Catching up with Patrick Claessens (Carglass-Honda team manager)
It is always good to see new teams enter the GP paddock, it shows that the sport is growing and going in the right direction. Patrick Claessens will start his own team in the form of Carglass-Honda. The team has signed Jed Beaton and Stefan Ekerold to compete in the EMX250 championship.
Considering this will be the first year for him running his team that is an impressive rider line-up. The Aussie MX2 champ and the talented German should be at the front next year in the EMX250 championship.
We decided to catch up with Patrick to talk about his new team and plans that he has for the future.
Gatedrop: Patrick, it’s finally official, you will have your own team in the form of Carglass-Honda, how long have you been planning your own team?
Patrick Claessens: The complete project started after the GP of Lommel. We started the conversation with our sponsor Carglass Germany and made a plan if we could realize everything to be a professional team. I did it not all by myself because I have a great partner in Peter Stiphout from Fitness-Import. My good friend Pieter Does from Twinair brought us in contact with Honda. We are very thankful for that! Then everything went very quick and we were talking with Honda about the possibilities and we proposed them our plan to be a Team for the European Championship. During the GP of Assen we decided to go on and the contract was signed at the SMX at the Veltins Arena. During this process we also needed to be in contact with riders because without riders we don’t have a team. We are very pleased that we have signed two riders who can be on top in the EMX250 class.
Gatedrop: It takes a lot to run a team at a high level, is it something you’re nervous about?
Patrick Claessens: I am not nervous but it will be a challenge for all of us to make everything work well. We have great people around us and we know what it is to be in the professional sports environment. I was a professional cyclist and know how it has to be in a team to perform well. Peter Stiphout was World Champion BMX and runs for many years his own company Fitness-Import. Both of us are grown up with motocross from when we were kids and my uncle was Dutch Champion 125cc in 1981 on a Honda. He is not with us anymore, but I am sure he will look over our shoulder!
Gatedrop: The team will be running Honda’s, was it a tough decision on choosing what manufacturer to go with?
Patrick Claessens: No, we only contacted Honda and we all had a very good feeling after the meetings we had. We showed them our future plan and that we can work on a long term relationship. Honda really helped us with starting up and gave us a great support. We got a huge welcome in the Honda family and we are proud to be part of it!
Gatedrop: Stefan Ekerold and Jed Beaton will take part in the EMX250 championship for the team, a lot of good riders were available, was it difficult in selecting the riders?
Patrick Claessens: For me it was not very difficult. Because we had to arrange a lot of things to get the team setup, we had to talk with riders at the same time. With Stefan Ekerold I already had contact last year and for me it was a rider to go for. I really believe in his possibilities to be one of the title contenders in EMX250. If he believes in himself, for sure he will do good in the 2017 season. With Jed Beaton the conversation started during his time at the MXoN. He should race for Australia at the Nations but because of his broken collarbone it was not possible. I knew he was the Australian Champion MX2, just 18 years old and that he is very talented. Also with Jed I think we have a title contender and he can be on top in the Championship. For me it was important that we should have real motivated riders and with Stefan and Jed we really have. At this moment I can tell you that we maybe will have a third rider for MXGP. I cannot tell you much more at the moment, but we are close to an arrangement.
Gatedrop: Both riders will also contest some MX2 World Championship rounds, do you know which rounds yet?
Patrick Claessens: For us the European Championship rounds are the most important races because that’s where we want to win. There are possibilities to race the MX2 World Championship rounds of Teutschental, Lommel and Assen.
Gatedrop: I believe the team initially wanted to compete in the MX2 World Championship but you are going to focus on the EMX250 class instead, what’s the reason for that?
Patrick Claessens: The project started to only race in the EMX250 Championship. Because of our sponsor Carglass Germany it’s important to race in Germany also, so that’s why we will try to do the GP of Germany. Lommel and Assen are home GP’s for us because it is very close to our workshop. That’s why we will try to do those races also. But we will decide during the season how it is going and where we will be in the Championship at that point. The European Championship will be our goal.
Gatedrop: Is the long-term goal for the team to be a World Championship team?
Patrick Claessens: Of course we dream to be a World Championship team, but it is important to do everything step-by-step. We want everything to be 100% and we need to find our way. We have a lot of partners who have many years of experience in this world. They really believe in our project and we got a lot of help from them. Otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to start that quick.
Gatedrop: Honda hasn’t had a brilliant MX2 bike in GP’s for a while now, is that something you’re worried about or are you confident the bikes will be good?
Patrick Claessens: I know the MX2 bike of Honda needs help to be competitive, but we will work with John Volleberg and we already tested the bike with Stefan Ekerold. He was really happy with the power and was very confident with the feeling of the bike. During the off-season we will start testing and prepare the bikes for them personally.
Gatedrop: What are your goals for the team next year?
Patrick Claessens: As a new team in the paddock it’s always hard to say where we will be at the end of the season. It depends on a lot of things. But as I told before I really believe in our two riders that they can be challenging for the Championship. We will start in Italy and we will take it race by race. I asked Jed and Stefan what their goals were and they told me that they both go for the Championship. The team will give them the best facilities to perform well. This all starts with a good bike but also they need to be physically fit. We made a partnership with Medifit Oss and they will do the physical training schemes and they both will have a personal trainer to help them. There will be no pressure but I know for sure when they will get the best out of themselves, they will be the riders to keep an eye on.
Gatedrop: What sort of results are you expecting from Stefan and Jed in the EMX250 series?
Patrick Claessens: If your goal is to win the Championship you need to be on the podium or definitely close to the podium every race. It would be a dream if we could win a race in the first year of our Carglass-Honda Racing team.
Gatedrop: Apart from the EMX series will Stefan/Jed compete in any other championships?
Patrick Claessens: The plan is to do the Dutch Masters of Motocross and the ADAC races. But these calendars are not ready yet so we will decide later which races we do or maybe not do. The European Championship is leading.
Interview: Andy McKinstry
Pic: Honda PR