Antti Pyrhonen interview

Antti Pyrhonen runs a tight ship over at the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory team. You won’t find a spec of dirt in the team tent, and his friendly, but professional attitude makes the atmosphere more than welcome.

Having raced himself, and battled the tough terrain of Grand Prix motocross tracks, Pyrhonen has an understanding with his riders and a respect for the competition in both the MXGP and MX2 classes. We sat down and talked about how his team is performing and what he expects from the team in 2018.

MXLarge: Antti, can you tell me what you think about the new calendar that came out a couple of weeks ago?

Pyrhonen: I hope it is the final calendar, because it looks really good. I know it is a very demanding job, and some years its easy than other years. The 2018 calendar looks really nice. I mean we start in Argentina, a really nice place and track. I liked Qatar, a nice facility, but Argentina is also great. I look forward to going there. It’s a good track, great crowd, so it is a positive start to the season. To start overseas is nice, because it is calmer and more relaxed. Russian GP we go to Latvia, then Germany, so that makes sense. Also, US to Mexico, back to back weekends. I look forward to next season.

MXlarge: We talked about it before, how the start wasn’t easy, but everyone has progressed. Are you pretty happy with all three riders at the moment?

Pyrhonen: The season didn’t start that bad, we are a professional team, experienced riders and we know it’s a long championship and you need to stay strong the whole season. Qatar, we got the ball rolling and found a lot of information. Indonesia was so muddy there is nothing to say about that, but since those GP’s we have continued to work hard and we got the win of Gautier in Valkenswaard and he has had six podiums this year. Max Anstie had his first podium in Italy and Max Nagl is slowly getting into his form. I am happy how the season is going. Of course, we want to win and have the red plate, but you have to be realistic. In the last few Grand Prix’s we have done 3rd and 4th, and 3rd, 4th and 5th, so the guys are all up where the need to be.

MXLarge: From what I understand Max (Nagl) contract ends at the end of this year, Gautier has another year. What is happening with the riders for 2018?

Pyrhonen: Yes, Gautier has a two-year deal, so he still has next year, same with Max Anstie. Mikkel Haarup, let’s say he becomes a full team member for the EMX and if the season goes well, maybe we also run some MX2 GP’s you never know. The third MXGP rider spot is open, regarding Max Nagl or the third rider. To be honest I don’t have too much stress on that side. Gautier is a great addition to the team, and he can run at the front and I think there is much more with him. Max Anstie is showing the progress as you saw in Russia and Ottobiano he took a solid podium and he has shown he can run that podium speed, so we already have two good riders in MXGP.

MXLarge: That third rider, are you talking to many riders now, are you talking to Max (Nagl) now about it?

Pyrhonen: To be honest I haven’t talked to anyone about that, not even Max yet. We are concentrating on racing at the moment, and I don’t want to start those talks half way through the season. I don’t have a stress with that, so of course I have been approached by many riders, and it starts probably a year ago people talk about 2018, it seems each year it starts earlier, but it gets serious let’s say in April or May when we start negotiations. But like I said, we have two good riders and the third rider we haven’t decided yet.

MXLarge: What about these battles between Herlings and Cairoli, we are all motocross fans in the end. Obviously, you want your guys up front, but can you enjoy these battles and what do you see in the future with these two guys?

Pyrhonen: Yes, first of all, I want our guys are up there, but like you said, as a motocross fan, it’s great to see Antonio Cairoli and his motivation. He is an eight-time world motocross champion and he still is stepping up his game. I knew he would come to this in 2017, very motivated and strong, so it isn’t a surprise for me. The battle with Jeffrey, and now he is up there and it’s great for the sport. Battles for wins, battles for podiums that is what the fans want and what brings out sport even more exciting. The level is so high now, and that is because there are so many who can win.

MXLarge: Last question. KTM and Husqvarna here and in America are really doing well, GP wins to Cairoli, Herlings, Paulin in MXGP, GP wins to Jonass, Prado, Olsen and Covington in MX2. In America Osborne is leading the 250s, Musquin, Baggett and Anderson are riding well in the 450 class. How good does it feel to be involved in such a set-up?

Pyrhonen: Of course, it feels really good, and the support from Austria, from Husky and KTM motorsport, it’s unreal. They are top level engineers and even with this domination, winning world titles, Supercross titles, the motivation is still there. It’s from the leadership from Pit Beirer and Robert Jonass, they are great examples for us. It’s great to be a part of that and the success and I don’t see it ending. I have to say though, all the teams are pushing and stepping up their level and if we slow down, they will be onto is. We have to keep finding better bikes, better development, but as a Husky team-manager it’s great to be part of this.