Rider Spotlight: Stefan Nebel
NEWS July 12, 2012
Photo by Brian J Nelson
AMAP: Where are you from?
SN: I’m from a town called Velbert in Germany. It’s about 60 minutes ride to Cologne and 40 minutes ride to Dusseldorf. I’m in a pretty good area in Germany.
AMAP: Now you’re in the United States to race in AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike. Where do you live when you’re here?
SN: For the moment, it looks like I’ve been travelling throughout the United States to see as much as I can. When I am in California, I live with my teammate Chris Fillmore. We’ve been working out and riding cycles to stay in shape. Because he was injured, he went back home. I used the time in between the New Orleans test and Mid-Ohio to do more sightseeing. I was in Miami and Mid-Ohio.. For the last couple days, I’ve been at Mitch Hansen’s ranch in Wisconsin riding motocross, supermoto and enjoying my time here and in the United States. For me, it’s a dream come true. I think it’s one of the best times in my racing career. Every day, I try to see more of what the United States is about and hope I get to come back next season.
AMAP: How did you get into motorcycle racing?
SN: For me, it starts like many other racers, my dad was a racer back in Europe and I grew up in the paddock. I got my first bike when I was three years old. I had a Peewee 50. I had been in every paddock in Europe more or less in the time when I was three to seven years old on my Peewee 50. I got a Peewee 80 when I was six years old. After my dad retired, he kept an eye on my riding, and we went to many racetracks. When I was eight years old, I got a KX80 and rode national races. For the next four years, I was riding all the time on my mx bike.
When I was 13, we found out that they had a pocketbike class coming from Italy that had a big championship starting in Germany. I won the championship my first year. From there on, I was pretty much done with mx racing. I really like riding on the asphalt. I won the pocketbike championship two years in a row. After that, I moved up to racing 125cc bikes and won the Rookie’s championship in 1995. In 1997, I was winning the championship overall. After that I joined the SuperSport class.
AMAP: Not only are you an two-time IDM Superbike Champion, but an IDM Superstock Champion, correct?
SN: I won the Supersport class before that, and then got a really good ride with Suzuki to ride the Stocksport 1000 class. I won the class the first year I rode in it. I rode both Supersport and Superbike the same year and finished first in Superbike and second in Supersport, so that was a tough year, as I had double work to do on the weekends! The next year, I was only concentrating on the Superbike class, and I won the championship again. The year after, I got a contract to race with Yamaha Europe to develop the R1. We built it to finish the championship fourth or fifth, which wasn’t what we were going for, but won it pretty easily in 2005. In 16 races, I was on the podium 14 times and wrapped up the championship two races before the season was over. When Yamaha ended their team, I joined Kawasaki and rode with them for one year. It didn’t count for all that we put into the team and bike to finish well and win. We didn’t get a second year to get the results we were looking for. In 2007, I went back to Suzuki and did well riding with them.
More or less, I was looking for a different kind of job, as the past was showing a lot of change within the team and factories. I didn’t want to do it anymore; I wanted to stay somewhere I can find something like family. In the winter of 2008, KTM asked me if I’d like to come onboard and give them input for developing the KTM RC8. I started with them and quickly found out how much they had been working on and how much of petrol heads they were! I enjoyed my time with them and look to them as my family. I will try in the future to be at all times a part of KTM, because they’re what I was looking for my whole life. Now, I’m four years in sitting on that little baby (KTM RC8 R) more or less every part of it. I am so happy to be here in the United States and turn the throttle on what I would consider my dream bike. Like I said before, it’s one of the best times of my life.
AMAP: What’s it like being able to take charge in the development of something as important as the KTM and see it become what it is now?
SN: The part of me in developing the motorbike is to give the guys that can change things in the bike the information they need. I never really know what they change or what they need to do, but only give them the information of how it feels and if it gives me a more confident feeling or not. They get this information into mechanical calculations and get it into the bike to make it faster.
AMAP: What’s it like having Chris Fillmore as your teammate while you’re here in the U.S?
SN: I’ve had a lot of teammates, both good and bad ones. Chris is for sure one of the good ones, from both a racing and personal side. He’s a really cool guy… you can hang out with him the whole day. He’s tried to show me everything I need to know to get by in the United States. On event weekends, he’s a big help because he knows the racetracks. Every track here is hard to learn, so having a teammate that can give you the information you need is a big help, and it’s a pleasure to have him on my side.
On my end, I know a lot of tricks and stuff around the RC8 which helps him more and more around the bike to set it up and make it quicker. We work as a team to achieve success. Any information I have that helps, I share with him and he shares with me. We’re making good progress, so I feel really bad for him that he’s sitting at home with a broken hand. Overall, he’s one of the best teammates I have and also one reason why I’m able to enjoy the time I have here.
AMAP: What are your thoughts on riding on U.S. racetracks compared to European racetracks?
SN: You cannot compare the character of European racetracks to the ones here. The European racetracks are flat and somewhere where you don’t have hills. What I really like in the U.S. is that the racetrack is built into the terrain of that area. It’s not flattened out and has a lot of character. It’s very hard to ride these tracks fast because you have to get into a rhythm of it. In Europe, you have to take more out of tires and settings, because the racetrack is easier to learn. Everyone’s going fast immediately, so you have to find fine details which help you go faster. Here in America, I get faster each lap because I better know the racetrack. It’s a different character of riding style and how I go about a weekend. It’s a new challenge for me and I like it a lot.
AMAP: So far, what’s your favorite racetrack in the United States?
SN: I like Barber the most because it was such a nice overall package. It’s nice to be there, but to be fare to the other racetracks, Road America has a nice character because it’s so fast, Infineon for its hills and scenery, but right now it’s Barber probably 1% more than the other racetracks.
AMAP: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed?
SN: More or less, you can say it’s my life. Because I’ve ridden motorcycles my whole life, if I’m not able to pull the throttle, there’s something missing, which is the biggest part of me. When I can sit on my motorcycle and can ride on the edge, feel my body and heart rate while having that adrenaline, it’s the feeling of being alive and something I don’t want to miss. That’s the reason why I spend pretty much every day on a motorcycle, regardless whether it’s a supermoto, motocross or roadrace bike. It’s an overall package, and I wouldn’t want to change anything for it.
AMAP: What are your expectations for the rest of the 2012 season with KTM and the National Guard SuperBike class?
SN: I want to end the season with as much information for myself as possible. I want to finish this season with a good feeling for hopefully the next season so the team, myself and KTM can show what we can do. I’m going to the race weekend without knowing the racetrack, so I’m not able to know everything in mind that’s giving me pressure. If I went there with podium expectations and other expectations that would add pressure, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on learning the track, which will then help me later. My whole life, I’ve won races and championships, but right now, it’s not the target, because we’re not able to, yet. We will find a solution with the bike and myself as a racer so next season I can ride in the top-five results, then we’ll see where we are at the end of the season. Right now, I’m top-12, I want to be within the top-10. If I got that, I will be happy for now.
AMAP: Who’s your racing hero?
SN: My racing hero is that time period of Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and Mic Doohan were riding. I really love the style of Schwantz and Rainey, the U.S. style with all the spinning. I was really happy to have met Kevin in the past for a few weeks in Europe. He showed me a couple skills I really liked. There are a lot of other people like Noric Abe that raced when he was on Honda at Suzuka. His skills and riding style were really cool to watch. In that time, they’d be my heroes for racing.
Stefan would like to thank his sponsors: KTM | KTM Power Parts | KTM Power Wear | Vortex | DID | Millennium Technologies | Akrapovic | Motorex | Dynojet | Galfer | Rossi Racing
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