Interview: Dirk Gruebel on Vialle, Herlings to race AMA and potential fill in rider

It’s been a brilliant last couple of rounds of the MX2 World Championship for Tom Vialle as he’s managed to get the overall at Argentina and Portugal. The young French talent has also clawed back some vital points in the championship chase which could go right down to the wire this year.

Walking past the Factory KTM awning and only seeing one rider is a bit of a shame so we thought we’d catch up with Dirk Gruebel to get an update on Herlings, the chances of the team signing a fill in rider and more.

GateDrop: Dirk, we are at the fourth round of the MX2 World Championship here in Portugal and it was a good day for Tom taking the win, you must be happy with his performance?

Gruebel: He is improving every week and today we saw him riding really well. In the second heat, Jago, yeah, he put a lot in, but he had some frustration from the first moto obviously since he went down and crashed losing valuable points to us. Tom is improving, he still needs a bit more bike time but we are getting there.  We shouldn’t forget that he’s just been on the bike from the beginning of January. Overall, it is looking good and with developing the new bike, it is getting better and better. We are on a good way.

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GateDrop: Just with the development on the new bike, do you think if he had a full winter it would have helped? It kind of feels like he’s developing while racing now?

Gruebel: Kind of. I mean also like everywhere we struggled to get parts, worldwide it was the same problem, and everything was a bit late. He then got his injuries so we couldn’t test as we wanted but it all comes together but overall, we are pretty happy with how it’s going.

GateDrop: In terms of the championship it was a great weekend clawing a lot of championship points back on Jago… you must be happy with that!

Gruebel: For sure, Jago still came back to ninth which was a good achievement but it’s a give and take. In the second moto you can see he is still faster but not always.

GateDrop: You still must be quite calm when it comes to the championship, last year he missed to much racing and still came to the top three so there’s still no panic in that regard!

Gruebel: We take it week by week. It’s to early to talk about anything like you say. Of course, we aim for the championship but it’s the same with Yamaha and Jago. I mean he is hungry, he didn’t get it in 2020, he didn’t get it last year also due to injuries. It’s going to be a good battle I think.

GateDrop: Standing under this awning, it’s a lot for one rider… Firstly, have you got an update on Jeffrey Herlings and when we might expect him back and secondly could we see a fill in rider? Someone like Jeremy Sydow might be available in a few weeks and he’s been impressive…

Gruebel: I mean we would like that Jeffrey is back but he’s still recovering and it’s a bit slower than expected. It is a difficult bone that he broke, he’s just off the crutches a bit and now the rehab starts. Of course, the season is going on and every week there’s a race, we were anticipating him back here but we need to wait and be patient. MX2? I don’t know, we will see.

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Pic: Ray Archer

GateDrop: I’m thinking Latvia might be realistic for Herlings return? Also, while we wait is there a chance you will get a fill in rider for MXGP?

Gruebel: For him, nah, I don’t know. At the moment I don’t make any predictions and we take it week by week. We need to see what the doctors say. With a fill in, we tried, and it didn’t go well, I don’t have a name on the list at the moment. The 450cc is not a toy at this level lately and we shouldn’t just put anybody on it to just have a bike out there. It would be nice to have it out there but… give me a name?

GateDrop: Boisrame is just back on the bike again?

Gruebel: Yeah… But I don’t think we will give it a second try.

GateDrop: Just on Jeffrey… there’s obviously all sorts of rumours about him racing AMA this year – can you just clear that up that’ll he will be back in MXGP when he returns?

Gruebel: There’s a lot of rumours and nothing is confirmed like you say. We don’t know either – I would love him back here because this is the series, and this is the team of course.

GateDrop: Obviously without Herlings being here it must still be nice to see an Austrian brand stand on the top step of the box this weekend with Prado winning?

Gruebel: Sure, it was nice today. Jorge put in a good performance and Tim is fast as we know but it’s always good.

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GateDrop: You have a change in the roles in the team this year, can you tell me about that, and will you still be going to every GP? I don’t think I saw you at Matterley Basin…

Gruebel: Yeah, I had Covid-19, I was at the first one but it got called off and then the week after I was home, I tested positive so that is why I wasn’t there. I try to go to every GP still but what the future brings we don’t know.

GateDrop: What’s it been like having Joel Smets as the team manager?

Gruebel: Not so much has changed. I’m still back in Austria and he has his role as rider/trainer and even though his title is team manager it’s the same.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Ray Archer

Podcast! Jonathan McCready gets the inside story from Andy McKinstry who was at the Portuguese MXGP and they also discuss the chances of Jeffrey Herlings racing the US Nationals. 

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