Steve Bonsey is living the dream
Sixteen-year-old Steve Bonsey is living the dream. A dirt tracker until recently, the Salinas, California, racer is now under the management of King Kenny Roberts and has been signed to race the upcoming 125cc Grand Prix season with Red Bull KTM. We talked to him this morning in Villanova, Spain, where heís been for about a week and a half as he prepares for round one in Qatar next month.
RRX: Can you tell me a little about your background?
My background was originally dirt track. My dad used t race when I was younger, and he got out of it when he got older. He got me into it, taking me to races here and there, because he wanted me to have a hobby. Pretty soon, he was taking me every weekend, and as I got older, it got a little more serious. I was finding out that I wanted to race for a living and become a GNC champion. I tried my best to get to the top of dirt track, and then at about 15 years old, it started changingóI started looking toward road racing. At 16 years old, Kenny Roberts came along, and it completely changed, becoming more road racing. Now that KTM came along, itís all road racing! Now my dream is to become MotoGP world champion. I know itís a big jump in dreams, but weíll see where it takes me. I wonít know unless I try.
How did you hook up with Kenny?
Through one of my sponsors, Ray Abrams of A&A racing. He helped out Kenny Roberts when he was going from dirt track to road racing. We went to a New Yearís party at Kennyís house, and Ray introduced me. We started talking, and I guess Kenny was looking for a young rider to help out and manage. Ray talked to him and somehow got me a deal with Kenny. I donít know the whole story, but without Ray, it wouldnít have happened. He got me the deal.
Whatís your road racing experience?
I was mainly a dirt tracker, for sure. Before Kenny, I was doing some road racing with Suzuki, for WERA races, and I did about three or four races or so on a sv650. I won all the Novice classes and was getting up thereóI think I won overall with the Novices and Experts one time. The first thing I did was I went to a Freddie Spencer school, back in February of 2005. Thatís when I knew I wanted to be a road racer. I went out there and rode around on a CBR600, and I loved it.
So Grand Prix racing isnít something youíve always hoped to get into?
Well, no, I just didnít think of it. My love was dirt track, and always my dream was to be Grand National Champion of dirt track. I always looked up to Chris Carr, Ricky Graham, and Johnny Murphree. That was what I grew up with and what my dream was. I watched a couple road races on TV and never really got into it, but then I watched a MotoGP race on TV, and that was pretty amazing. I went to Laguna Seca for the USGP last year, and I was really amazed. I knew I wanted to be in MotoGP, but before Kenny came along, I didnít know how it was going to happen. They donít really look for Americans, especially from dirt track.
So youíre living in Spain right now?
Yeah, Iím hanging out with one of Kenny Robertsí buddies, Miguel. He works for Kennyís team. Iím out here just training and working out. This Sunday I fly out to Jerez and go to another test day. Itís easier to be living here than in America, especially because KTM does all their testing in Spain, so it kind of works out good this way. Iíll just stay here as much as possible, and maybe once in a while jam home for a couple weeks and see the family. I like it over here. Miguelís a really awesome guy, and heís letting me stay at his house.
So youíll be on Red Bull KTMís main team?
Yeah, I donít think theyíre really doing the support team this yearójust the 125 team, the 250 team, and the Rookies Cup. My teammates are Randy Krummenacher, from Switzerland, and a Japanese rider named Tomoyoshi Koyama. I met them, and we went to dinner a few times and hung out at the track. Theyíre really nice people. Koyama is 23 or so, and Randy is 16, so heís closer to my age. He speaks fairly decent English, and itís nice to be able to talk to somebody. I was also talking to Mika Kallio, on the 250 team. I actually forgot my gloves at a test, and he let me borrow a pair.
How has testing been going?
So far, the test in Valencia went pretty wellóat least I thought so, and Kenny though it went pretty well. Iím still a couple seconds off the pace, Iíd say, but Iím a little gun-shy trying to learn the track. I went out there and tried picking up the pace before I knew what was going on, and I tucked the front and about ground off my fingers. The second test, I settled down a little bit and went better. Iím losing time on braking, but through the corners I seem to be okay. We donít use any front brake in dirt track. Iíve been trying to practice it with a mini bike at my house, but itís nothing like going 130 mph on a 125, and you have to slow down to 40 mph for a turn. Iím just trying to learn. So far itís been a challenge, but the harder I work at it, the better Iíll get.
Has Kenny been helping you at all?
He helped me out quite a bit. We went out to his ranch in California, and we did some riding on 150s on his dirt track. He was helping me with the front brake and turning the front in and getting aggressive on the bike instead of just riding it around. When we were at Valencia, he was helping me too, explaining things and giving me pointers. Heís been a really big help.
Are you feeling any pressure or nervousness?
This year, thereís no pressureóIím just learning at my own speed. They just want me to do the best that I can with my ability. Next year, Iíll be a little more serious and have a little more pressure. Iím happy they donít want me to go out there and win a GP race, but Iím going to do my best, and where I end up is where I end up. Hopefully, next year, better results.
Howís the team?
I love the team. Everybody jokes around, and theyíre really comfortable to be around. Some of them donít speak the best of English, but they try. Itís fun just hanging out with them, and Iím hoping to stay in Austria for a little while. Iím trying to learn a little Spanish, but itís so hard! Iím also trying to teach Miguelís family English. I told Kenny I need to learn Spanish, and he said, ďOne week youíll be in Qatar, then China, then Italy. You canít learn them all!Ē
Are you getting homesick?
Iíve been pretty good so far. I miss my family a little bit, but this is what Iíve dreamed of. I get to call my dad and mom every day, so that makes it better. I canít complain. This is a great opportunity, and itís a miracle that itís me that gets to do it!
If it doesn't challange you it won't change you
Only two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.