Interview: Ferruccio Zanchi on becoming an HRC full factory rider, stepping up to MX2 and more

Images: Shot by Bavo | Interview: Andy McKinstry

In 2022, Ferruccio Zanchi was racing the EMX125 series but two years later here he is – a full factory Team HRC rider in his rookie MX2 World Championship season. The Italian will be looking to learn as much as possible in 2024. Zanchi did recently pick up an injury after the Spanish round dislocating his shoulder but is expected to return this weekend in Portugal.

We caught up with Zanchi at Arco di Trento to discuss a range of topics which you can read, listen or watch below.

GateDrop: Ferruccio, two years ago you were an EMX 125 rider and here we are two years later, a full factory MX2 GP rider. Did you expect it to happen so quickly?

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Zanchi: Actually no, it was unexpected. I was a good rider in the EMX125 series, but not so good thinking I would be here in two years. So yeah, I’m really happy about this, we just have to go on and improve.

GateDrop: You started off in the EMX125 class with MJC Yamaha, and then EMX250 with the Junior KTM official setup, the VRT team. What was it like being with those two teams?

Zanchi: Yeah, they were like official supported but not factory supported, so for the materials, for the help in general, overall was less compared to this year. This year is full factory, so I have much more support from the factory. I can work in better conditions compared to the last three years.

GateDrop: Making the jump up to EMX250 class from the EMX125. It’s not always easy but you done really, really well. How did you feel when you first jumped up onto the 250cc and also that team seem to be very good at developing young talent?

Zanchi: Yeah, actually I was racing with 125cc still, but I tried to ride with the 250cc four stroke, and I directly liked the bike a lot. I was feeling much more comfortable compared to the 125cc. So, we decided to jump up to the EMX250 and then the team of last year was very good, very nice, very nice people inside. The bikes were quite good, and we had a great atmosphere so the results came.

Image: Shot by Bavo

GateDrop: The rookie season in the EMX250 class went really well. You were directly running top five, top three, you won motos, so you must have been delighted with how last year went?

Zanchi: Yeah, I’m actually very happy and very surprised for how last year went, because I was not like always in the top five of the EMX125 class so to jump up into the EMX250 and be directly in the top five… It was really amazing, and it was a very incredible season.

GateDrop: At the end of last year, you had a decision to make, stay EMX250 and go for the title, or make the move up to MX2 GP’s. Was it a difficult decision or an easy decision based on your opportunity?

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Zanchi: No, it was quite easy after I did France last year and I got ninth overall in MX2 so I knew that I could be racing MX2 and it was better for my personal growth. We had a great choice with HRC, and I decided to take it this way.

GateDrop: I think you were a wanted man at the end of last year. I think two or three teams wanted you, and obviously HRC Honda, they didn’t actually have an MX2 GP rider since Calvin Vlaanderen so everything came together quite late, but you took the risk and it already looks to be paying off…

Zanchi: Yeah, it was difficult because Honda came very, very late at the end of the season. They contacted me in Matterley Basin last year (the final round of MXGP). I actually had some other great opportunities, but I wanted to take the risk to be in HRC because I think it’s a very great team and a very great opportunity for the growth. I took this risk, but now, yeah, I think it’s paying off.

Image: Shot by Bavo

GateDrop: What has it been like so far with the team? Obviously, you had a strong winter, and having Ruben Fernandez and Tim Gajser as teammates, did you put many laps in with those two? Riding with them can obviously help develop you…

Zanchi: The team is very good and feels very familiar. Everybody speaks Italian, so I feel more like at home. I trained with Ruben all the winter, and he’s very goods it’s very easy. Also, as a person he is very easy to speak, very easy to teach you something. So, yeah, it’s easy. And then with Tim, lately, we are riding more together, and it’s very good to see him, what he’s doing on the bike, to try to copy him. It’s very good.

GateDrop: How do you find being a full factory MX2 GP rider? Obviously, it probably adds more pressure… Honda have invested in MX2, and they aren’t going to mess around, they want results, so how does that feel?

Zanchi: It’s feeling quite good. They’re not putting too much pressure on me. I just need to have fun and do some great results. So, for now, I’m living my dream, so I’m very happy.

GateDrop: The start of the season, obviously, injury aside, the speed was good. Maybe the starts haven’t so good, but apart from that, are you happy with how your season was going before the injury?

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Zanchi: Yeah, I was very happy with the first round in Argentina. It was quite impressive for everybody, I think. I started almost last in both moto’s, but I came back 7th and 8th. But in Spain, we had a little bit of trouble, but, yeah, we have to develop the bike to try to start at the front. The start is coming this year, so we just have to develop this, but I’m very happy with how the season went so far.

GateDrop: I think the crash happened between Spain and Riola. Can you just talk to me a little bit about the crash and the injury as a result? I think the plan is to be back at the next one in Portugal…

Zanchi: Actually, I was riding with Tim in Croatia in the sand. It was the Wednesday before Riola and the last lap of the day and therefore the last lap before Riola. I just had a problem, a technical problem on the take off, and I crashed. I came off the bike, but the bike hit me very hard, and I dislocated my shoulder. Yeah, so the plan now is normally, I would like to come back in Portugal or in Lugo.

GateDrop: Making the jump up from the EMX250 class to MX2 GPs, what would you say the hardest thing is? Obviously, you get more bike time, more intensity, but also the better guys are in the class….

Zanchi: It’s more safe, especially the first lap as everybody is taking his way and not cutting around, but, yeah, intensity is the big one.  There are are so many that are so close, so you must push all the way to the end.

GateDrop: You are working with Jacky Vimond, the first French world champion, maybe a little bit before your time, I’m not sure if you remember him or not, but what’s it like working with him? Everyone he’s worked with, he’s been able to improve, so that’s a positive…

Zanchi: I’m training with Jacky now for the sixth year, so it’s very long, very long journey. I’m happy to be working with him because he’s always pushing me, pushing me to do even better. I think that I’m here, it’s almost 90% for him, but, yeah, I just wanted to thank him for all the work we did and all the work we will do in the future.

GateDrop: And being a young Italian, did you look up to a certain Antonio Cairoli growing up, and is that a rider you’d like to follow in his footsteps? Obviously, easier said than done, having nine world titles (laughs)…

Zanchi: We have many Italian world champion, luckily and Antonio’s one is the biggest one. I always took inspiration or see the footsteps more of Tim (Gajser) and Jeffrey (Herlings). When Antonio was riding, it was almost ten years ago, so everything has changed. Tim and Jeffrey, they are closer to these days, so I look to them more.