Tarran MacKenzie got his first taste of WorldSBK action as a wildcard at Donington Park, and it was a busy weekend in all ways. And yet for the man himself, also less frenetic than a BSB race also.
He finished 14 - DNF -15 - after taking 13th place in Superpole. At his home WorldSBK race, with his McAMS Yamaha team receiving lots of help from Yamaha Europe. But with only two 45-minute practice session in which to get his head and very different fly-by-wire throttle hand around before having to qualify and race, it was a lot to ask.
“It was different to what I thought it would be,” said the 2021 BSB Champion. “I had an expectation of what the bike was going to be like, and it was completely different.
"I thought it would feel similar to what I’m riding now. I was kind of watching onboard of Toprak and Canepa and even van der Mark for a few years ago. When I got on it, it just felt different. The throttle felt a lot different.
"I think that was the biggest thing. I had an expectation of what it was going to be like, and it wasn’t like that, bike-wise.”
“Yeah. I think you can do so much more with the electronics and stuff,” said Mackenzie. “Our electronics guy, Tim… I felt sorry for him because some things, just little niggles that you have in practice, like wheelie or traction control. He’s on the laptop trying to learn and figure it out himself.
"We had basically two, 45-minute sessions on Friday and we probably did a handful of laps because he was trying to understand it, I was trying to understand it. I felt like something wasn’t right. So, we’d try and learn and try and fix it.
I thought coming here that we’ll go from a base setting of Locatelli or Gerloff or Toprak, and I’d just go out and ride it and try and understand it, but it was a bit more complicated than that. It was a bit more to it to try and get it going and get it working properly and for me to have an understanding of it. That was probably the biggest thing, I’d say.”
Mackenzie was thankful that his first experience of WorldSBK had come at his home track, which left one major requirement already crossed off the list - circuit knowledge.
“The positive thing that we had the whole time was I didn’t have to learn the circuit,” said Taz. “If we went to Most, I’d be trying to learn the electronics, learn the circuit… It would have been the bigger ask. But coming here, just go out and try and understand the bike.
"So, that was nice. We even said it as a team, that it was enjoyable being here. It feels more relaxed. I don't know why. I don't know if it’s because less people out on track. The paddock seems quiet. You finish early. For me, it suits me better, I think. I like getting up early and doing the practice.
"I just enjoyed it more for some reason than BSB, as a whole. Everyone made us feel welcome. Andrea Dosoli was really nice. Crescent were really helpful. GRT were really helpful. It wasn’t like they just gave us the package and 'see you on Sunday night'. They were willing to help. Canepa was out on track filming me and helping me. Ricardo from Yamaha was down helping. We felt really welcome. It was a nice experience.”
Mackenzie will probably not get another wild card chance this year but he is clearly keen to move to WorldSBK full time.