winning championships is as much for the people you have around you as it is for yourself and your team. I’ll sign off by wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.
That’s me over-and-out for 2016. See you all in 2017!