Interview: Bailey Malkiewicz – the story behind his knee injury and return to the GP paddock

Last year, Bailey Malkiewicz was a new name in the GP paddock coming from Australia after being picked up by the 114 Motorsports Honda team. The young Aussie had some good rides and very good results despite it being his first year racing the World Championship but that shouldn’t be a surprise – he is a former Junior World Champion after all.

During the season, Malkiewicz was actually riding with a knee injury and after the season when he went back home to Australia it was revealed the injury was actually much worse than he first thought.

We caught up with him to discuss the injury last year and his opportunity with the Hutten Metaal Yamaha team which sees him back in the GP paddock.

GateDrop: Bailey, let’s start with the end of the 2020 season. Did you have options to stay in the GP scene and if so why did you make the decision to go back to Australia?

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Malkiewicz: I had a lot of influential people comment that I did really well in my rookie season. This was backed up with 7-8 solid options to stay in Europe and race the 2021 season. For various reasons and timing they weren’t right to show what I could do. However, what was not known to many outside my tight circle was that I had raced the entire season with a major injury. Fixing this with surgery was why I had to go back to Australia.

GateDrop: You were racing with a knee injury last year and as a rookie in MX2 you finished fourteenth in the series. I believe your knee injury was even worse than you thought? You must have been happy with your rookie season in MX2!

Malkiewicz: We kept my injury very quiet. At Ottobiano in a pre-season race, due to a rider crashing in front of me I fell off the side of the track about 6ft and tore my ACL and Meniscus. For a long time we didn’t know the extent of the injury and I did my best to push through doing a lot of physio and exercises to strengthen my knee as much as I could but it was just so unstable. I had a great physio Filipo from the HRC crew who taped my knee for the races and helped me put in the most effort I could with my injury.

It was a slow start to the season trying to get fit and deal with my injury. It wasn’t until I returned to Australia that the full extent of the injury was discovered, requiring me to have knee reconstruction surgery. So with this injury and finishing 14th overall with strong results race on race toward the backend of the season, I was pretty happy. Knowing the extent of the injury and what was needed, I knew I can be very competitive when fully fit and injury free.

GateDrop: What did you find the toughest things about racing the MX2 World Championship? In the past some Aussie’s struggle with the different cultures and being away from home…

Malkiewicz: My team and personal manager told me that there are a lot of things that I would need to get accustomed to very quickly that my European competitors grow up with. They were right as there is a lot but it can be done. On the track, my biggest struggle was learning all the tracks right away which others had been racing on for years and also trying to get the European race pace. Off the track there are so many, especially what it takes to be a professional. Thanks to everyone from Team 114 who worked with me. I learnt so much last year and during my recovery time I’ve been able to implement what I’ve learnt.

Pic: Niek Kamper

GateDrop: You signed a deal with Hutten Metaal Yamaha before Oss to race four rounds of the EMX250 series – just how did this deal all come around?

Malkiewicz: My manager Hinko had kept in regular contact with manufacturers updating them about my injury and my planned return to Europe sometime after the GP of Finland. Then unfortunately Jeremy got injured (wish him well for a strong recovery) and the Hutten team needed an injury replacement. I was still 4-5 weeks away from being fit but with this amazing opportunity and team, coming over a few months early and doing my training here was too good to turn down.

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Together with the team and owner of Hutten, Thorsten and Alexandre from Yamaha Europe, and my personal team, we were able to arrange a solution where the team understood what it would take over the coming months so that I could be very competitive.

GateDrop: You obviously haven’t done much riding with the knee recovery. I believe in an ideal world you’d have maybe stayed in Australia for another month to prepare- but these rides you can’t turn down?

Malkiewicz: Yes exactly right. That was the plan. However, the ride and Hutten team are too good to pass down and I was definitely a few weeks or so early to where I wanted to be before coming over but it was a deal that had to happen very quickly. I can say the team has been very understanding and supportive while I have been working really hard and improving a lot.

Pic: Niek Kamper

GateDrop: Before Oss I believe you only rode the bike one day. How did that go and how has everything been with the team so far?

Malkiewicz: I arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday 7a.m. from Australia after travelling over 24 hours. I went straight from the airport to a track to test the bike as there was only 3 days before the GP of Netherlands in Oss. I rode the bike two times and felt good on the bike right away and got along with the team really well. While we all knew that I wouldn’t be fit, I definitely was not fit enough but went to Oss to get race fitness and time on the bike, and tried our best to have the bike on the track for the team commercial partners.

GateDrop: How did you find Oss – it looked very rough but you had a good qualifying and finished both moto’s which I think was your aim?

Malkiewicz: It was my first time in Oss and I enjoyed the track a lot. It did get rough and was challenging especially with the rain. The goal was to finish both moto’s and demonstrate that I had speed and was putting in 100%. Which I did and was reflected with my qualifying time and speed.

Until the last lap of qualifying I think that I was 6th fastest. During the races I definitely got tired but we knew that would happen only being on the bike for 2 days and not prepared for GP level racing.

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GateDrop: Looking ahead to Lommel, Kegums and Iitti-KymiRing (this race has now been postponted until 2022) – what are your goals for these races?

Malkiewicz: My goals for the next rounds are to improve every time to get GP race fit as quick as possible, show my speed and talent. Following those races, I will be battling all the way through the moto’s as soon as possible and definitely be fighting for podiums.

GateDrop: Obviously, at the moment your deal is only to race four EMX250 rounds. I imagine you

Pic: Niek Kamper

won’t want to be going back home and will want to stay in the GP paddock? Is there a chance you could stay with Hutten Metaal longer – maybe we could even see you in MX2 after that if you impress in the next three EMX250 rounds?

Malkiewicz: My goal is to get GP race fit as quick as possible so that I can do my best and repay the opportunity given to me by Hutten. When I achieve this, hopefully something will present for me at Hutten as I really like the team and believe will be very competitive with them and I can stay and continue my racing here in Europe.

If not, hopefully another opportunity can happen. I would love to have another go in MX2 after having my leaning year in it last season as I know that I can be a real contender. I definitely don’t want to head home any time soon.

GateDrop: At the moment how far off are you off 100% and when do you think we will see the best Bailey Malkiewicz?

Malkiewicz: I think I’m roughly 60-70% maybe but I’ve been feeling better each time on the bike. With the great setup of the team, I trust the process and we are doing everything we can to get to 100% and podiums as quick as possible. Stay tuned!

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Niek Kamper