It’s been a while since we talked to Dan Kruger about his exploits overseas. After going through a rough stretch a couple of years back, including some serious rehab time after a massive crash at the Suzuka 8-Hour, Kruger has returned to success: he finished second in the China Super Bike series championship last season, and also earned some starts in the international street racing scene as well.
How on earth did a Canadian even get mixed up in this scene? Our country isn’t really known for producing street racers. Curious, we asked Dan how he got his start racing on public roads, and what he’s up to for 2019.
CMG: You’re a motorcycle racer now, but you got your start racing ATVs. Why did you make the switch?
Dan Kruger: ATV racing was declining in popularity and my injuries were stacking up. I tried a few motocross races but didn’t take to that on the level necessary for international success. I also took some time off to get through my post-secondary education to make sure I had a back-up plan. I also tried a few jet-ski races and even some dirt-track car racing. I eventually got a street bike and quickly became a hooligan on the roads. I realized that eventually that would catch me out so we went to a track day and I realized that was a new level of fun. I was a fast amateur and went pro within the first year (1997) and the rest is history.
CMG: You did the Canadian roadracing scene and some AMA stuff back in your earlier days, but now you’re racing street circuits as well as tracks. When did you decide to try the international street circuits?
Kruger: In 2013, I decided that I wanted to race Macau. However, wanting to race there and being invited to race there are two different things (it is an invitational event held once a year for 28 riders, selected from all over the world). There are hundreds of racers who request to race Macau each year. To get an invite you must have some international street-race experience, be affiliated with a well-known team, have a history of being a safe rider, and ideally, offer help with the promotion and image of such a world-class event. My agent created a schedule and a pathway for me to race Macau in 2014 that included racing the International Northwest 200 and the Isle of Man TT.
CMG: What was your first street circuit race? What about that race made you decide this was what you wanted to do?
Kruger: Alma, back in the 1990s, was a street circuit in Northern Quebec. I loved the fact that it was so dangerous, the streets were dirty, there were curbs, statues and buildings everywhere. Much of the grid complained about the lack of safety but for me, it leveled the playing field as the size of your team or set-up of your bike were secondary. It was all about having big balls. It also opened my eyes to the impact the fans have in a race weekend. In Alma, they were all lined up along the side of the road and leaning out of windows screaming and cheering. I felt alive and realized that I quite enjoyed that. After Alma, I always knew if I had the chance, that was the type of racing I wanted to do.
CMG: You’ve raced on public roads in many places now, including Canada, Finland, the Isle of Man, Macau. What’s your favourite street circuit race?
Kruger: I like many of them but my favorite would be the Northwest 200 in Northern Ireland. Top speeds of over 200 mph and a mass start with three waves of racers. More than 150,000 spectators line the streets and grandstand and we race in rain and heavy winds. It is intense. The race is along the coast and is really cool since there is a cliff and then parts of it right next to the sea. The locals are really friendly and knowledgeable. They would do anything for you, as motorbike racers literally have celebrity status over there.
CMG: What races do you have positively lined up this year, and are there any others you’d like to do?
Kruger: I am doing the Speed Hero China Super Bike Championship along with a few IRRC street races in Europe. It is tough to confirm the actual races at this moment but there will be a few of those and one or two rounds of the EWC, including the Sepang round in December. I am doing some testing and also a little bit of rider training, so I am getting busier with both of those things, and see both continuing on when I do finally call it time with the racing. I will keep everyone posted as each additional race is confirmed.
CMG: Regarding your track racing: What’s it like to race in the China Super Bike series? What are the fans like, and what are the tracks like?
Kruger: It has been great racing over there. I have seen motorsports really take off in China, and it is great to be part of it all, since it is growing quickly. The fans are amazing. They weren’t sure at the beginning, since I was not a local rider, but since the championship has grown and has many international riders, many of them support me at the races and come out to the Hong Kong bike show to see me. The circuits are similar to the UK. There are one or two really fast circuits where F1 and Lemans cars race and they’re world-class facilities. There are also quite a few tracks that are smaller (more like St. Eustache) scattered throughout the country, with more opening each year.
CMG: How strong is the roadracing scene in China compared to North America these days?
Kruger: Over the past 2-3 years, it is really strong. Sometimes, Moto 2 riders have come over and used it as a warmup, along with former World Superbike riders and regulars from the All Japan Superbike Championship along with the FIM Asia Grand Prix Championship. It is still developing, but growing quickly and they’re really promoting the events with live television throughout China and on CCTV5 which is even available in North America. It is not uncommon to have 20,000 or more spectators in a day.
CMG: Do you ever foresee a return to the Isle of Man?
Kruger: Not likely. It is one of those places that requires 100 per cent commitment and not just for the two weeks you are there. It is a full-time job to race the TT and I simply don’t have that type of commitment to one event at this stage of my life. It is an amazing event and I wish I had gone over there earlier in my career.
CMG: What would it take to get you back into a Canadian race team?
Kruger: Ha Ha, Easy one… A street circuit!