Joel Rizzi got his season underway to a good start at Hawkstone International and it’s clearly give him confidence heading into the first round of the EMX125 series.

Rizzi showed great speed all weekend long, finishing third in the first moto. In the second moto he took another good start and was on for the overall win before a bike problem meant he had to DNF. The Brit was almost certainly on for a podium so it’s a big shame but he knows he has the speed now which is the main thing.

We caught up with Rizzi to discuss his weekend and much more.

Gatedrop: Joel, you really impressed me at the first round of the EMX125 series, you maybe even surprised yourself a little. Are you happy with the weekend went despite the issue in the second moto?

Joel Rizzi: Yeah, I definitely surprised myself. We came in here and in the back of my mind I was still thinking about qualifying. I went out for free practice and when I pulled into the pits, my mechanic Neil (Prince) said, “dude, I need you to go loads faster you’re in second”. I was like “what?! second?”. When he said that I thought I was twenty-second or something like that. It was just really good, I loved it. I poled free practice which isn’t massive but it’s good to see were you are. Third in qualifying and the first race was really good in second the whole race. Unfortunately on the last lap I got passed but it happens.

In the second race I had another amazing start running in second, a position for the overall then three laps in the bike started losing it’s power. It was spluttering and five laps in it started smoking, I was dropping back and unable to do the jumps. In around seven laps in it completely stopped which was really annoying.  I’m looking forward to Italy now we know what we can do. Hopefully we can get on the podium in Italy, that would be good. I can’t wait for it.

Gatedrop: Just when did the bike start giving you bother in the second moto and I guess that’s why you started dropping back so early in the race?

Joel Rizzi: Yeah, well the first three laps, myself and Kay (de wolf) were putting in good laps. It felt like Hawkstone again which was really cool. I then had a battle with Guyon, he passed me then I got him back, I think it happened twice. It started when I came over the step down once, the same speed as usual and I just cased it. I knew something was up cause then I went down pit lane and it started spluttering a bit. Guyon and Talviku then went by, then the smoke started and then it went.

Gatedrop: I mean for you it’s one thing to go fast at Hawkstone a track you know but to show the same speed here which is kind of an unknown for you is pretty impressive. It shows Hawkstone wasn’t a fluke!

Joel Rizzi: Yeah, 100%. I felt that at Hawkstone that I had more to give. I really liked the track here and like you said, I’ve only rode it once before and that was like riding a snow track. I’m super happy, my speed was really good.

Gatedrop: What was it like battling at the front with those guys? They’ve lots of experience and you’re still relatively inexperienced at this level compared to them..

Joel Rizzi:  Yeah, I was speaking to my dad about this. Doing it last year even though we didn’t do it properly, it still give me loads of experience for this year.  Those boys that have been doing it for 2 or 3 years, they’re proper used to it. After this weekend, I feel like I’m now one of the top boys that can have a go at winning the championship. I feel like I can race and beat them now.

Gatedrop: You’re working with Neil Prince now who’s got lots of experience and even worked with Bobryshev last year. What’s it like having him in your corner?

Joel Rizzi: Yeah, he knows everything really, he knows lots of people. He’s really good and chilled out too which is what I like. He was super gutted, probably more gutted than I was when the bike went because he wanted to see me on the podium as much as I wanted to be on it.  He’s really good and hopefully he’ll be there in the future years.

Gatedrop: You were fast at Hawkstone and now here at Valkenswaard. Have you done much hard pack riding and if so how do you feel on it?

Joel Rizzi: We haven’t done much. Obviously we went to Spain and at the end of the trip we did more hard pack than sand. With this weather in Britain we’ve been going to bogging sand tracks and stuff like that. We will get out twice this week on some hard pack in Germany with Shaun (Simpson). We will stop on the way down to Italy and hopefully we will be good. I’ve looked at the track and it looks really good . A bit stoney and stuff like that but if I keep my starts like this weekend we’ll be good.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pic: Niek Kamper

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