Oxford Ducati team boss Steve Moore is a tough nut to crack in many ways. Standing at more than six feet tall but a lot less wide than he was a few years ago, the former club racer and Hampshire bike dealer is an intelligence well-guarded by a sharp and well-developed sense of sarcasm which leaves those not of that persuasion faltering.
A decade or so ago, he began competing in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 series and after ten years of trying, spending a lot of money and giving up smoking more times than anyone can count, Moore has finally arrived - and in some style with the combination of Panigale V4R and Tommy Bridewell now leading the Bennetts British Superbike Championship.
It was all very nearly so different. During the winter, Moore had decided the end of 2018 was a perfect time to stop racing and get on with life as developing the brand new Ducati wasn’t a task he was particularly relishing, given the painful birth of the BSB-spec Panigale V-twin.
“It’s a hell of a lot of work starting over with brand-new bikes, brand-new software, brand-new everything. Ohlins brought out a new fork, there is new tyre this year, so it was starting over. It was kind of all set to maybe not go racing this year,” Moore told bikesportnews.com.
“After a decade or so, his was the perfect opportunity to get out, and I missed it. The 2018 bike was already sold. We delivered it and I thought, ‘Here’s my opportunity. Here it is’.
Then I got a little bit giddy and the team pressured me a bit and Tommy obviously pressured me a lot. Then Oxford rang and talked about sponsorship. They said they wanted some changes. We weren’t getting proper results. I didn’t want to walk away having not won anything and not received anything. It all just came at the right time.”
Moore signed Bridewell around this time last year after he was ditched by the Halsall Suzuki team. There was plenty of eye-rolling in the paddock as many believed that Bridewell would not sit well with Moore’s no-nonsense attitude. But the two gelled immediately in a team that is still only very small compared to the ones around it.
“We’re a bike shop. I was a shopkeeper who is now running a motorcycle racing team but I’ve got really good people around me. They’re very good. When we came off the grid at Brands Hatch and started to walk out the pit lane towards garage 22 or whatever realised we were going the wrong way.
“I looked down the pit lane and thought, ‘There’s a lot of really good teams here that we’re ahead of’. It feels a bit strange that we’re there. It feels a little bit temporary, but we’ve had a good year so far. I don’t expect to lead the championship every weekend and it’s a little bit bizarre.”
Moore runs Oxford Ducati - formerly known as Moto Rapido - in a very concise fashion. It is staffed by a handful of highly-competent people who Moore always states ‘make me look good’.
“We don’t have an abundance of stuff or people like some teams, but everyone who works in our team is completely dedicated and works unbelievably hard,” Moore states.
“We’ve always felt we’ve had a good bike. It doesn’t break. It doesn’t blow up. We’ve always used proper parts and suspension. Everything has all been there, but you literally need everything to be right.
“The championship is really cruel. You can literally be a couple of tenths off and you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
“When we had Taylor Mackenzie last year, I thought we’d got a great chance but itj ust didn’t fit. It didn’t work. We couldn’t give him what he wanted. He couldn’t give us what we wanted. It was just a nightmare, really.
“Tommy? I get on with him exceptionally well and speak to him every day. I think we’re quite outspoken. We’re quite honest. We don’t get too wrapped up in all the nonsense. The team love him. He gets on really well with everybody in the team.
“If he says something and we don’t take it seriously, that is the thing that bugs him. He doesn’t leave anything on the track. He pushes as hard as he can every lap in the race, all the time. If the wheels fell off he’d pick it up and carry it. He just never gives up.
“That’s what the team loves. That’s what I love. The price to pay for that is when he comes in, even in a free practice session, and if the mechanic isn’t stood there ready with the stand, it bugs him. He wants the team to put in as much effort as everybody else. Then he’ll be fine. That’s been the secret, really.”