Dirk Gruebel has been in successful charge of the MX2 Red Bull factory KTM team for the last few years ( as well as Jeffrey Herlings in MXGP). But this season Dirk will manage both Coldenhoff and Herlings in MXGP plus defending world champ Jonass in MX2.
We caught up with the well respected Red Bull KTM manager to discuss a number of topics, including the dynamics of having two factory awnings with sister team De Carli KTM, the new factory 450 KTM, as well as recruiting the next generation of stars.
Gatedrop: Dirk, it’s not that long until the season will get underway again! How’s the pre season going for all the riders so far?
All the Riders are really busy with their pre-season preparation, some in Spain, some in Sardinia, it’s looking good.
Gatedrop: Obviously KTM is one of the best bikes to be on in the paddock, if not the best! Have you made many improvements to the bikes heading into the season and if so what? It must be hard to keep making improvements as the bike is already so good!
Well, obviously we will race in 2018 already the new model ( 2019) like our team in USA already does with Musquin and Tickle in the AMA Supercross. So it´s a whole new Bike, with quite some changes.
It´s getting harder every year to improve the bikes, especially in the 250 Class the air is getting thin, but we improve every Year, what is necessary if you want to stay on the Top
Gatedrop: Just on last year, Pauls Jonass won the MX2 World Championship. It was a journey but he got there in the end. I feel that last year he was very impressive mentally and he improved in that area, what did you see in his improvement?
After that horror crash in Loket 2016, Pauls changed a bit his aggressive Riding Style, he has learned that if you want to win the title, you need to finish every race.
He rode very solid, with minimum mistakes in 2017, and won the title.
Gatedrop: Pauls won’t work with Marc De Reuver next year but Harry Everts instead, what’s your thoughts on that?
In my Opinion, Marc and Pauls did a great job together last season, they trained hard, did their Homework in Silence, and the Result was the World Title.
For 2018, Pauls has decided to split from Marc and work with Harry, what he also did in the past a bit, it´s his decision, I think it will be fine
Gatedrop: Just on the team structure for next year, there are some changes. Prado will be under the Di Carlo awning with Glenn under the MX2 awning with Herlings. What are the reasons for these changes?
Jorge feels more connected to the DeCarli Team, basically because of the Language, he wants to train more with Tony, so that´s why he moved to the DeCarli Tent, but hey, to be honest, It is ONE BIG KTM Tent, there is no big divides under that awning.
Glenn came over , since he trains a lot with Jeffrey anyhow, it´s the Dutch connection.
Gatedrop: For a number of years now, KTM have been signing the young talented riders and watching them grow. Do you think you are starting to see the benefit of that now with the likes of Herlings, Jonass, Mewse etc all on KTM next year?
We saw the benefits already the last couple Years, Herlings, Tixier, Musquin,Jonass, they all won Championships Prado, Mewse they are on a good way, to support young Talent definitively pays off.
Gatedrop: Other manufacturers have started to do the same and sign the young riders – have KTM found it harder to sign who they want because of this?
Of course, other Brands jump on the wagon and also establish youth programs, that means there is more offers for the riders, what in return makes it harder to sign everybody we may have on the List, there´s more competition than it was like 5 Years ago.
Gatedrop: One of the biggest talents, Jago Geerts has signed for Kemea Yamaha. He’s one rider I thought the factory team might end up signing. Was an approach ever made for the young Belgian and how do you think he will perform in his rookie season?
Of course we have been talking with Jago, he was on a KTM in his Amateur Days, but somehow, we couldn´t sign him to stay with KTM.
Now he´s on a Yamaha for his first full pro season, I wish him a bit more luck than he had in his debut races, where we saw some massive crashes from him.
Gatedrop: Just on Tim Gajser, he was on KTM but under the Marchetti awning (Jonass was in a similar situation a few years later), obviously Gajser ended up going to Honda, do you regret not being able to keep him and because of that are you being more careful with the young talents you sign and giving them more time?
That´s a tough question, but to be honest, you can´t keep everyone, when Tim left KTM for Honda, he was on a decent Level, sometimes it works out for them sometimes it doesn´t, also injuries play a big factor in that phase of a career.
Sometimes it would help to give the riders a bit more time, it´s hard to say, then there are standing the next young guns and knocking on the door, and there are only limited spots on a Factory team, so you need to make a choice.
What is not always the right one, but afterwards everybody is smarter.
Gatedrop: Just on Herlings, he will desperately want to win his first MXGP World Championship. What do you think he has to do to beat Tony over 19 rounds?
Jeffrey had some pressure to come into the MXGP Class, Febvre moved up and got MXGP World Champion, Gaijser moved up and got World Champion, so the Pressure was on.
It got all wrong with that crash in Ottobiano where he broke his hand, then the struggle started for Jeffrey, but he went trough the struggle, as you could see the second half of the season.
2018 is a whole new game, Herlings is ready, he just needs to stay healthy!
Gatedrop: If you had to put your money on Herlings or Cairoli, who would you pick for the title?
Tough one, but since I am Herlings team manager, it’s clear : HERLINGS
Gatedrop: What are your thoughts on the calendar for the 2018 season?
It´s not too bad, a lot of travel tough, I miss a bit the natural tracks, since we go more and more to artificial Tracks like Assen, Imola, Indonesia, they are all man-made tracks.
I am a fan of old school tracks like Matterly, Sweden, St. Jean, etc
Gatedrop: Feel free to thank anyone you have in mind..
I want to thank my whole team, since we are such a great group of people, it´s just awesome how hard everyone works for the same goal, the world title!
Interview: Andy McKinstry
Pic: Ray Archer