Rider Spotlight: Taylor Knapp

NEWS April 26, 2012

Rider Spotlight: Taylor Knapp

Photo Courtesy of WattaFoto

AMAP: Where are you from?
TK: I’m from Lapeer, Michigan. It’s just north of Detroit. The winters are cold, and I get to do some riding on the ice to keep my skills up. It’s pretty fun in the winter.

AMAP: When not on your SuperBike, do you get to do any other type of motorcycle riding?
TK: Yeah, I try to ride as much motocross as I can. I’m a big believer in riding as much as possible to keep the same kind of muscles toned as I use in road racing. So, I try to ride motocross as much as possible.

AMAP: How did you get into riding motorcycles?
TK: Well, my dad used to race, and I’ve been racing at a young age. Since I was four or five years old, I started racing 50cc motorcycles, flat track racing and motocross racing. I started road racing when I was a teenager. I came up through the ranks in WERA and CCS and eventually did my first AMA Pro race when I was 16. I’ve progressed since then.

AMAP: You raced for Vesrah Suzuki on a GSX-R 600 last season and even rode an EBR 1190RS towards the end of the season.. Didn’t you race afterwards too?
TK: Yes, at the last round in New Jersey Motorsports Park, I ran an EBR1190RS in a one-off National Guard SuperBike race. Then I got a phone call with an opportunity to do three or four of the last 1000cc Superstock races in the British Superbike series riding a Kawasaki ZX-10R. I thought it’d be a good opportunity to learn some new tracks on a new bike. I did pretty well. I ended up getting two top-five finishes on tracks I’ve never raced at before. It was fun to be able to do that. I was supposed to ride for the same team this season, but everything kind of fell apart at the last minute. I thought I was going to be without a ride, but a team called GR Motorsports called me up and offered me a full ride for the 2012 season. So, I’m taking everything race by race and trying to do as many AMA Pro races as I can. I’d love to do a whole season in AMA Pro, but I have to go where I can. I’m trying to do as many races as I can.

AMAP: You did well at Road Atlanta. Were there any goals you were setting for yourself in National Guard SuperBike?
TK: I think the goal has been to finish in the top-five in SuperBike. I think riding many different brands and tires over the years has helped me progress as a rider. Road Atlanta went really well, and I like the track. We kind of got off to a rough start for the year with Daytona. The first race at Road Atlanta was kind of rocky, but it felt really good to get out there and have a good race. I started 15th, and worked my way through the field picking guys off one-by-one. I had some really good battles with some very fast guys. At the end, I think it was me, Chris Fillmore, Larry Pegram and Steve Rapp going at it. It felt really good after getting a rocky start and was nice to get out there and mix it up at the front.

AMAP: You’re a pretty tall guy. Do you think there are any give and takes when racing a motorcycle?
TK: I’m six foot one. I don’t know if it’s the best thing for being a motorcycle racer, as many of the guys I race with are a lot shorter. I kind of have a weight disadvantage going for me. At the same time, I think I have a little more leverage to maneuver the bike around, yet it’s still a little harder to get into a full tuck. In the end, it’s all I’ve ever known, so it’s alright for me.

AMAP: You’ve raced at tracks around the globe. What would you say is your favorite?
TK: My three favorite tracks are VIR, Road Atlanta and Miller Motorsports Park. I really like them. I’ve been to many different tracks, but there’s something special about those three. They’re just real sweeping, flowing and up-and-down. There’s a lot of character in those tracks.

AMAP: You’ve thrown a leg over too many motorcycles to count. Which is your favorite?
TK: I’ve ridden them all. Everything from Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, BMW, EBR, the Buell 1125, Aprilia.. and they’re all good. I’ve probably spent the most time on the Suzuki GSX-R1000. As of right now, I’d say I’m most comfortable on it, and so I like it the most.

AMAP: Since you advanced the most out of all the National Guard SuperBike riders between both races to earn the MotoBatt “Hard Charger Award,” do you think that says something about you as a rider? It’s not about the start, but where you finish?
TK: Yeah, it’s all about charging hard, staying consistent and not making mistakes. A lot of guys can put fast laps in with more of a budget and tires, but in the end, it’s where you finish the race. I’ve always been strong at the end. When tires wear off, I can ride through a lot of problems. I really like the SuperBike races being long so I can charge hard at the end. It was cool winning the MotoBatt “Hard Charger Award.” I hope I can win it again!

AMAP: Will we see you at Infineon for the Great Clips West Coast Moto Jam?
TK: No, unfortunately, I’d love to do the whole AMA Pro season, but I don’t currently have the funding to do it. The plan is to go race by race over in England, and if an opportunity comes up to do as many AMA Pro races that don’t conflict, I’ll take it. I really hope we can make more of them happen.

AMAP: What’s it like riding over the pond?
TK: It’s definitely different. It’s a good series, and they bring in a lot of fans. There are a lot of tracks I’ve never seen before, so it’s all about learning all these new things (tires, bikes and tracks). To me, it’s really just a big learning experience.

AMAP: What expectations are you setting for yourself for the 2012 season between both AMA Pro and overseas?
TK: I think the goal for me is to really get up there on the podium. The strong point I’ve always had is being pretty consistent and getting top-five finishes. The goal for this year is to up my game and get up there on the podium. I’ve had a couple close races where I’ve finished fourth or fifth, but it’d be a really big deal for me to get on the podium.

AMAP: Who would you say is your racing hero?
TK: I’d say the guys over in MotoGP like Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies, and then Jay Springsteen and Gary Nixon. Two new school guys and two old school guys.

Check out photos of Taylor from 2011 and this season on AMA Pro Road Racing's facebook page!

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