Interview: Antti Pyrhönen on the KRT switch, working with Watson and Räikkönen’s involvement

Coming into the 2022 season, it’s all change for Antti Pyrhönen and the IceOne racing team as after running the Factory Husqvarna effort in MXGP for a number of years they’ve now switched to run the Factory Kawasaki team.

Heading into the season, Watson looks to have adjusted to the bike well already and has had a solid off-season. With Romain Febvre currently injured, it means Watson will be the sole KRT rider at the first couple of MXGP rounds but after picking up the factory ride he’ll be looking to repay the team with some good results.

We caught up with Pyrhönen to discuss a busy off-season and more.

GateDrop: Antti, I feel like it was a solid solid day for Watson here at Hawkstone International and it’s been a positive pre-season for him?

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Pyrhönen: Absolutely, you know we haven’t been riding so much in muddy conditions, so it took a while for him to get the touch with the deep ruts and stuff. Absolutely great, Ben was progressing during the day and like you saw, the last moto was super good. What makes me very happy is that we took two holeshots so we are on the correct road.

GateDrop: I’d like to rewind to last year, you ran the Factory Husqvarna for a number of years and already after round one last year the Austrian’s knew there were going to be cuts made. How did that feel and in the end getting the deal Factory Kawasaki must feel great?

Pyrhönen: We are super happy with Kawasaki and working together with this new opportunity. Everything is really positive and the mindset is full on racing, we are really trying to do the maximum on every level. We are really trying to improve with the bike and it’s already really competitive so we will keep working on that. Generally, we have a very positive co-operation and we look forward to a great season.

GateDrop: The IceOne team actually started out as a Kawasaki team ten years ago, does having that experience help in anyway?

Pyrhönen: Not really. You know it was slightly different people and also years have passed – so many years! But our current technicians and the team have lots of experience technically and we are really hard workers. We can manage it really well and like I said it’s a really really good bike. We look forward to getting great results with it.

GateDrop: Coming into the season, I think Kawasaki was the last MXGP factory ride available and there were a few riders linked. In the end you went with Watson – what did you see in him that made you decision he was the right rider for KRT?

Pyrhönen: First of all, Ben is a really technical and talented rider as well as a super hard worker. Generally he’s got such a professional approach to racing and also the whole Watson family, they have racing in the blood so it definitely matches with our team and team values. I believe in Ben, he is really a great rider and in my opinion he has a great future in front of him.

Pic: Nigel McKinstry

GateDrop: On Romain Febvre, he is obviously missing the first two rounds but hopes to be back in Argentina but he has started physical training with Kevin Strijbos the new team coach. What’s it been like working with him so far?

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Pyrhönen: Very, very good. Romain like everybody knows already has so much experience and is such a top professional. He is really great to work with and also with Kevin (Strijbos), he has over twenty years of Grand Prix experience riding at the highest level. I think we are getting a dream team together.

GateDrop: Going into the season, you will only have one MXGP rider at Matterley Basin and Ben was used to having two teammates at Yamaha. Do you think he’s under extra pressure to perform because of that? Is there a chance there could be a fill in rider for the start of the season?

Pyrhönen: No, so basically Romain is not racing in England so it’s going to be only Ben. For sure there is always pressure in Grand Prix Motocross and that’s the reality but I think he can handle it and we try to help him as much as we can. We don’t want to build up to much pressure and just want him to focus on his job.

GateDrop: Just on team owner, Kimi Räikkönen who obviously won’t race F1 anymore… can we expect to see him at many MXGP races this year? I think it could help the sport grow…

Pyrhönen: I think he is going to be at a few of them for sure. Kimi has always been involved with the team intensely and has always been working together with us. We always keep in contact, and he knows what is going on and he’d always give us advice. This will continue for sure and the co-operation with Factory Kawasaki he is very excited and positive for the future as well.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nigel McKinstry