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Paul Malin interview - Indonesia

Paul Malin interview - Indonesia

Jul 3

  • Interview

Paul Malin might be known to the younger audience as the guy who does the live coverage of the MXGP championship, but for all the old folk, like me, he is also a former World number two, multiple GP winner, and MXoN winner. A career that might not have reached the hights it could have, but a career of note and with some very impressive performances along the way.

He is the voice of MXGP and for me, the best commentator in the sport and by a long way and the reasons he is good at his job, is because of his experience in the sport. His knowledge of the tracks, how to ride them, the way to prepare for a Grand Prix mentally and also physically, and he was as a racer, somebody with a load of talent. Probably one of the most beautiful riders to watch in an era where the euros often looked like second-rate citizens to those supercross skilled Americans.

While we are in Indonesia, I wanted to talk to Malin about his Indonesian experiences and how the sport has changes, since his trips in the 1990s to now, in 2024. As always, he is full of information and is an insider who really knows his stuff.

MXLarge: Paul, tell me, we are in Indonesia, we all love coming here, but you were coming here long before many of us, with your racing career spanning the 1990s. How was it coming here back then, and how did that compare to how it is now?

Malin: The 90s was a different time as we know. Back then, the way the riders got here from Europe was similar. It seemed like we had more riding coming from Europe, but we also had a lot of the top Australian riders coming, the likes of Lee Hogan and those type of guys, so that made sure we had a full gate of riders in a 125cc GP. That was cool and the vibe was good. Mostly we would come here for the one round, so arrive Wednesday and leave Monday, not like this year, or the last few years were we have time in between.

MXlarge: I guess you also had the same elements of transitioning from Europe to Asia, with the time zones and flights and everything?

Malin: I understand how they need to acclimatize, get their sleep or whatever. It doesn’t matter for me now, or for you as a journalist, because we are not the ones going out and needing that sleep, needing to recover and rehydrate. None of that has changes since the 1990s. The fundamentals of the 1990s are still there.

MXLarge: Coming back here, 30 years later and as an older guy. You are not coming here to race, so that makes it easy, but you are older and older is always a bit more difficult with travel and stuff.

Malin: From the age side it isn’t a problem, and 30 years is a long time from being a racer to what we are doing now in the media and your outlook on life 30 years ago has changed. Coming here now, I have a lot more life experience and you know what to expect. Back then, I guess we didn’t really spent time seeing places and now, we have the perfect opportunity to see places. Some people will head over to the Gili Islands, some will go to Kuta beach in the south of the Island, some will stay in Senggigi, some might go trecking. Back when I raced, we arrived either Wednesday night, or Thursday morning, track on Friday, doing your sessions, which was back then, one hour free-practice session, then another hour free practice session, then a one hour timed practice session all on Saturday. You didn’t need to do one hour straight, and you did what pleased you. You would then have your warm-up, which was for your gate pick on Sunday, which was a 45-minute session, all in, then two 45-minute motos. The time on the bike was potentially longer and for sure on Sunday, the time on the bike was longer. So, in that respect, you needed to lay low, rehydrate as much as possible, make sure to do your exercise to loosen up and warm up, just like now, maybe go for a run, or something like that, probably at the hottest point of the day, when you arrived on Thursday or Friday. You just wanted to get acclimatised as quickly as possible.

MXLarge: How was that track you raced back then?

Malin: Back then, they didn’t do anything with the tracks, while now, there is a lot of track work after the first MXGP race, in that one-hour break, fill up some of the corners, fix the jumps. We didn’t have that and from first lap of practice on Saturday until the final race on Sunday, nothing was done to the track. It was a lot more physically demanding in that respect, because you had to ride the track differently. Don’t forget, suspension has also come a long way since back then. Suspension has improved massively compared to the 1990s.

MXLarge: Did you only race at that one track at Yogyakarta, the three years you came to Indonesia?

Malin: The track we had in Yogyakarta was generally flat, but it was a long track, also, it was very dry and powdery and I remember in 1995 I had a good first race, second or third and a DNF in the second one, because way to much powder go into the filter and just killed the engine. I got on the podium in 1996, I think with Vialle and Tortelli, so must have been consistent that day.

MXLarge: Tell me about 1997, because that was a pivotal part of the end of your career, wasn’t it?

Malin: In 1997, we came here after I had finished second in the 125cc championship in 1996 (behind Tortelli) and had my best winter training and prep and everything and I was way ahead of where I was in 1996. We came to the same track as the previous two years and we had a message from Yamaha in Indonesia that the track was open and we could ride the track before the GP, so if we wanted to come out and ride the track and also do some training schools. Steve Dixon being Steve Dixon was like, “Awe, we can ride a little before the race, you know”. Turns out it wasn’t such a good idea, although it did give me a marker for where I was, because the track, had in the first section like a rhythm section, which was six point to point, double, double, double jumps, but they took those out on the Saturday, because on the track walk with the FIM, they said it was too close to the start. So, it was that straight, which was like six huge whoops if you like, but as I said, they took those out and that part of the track was a lot quicker. On the other side of the track, there were six more and we worked on those and managed to go three, three. The number of crashes we had just trying to get them right. Dixon was like, you can go three, three and everyone else will be doing, two, two, two. Once we got that and put it into lap times and sessions, overall, the lap times I was doing, just in training, before everyone arrived for the GP, we were like two seconds a lap quicker than everyone else. The bike, the preparation and everything was good. We had another opportunity to ride again on the Tuesday. They had watered the track and there was like 12 inches either side of the track that was dry. As soon as I got on the track, I was like, okay, the track looks really wet, so I would do one lap to see where they had watered, then go in for an hour and let it dry and try again. There was a little single going into the turn and as you see riders play riding, just blip, blip over the jumps, playing around and I did that, and my back just completely collapsed. Long story short, I couldn’t ride the GP. I was back in England on the Sunday already getting treatment and I was off for five weeks. It turned out to be a prolapsed disc, which stemmed from a leg injury I had picked up when riding in America, when I was 15. At 15 years of age, when you break your leg, it was shorter than the other leg when I was in the cask. As I got older and grew, that discrepancy became more. I ride with an insole in my boot and in my walking shoes. You don’t see it. That was the start of the end, because I was always in physio after the races, then I had a big crash in 2000, which was the end more or less.

MXLarge: We had Thailand in 2015, the year Ryan Villopoto won the GP and with Tim Gajser passing out, I think Jeremy Seewer also passed out and a bunch of riders really struggled with the heat. We haven’t seen that type of thing happen in a long time now. Is that because riders have a better knowledge now of how to prepare for these conditions, are bikes better, or was that day just a really warm day?

Malin: That Thai Grand Prix was very hot and I remember in the whoops section Seewer was struggling, passed out and was trying to pick himself up, Tim had to have IV after the first race and because he had that, he wasn’t allowed to race the second moto. They were kids in MX2 at the time, 16 or 17 years old, so they were young, finding their way. Probably hadn’t experienced heat like that, maybe spent all day in the pool, not hydrating. Everyone says to you, hydrate, do this, do that, but you know everything as a kid of course. Whilst it is hot this year and it feels hot, the more we come to these places, the more they get used to it. They know how to adjust. There are guys here this year, Cornelious Toendel, Oriol Oliver, Quintin Prugnieres, they have never experienced heat like this. They will already be thinking about how to prepare for next year. I used to run in a hoodie, heavy tracksuit in the hottest point of the day and the people at the gym used to look at me like I am about to pass out, and I would be thinking, you guys have no idea where I am going and what I have to deal with, in hotter conditions than this. Even riding in my motos, I would wear a race shirt and a rain jacket underneath. Everyone is on the right foods and supplements now and that is why they go the distance.

MXlarge: We always get negative people on social media, not sure why people want to concentrate on the negatives, but many people do. We have great racing in Asia, not always, but often and people want to tell us how bad it is here. I see a lot of happy riders enjoying the experience. What is your opinion?

Malin: They are enjoyable to come to. I was talking with Quintin Prugnieres, and he has just arrived at the track, and I asked how the media event was on the Friday, and he said it was so cool and he had never experienced anything like that. He said this trip for him, is probably the best trip of his life. With everyone on the scooters and having a good time. I am sure he is in a nice hotel, close to the beach or something. Seeing the scooters, the family of four on a scooter and the man in a van, without the van, but all his belongings on the back of his scooter. It reminds us, seeing these people, then going back home and it puts things into perspective and sometimes we need a life lesson like that. Are they poor, maybe they are in belongings, but they are rich in life and rich in other area’s we can only imagine. You can have the crappiest day ever, but its nothing on what they deal with here. Then you look at the motorcycle market, and motorcycle sales here. MotoGP sells road bikes and scooters, and they might sell like five million scooters sold a year, across the brands and the majority of those are Japanese machines. The whole thing of being here and we come here year on year, and it never gets old and the simplicity of life here, no complications and it is a nice break from our everyday life back at home.

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