Mergi la conţinut

KTM Blog

  • postări
  • comentarii
  • vizualizări

Interview of the Month: The Zarco Effect – What will KTM gain for MotoGP™ in 2019 …?


63 vizualizări


Interview of the Month: The Zarco Effect – What will KTM gain for MotoGP™ in 2019 …?

Posted in People, Racing

Red Bull KTM’s confirmation of a two-year contract with French ace Johann Zarco is one of the headline-grabbers of the MotoGPTM season so far. What can the works team expect once the #5 becomes orange? To gain some insight into the 28-year-old athlete we asked one of the people that knows him best; Aki Ajo.

The quiet Finn sits in his bare and immaculate race truck office in the Jerez MotoGPTM paddock. The subject of Johann Zarco is an easy one for the former racer to talk about. Ajo has strong and well-nurtured links with KTM and is responsible for the company’s first Moto3 crown in 2012 and continues to marshal the KTM RC 250 GP as well as the official Moto2 squad to this day. Ajo also has intimate knowledge of Zarco, his character and also his development in Grand Prix. He signed a young Johann (the first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup champ in 2007) for his 125cc squad in 2011 and helped him classify second in the world championship in just his third term. Three years later and they collaborated again in Moto2 and claimed two titles; Zarco becoming the most successful French rider in history in the process.

“I’m not exactly sure when I met him for the first time – maybe when he was in the Rookies – but I started to get to know him in 2009 which was his first year in the world championship,” Ajo says, furrowing his brow and trying to recollect. “In 2010 we had a few more conversations and he joined our team for 2011 and that was his best season until that point. I think that Johann has changed a lot from these times. He was young, shy, a small boy that didn’t know his capabilities and what he could really do.”


Aki Ajo (FIN) Barcelona (ESP) 2018 © Sebas Romero

Already at this time Zarco was adhering and depending on the counsel and advice of another former rider: Laurent Fellon. His countryman remains his manager and aide until this day. “Laurent was his coach but also like part of the family,” explains Aki. “He was very important for him and at the start of his career was very strict and strong and very ordered … but I think that was good for Johann. 2011 had its ups-and-downs but still good performances and it wasn’t always an easy year. We started to respect each other and both he and Laurent were making comments like ‘we’ll be back with you soon … ’.”

Zarco, eager to expand his experience and knowledge left the confines of the Ajo team for Moto2 and gained six podium results in two years and through a slightly unstable period. His old team manager meanwhile had allied with KTM for 2012 and didn’t look back. In fact, Ajo’s success in Moto3 only fueled his ambition … and made a pathway back to Zarco.

“My decision to go to Moto2 was made very quickly,” he recounts. “I did it on the spur of the moment before the Grand Prix in Silverstone in 2014. I asked IRTA and Dorna if a slot was possible and then my next call was to Johann and I half-joked that he’d be our first Moto2 rider the following year but he and Laurent were immediately ready and just after Silverstone – so only a few days – we had already shaken hands. I have to respect and be thankful to them because they were flexible and appreciated the situation that I was building the team quickly and with minimal parts. They were fully behind it and tried to help find some support and money for the team. He was almost riding without salary but he really wanted to win. His reaction convinced me that I really needed to push ahead in Moto2 and it was much better working together the second time.”

“2015 and 2016 were excellent years and I will never forget them,” Ajo admits. “Johann didn’t have a KTM contract at that time but it was like he was already in the KTM family because we had the Red Bull KTM team in Moto3 and the Moto2 was supported by KTM. Mr Pierer and Pit Beirer said to me ‘Aki, you are a little bit crazy to do this so quickly but we’d like to support you’ and I think they trusted that Moto2 could be something good. 2019 is definitely not the first time that Johann has been in co-operation with KTM.”


Johann Zarco (FRA) Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup 2007 © KTM

Those two years (before Zarco hungered for a MotoGPTM debut in 2017) produced a windfall. The WP Suspension-shod Kalex gave the Cannes born athlete an invaluable education in tire preservation (Moto2 use Dunlop control rubber compared to Michelin in MotoGPTM) and race management. He totaled 24 podiums, 15 of those on the top step of the box. The potential – that Ajo claims was evident from his first appearances in leathers – had been realized in the intermediate category and those lessons would serve well for a studious, smooth and rapier-effective launch into the premier class. “From the Rookies Cup you could see he had talent but later he had some difficult times,” Ajo says. “He and Laurent were very clear about how they should do things and nobody really stopped them. They are so strong … but maybe their style did not fit with all the teams and people they encountered. Especially in the beginning … but now they have much more experience. They had difficulties but they kept pushing all the time and now you can see where they are.”

Zarco immediately turned heads by leading his very first MotoGPTM race in Qatar 2017. He went on to become a protagonist in the division, a front-row regular, usurper of factory-equipped rivals and Rookie of the Year with three podiums; a tally he has almost bested already ahead of his home Grand Prix at Le Mans. Was Ajo caught off-guard by the speed of his acclimatization to a world of horsepower, electronics and setup work? “I was, I have to say,” he smiles. “I was surprised by how he learned everything so quickly. He also surprised others who said ‘he’s a bit too old’ or ‘he’s been in Moto2 too long’. I was thinking ‘just wait … ’. I have to be honest I didn’t think it would be so quick.”

Johann is an unassuming, low-key and relatively humble ‘star’. He almost doesn’t seem like a MotoGPTM hero. “Yes, that’s true, but in a positive way,” Ajo observes. “He doesn’t seem like a superstar. He is not going crazy and doesn’t focus on things that he thinks are unimportant … like sometimes people do! In terms of his personality he is still the same Johann and he was sitting where you are now for a long time yesterday just talking. I don’t see any change. He is very analytical and focused on racing.”


Johann Zarco (FRA) Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup 2007 © KTM

Perhaps there are parallels between the two. Asked if he feels like he has played a pivotal role in establishing and helping KTM grow in the Grand Prix paddock Ajo waves his hands. “Nooooo! I cannot say that. I feel lucky. In 2010 and I heard some rumors that KTM were coming to Moto3; I contacted Heinz Kinigadner and Pit Beirer and said I’d like to have a meeting. They were really open and interested to make a collaboration with us. I was really happy about this and thankful it has been so many years already. At the time we already had a partnership with Red Bull – from 2010 – and that helped and it became KTM in 2012. It was a great start and very important for myself, my company and all of us. I’m thankful for that.”

Ajo and Zarco might share humility … but also a thirst for detail that lead to success. Zarco’s signature was sought-after by many but secured and stamped in Munderfing. It is something of a coup for a team that have been on the MotoGPTM grid for just eighteen months but have already tasted GP points, the top ten and have moved through three engine concepts. Aside from publicity will Zarco’s working method and philosophy be a distinct gain for KTM’s objectives? Ajo is resolute. “Absolutely,” he says. “It is also a useful move for the whole KTM family because when a rider like Johann sees potential is there then it opens a lot of eyes as to what KTM are doing. He has placed his trust and his experience in the company, and his systematic working style is important for that type of project to both develop and also ‘prove’ things are going in the right direction.”

For all the talk of development and refinement of the KTM RC16, Motorsport Director Pit Beirer enforced the point that it is “the rider that has to open the throttle” in discussions with the press in Jerez. There is a feeling that KTM have exactly the personnel needed to make the next chop into the lap-times to reach the front.


Aki Ajo (FIN) & Pit Beirer (GER) Sachsenring (GER) 2017 © Philip Platzer

Photos: Sebas Romero | Philip Platzer | KTM


0 comentarii

Recommended Comments

Nu există comentarii.

Creează un cont sau autentifică-te pentru a comenta

Trebuie să fii membru pentru a putea lăsa comentarii

Creează un cont

Înregistrează-te în comunitate. Este uşor!



Ești deja membru? Autentifică-te aici.


  • Conținut Similar

    • De Dementor
      More tour and more roar: 2019 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT
      Posted in Bikes, Riding The covers are off KTM’s heavily updated sports touring titan and we spoke with Project Leader, Tobias Eisele, to find out what’s new.
      Tobias Eisele (AUT) KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KTM
      Following the launch of the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R in 2014 it was quickly discovered that ‘The Beast’ also had a softer side; the amount of torque available made the engine flexible for a variety of riding situations and the ergonomics – despite the exposed bars – was actually quite comfortable for longer runs. Rumor has it that this got the KTM engineers thinking what a bit would some weather protection and a larger tank could do for this machine …
      Fact or fable and whatever the decision-making process it was a good one because when KTM entered the sports tourer market in 2016 with the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT it was in the typical READY TO RACE style – big on performance. This new model in the range saw a SUPER DUKE less track extreme and more grand tourer with the results as predicted; a true long distance machine with the ability to play in the curviest of corners.
      But history has shown us that KTM never closes the throttle of development and no sooner had the first-generation GT hit the showrooms the R&D engineers were busy working on a sequel. Fast forward three years and KTM BLOG was at INTERMOT in Germany to see the covers come off this new GT. At first glance, the changes seem only minor; new headlight, eye-catching graphics. But Project Leader for the bike, Tobias Eisele, was in Cologne for the international motorcycle fair and spent some time with KTM BLOG to assures us the changes are both significant and a major improvement.
      KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KTM
      Tobias, what’s new with the GT?
      “There are many things! Aside from the chassis and wheels, quite a lot has changed in this big update. We have a new engine – same as from the 2018 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R – with revised resonator chambers, titanium inlet valves and a new mapping to give 175 hp and 141 Nm of torque. There’s now the Quickshifter+, so clutchless up and down shifting. We have a 6.5 inch TFT dash with a unique display for the GT, new windshield and adjuster mechanism, LED headlight, the latest generation setting WP semi-active suspension, storage compartments within bodywork that includes one with a USB charger.”
      Is that all?
      “No! We also moved the cruise control to the left handlebar, added heated grips and handguards as standard, keyless ignition with KTM RACE ON, we are navigation ready with KTM MY RIDE and of course two new colors and graphics. There’s also a new optional ‘Track’ mode – including launch control, nine-level traction slip control, anti-wheelie. You can say we’ve been busy.”
      What were the main goals for the new bike?
      “The main goal was to put all the latest premium features that are already available on other products in the KTM range and add them to the GT. We also had to improve on any weaknesses, such as wind protection and the windshield adjustment as the latter didn’t feel as sophisticated as it should have been. So, trying to improve lots of little bits to make the GT a more complete and sophisticated bike. Not a small task.”
      How much did you listen to customer feedback?
      “When we started on this new version the original bike was only just out, so not much feedback from the outset. We knew our goals for this machine and then feedback soon filtered through. A criticism of the original Street suspension setup was the inclusion of anti-dive. The new suspension settings for Comfort, Street and Sport are massively changed, but with anti-dive now exclusive to Comfort. Other small things included the wish for the cruise control to be on the left bar, a longer pin on the side stand to make it easier to reach with the foot, a quickshifter for up and down and – of course – a TFT display.”
      KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KISKA/R. Schedl
      What were the biggest challenges?
      “Just putting the bridge to all those new features we talked about. The dash, for example, required a new software development; it was a big challenge. You have the supplier for the display, the designers, the engineers for the functions and you have to bring it all together. In another life I worked in aerodynamics for F1, so this area of the GT was something I was very interested in. But rather than performance, we worked hard in this department for comfort – such as weather protection and noise from the screen at speed. But as well as the rider comfort, we had to make sure it was a good design. As we didn’t want to make a compromise, there was a lot of back and forth between the engineers and designers but I’m happy with the result.”
      So how is the GT aerodynamically better?
      “Well, we have handguards to help keep cold wind and rain away from hands, but the way in which the new headlight and screen are working sees the bike feel just as comfortable to ride as the previous bike even when you are doing 20 km/h more.”
      What part of the bike are you the most proud of?
      “Besides aerodynamics and the semi-active suspension where we have made a really big improvement – especially between the modes – without changing the hardware, I would say that it was convincing my bosses to add the two storage compartments on the inside of the fairings. We’ve done this without having to add any big boxes and the way they work is really neat. When we completed our first prototype, I asked my manager to find where we had hidden a phone and he couldn’t manage it. Mission accomplished!”
      Backed up by a bigger array of official KTM PowerParts to further personalize this potent sports tourer, the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT hits showrooms at the end of this year.
      KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KISKA/F. Lackner
      Photos: KTM | KISKA
    • De Dementor
      Toby Price World Champion in Morocco in pictures
      Posted in People, Racing The Rally du Maroc concluded the five-round FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price won the event to be crowned the 2018 champion.
      The five-round series has seen the best rally racers from around the world compete over some of the most difficult terrain in the UAE, South America and Africa, with the title fight going down to the wire at the Morocco race. The Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team has enjoyed some strong results with all of its riders, which is especially positive in preparation to defend the team’s 17 consecutive Dakar wins, and this year’s Dakar champion, Matthias Walkner, joined Price on the podium with third in the overall standings.
      Price’s long string of accolades, including his Dakar win in 2016, now adds the world championship thanks to his consistent riding throughout the season. The 31-year-old Australian ace battled back from a broken femur sustained in the 2017 edition of the Dakar to take a podium third this January, followed by his world title win this week. We take a look at some of the best pictures of the Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team in action in Morocco.
      Sam Sunderland (GBR) & Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Rally du Maroc 2018 © Rally Zone
      Photos: Rally Zone

    • De Dementor
      Interview of the Month: The New Guy – Talking with Cooper Webb
      Red Bull KTM’s exciting new AMA Supercross and Motocross recruit checks in for the first time …
      Roger De Coster has his man. Three times AMA champion Cooper Webb had been on the Belgian’s radar for some time in the vast and exciting world of American supercross and motocross. The athlete from North Carolina is just 22 years old and has two 250 SX West Coast titles and one 250 MX motocross crown but he has struggled to replicate that aggressive and determined form since moving into the 450 category for 2017; injuries have also not helped his progress.
      Red Bull KTM now have a fantastic prospect to mould.
      For 2019 Team Manager Ian Harrison will count on Webb’s undoubted talent alongside Marvin Musquin on the KTM 450 SX-F in the Baseball and American Football arenas and then across the breadth of the USA for the summer MX series. For Webb the move to ‘orange’ is a big one; a change of residence, manufacturer, trainer and guiding forces for a season that will stretch to more than thirty weekends.
      Ian Harrison (USA), Cooper Webb (USA) & Roger De Coster (BEL) KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION 2018 © KISKA, Inc.
      We facetimed Cooper at his base in Florida and after he’d taken his first laps with the KTM 450 SX-F and in the company of De Coster, Harrison and Co.
      Cooper, after the success with Ryan Dungey and Marvin in recent years is there a feeling that a chance with Red Bull KTM is one that cannot be considered lightly?
      “Absolutely. We’ve been talking for a long time and it was an honor when they reached out for me to be the next guy. They’ve really turned that team around and you cannot argue with the results over the past 5-8 years. I think they’ve managed to create one of the best teams out there.”
      The prospect of working with Roger and Ian must have been important as well?
      “I’ve seen them work every week and how they went about their racing. It was a big part of the appeal for me. The KTM is obviously a great bike but the way the crew is and all the knowledge and experience makes for a pretty powerful team. Even in my first few days with them and riding the bike, I learned so much about setup and racecraft. I’m only 22 so I still have a lot to learn.”
      It’s a hefty change of scene for you …
      “Yes and no. I mean it was a humongous change in some aspects: living, my trainer and from one bike or brand that I had been with for 5-6 years. Now that it is real and happening and moving fast it doesn’t feel that crazy. I’m finding my way and I’m really happy while I’m doing it. It’s also cool to be with Red Bull again because I was with them as an amateur and they always treated me really well. So, there have been a lot of changes but positive ones.”
      While there have been #5s, #1s, #25s on the KTMs then there have been great results. Does that increase the pressure to hit the same marks?
      “Ha! There’s always a bit of pressure in any team you go to but it’s encouraging what this team have achieved; they really have ‘been there and done it’ so I don’t see any reason why they cannot do it with me. Rather than pressure I see that past success like a ‘guideline’.”
      It’s early days but how do you like the feel of the KTM?
      “Yeah … I’ve only ever been Pro with one manufacturer so it is hard to comment on other bikes but the thing that struck me about the KTM was how light and narrow it felt. I was at home right away and it suited my style. The engine power is so usable. I rode it quite a bit and I didn’t really change much from the original setting we tried at the beginning because it worked right away.”
      You’ll be training with Aldon at the Baker’s Factory as well? Thoughts on entering that program?
      “Yeah, I’ve grown up seeing how he has been able to ‘transform’ guys and his record with different riders is definitely proven. For me it is another strong part of the whole KTM setup. I have an opportunity that really involves the whole package. I think it will be different for me but I’m excited about that.”
      And having Marvin as a teammate?
      “A great rider, and one that is at the top of his game right now. I’m be trying to learn as much as I can from him and it will also be interesting and nice to have a teammate like that because many times [in past teams] I’ve been the only guy. It will be nice for motivation or to be able to talk and bounce ideas around.”
      Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Budds Creek (USA) 2018 © Simon Cudby
      It’s been a tough introduction for you to the 450s recently. Will this chance invigorate the motivation to be one of the very top names in the sport once again?
      “I had a special run in the Lites but then have struggled for two years on the bigger bikes because of different stuff. At times I showed good speed but things didn’t really click for some reason. It will be kinda cool to come up on the radar again. I know there will be people interested in what I do on the KTM and quite some attention but I will be putting in the work and doing everything to come into the year as strong as I can be. With everything around me I know I have put myself in the best possible position for winning on the track again. I had a very comfortable feeling with the guys and on the bike from the very first moments – almost a ‘night and day’ feeling actually – and that just gives you confidence.”
      So, when will people first see you in orange?
      “Well, the announcement is made and we might race at the Monster Cup in Vegas if I’m feeling ready and we’re all prepared. I won’t be doing any overseas races this year. The plan is to ‘stick to the plan’ and focus on getting ready with the bike for Anaheim 1. I don’t want anything to take me away from that or the work with Aldon.”
      Photos: KISKA, Inc. | Simon Cudby
    • De Dementor
      Home sweet home
      Posted in People, Racing Open any MXGP rider’s agenda, and you’ll find out most of them will have marked their home race with exclamation marks; it’s the one race they look forward to most. Riding in front of a home crowd is something special. But, might there be more to it? We caught up with the two Dutch KTM factory riders and a sports psychologist to find out more about the effects of a home race.
      Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions
      “If you think about it a bit longer, it is kind of weird,” Glenn Coldenhoff claims. “When you race in your home country you get a sensation you’re able to dig deeper. Even when it’s technically no different than any other Grand Prix, of which there are plenty more.” With both Valkenswaard and Assen currently on the calendar, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider is a fortunate one. Italian riders are the only ones who have it better with three races on home soil. Coldenhoff really does believe there’s an advantage to riding ‘at home’. “At Valkenswaard you don’t hear the fans so much, but it’s the waving hands that spur you on. Assen has a massive grandstand that makes the whole track feel compact and you can really hear the fans trackside. That boosts your performance, but not in a way you could ever possibly measure. I mean, in the end I want to do well in Spain or Italy too; in that respect it makes no difference.” Possible advantages aside, the two-time GP winner can’t come up with any sort of disadvantage. “If I’d have to point a single thing out, it would be the media attention. It’s always a little bit more crowded, a bit busier, riding at home.”
      Jeffrey Herlings has the same sense as his compatriot and teammate of how home races provide a special vibe. “It adds urgency to doing well; you want to give the fans what they came to see”, the newly crowned MXGP World Champion explains. “And of course, it does put a little bit of extra pressure on. Take Valkenswaard for instance. I had won the GP there seven times in a row. With that streak in mind, I’ve become pretty much obliged to go out and win it again. If you then fail to do so [Herlings finished second in 2017] you’re going to feel like you’ve fallen short.”
      Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions
      Controlling emotions
      Though both Coldenhoff and Herlings mine mostly positive energy from the home races, it in no way guarantees good results in front of the home crowd. Sports psychologist Afke van de Wouw has been working with individual athletes and professional teams for years, giving her a clear picture of high level sports, and where and how the mental aspect comes into play. To find out if there is such a thing as home advantage, Van de Wouw feels it is important not to overlook context. She believes it’s essential to look at the big picture. “It’s not uncommon to look at the mental and physical aspects separately, but that’s where things go tend to go amiss,” Van de Wouw says. “To be able to control your emotions, you need energy. When the body fatigues, it directly affects the ability to keep your feelings in check.” To make things even more complicated, you’re going to have to take into account how the athlete deals with certain given situations. In short; how does an MXGP rider channel the pressure put on by racing in front of a home crowd? “You have to look not so much at the results, but the way things are done to come to said results. I always like using the penalty in soccer scenario for this. Research has shown that a team captain – not rarely an older, more experienced player – is far more likely to miss than a younger player encountering the same stressful game situation. You would think the experienced team captain has seen it all, giving him the edge; he knows exactly what he has to do to make it work. Home advantage falls in the same category. It can boost your confidence, but certain athletes don’t handle the pressure too well, with negative thoughts spiraling out of control as a result. They start thinking about how all eyes are on them, each and every person trackside spurring them on – expecting them to do well. It really depends on the athlete’s mental strength to work with or around the challenges of the given situation.”
      Afke van de Wouw © Dre Schouwenberg
      Mental resilience
      Glenn Coldenhoff knows all about it. A home race might just be a nightmare for an athlete. Last year Coldenhoff hit a rough patch in race two on the artificial Assen track, but he wasn’t going to let it get to him. “I had managed to secure podium positions in Assen the two years before, so I arrived at the track full of confidence. You do put pressure on yourself, urging yourself on to do well, knowing you can do well, too. The second heat didn’t work out, at all. I crashed, sending my bike into one of the VIP hospitalities. At any other track that would’ve been the end of it; I probably would’ve left my bike trackside right then and there. I was in some serious pain, but I felt like I had to fight through it, for the fans that had come to see some good racing. Fans we’re going crazy, even though I was dead last. Won’t say I wasn’t disappointed, but my mind the only thing left to do was to carry on.”
      Every athlete possesses mental resilience; the ability to bounce back. Sports psychologist Van de Wouw says about 40% of that is genetic. “The genetic building blocks you get from your father and mother make up a certain physique and character. Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person? That outlook is pretty much predetermined, but there’s some gains to be made with training.”
      Most athletes focus their training on physical strength and stamina, but there’s more to be gained with the use of psychology. Van de Wouw: “Trial and error teaches you to deal with the mental side of high level sportsmanship, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Most athletes tend to ignore that side of their training for far too long. A trainer that supports and instructs them on how to become stronger physically and technically; every single athlete has at least one of those. Only when they start to suffer mentally, they turn to psychology.”
      Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions
      Home crowd success
      It isn’t until an athlete hits rock bottom psychologically, when they knock on the door of a sports psychologist. “I ask tons of athletes the same question; what percentage of your performance boils down to the psychological factors in play? Most of them feel it’s well over fifty percent, but when asked how much of their time spent training is focused on training mental skills, most of them admit it’s near zero. It’s the weirdest thing, because they are aware of the importance of being focused and dealing with adversity, but they don’t seem to know that mental skills are just as trainable as physical skills.”
      The same goes for home races. It is far from a given that an athlete would perform better at a game, match, or race in their home country. “Nerves might be a part of it, potentially blocking the rider – keeping him from performing at his best. Everything might go exactly to plan during training, but when the time for the actual race comes, the results don’t show. It is often the pressure of feeling obliged to do well in front of your own audience that wreaks havoc on a rider’s chances to actually get the results he set out to obtain.”
      By applying the right methods an athlete can develop his mental resilience. Sports psychologist Afke van de Wouw thinks it’s of the utmost importance personal trainers and coaches expand their own skillset to further develop their trainees’ mental strength. “I schedule regular talks with individual athletes, but I’m not around constantly. A trainer or coach is capable of influencing the athlete a lot more. When said trainer constantly underlines where things are going amiss, the rider might develop a negative self-image. How a training schedule is set up plays a big part in this. Take small steps, set small goals. That way you’re approaching training from a positive point of view, because even though the successes itself are smaller, they are more frequent. That positive approach boosts confidence, allowing the athlete to build his performance from there.”
      Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions
      Positive effect
      Strangely enough, the advantage gained from a home race can also affect an adversary. Coldenhoff – in this case being the aforementioned adversary – knows exactly how that works. “Say, you’re racing in France, chasing down a French rider. He’ll be cheered on by his home crowd, which in turn spurs me on to show I’m not affected by him racing at home; I’ll be more driven to pass him.” It’s just one example of psychological warfare coming from the stands. Obviously, riders are constantly trying to get into their opponents’ heads, too, but on occasion that can seriously backfire. Van de Wouw: “Olympic swimming champion Inge de Bruijn once told about an opponent who tried to break her mentally by spitting in De Bruijn’s lane just before they were about to be sent off. Having something like that happen to you, can rattle an athlete. In Inge’s case it gave her an edge, converting the negative energy to teach her opponent who’s boss.”
      The positive outcomes of a home race will also come into play at the oncoming MX of Nations. Though you hardly get the chance to race in front of your home crowd at the yearly MX of Nations, it does have a same sort of vibe around it this time; for Coldenhoff and Herlings it might as well be a home Grand Prix. “I really feel that strongly, because I really feel Dutch. So, it’s an enormous honor to represent my country. That gives me something extra, like a home race would,” Herlings underlines. Coldenhoff shares the same special feeling, going into the annual MX of Nations races. “Those races are something else, something I really enjoy being a part of, being allowed to represent the colors of my home country. Especially since our team has been very strong over the past years, we’ve seen a rise in excitement among Dutch MX fans.”
      The Dutch team is yet to get their name on the victor’s trophy at the MX of Nations, but 2019 might be the year the Dutch team can put their home advantage to good use. Next year will see the MX of Nations run at the artificial track at the Assen TT circuit. Coldenhoff: “It’s a wonderful chance for us, having the MX of Nations at home. Winning is in the cards anyway, but at Assen we’ll have an edge over the other countries. But still, even when you get to race an event as big as that in front of your home crowd, you’re still going to have to make it work. You get no guarantees in this sport; you don’t ‘just’ win the MX of Nations. One small error and you’re on the back foot. From there it gets neigh on impossible to secure a place on the top step of the rostrum. In any case, we have all the right parts in our team to secure the first Dutch MX of Nations victory, on home soil.”
      Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions
      Photos: Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions | Dre Schouwenberg
    • De Dementor
      New champ on the block
      Posted in People, Racing He just had to score four more points this weekend at the last Grand Prix of the year, but Jorge Prado can already call himself the new MX2 World Champion. An injury forced title-contender Pauls Jonass to undergo an operation and prevented his chances of defending the MX2 crown in Imola, Italy. Just before this unexpected turn, we sat down with the Spanish Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider to fire a few questions in his direction.
      Jorge Prado (ESP) Teutschenthal (GER) 2018 © Ray Archer
      Jorge Prado experienced a perfect weekend in Assen and the battle in MX2 seemed to have been decided. In the far north of the Netherlands, reigning world champion Pauls Jonass had the opportunity to reduce his 24-point deficit, but an injury sustained at the Grand Prix of Turkey, a crash in the first moto in Assen and finally the surgery made it impossible for the 21 year-old Latvian to defend his MX2 world championship title. The crown is passed to a talented young man from Lugo, Spain.
      Jorge Prado has been recognized for many years as a major motocross talent, and that’s no surprise. At just 17 years of age, the Spaniard’s well stocked trophy cabinet already contains several important prizes. So it doesn’t feel strange for him to be world champion; after all, at the tender age of 10, he won the world championship title in the 65cc class. And he didn’t stop there: in 2015 he also claimed victory in the EMX125. The route to major success doesn’t seem far away for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider. After making his Grand Prix début in 2016, it was only a year later, during the fifth race weekend of the season, that he managed to secure his first victory. A MX2 world championship title fits perfectly in the success story of Prado. To get to know the new world champion a little better, we sat together with him while he talked openly about the MX2 title, his native country Spain, and his dreams for the future.
      Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer
      Had you expected Pauls Jonass to perform less strongly in Assen?
      “To be honest, no. Jonass is always a strong opponent and he’s also an extremely good sand rider. Plus, he knows what it’s like to win in Assen, so I definitely had to take him into account. In any case, it could still have gone any way in the championship, but in the end it turned out perfect for me with a double moto win. Before I went to Assen, I was feeling the pressure. Before the start of the first moto, I was really nervous. It also felt different to usual, because you know this is about the world championship. Fortunately, I got everything under control and I won the first moto. Once I was on the bike, I didn’t feel any stress. With Jonass’ lesser result, some of the pressure was taken off me, which meant I felt a bit more relaxed riding the second moto.”
      You’ve already been world champion, in the juniors. Do you feel the same kind of pressure now?
      “It’s definitely comparable, but this title is a bit more significant of course.”
      Last year you were seventh in the final ranking, and now you are world champion. A huge step forwards. Is that purely down to the experience, that you’re now getting better results?
      “The problem was that I wasn’t consistent enough. I won three GPs and was really often in the top five, but scored zero points in the eight motos. Last year I was still at school, while participating in the Motocross World Championship at the same time. There were a lot of competitions and training sessions on the program, but I also wanted to do as well as possible at school. That didn’t really work. Sometimes I was really, really exhausted, which made it difficult to train well and maintain focus. I was sleeping less, so I also wasn’t getting enough rest. It was really difficult, both mentally and physically.”
      And that’s no longer the situation this year?
      “Correct. That’s why, at the start of the season, I also had the idea that I could go for the world championship. I trained really hard in the winter, but two months before the first GP, I got injured. I was back on the bike just two weeks before the competition in Argentina. But I still knew I had a chance of winning the title.”
      Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Lommel (BEL) 2018 © Ray Archer
      And now the time has come, your first MX2 title!
      “It’s the reason why my whole family moved to Belgium, to realize my dream. We wanted to end up exactly here, so that I had the opportunity to win a world title. It’s great that my dream came true.”
      It’s been a considerable sacrifice for you and your family, leaving your home for your dream.
      “It definitely hasn’t been easy, because the rest of the family still lives in Spain. My mum and dad also had to put aside their work to come to Belgium. So they made a lot of sacrifices to embark on this adventure. We’ve lived in Lommel for six years now, that’s also where I went to school. I also speak Dutch now, as well as Spanish and English. I think we’ve adjusted reasonably well to this new situation. In the beginning it was difficult of course, but now we seem to be doing well.”
      What things were the most difficult to adjust to?
      “Almost everything is different, so it takes a while before you start to feel a little bit at home. But now, we’ve even taken on Belgian habits. Such as the time that we eat. Nowadays we have lunch at twelve o’clock, while in Spain that’s much later. The same applies to the evening meal. We used to eat at around nine o’clock, but now it’s more like seven o’clock. But sometimes also half past seven or eight o’clock. Still more like Spanish times [laughs]. We still eat a very Mediterranean diet, only it’s difficult to eat fish in Belgium. And I do really love fish.”
      Do you sometimes miss Spain?
      “Of course, I still feel 100% Spanish. But I’m really happy in Belgium, I feel at home here. Of course, I don’t know for sure, but I think the same applies to my parents.”
      Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Semarang (INA) 2018 © Ray Archer
      Now we’re talking about your native country, that’s where your love of motocross began of course. How exactly did you discover the sport?
      “I was born and raised in Lugo, a city in Galicia with a population of around 100,000. Fifteen minutes away from our house was a motocross circuit, but that was the only one for miles around. Motocross isn’t that popular there. My first experience of the sport was with trials riding, from the age of three. My father used to ride and I always loved watching. So eventually, I got a trials bike and started riding myself. When I was six I switched to a motocross bike. I enjoyed that even more.”
      You were successful in motocross pretty quickly. Who was your trainer in Spain?
      “My father, nobody else. He’s only ever ridden at an amateur level himself, but I think he was still able to give me useful tips. If you see where I am now, that must have been the case, right? We’re always together, my father is there at all the training sessions and races. Recently I’ve been training a lot with Tony Cairoli. That’s really important for me, because I receive a lot of tips from him. It’s difficult to say exactly what those are, but he has a huge amount of experience of course. So, he helps me both on and off the track. For example, how to handle fans and the media.”
      Is it true that you also once tried your hand at road racing?
      “Yes, in 2011 I went to see Sete Gibernau [former MotoGP rider]. He has his own circuit and he invited me to come and ride there. It was fun to try and I even had the opportunity to ride Moto3. But I enjoyed motocross a lot more, so I kept on doing that.”
      Marc Marquez also started out in motocross, but eventually switched to road racing. That branch of motorsport gets a lot of attention in Spain. Is there still room left for you in the newspapers and magazines?
      “A little, but not a great deal. Perhaps this will change a bit with the world title. But there’s still a lot of work to be done to increase the popularity of motocross in Spain. Of course, it has also to do with the fact that there are hardly any Spanish riders competing at the top level. If that changes, motocross will get more media coverage. I hope I can help the sport to grow in my country. That children will be inspired and also want to try motocross. That would really make me proud.”
      Jesus Prado (ESP) & Jorge Prado (ESP) Afyon (TUR) 2018 © Ray Archer
      Would you like to actively work on that, on raising the sport in Spain to a higher level?
      “Yes, that definitely appeals to me, but first I have to accomplish my true goal. And that is the MXGP title. Perhaps after that I can think more about my role in raising the level of motocross in Spain. So at this moment in time, I’m not yet focused on that. And I’m still young, so all kinds of things could still happen.”
      Who were your idols when you were a young kid?
      “In the beginning, I had three. First and foremost it was Valentino Rossi, while Adam Raga was my hero in trials. I also had a favorite in motocross: Ricky Carmichael. Later, that changed again. I became more a fan of Marc Marquez, Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings and Ken Roczen.”
      Back to the present. In an earlier interview you mentioned that, after winning the MX2 title, you’d like to go to the U.S. to race there. Is that still the case?
      “For the next five years I’m staying here, because whatever happens I want to make the switch to the MXGP. And I’m going to try to win the world championship, as I want to be the world´s best motocross rider. Keep going until that goal has been accomplished, that’s my plan right now. And to achieve that, I have to find a way to beat Jeffrey and Tony, in my opinion the best riders at the moment. That’s also the reason I want to stay in the Motocross World Championship. So, going to the U.S. has been put on the back burner for the time being.”
      But still not completely out of your mind?
      “I feel really good in the De Carli setup, and so I don’t feel the need to go to the US. If you’d asked me the same question last year, I would have answered differently. My aspiration for the AMA Supercross was a lot stronger at that time. But not anymore, because the switch to Italy has really been great for me. I have everything I need, so I’m definitely not planning to embark on a complete change at this point. What the future holds, I cannot know of course. I could still decide to make the move. I’m still young, so I can still turn my focus to the US in a few years’ time. In that respect, anything is possible.”
      Jorge Prado (ESP) Sevlievo (BUL) 2018 © Ray Archer
      Photos: Ray Archer