Antonio Cairoli interview

Red Bull KTM Factory rider Antonio Cairoli scored his ninth world motocross championship yesterday. The Italian legend left the Assen circuit a little richer than when he arrived and his legacy in the sport continues to grow. We caught up with him at the press conference and he gave us these questions.

Always honest, he talked about the battle back from injury, the fights with Herlings, and the talk about him being finished by many of the media (me included).

MXLarge: Congratulations Tony. Can you give a recap of your championship?

Cairoli: For sure we didn’t start as favourite, with a lot of people talking about, this is for them. I know what I can work for, and I know what it takes. We made it, and I am happy about this. An amazing season, one of my best. After 15 years of world championship, I am proud of this. I think we can work to get better in some cases, but I want to enjoy this title.

MXlarge: You mentioned about the people who said maybe you were over the hill, too old, or whatever. Previous years, you didn’t really care what people said. Did that motivate you, or not really?

Cairoli: Depends who said those things. People that are not so smart, those who talk shit, they don’t really know about motocross.

MXlarge: Tony, you and Jeffrey were on another level at the last part of the season. Did his speed pull you along a bit of have him as a reference?

Cairoli: For sure, Jeffrey has proven, he is one of the fastest in the world, even on a single lap, and for sure he sped it up a little more. For some it’s easy to follow, for others not so easy. It is also the evolution of motocross; the bikes are getting easier to ride. So even a middle rider can be faster, because the bike lets you do that, with the suspension and the evolution of the bike itself. It is easier to go faster for many people.

MXlarge: At the start of the season many people were saying you and Jeffrey had a similar pace. Before his injury were you looking forward to battling with him?

Cairoli: I mean, before the season a lot of people are fast in the winter time. Everyone is giving 110%, and I looked at Jeffrey, but I looked at a lot of riders. You don’t win a championship because you are lucky, you win it because you are good. Romain was good and he got the championship, Tim was good and he got the championship, so I don’t just watch Jeffrey. Being consistent and not getting hurt is important and that is how you get a championship.

MXlarge: How was your weekend race wise?

Cairoli: We had a good weekend, first moto was good, second moto could have been better, but I pulled all my tear offs off and it was a rookie mistake, and I was cleaning my lens with my hands and it was all scratched and I couldn’t see. It was ok, the championship, winning here in Holland, with a big crowd, it was amazing. The track was very good, with all the rain, it still worked out technical and the organizer did a good job. I am really happy about this.

MXlarge: What is different about this championship than the others?

Cairoli: It’s the first championship with the 450 (KTM). So that is special, because with the injuries, we couldn’t’ test a lot and this year we could. Without injury, it’s always nice to work with the bike and be consistent.

MXlarge: You mentioned in America that you wanted to win the title so you could concentrate on getting your speed back up again. So, you could race for the win and not think about championship points. Will the public see a different rider in France and at the motocross of Nations?

Cairoli: They might see a drunken rider (laughing). No, for sure, when you ride with a free mind, you want to do something, you can go, even if you have a DNF, it isn’t a big problem. I wanted to have a good race and have all three KTM guys on the podium.

MXlarge: So, for you, it was a weekend a championship weekend. How did qualification go?

Cairoli: It’s a nice weekend for me for sure. With a big gap, and less points to gain. It was an easy championship, but I wanted to race for the win in Assen. I tried to stay in front and for sure a podium. We always race to be in front. It is a difficult race, because if you land in the wrong place, I rode carefully, started around 12th, came back to third, but then I made a small mistake and I crashed again and rode in 11th place. I skipped the first practice, and I needed more time.

MXlarge: You got 10th, what did you learn from Saturday?

Cairoli: I was feeling good, but it is easy to make a mistake and not be in the points. That is why this sport is nice, when it is difficult like on Saturday. We just wanted a good weekend, with the title.

MXLarge: How does it feel, because the championship was in the pocket. Is it fun knowing that?

Cairoli: It is always fun, when you only need to collect so few points. No pressure at all, it’s good. We made a good gap and it was time to enjoy it and close it as fast as possible, and then race for the fans.

MXlarge: What you did, nine world championships. It is amazing for somebody like myself, just a normal guy, for somebody like you, who has such expectations of yourself. How is that for you, those nine world championships?

Cairoli: I am also a pretty normal person. For me it’s just motocross, it’s just a sport like the others. I don’t feel anything better than anyone else. If you reach so many titles, it is something special, and when you reach that after so many years in the motocross. This is what I am proud of, because nobody has done it like this, and it’s nearly impossible to stay at the top for so long. So, this is nice.

MXlarge: Two years of big difficulties, two big injuries, and I think I even remember you mentioning you thought you might have to retire after one of them. Does that make this championship the best one you have won?

Cairoli: For sure it’s one of the best, the first one is always the nicest, because since you are world champion one time, then you usually have reached your goal, and it is always nice winning more, its extra, but for sure, after so many difficulties, the last two years, winning without being the favourite, that is special.

MXlarge: This year you had Herlings a three-time world champion, Gajser a two-time world champion and Febvre a world champion. Your biggest competition ever, you haven’t had that in your career, so many guys with world titles in the same class. Does that make it even nicer?

Cairoli: I don’t know, it’s difficult to win a world championship, winning one or two, that seems to be easier, but to win many championships, that is difficult to win so many, only a few people have been able to do that.

MXlarge: You won the first one in Holland in the deep sand in Lierop and you won your ninth in the sand in Assen, also in Holland. Obviously because of your girlfriend Jill, Holland is a special place for you. That must make it nice.

Cairoli: Sure, I was happy to clinch my first world title in Holland and it feels like a long time ago, and I am happy to win it in Holland.

MXlarge: Number 10 next year, is it a special target?

Cairoli: Nice question, but I just spoke with Stefan (Everts), and he said stop now (laughing). We always try and its always difficult to get a championship. The goal is a 10th next year and then maybe another the year after, but that is the goal from everyone.