Ben Henry of DesmoSport Ducati on ASBK, his new signing and the year that…

Interview with Ben Henry

Trevor Hedge: Thanks for the catch-up and quick chat Ben before we get ready to head to Phillip Island next week for the official two-day Phillip Island ASBK test.

Another year for DesmoSport Ducati sees the team lighten up a bit, with Oli on his way to Europe and Mike Jones back at YRT for this season, you have chosen to organize a unicycling team in 2022, and this jumper is of course Bryan is watching. You know the recently married 34-year-old better than anyone, having lived together for long periods of time over the years.

Bryan Staring joins DesmoSport Ducati for 2022

Due to Covid travel restrictions imposed by Western Australia, where Bryan is from and currently resides, he has yet to ride the DesmoSport Ducati, but we are only about five weeks away from the start of the season. That must put the pressure on for this upcoming test.

Ben Henry: “It definitely does, I try to stay off social media, every time I watch something, somebody rolls around somewhere and I start to get a little pissed off, because that’s not the Bryan’s case. But listen, we have seven days of racing before the first race, we have five days in a row at Phillip Island, then a few days in Queensland, then until the race, so if we need more than that we’re gonna squeeze something somewhere. But the bikes aren’t bad, it’s not really like he has to show up and set up a bunch of things, or find some magic. The bikes are pretty good , we just have to get him comfortable on it and then he’s off So yeah look it kinda bugs me but it’s what it really is I can’t change it I know that “he trains pretty hard and does a lot of motocross, so that’s all I can ask – that he’s running around in shape. And the fit level of Bryan is equal to anybody else, equal to the best guy out there. I know he can do it, and I think if he can ride a bike, he can ride a bike, that’s really the main thing.

Trev: Do you see Bryan living in WA showing any particular challenges this season?

Well: “Yes, I do, I definitely do. It’s certainly not ideal, but I can’t change that either, he’s got a good job there. It’s been so hit and miss over the last two years with Covid, that I’ve just ended up trying to plan something that I can’t plan. All you can do is make a plan and follow it. If it can’t happen, it can’t, but if it can, just keep going. He will test bikes, he will come as soon as the border opens wholesale. He works for a national company so he can work from Melbourne for a while and it looks like his job has been accommodating so far for what we need to do. So we have to keep going until it becomes a problem, and then we’ll go from there.

Oli Bayliss gets a hug from DesmoSport Ducati co-owner Ben Henry at Parc Fermé after taking victory at Darwin 2021 – RbMotoLens Image

Trev: Aside from Oli’s decisive victory in Darwin, 2021 could be described as a difficult year for the team perhaps? After his move to the big twin, Mike didn’t seem to really adapt to the high-revving nature of the V4? I think the Yamaha torque might suit Mike all the way down and I expect him to be back in the title hunt this year, how do you rate your 2021 and how have your riders gone?

Well: “It wasn’t really special to be honest I guess all I can really do is apologize to Jonesy I just didn’t put the team around him that he needed to support him to win. Since I don’t have a problem with Jonesy, and I think he can win, I think he’s good enough, but unfortunately I couldn’t create the environment he needed and it was like that. I can’t really change it and that’s about all I can really say there. I think the bike is good enough, I think it’s good enough, I just didn’t give him the tools he needed, and that said, I know I can give them to Bryan and he’ll be fine.

DesmoSport Ducati at Darwin 2021 – Image RbMotoLens

Trev: DesmoSport Ducati has the official support of Ducati Australia, while the Boost Mobile Ducati team is essentially a well-organized and prepared privateer team, not wanting that to come across as any sort of rebuke or insult, that they’ve dominated so widely had to grate a little?

Well: “Yeah sure nobody likes getting beat up and I don’t really like getting beat up by people on the same bike but that’s the way it is, I can’t change it. Wayne was good, their team was With a competitive spirit and competitive experience, you almost have to eliminate the negative aspects of what they have achieved.

“You know where you are before you get there, and before you get there you pump up your own tires and think something is going to happen, because that’s how we’re all wired. And so when you talk about Wayne and his dominance, yes, he’s done well, but he’s also done very well for him, competitor-wise.

“Right now I’m not the only person running against him who feels that, and I’m not taking the credit away from them, it was just the way you have to think, when you’re in the game. You come in and you tell yourself someone did so well because they’re so good and you’re buggered before you start.

“You have to be able to go out there and meet the champion in his armor and figure out what the chink in his armor is, and kind of look at yourself and see what we could do to be better. I’m really looking forward to seeing them go through a full season, and I’ll be interested to see how that plays out, because you know, in two years, we’ve only really run almost a full season.

Ben Henry (right), co-owner of Desmosport Ducati, shaking hands with Craig McMartin, who runs the Boost Mobile Ducati team

Trev: I certainly understood that psychological aspect and it’s always something interesting, and interesting to hear your perspective, because even if you’re not a driver anymore, than leading the team, you have always this state of mind.

Have you worked hard in your Cube Performance Center to find improvements to the V4 R this season? The Boost Mobile Ducati team told me that they use mostly unopened motors in their V4 R machines, as in quite standard. Do you take the same approach or do your own engine design and optimization in-house, to the very limited extent allowed in ASBK of course?

Well: “I haven’t worked on the engines, just tweaked a lot of little things around the bike to make it easier to work with and just a bit more streamlined really. There’s nothing too special about of this engine.

Trev: So you basically have a standard unopened Panigale V4 engine from the factory?

Well: “Basically yes”

Trev: The bike certainly didn’t run out of power last season, Oli was heading towards 310 km/h at The Bend. Interestingly, I was talking to Josh Brookes about his struggles on the Ducati at BSB last season, and he said it was basically up to the team to order new spec engines with more horsepower early in the season, to committing to that engine package and paying for it, only to find that no matter what the team tried, they couldn’t plug the bike in. And of course in BSB they don’t have traction control, whereas here you have it at your disposal, along with various other tweakable electronic settings not available to riders in BSB. Traction control systems are now so advanced that what was once very easy to pick up by ear from trackside is now almost imperceptible to spectators. How much traction control did Oli and Mike use last season? And how much each runner “leaned” on it, so to speak.

Well: “They use a lot, they have a lot of support these guys, and I think they really have to get used to it, like I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in a very long time, but I’ve ridden this bike the aftermath of The Bend, and the electronic support – damn it was good, and it was very, very supportive, so I’d say they’re using it a lot. They’re leaning into it a bit, I think they don’t even realize it anymore, because it’s so smooth. I think they might say “Uh no”, but I think it’s actually a lot.

Ben is certainly a hands-on team leader and a more than hands-on rider himself… Image RbMotoLens

Trev: Don’t you download the data and see who is using the most or where?

Well: “They have different maps and we can see everything, but the driver always always talks about the same shit, whether he has traction control or not, he only talks about grip, it will never stop. You know i think if we could give it to them without traction control i think it wouldn’t last too many laps it would pretty much spit the tire out i think but anyway i think they use some a little, a lot and I think there’s still a lot more to come from the package we’re using. I think Bryan is a bit old school, but hopefully he can get his bearings very quickly. I think he would have used something pretty good in MotoGP, so I don’t know, and on the Kawasaki, but we’ll sort that out soon.

Trev: Thanks Ben, see you at Phillip Island next week where we can of course also catch up with Bryan and get his thoughts on the bike once he gets down to business.

Well: “I’m really looking forward to it, I’m also very nervous so the anticipation is definitely building.”

Trev: Well done buddy.

ASBK Test Phillip Island RbMotoLens Test ASBK Pits SBK Ben Henry
Ben Henry seen here at work on the DesmoSport Ducati during the 2020 ASBK Phillip Island pre-season test, with team co-owner Troy Bayliss working on the rear of the bike – Image by Rob Mott

Related link

If you want to get into the background on Bryan Staring, this interview with him from 2014 is a pearl.

Wiley C. Thompson