Antti Pyrhonen interview - Progress
Posted on May 26, 2023
Antti Pyrhonen the team managers of the Kawasaki factory effort has been around the sport for a long time and despite his youthful looks, there is more than enough experience to make sure he has his team under complete control.
Somebody we have known for maybe 30 years, first as a racer, now as a team manager, we always enjoy catching up and talking shop, or doing interviews. The always friendly and happy Scandinavian sat down with us recently and this is what he told us.
MXLarge: Antti, firstly, how does everything feel for you so far this year, because obviously last year with Romain being injured and Mitch coming back from an injury, then the DNS from Romain in Spain. Can you tell me how it’s all going now?
Pyrhonen: Last year was a tough season. You know changing a manufacturer and starting with Kawasaki. On that side, everything was going well, we did a lot of work, and everything clicked, but rider wise, it was a challenging season, because Romain got this terrible injury from the Paris supercross, and he missed half of the season. On the other hand, when he returned, it was a pleasure to work with him and see his professional approach to racing. We ended the season, and he did great results and was happy with the bike and got a podium and then a win. So, after a tough start, it turned out well. Building up for this season and we continue where we left in Turkey last year. Romain has been super good with three podiums, and we are feeling very happy at the moment.
MXLarge: Jorge has improved and riding really well, and Jeffrey is Jeffrey, coming back from injury, but looking better and better and then you have Romain who is just off those guys, but very close. There seems to be just a small thing to change to get to those guys. How do you look at that, do you guys talk about that, or just heads down and work hard to get to those two?
Pyrhonen: To be honest, the approach we want is to work hard. He is doing consistent things and working hard and weekend after weekend we are building. Considering how long the season is, this is how we want it to keep building and be there for the long run.
MXLarge: About the bike, I know nothing about bikes, but people have told me the changes and I remember in Argentina when you guys were testing your starts how all the mechanics from KTM, Honda and Yamaha were standing around taking photos and looking very interested. What can you tell me about the bike?
Pyhonen: The bike is really good, and we are happy with it, as are the riders happy with it. We did some great testing with Kawasaki Japan in the winter, and we have a very competitive factory bike at the moment. Each weekend we are still trying to fine tune it and get everything out of it.
MXlarge: Can you mention what has improved?
Pyrhonen: We are getting much better starts, so that has improved, and the riders are really happy with the handling of the bike. I feel we have the best bike out there.
MXLarge: Unfortunately for Mitch, he has had an unfortunate beginning to his relationship with Kawasaki and in general had some injuries to deal with. I am a big fan of Mitch and really think with a fit body he can be a regular top five guy. How has it been working with Mitch?
Pyrhonen: Yes, it is very good working with Mitch, and I have a lot of experience with Aussies, having worked with Todd Waters for two years and Dean Ferris for a while as well. I like the mentality of the Australians; they are very confident, and it is a pleasure. The have the common thing as they have racer characters, but when the move from Australia to race here, you know they are serious to go the extra mile. Mitch is very talented, but he is also ready to put in the effort and give his best. He had a bad injury on his wrist some years ago, but then on the same wrist he had a thumb injury in February, which was a blow as we had a really good off-season until the injury. We need to regroup, and it was great to have him back in Portugal and it was for him like a pre-season race, and we keep that same approach and I believe once he has two or three more races, he can perform on his high level.
MXLarge: Obviously we have a lot of privateer riders and not enough factory rides for these guys. Whether it is Vlaanderen or somebody else, they want a factory rider, but how does it work for 2024, do you have guys come to you, or do you pick guys out and speak to them?
Pyrhonen: Of course, we have a good program, a good bike and riders want to race for us. We as well monitor all the guys who race and how they are doing, what are their strengths and weakness, and we look at all of them to decide who to talk to for the future. At the moment, we are very happy with Romain of course, such a great guy and so professional and you know Romain will always give 100% and I like a racer like he is. With Mitch, we have a big faith in him, he just had an unfortunate luck with the injury, but we think he will get back to his level and we will have a great end of season, so at the moment, we don’t need to look at other riders.