Buchanan keen to start campaign

Southland’s Cormac Buchanan feels more prepared than ever as he returns to Spain on Sunday....
Southland’s Cormac Buchanan feels more prepared than ever as he returns to Spain on Sunday. PHOTOS: AARON STAPLES PHOTOGRAPHY
Cormac Buchanan is fresh off the best New Zealand preseason of his career — even if he does admit it feels weird to call it a preseason considering he has just wrapped up his sixth New Zealand Superbike Championship title.

But it has left him feeling more prepared than ever as he heads back to Europe on Sunday for his fourth overseas campaign, and second season in the FIM JuniorGP world championships with his Spanish team, AGR Racing.

Buchanan, 17, secured the Supersport 600 title on his home Southland track last month — "it’s been a dream to wrap up a New Zealand title at home" — but had a rocky final round at Hampton Downs, where he came off the bike twice during last Sunday’s races.

While it was not the finish he was after, it did not dampen Buchanan’s spirits. He has taken six from six pole positions this season, and won 14 out of his 18 races. He won every race he finished — and led 113 laps.

"It’s been a good year," Buchanan said.

"I’ve used the time wisely, learnt loads about myself, and my racing, and I think just seeing how the results were this year in New Zealand, you can tell that I’ve definitely improved.

"That gets me motivated for the year in Europe.

"Obviously Europe’s a whole different kettle of fish, but I know what to expect now and ... I’m ready for anything."

Buchanan is taking confidence from the leaps and bounds he has made as a rider this season.

Cormac Buchanan
Cormac Buchanan
"The year before we were quick, but we weren’t consistently fast.

"Whereas last year, we were always there in the front of the pack. It’s just [a case of] fine-tuning the little last steps to turn those into the best results possible.

"For me, it was a big growth year and it’s just important that I understand that I need to make another step this year."

After getting his rookie world championship season under his belt, Buchanan’s goal remained to win as much as possible and continue working towards a MotoGP contract.

"It’s definitely the biggest year yet, but I’m going to grasp it with both hands."

Asked what he needed to do to secure a contract, he said that was the hard part, as "you never really know".

"It’s just do your best and fingers crossed that a team, I guess, wants you."

Buchanan also has a different support network alongside him this season.

His mother, Kate, is heading to Spain — "I think that’s going to be quite cool" — while his father-mechanic Stacey, who has been overseas with him previously, stays in Invercargill.

He was excited to spend more time with his mother, and let his father spend more time with his sister, Mikah, but the dynamic would change things slightly as his father had been his sole mechanic in previous years.

Buchanan now has a full team of mechanics — leaving his father to help tinker when things break down, as well as providing moral support — but he is ready to take over and believes it could help make him a better rider.

"It gives me a bit more responsibility," Buchanan said.

"I wouldn’t say when you have everyone doing it for you you take it for granted, but I guess a little bit.

"The gaps in between race meetings are pretty big, so it’s just going to keep me a lot busier and keep me a lot more focused, I’d say."

And while he starts setting up camp near Barcelona, he never forgets his roots — from the people who gave him a supportive shout during the Burt Munro, to the Southland Motorcycling Club members, who let him on the track when he was too young to ride anywhere else.

"That sort of support has just kind of shaped me into the rider I am today."