Today, we chat with the two time defending champion, Ahmed Alpacino AKA Cool Kid. He talks about his dream for racing, being motivated and staying ahead of the competition.
See interview after the cut.
NM: Can you introduce yourself to the folks that are not familiar with you?
AM47: My name is Ahmed Mohammed (Alpacino), I’m a motorbike racer numbered 47. I am a two-time NSBK Supersport defending champion, fastest bike under 1000cc for 3 consecutive years and second fastest overall for 3 consecutive years. I am the head engineer at GREMANSI, Race director for 24-7 RACING and an environmentalist in between duties :)).
NM: This is the first purpose built race track in Nigeria, perhaps West Africa even, do you think the Nigerian people and to a larger extent, the West African people are ready to embrace Motorsports?
AM47: Well, in order to embrace something, we must firstly understand it. The beautiful thing about the birth of motorsports and motorbike racing in particular as regards to the first track in Nigeria and arguably lower belt West Africa is; Nigerians and
Africans started it here, Nigerians funded and developed it to and for Nigeria, West Africa and Africa as a continent. The Nigerian people need to know about professional circuit racing and the essence of entertainment through display of skill and daring in
operating high powered two wheel machinery in a track built to make that less than easy, that in itself is a marker to not only the limitless possibilities we can achieve as a nation and continent but watered grounds for the birth of a channel towards an African world champion. I think people need to know more by coming and seeing for themselves something so admirable and thrilling in the MRE, Edo state.
NM: When did you decide you want to race bikes and so far, has there been any regret.
AM47: I’ve always had a passion for flying aircrafts and riding motorbikes as long as I can remember. Alhamdulillah, today I find myself in a sport I once sat and dreamt about. I’ve been riding full time for 8 years and racing for 4 years now. When I first heard of the motorbike race in Edo state, then it was dirt bikes, I really wanted to come try it until I found out an actual road race was planned for 2014 and I even called to see if I could race my BMW F800GS :)) :)), of course! I was told I couldn’t race it due to lack of a “touring category” :)) but they told me I could come and watch, I wasn’t going to do that! So I got a sport bike and boom! I’ve been honoured to be decorated in it ever since
NM: As the current two time defending champion – both closed road and track in 2016 and 2017 respectively, how do you feel going into the GP this year.
AM47: As always, it’s always a new year and a new start for me. I never line up thinking victory is guaranteed. So far, we’ve had a good pace leading the pack during the Feb 24th qualifiers and have acquired a lot of data regarding team and equipment, riders and bikes. The competition has grown and that I am very happy for, the race is getting more technical by the day and I guess the days of full stock setups are drawing to an end. I feel I’ve made a good start for myself and the team and of course Ajniha hasn’t let me
down even when we were one of the lunch-pack strapping kids in college :)). But, as always I plan to go into the BT2018 Championship race on a clear slate and the backing of my team(24-7 RACING) and technical expertise from GREMANSI. I would also like to thank all our supporters for supporting us to a wonderful debut.
NM: You raced for OddInstinct last year, why the change to 24-7 racing.
AM47: Things do come to an end. The Oddinstinct-GREMANSI RACING TEAM was a wonderful partnership that not only yielded positive results for all involved but had also helped the racers perfect and sharpen their skills both on and off the bikes. In order to groom a healthy competition and growth I did not renew the partnership even before signing with 24-7 RACING, it was a decision to race under GREMANSI support or with another partnership. 24-7 RACING TEAM is a partnership between 24-7 Technologies Ltd. and GREMANSI and is a product of a vision to develop motorbike racing in Nigeria and beyond. My current team partner and principal Mr Amasike Emelonye shares the same vision I have for an untapped sector such as motorsports in the country and also the effort needed to push 24-7 RACING to always be at a competitive constant. So, all in all it was a natural change and served the overall interest of the teams.
NM: There has been a change with the qualifying format – lap times are now two flying laps as opposed to one flying lap – are you happier with the current format or you prefer the older format?
AM47: Well, we’ve worked with both formats and I’m fine with either. When on the track, we go out and give our best and hope it makes the cut. Our strategy has worked and like I said earlier, we’ve gathered a lot of assessment data in our team debut during the Feb 24th qualifying.
NM: We had the first set of qualifiers in February, and as usual, you laid down the marker quite emphatically, will you be attending the subsequent qualifiers or you are confident that the time will be enough to secure Pole position.
AM47: Did I? :)) There’re still aspects we need to work on as a team during track deployments and those functions need to be polished and assessed as much as possible. The team needs to conduct more tests as the riders test new setups and adjustments and yes of course set better times.
NM: Q1 had quite the amount of riders, did this play on your mind at all.
AM47: Yes and No :)), the calibre of riders is mind blowing and I must commend everyone who came out during the qualifiers. The Q1 session was an eye opener and definitely showed us that it was time to wear the big boy pants as it was no longer a walk in the park (it never was anyway) :)).
NM: Seeing as the rains have come, is the team prepared for a wet qualifying session in May and possibly August?
AM47: Well, as race director I am charged with briefing the team principal and other crew members on how, when and why the team riders can perform unhindered by the weather conditions. A wet M.R.E track is unfavorable for conducting tests and qualifying runs but you never know. We hope for a dry May qualifiers. The team principal has the final call on that.
NM: What are the expectations of the team this year following your race winning performance last year.
AM47: The 24-7 RACING team is confident that we can achieve a good result this year. As I pointed out earlier, we are here to give our best as always and hope we make the cut. I commend the team for a job well done in preparing the riders and keeping me in high spirit. We will continue to develop ourselves to be the best we can be.
NM: What will you consider improvement this year in terms of performance
AM47: The performance aspect is always a big turning wheel and the tweaks are like darts, you get some and you lose some. GREMANSI has done a good job in helping to prepare the bikes and riders and as I’ve said we have acquired enough data for the Team’s technical handlers.
NM: Would you say you are more familiar with the track now, does it suit your riding style.
AM47: I never expect the track to suit my riding style, although we are hoping for better track conditions. I adapt, that is not just a personal saying but a team saying; We are constantly changing ourselves as well as necessary features that can allow us excel on the track. We are trying to “suit” the track :)) and not the other way round.
NM: I know a number of people have been dying to ask, when will you be
moving up the class to the 1000cc category.
AM47: For now, as at this time, during these session with ‘Naija’ Motorsports, :)) I can only confirm what I know, and that is that I will be racing aboard Ajniha (my CBR600RR Race bike). That’s all I can confirm.
NM: Is there a fan club? Are there plans for merchandising?
AM47: Yes, definitely! Check the team website, and @24_7__racing on Instagram and Facebook.
NM: Lastly, What message do you have to young and potential racers in Nigeria.
AM47: The cut, the merit, the required input to excel in anything you desire let alone motorbike racing is our abilities to hold on to faith, self belief in doing good, learn and re-learn if necessary, ability to work with others as a team/unit. This is a professional sport, it requires a sound mind and it rewards an intelligent mind and a healthy body. If you stick to your physics, chemistry, mathematics you will come to appreciate them when you go into motorsports. Never give up, I know it’s been said many times but really I mean smile, move on and never give up! Success Insha Allah.
Special thanks to; 24-7 Technologies, GREMANSI, HMG, GsmArena and Isolutions, Annitori, Franc max Unlimited Parts, World wear House of
leather, Zinox Computers, Yudala.