Interview: Antonio Cairoli talks transitioning to a team manager role and helping develop young talents

A Motocross legend and a nine times World Champion, but 2023 things are different for Antonio Cairoli as he’s now the Factory KTM team manager. It is the first year for Cairoli in his new role so he is currently transitioning to his new role but he’ll be very happy with how things have gone so far with Andrea Adamo currently holding the MX2 World Championship lead.

We caught up with Cairoli after Lommel to discuss his role and if he was dying to get out on the track which he’d have loved.

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GateDrop: This is your first year as factory KTM team manager, how have you found it and making the transition from being a rider to a team manager?

Cairoli: Yeah, it is not an easy transition, of course. When you are a rider, you think only about yourself and what is best for you. Now I have to think about a lot of people in the team, we have a lot of new mechanics and a lot of new technicians as well as new riders and young ones as well as Jeffrey. It requires a lot of effort because everyone is riding on their own but there’s so many people around. It is tough and not easy but it is interesting.

GateDrop: With Jeffrey, he is experienced and you probably don’t have to tell him what to do but with the young guys, they still have a lot to learn. Do you feel you are able to help them with your guidance so they can improve?

Cairoli: Yeah, of course, I mean Jeffrey we don’t have to tell him something to learn. Of course we try to help him if he needs something but most of the time he knows what to do. Unfortunately he picked up an injury but this is part of racing. With the young guys, of course my experience is there to help with whatever they need. I have to say they are young but they’re already quite professional and they really know what to do as well as how to act. It is nice to see that this generation is already really professional on this way.

GateDrop: And what is it like for you to be here at Lommel watching? I would say this is a dream track for Antonio Cairoli so you were probably dying to get out there today!

Cairoli: Yeah, it was a tough one for me to miss I think. Actually this year the track developed a lot different and not like the last three or four times I ride here. It was really looking like ten or twelve years ago when the track gets really really bumpy, rough and technical. Normally it usually gets some small kickers and sketchy bumps but now with the new sand, it was really really nice. I miss a lot but it was a good racing anyway.

GateDrop: Just on the KTM line up this year, when the riders were signed I don’t think too many people expected to be in this championship chase this year so firstly are you surprised by Adamo being in this championship hunt? Also what is he like to work with? I like his mentality and seems to be very mature for his age…

Cairoli: I mean I don’t think anyone expected that Andrea at this point in the season would be leading the championship. Of course today I wouldn’t be surprised if he made any bad moto’s yet because otherwise maybe he is from another planet. When you are so young, you have the red plate and leading the championship and last year he wasn’t even close to the top five. It is difficult and I know what he is feeling, when you have the red plate. Today, okay he messed up a bit in the second moto but overall I think he is doing super. Everybody was not expecting him to do what he is doing already and for us it was important he could do top five this year. He is already one step in front.

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GateDrop: Sacha Coenen he is so small but so fast although always on the gas out there. Maybe he just needs to calm down a little bit but at the same time everyone is pushing hard out there…

Cairoli: Sacha is a big talent, of course but he does need to grow to have a little bit more power for these bikes. They’re so powerful and so difficult to ride and he is still so young. He just needs to develop his muscles and when he gets a little bit the step I think he will be easily out in the front.

GateDrop: I’m not sure how closely you work with Liam because he also has Stefan but last year was his rookie year in MX2 but he got an injury which people forget so this is his first full year really so he is making good progress as well…

Cairoli: I mean for Liam it is very difficult because he has a lot of pressure from everybody of course with his name. I can understand and also the family, they are behind him for sure and want to help him 110% but he is a guy that likes to stay a lot on his own. He knows really what he wants, how to train and how to prepare himself. He is really professional on this way and I try to help him when he needs it. Overall we are happy with him, his starts are a little bit not his best this season but after he shows some good speed.

GateDrop: Looking at young Italian’s, the EMX85 and EMX65 classes at Loket last week, they were fantastic – you must have been a proud Italian, the future looks bright!

Cairoli: I don’t think anyone expected it even in Italy. They ride well but not that well that we expect them to win. The Italian federation is following them and they were surprised. They ride amazing and they won. It looks good at the moment and the Italian federation is doing a good job. The young Italians are riding well and they are coming strong.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Image: Nigel McKinstry

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