TROY Batchelor has boarded hundreds of flight and travelled all over the world to ride his speedway bike during his nine-year career to date, but admits his latest trip will be nothing like he’s experienced before.
The 26-year-old yesterday boarded a flight to New Zealand which will not only take him as close to home in Australia as he is likely to get during the racing season, but also serves to deliver his dream of becoming a full-time Grand Prix rider.
Robins captain Batchelor was handed the a spot in the series following the withdrawal of Russian Emil Sayfutdinov due to injury and financial problems, and will line up alongside the rest of the world class field when the series begins in the early hours of Saturday morning in Western Springs, Auckland.
For Batchelor the near 24-hour journey to New Zealand is nothing compared to how long he’s waited to mix it with the best in the world on the grandest stage of all and, although he had a taste during the final round of the 2013 GP series in Torun in October, the Aussie admitted to the Adver while packing his bags he’s not entirely sure what to expect.
“I did all my packing and final prep to triple check and make sure I’ve got everything because if you get out there and find out you haven’t got it then it’s too late,” he said.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it because we raced at Lakeside on Friday and I’m felt good but it’s going to be a massive week for me really. When we get out there we’ve got practice and press conferences and a load of other things so it’s more than just five races. This is a big deal for me and I just can’t wait to get it started.
“It feels a little different for me to be honest because it’s such a big one.
“For the first time I’m flying mechanics with me to the other side of the world because normally my dad just does it for me when I’m back home. This time I’ve got two of my boys coming with me, as well as my dad, so I’m surrounded by good people going into this.
“It’s another speedway meeting but it’s so much more. The first round is important, of course it is, but after the first round we’ll evaluate things and see where I’m at and what I need to change and work on.”
While only untried German Martin Smolinski is longer odds to win this year’s world championship and many tipping Batchelor to struggle, the man himself points to close friend Tai Woffinden who took the crown last season despite being tipped to finish bottom of the pile.
“I never really care what anyone else thinks and I’m not going to start now but if you look at the odds I’m something like 100/1,” he said.
“That’s what Woffy (Woffinden) was and if you had asked anyone this time last year whether he would be world champion then they would say no, but look what he did.
“It’s a tough field of riders and there’s nobody I would expect to beat easily so it’s a tough, tough series. You have to put your best foot forward and earn a bit of luck, but not only luck you have to be so prepared for it and give it everything you’ve got.
“That’s what I’ll do and that’s what I always do and hopefully it works out for me.”
Batchelor and Woffinden rode together for Polish club Wroclaw last season, allowing the Robins skipper to pick up some tips along the way.
“We spent a lot of time together last season, travelling, sitting in the hotel and racing,” he said.
“We shared some thoughts and it was pretty cool to hear what he was thinking and feeling as it all got closer for him. It was a great year and it goes to show what’s possible when you put your mind to it.
“He was in the GP before and it didn’t go so well for him but he got his head down, worked hard, and it all paid off for him.
“That’s my attitude as well and I will work as hard as I possibly can to make this work for me.”
Many first-time GP riders have struggled to make the transition from riding as part of a team to competing as an individual, but Batchelor’s experience of learning his trade in Australia looks set to stand him in good stead.
“Some people perform under pressure and some people don’t and that’s a big thing because this isn’t team riding anymore, this is individual and there’s nobody there to help you,” he said.
“It suits me because that’s how I grew up racing. When I came to England I started racing in teams and it was weird for me because I’ve raced as myself growing up and that’s what I do every winter when I go home.”
Batchelor will wear the number 75 race jacket when the series gets underway, a number he has held since his early days of racing back home in Australia.