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Interview: Clement Desalle discusses the Triumph project, his role and the sport in Belgium

Interview: Clement Desalle discusses the Triumph project, his role and the sport in Belgium

Clement Desalle is back in the GP paddock again. Since retiring he’s been away from the GP’s but has been working with new brand in the sport, Triumph Racing since the end of 2022.

All the hard work that Triumph have been putting in has finally come to fruition this year and they got on the podium on their MX2 World Championship debut with Mikkel Haarup. Quite incredible.

We caught up with Desalle in Spain to discuss the project and much more. You can watch/listen or read below:

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GateDrop: Clement, just to go back, you were obviously a GP rider for a long time but you haven’t been in the paddock for quite a while before you got the role at Triumph. What was life like without Motocross?

Desalle: Yeah, exactly. I was like two years without being in the paddock but I was in contact with the team and talking about developing the bike. After a few meetings, it was really going positive and also for the team with so many people I was working with and we were on it. I could see the bike first and had a small try to help with my decision let’s say and then I was working like one and a half year on the bike and developed the bike for many months and a lot of time. It’s good to see the result of the bike on a race and doing good, you know. It’s really nice to see the bike is running good, let’s say.

GateDrop: Just when was the first time you got on the bike and I have to say you guys did a very good job keeping it away from the media – it was very very secretive…

Desalle: Yeah, we were in contact at the end of 2022 and then we started from there to have the idea for the future so mainly for 2023 to be really on it. I see many things going on after the first time I was on the bike and it was good to see, let’s say all the steps and also the activity of the company, you know. That was good to see and I knew that I was working with people who are really active on it that’s really great to work like that, you know.

Image: Ray Archer

GateDrop: Obviously for your GP career you were actually a 450cc rider but obviously you were testing a Triumph 250cc machine. What was that like because you weren’t the most experienced 250cc rider but you do know how to ride a bike at the end of the day so it probably wasn’t too much different?

Desalle: No, exactly… It was like many years that I was not back on the 250cc and so for sure I knew that I had to adapt myself and it’s a another riding style. For me and the guys involved who have experience with me knew that it could fit, you know, to anyway have a feeling that they know that I will adapt myself. To test the bike, it was good enough but finally I can say now after riding a lot with the 250cc that I was surprised that I enjoyed that much to ride the 250cc. At a few places on track, I can even be faster than on the 450cc at a few tracks. I mean of course sometimes you need the power but that was great to see and also interesting. I had a good feeling to develop the 250cc and I could adapt my riding style so it was nice to see that and pretty fun actually.

GateDrop: What’s it like being in the Grand Prix paddock again but not as a rider, perhaps there’s less pressure, so that must be quite good for you actually…

Desalle: You know, my situation is a test rider but for the moment I do the first few races with the guys to help them. As my tests, I don’t have so much crazy tests for the moment. I was at the first race, first of all to see the bike that I developed many months. To see it at the first GP, that the bike was running well for the guys, it was really something special to be there. I will do a few more races with them to help but yeah that is something we will see after that (if I continue going to the GP’s).

Image: Ray Archer

GateDrop: Obviously Camden coming from South Africa, what’s it been like working with him in the short time you have… It’s his first time as a factory rider as well so this is all new to him…

Desalle: Yeah and you know something that is important is my personality, I like when I’m doing a job for example or when I was riding that at the end of the day I feel like okay I did a good job or I’m feeling useful, you know. If it will not be the case then it would be really complicated for me and actually with the young guys I see that I can help them quite a lot with many things and then I feel useful. It’s true that it’s without riding and without racing on the weekends but it is something different and it’s a bit more relaxed for me, yeah.

GateDrop: Mikkel Haarup, it is a very big year for him because it’s his last year racing the MX2 World Championship, he’s got more experience than Camden but the first round amazing… a podium on debut, would you have expected that coming into the season and now he has to try maintain, that’s the hard bit…

Desalle: Yeah, it’s true he has a bit more experience and to say we expect that it’s hard to answer. By the way he was riding and with what I was seeing from him riding and what the bike is able to do already, the team and I knew we were in a good direction when we develop the bike. We saw how it was going with the rider, I will not say yes that we were expecting this but anyway we go to fight, they go to fight for a good place, for a podium? In one chat that we had before Argentina, we did speak about it because you know all the team are working for that and it’s a team who believes in what they do and work hard to get this. This is the priority here so that’s that’s a really good thing.

GateDrop: Just on being with Triumph, you’ve obviously got the link with Ricky Carmichael, have you been able to meet him? I think you were in America a few weeks before the start of the GP season.  What was it like meeting the GOAT in America?

Desalle: Yeah, actually, we had the lunch presentation of the bike and it was really nice actually. it was cool to be back on the standard bike, we were all there together and by the way I enjoy a lot to ride the standard bike. It’s a really good bike to buy and feel good directly that it is good. I mean for me I will search to buy a bike and what is directly ready to have fun, you know and to feel comfortable. We were all riding on the standard bike and we had a good time. It was good to share some different opinions, different racing history and we were all right there together with the press and that was great.

Image: Ray Archer

GateDrop: Obviously next year there’s going to be a 450cc and an MXGP team, has development started on the 450cc yet and how’s that going?

Desalle: Yeah ,we are not there yet but everything is getting fixed. I cannot say so much more about it but yeah, that’s the plan for sure to come with a 450cc in the future.

GateDrop: Being Belgian, since you’ve retired there’s a few new Belgian hot shots in the paddock, Lucas and Sacha Coenen and Liam Everts, you must be happy to see the latest Belgian talent emerging in GP motocross?

Desalle: Yeah, for sure. You know it’s really nice to see them being really good and being there but at the same time it’s a country that I don’t really understand so much. Motorsport is not going well there every time tracks are getting closed. Even in my time was a rider, it was already on the negative way and it’s really sad to see. Those guys who come today they really want it and work really hard to get it done. The Belgian riders are good at the moment but I mean that has nothing to do with Belgium, unfortunately. That’s a shame but the mentality and the politics is going bad and that’s bad for the Motorsport, unfortunately.  But anyway it’s good to see a few riders are still coming and they are actually really good.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Images: Ray Archer