Interview: Calvin Vlaanderen on becoming an MXGP full factory rider and back running at the front

Factory Yamaha have not had an ideal start to the MXGP World Championship with both Jago Geerts and Maxime Renaux already out injured leaving Calvin Vlaanderen as the sole rider under the awning. After being with the Gebben van Venrooy Yamaha team for three years, Vlaanderen finally secured a factory ride in MXGP this year.

Coming into Argentina wasn’t ideal as Vlaanderen has revealed to us that he broke his collarbone but he is already improving and getting closer to the front of the pack with a fourth overall at Arco di Trento finishing second in moto two.

We caught up Vlaanderen after the GP which you can listen/watch/read:

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GateDrop: A really really good weekend for you here in Arco, especially in that second moto following Prado, you had the best seat in the house, that must have felt pretty amazing…

Vlaanderen: Yeah, I mean the whole weekend was pretty good speed wise. I was always around the top guys in around the top three. It was nice to just get a good start in the second moto and show what I can do.  In the qualifying race yesterday, I crashed on the first lap and then in the first race I didn’t get the best starts, I couldn’t really show what I could do but the second moto was nice. I had a had a good flow and it was nice to run up front. 

GateDrop: Just on the winter, can you remind us and fill us in on what happened during your winter, obviously you had no pre-season races and I don’t think it went the plan really?

Vlaanderen: I had a really good winter, I was training together with Maxime Renaux and the week before Riola the Italian preseason race, I had a crash. I broke my collarbone, so I had to take a couple weeks off. It wasn’t the best time, but it was good that I still had my preseason work done. Physically I was strong, and I just missed a couple weeks off the bike, so Argentina was tough and I knew that I was a little bit behind. It’s showing now that it’s getting better every week.

GateDrop:  I think you were with the Gebben van Venrooy Yamaha team for 3 years, finally you’ve got a full Factory team. How does it feel as this is what you’ve been chasing… 

Vlaanderen: Yeah, for sure. This is what I’ve been working for the last years so it’s definitely nice to be here and obviously it’s new when you get to a new team. You are learning everyone and start to trust everyone in the team, so this is something that was tough for me at the beginning. There’s a lot more people than what I’m used to but it’s going well. I’m finding my feet now and I’m getting along well with everyone in the team. It’s more of a home feeling and family feeling than what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be more of a business like, but everyone has so much passion for the sport. They really just want the best for me and it’s really nice to feel that and to start to earn the trust of them. That’s a nice feeling. 

GateDrop: You are under quite a lot of pressure because obviously Yamaha came in with three riders but you’re the last man standing already and we’re only at round four…  does it feel like you are under pressure to perform out there?

Vlaanderen: Hmm, not really to be honest. I’ve been on my own in teams the last couple years anyway with Gebben so I’m kind of used to it. Also, with Honda I was the only MX2 rider there so I’m kind of used to being the only guy. In one way it’s nice because a lot of the focus and attention is on me but on other way – there’s pros and cons to it obviously. There’s a lot more pressure from Yamaha itself because I’m the only 450cc guy riding but I don’t really feel the pressure to be honest. I like having the attention and I’m enjoying it. 

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GateDrop:  That second moto especially should give you confidence for the rest of the season, you know now you belong up at the front and especially if you can get the starts… 

Vlaanderen: Yeah, for sure. This is what I’ve been wanting, you know some good starts and to show that I’m capable off to run up front. Definitely this will give me confidence for the next weeks and I’m going to be even more motivated now to improve so yeah, I’m looking forward to it.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Image: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing