Two time World Motocross Champion Tim Gajser of the HRC Factory team needs little introduction to the motocross fanatic. Having claimed his first title in the MX2 class in 2015, he then moved to the MXGP class and straight away saw success with his second championship in 2016 on the 450 Honda.
Since those glory days, 2017 and 2018 saw some troubles with injuries and of course the domination by Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings. Gajser though knows that he has the speed and bike to reclaim World honours, and his eye is firmly set on taking championship number three in 2019.
David Bulmer from Honda caught up with Gajser in Sardinia this week, and was kind enough to forward us this interview. Honda/Bavo Swijgers images.
We’re in Sardinia now. The off-season training is well underway. How has it been so far, at the end of last and now the beginning of this year?
Last year with the end of the season I was quite happy. I was kind of coming back. The feeling was coming back, the one that I had when I was winning the races, feeling comfortable on the bike. Also during the off-season now I really feel comfortable on the bike. I feel like we have everything what we need. I think the most important thing is to stay healthy, to be injury-free. I hope that this year can be our year. I feel really good in the team with the mechanics, with all the crew over here. So we are working hard. We have the same goal. I think during the season we just have to be consistent, try to be always there every race. You don’t need to win, but top three, top five, it’s okay. Consistently. Try to not make too many mistakes and definitely to go all the series, to do all the rounds.
Just how hard was it last year to be sitting on the sidelines for that first race and missing it, and then playing catch-up the whole year, really?
It was horrible. I was really down, but that’s how it is. That’s life. You have to pick up yourself and just go back, work even harder, even if it’s really tough. When you know that they are racing and you can’t, and they are getting like race fit. I was missing first race. When I came back in Valkenswaard they have already one race under the belt. I still didn’t know how I will do. It was difficult. The first part was difficult. Like I said, I was training hard and tried to pick up my speed and my confidence back and try to be better and better each race. Definitely was not fun.
Is the mental aspect of an injury as much as important as actually recovering physically, in terms of you can’t let yourself get too demoralized and too unhappy that they’re riding, and I’m not?
I think I didn’t lose so much on the physical side. Mentally I was completely down. Physically I think one month after the crash I was in quite good shape. But when you are not mentally 100% it’s tough. I always say like that, you win the race with your head. So if you are confident, if you believe in yourself, you just can’t wait to go racing. But when you have an injury, when you are not 100%, when you are not sure where you belong… You are kind of asking questions to yourself, like how it’s going to go. You’re not sure in yourself. You don’t trust in yourself as well. I think that was the biggest problem this year, mental side. Definitely. Past two years, I would say, with the injuries.
Perhaps you’re one of the biggest examples. When you’re having fun on the bike you’re riding well. It’s easy to see when you’re having fun on the bike because you start being a bit more stylish. Do you find that’s the case? When you’re enjoying it, it’s easier to scrub, it’s easier to whip?
Sure. When you’re having fun out there, when you are one with the bike, definitely it’s easier to scrub because you trust the bike, you trust yourself. You are more comfortable on the bike. Definitely it’s easier to ride smoother and more nicer, I would say. When you are struggling, you are tight. You get arm pump, stuff like that. Definitely when you have fun you can go really fast.
You mentioned earlier, it is a long season. We’ve got a few new races in China, Hong Kong. We’ve got a different one in Indonesia. Do you look forward to the travel and to going to these new tracks? Or is it a bit like, I wish they’d just be in Europe?
No, it’s always nice to go in some new countries. I think that’s what’s all about world championship. It’s called world championship, so it has to be all around the globe, not just in Europe. Definitely it’s cool to go in China, to go Hong Kong, and Shanghai as well. I just kind of miss my Mexico. I like that track. Also to go to US. I miss these kinds of rounds. But anyway, from my perspective we have a good calendar. We have nice races. We’re looking forward for this season.
I looked through the calendar and it seems there is a good mix of hard pack, sand, sort of loamy dirt. Do you sort of circle ones in the calendar? Obviously Trentino is a favorite one for you. Are there any other ones?
Sure. I’m really looking forward for Matterley Basin. That’s one of my favorite tracks. Argentina also. These kinds of tracks with huge jumps, big speed. I kind of like these tracks. Also Arco. Many fans are going to be there again. Also Czech Republic. The closest ones to my home. We’re looking forward. Also Semarang. I like that track as well, with the huge jumps there.
Semarang, were you surprised when you first got to the track? I’d seen some pictures and it looked pretty flat, but when you got there, it was amazing, in my opinion.
Yeah, it was amazing. The track was wide with some really huge jumps, big triples. So I really enjoy it there. Also I had one of the best races over there. I was kind of leading almost all the first moto. I got passed a couple of laps before the end by Jeffrey, but actually it was a good race over there.
Obviously, the Supercross season is going on in America. Do you pay any attention to that, or is it focus fully on motocross? Or do you like waking up on a Sunday morning, checking out the results and seeing what’s going on?
Sure. I’m watching all the races from America, from Supercross. Still we have a time to watch them. We are here on a test and on Sunday morning we have free time, so we could watch the races. It’s kind of cool to see. That’s also what I want to do.
Do you learn? As a rider, do you watch the techniques, or is it just watching the results and watching the racing and enjoying that?
No, definitely watching the races to see everything from the track, from the riders. I think from the videos you can learn so much. Also about the scrub, I learn on YouTube. Also with my dad, but first of all I saw this when James “Bubba” Stewart was doing it, and I said, that could be cool. Then I start turning the bikes, and then it gets really low.
Who do you think is going to win the supercross?
It’s a tough question. We have three races in and we have different winners.
And not Roczen or Tomac.
Exactly. But they are the most consistent. They are always there. It’s going to be interesting. I’m going to pick Ken. I think he’s grown a lot. He has many experiences now and I think he can ride this year smart. I hope also for Honda. It could be good to win supercross.