Interview: Antti Pyrhönen on IceOne Rockstar Husqvarna

The 2019 MXGP World Championship season gets underway at Argentina this weekend and IceOne Rockstar Husqvarna head into the season with a new rider line up.

Gautier Paulin and Max Anstie have left the team with Pauls Jonass and Arminas Jasikonis joining the team.

The team have decided to go with a young and riders with a lot of potienital for the future in 2019 and it’ll be interesting to see what they can produce.

We caught up with team manager, Antti Pyrhönen on the new rider line up and thoughts on their pre-season.

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Gatedrop: Antti, we’re here at Hawkstone International and you had both Arminas Jasikonis and Mikkel Haarup riding today. As a team manager are you happy with how they both performed today?

Antti Pyrhönen: Yeah, it was quite an intense day like these races always are. Basically AJ rode really well, had a good pace during timed training and looked really good. He also started the first moto quite well but he just had an unfortunate crash with Tommy (Searle), I didn’t see it but it shook him up a bit to be honest. I could see in the second moto that he was riding more tight and that was probably because of the crash in the first moto. Also, in the last race he was able to finish third but the riding was maybe not exactly like he can do but all in all, it was good for training. We had three starts and that’s the main thing.

Mikkel Haarup rode quite well in MX2, he had good timed training, good starts and everything. It was just a bummer that the first moto was re-ran, he had a crash in that one but overall he is improving a lot and working hard. It’s nice to see that he’s making the steps.

Gatedrop: Just on AJ, I feel like today was pretty positive for him as the Italian races didn’t really go to plan, he crashed the first round which meant he missed the second round. Today should surely help his confidence as he had the speed to run at the front?

Antti Pyrhönen: Yeah, exactly. You know, it was good to finish the moto’s as by doing that you get the maximum training. That’s the reason we are doing this, it’s to prepare for the long world championship season ahead of us. Like I said, he’s been improving a lot but there’s still some road to grow.

Gatedrop: As for Haarup, has he been a nice surprise for you? I mean in the Italian races he was probably the next best guy after Prado, that’s pretty impressive.

Antti Pyrhönen: Yeah, he’s been doing really good. Like I said, all the guys are working really good and also the team is working well. The guys are improving for sure, all of them are. Mikkel, last year he was already really good to be honest but he made some rookie mistakes which is normal at that stage.  It’s normal when you are developing as a rider but now he’s more mature in his racing and that’s also bringing the results.

Antti in action at the Ken Hall International back in 2005. Pic: Martyn Petts

Gatedrop: I believe the initial plan for Mikkel this year was to race the EMX250 series again but he’s been so good this pre-season have you considered letting him race the MX2 World Championship instead?

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Antti Pyrhönen: Actually we weren’t sure whether we would race with him in the EMX or MX2 rounds in Europe. But we have decided to let him race MX2 (European rounds only as well as Argentina). I think it will be good for him, he likes a challenge and he can try to keep up with the fast guys and learn from them.

Gatedrop:  Just on Pauls Jonass who isn’t racing in Hawkstone, I believe he’s been back on the bike a few weeks now. How’s his speed looking compared to AJ and will he be ready in time for Argentina?

Antti Pyrhönen: Yeah, Pauls is looking really good. First of all he’s been doing good work and he is riding really well. I need to say that he’s riding the 450cc really nicely and it’s going to be nice to get him into the races. He will start in Argentina but of course he’s coming back from a long injury so with him we will do the best I can. On Monday straight away after Argentina we will continue with the training and like I said the season is long but he’ll start in Argentina. He will do his best there and then the work continues straight after.

Gatedrop: When Romain Febvre and Tim Gajser both moved up to MXGP from MX2 they both won the title in their rookie years. I feel like Pauls Jonass is quite under-rated as he doesn’t get their hype even though he’s probably just as good! Do you think he’ll surprise some people next year and what do you expect from him when he’s 100%, do you think he can get podiums?

Antti Pyrhönen: Let’s say we are just focusing on doing the work now. We think he can challenge though, I think he can surprise many people but it suits us being the underdogs this year.

Gatedrop: You say you don’t mind being underdogs. Last year when everything was announced I noticed a lot of talk on the internet with people saying “ah you shouldn’t have let go of Paulin or Anstie to sign these two young riders”.  Personally I quite like the new rider line up and see a lot of potential for the future. What would you say to those people who don’t agree with the changes?

Antti Pyrhönen: You know, I respect everybody’s opinion, that’s for sure, it’s a free world. To be honest we had a great two years with Max Anstie and Gautier Paulin. They were great guys to work with and they had good results too to be honest.  Gautier finished third in the world championship with us and was fifth last year. Max also had quite a good season with us as an MXGP rookie. I look back to those years really positively but at the same time I am really excited about our new guys. They’re all really young and it’s our job to work together and to help turn them into front runners.

Gatedrop: Just on AJ, it mentioned in the press release that he’s a rider with good potential but he’s only signed a one year deal with the team. Is there an option to keep him for another season and how do you think he’ll cope with the pressure of just a one year deal with the team?

Antti Pyrhönen: No, the pressure for these guys, everyone has some pressure and he has a one deal with an option. For sure, if he’s working hard it’s our target that he can stay many years with our team. It’s also necessary to delivery some results too, that’s a fact.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pic: Martyn Petts