Interview: Cornelius Tøndel on signing with Riley Racing Yamaha and EMX250

For the 2020 season, despite being only 18-years-old, Cornelius Tøndel made the decision to step up to the 450cc after inking a deal with the JWR Honda team. Tøndel focused on the EMX Open series and despite a few too many DNF’s still finished fifth in the championship – he did end the season on a high winning the final moto of the year.

Tøndel also experienced racing the MXGP World Championship as he raced Lommel but for the 2021 season he’ll be back on a 250cc and focusing on the EMX250 championship.

For the season ahead, Tøndel has inked a deal with the Riley Racing team and will be hoping to be a front runner in the competitive EMX250 series. At only 18-years-old, Tøndel is one to keep an eye on as he certainly has talent.

We caught up with the young Norwegian to discuss his season, signing with Riley Racing Yamaha and much more.

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GateDrop: It was recently announced that you’ve signed with the Riley Yamaha Racing team for the 2021 season – how did the deal all come around?

Tøndel: I got a call from the boss of Riley racing, Olaf and he asked me if I was interested. When he called I was just 45 minutes away, so I went there the day after and we had a little talk, and from there we held the contact and we signed the deal not many days after.

GateDrop: You have EMX250 experience from 2019 – you must be excited to get back to racing the very competitive series?

Tøndel: I’m very excited to be racing the EMX250 series again after this year in the EMX Open! Before the season I was hoping for the EMX Open class to be as competitive as the EMX250, which it turned out not to be. I took a chance and it didn’t pay off, so I think the best thing for me to do is to go EMX250 next year and take the steps from there!

GateDrop: This year you spent the season racing the EMX Open and a couple MXGP World Championships with the JWR Honda team. What was your experience of racing the 450cc? It’s something most 18-year-olds don’t do!

Tøndel: It was for sure a good experience for me to race against the big boys. Of course, I had a lot of bad luck but that’s racing. I’m pretty bummed about the second GP at Lommel, in the first moto when I was 16th with one and a half laps to go in the MXGP class and then the bike overheated. That would have been good world championship points!

GateDrop: Why did you make the decision to move up to the bigger bike this year? Do you think it can help make you a better 250cc rider?

Tøndel: Like I said I took a chance for the open class to be as competitive, but it wasn’t. I think it can help me become a better 250 rider for sure! The 450 is heavier and you need to be fitter and stronger to race it.

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GateDrop: The EXM Open championship was newly introduced for this year, what’s your thoughts on the championship? I thought for it’s first year it was pretty good and should continue to get better…

Tøndel: The class was good for sure, but like it has been for previous years the EMX250 is the way to go into the world championship.

GateDrop: You rode a couple of MXGP World Championship races, how was that and what’s your thoughts on that class – stacked? But a nice experience…

Tøndel: The class is stacked, and there are many fast riders that are very equal on speed. Like I said the 16th place in Lommel would have been a very good result!

GateDrop: The JWR Honda team are actually on the look out for an MXGP rider for 2021 they recently posted on social media. How was your time with the team and did you have an option to stay with them and make the move to MXGP?

Tøndel: I had a good time for sure and I got the opportunity to stay, but I didn’t hesitate at all when the deal came from Riley Yamaha!

GateDrop: For the EMX250 championship, what are your expectations for the 2021 season?

Tøndel: My expectations are to be a top runner in the EMX250 series and at the end of the year be there and fight for the championship.

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GateDrop: So far, how is everything going with the Riley Yamaha team? It looks like you’ve already started the 2021 prep – how does the Yamaha feel?

Tøndel: I have tested the bike and it suited me very good straight of the bat. The aggression just was there straight away, and it felt like I had been riding the bike for a long time already during the first training! It’s feeling great.

Pic: Danny Relouw

GateDrop: You’ve got two fast teammates in Raf Meuwissen and Raivo Dankers, riding with them throughout the winter should only help you and what’s it been like riding with them so far?

Tøndel: I’ve only been riding with Raf so far, but it is a great opportunity for all three of us to become better riders. To always have someone to push with in training is very important and I think all three of us will use that to our advantage!

GateDrop: There are a number of top riders coming from Norway the past few years, why do you think that is and it’s nice to see!

Tøndel: I think it’s because we have a desire to win and that we just want it bad. It’s for sure not the best country to grow up in if you want to be a motocross rider, but we make it happen.

GateDrop: Infront released the calendar recently, what tracks are you looking forward to the most and what’s your thoughts on the EMX250 calendar?

Tøndel: Uddevalla and Lommel for sure! With Uddevalla being the closest GP to home that will be kind of my home GP I would say. And Lommel because it’s the heaviest track on the calendar, and I like the sand there.

GateDrop: Anyone to thank/anything else to add?

Tøndel: I want to thank the team, Riley Yamaha Racing and my family for giving me this opportunity and I’m just super excited to start a new year and a new season, and hopefully a good one. Thanks all!

Interview: Andy McKinstry