Interview: Joel Rizzi – Hawkstone International MX2 winner and gearing up for MX2 GP’s

There aren’t too many full time British Motocross riders in the Grand Prix paddock anymore after Searle and Simpson have decided to focus on National racing but one of them is Joel Rizzi. The likeable young Brit is with the Riley Yamaha Racing team so hasn’t actually raced in the UK for a while so he enjoyed being back in front of a packed home crowd at Hawkstone International.

The MX2 class might not have had the depth it usually does but Rizzi still rode well and clinched the win, perfect preparation for the MX2 GP’s where he’ll race every round including the fly away rounds for the first time.

We caught up with Rizzi to discuss his Hawkstone win and thoughts for the season ahead.

GateDrop: Joel, a pretty good day for you here at Hawkstone International winning the MX2 class. Obviously Haarup didn’t come and it’s maybe not as stacked as it usually is but a win to start the season, you can’t ask for much more than that…

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Rizzi: No, no, it was good. It was good to be back on home soil to be honest at the legendary Hawkstone Park. I’ve not been in the UK for nearly three years now so it was good to see a home crowd and stuff like that. The competition wasn’t as stacked as usual but it was just good to get the race nerves out of the way and get a win under my belt, that is really nice.

GateDrop: In that second moto there you were locked in an intense battle with Jake Nicholls, obviously he’s retired but at the same time he rides quite a lot and has so much experience – he’s’ been there and done it! It must have been nice to battle with him and you got the better of him at the end!

Rizzi: I won it in the end. It was just his experience, trying to pass him he knew exactly where I was every time and he was going for it. For an old guy he was quite good (laughs) but it was good fun battling. In the last one with Shaun Simpson in the super final it was good. To be battling with some good riders, I’ve now got a big race next weekend at Lierop. We still aren’t 100% ready with the bike setup and stuff like that but in the last race I feel like I had the best setup on the bike so we are just going to improve and improve on the bike.

GateDrop: How’s things going with the Riley Yamaha team? You were with them last year too so you’ve got that continuity now and last year you missed some racing, could you remind us why that was?

Rizzi: I got Covid-19 and I just wasn’t fit enough. I wasn’t fit enough but a new trainer has came onboard and he has helped so much over winter. Like today, I could push every lap for all three 30 minute moto’s. I’ve never felt so fit, we’ve had a good winter. Me and the team are like family, we put everything in, they put everything into me and I put everything in for them. I am still learning, you know I’ve had two rough years in the GP class but I finally feel like I’m in a good place for the GP’s. Maybe I moved up a little bit too early but now I feel ready to battle for the top ten and even better.

GateDrop: As you mentioned there you pretty much straight up from EMX125 to MX2 GP’s, what was it like being part of Livia Lancelot’s Honda team and being team mates with Ruben Fernandez, he has went from strength to strength so I’m sure you were able to pick up good stuff from him?

Rizzi: For sure, I couldn’t have asked to have a better team for my first year with good people and a good team mate. We were in a good location and had good tracks but Riley Racing is more of a family and we put everything into it. They’ve got my main support whereas at 114, Ruben was the main rider and he deserved all that because he was putting in the results. We are working hard with Riley now, they want me to get to the top and I want them to get to the top. We want to do it together and I really feel like we can.

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GateDrop: In terms of your winter, did you change anything coming into this year in comparison to other years? You’ve a new coach by the sounds of it…

Rizzi: A new coach, a dietitian, a fitness trainer, everything! I am finally doing it the professional way. I would say this is my first winter doing it properly… you could say I could be doing it on my own but I wouldn’t really know what to do. This winter I have just put everything into it. I am not expecting it straight away but I do feel the speed I have at the practice tracks and even in that super final, I felt really good. I feel like I can take it to the GP’s.

GateDrop: Just on the MX2 World Championship, it looks like you will be doing the full championship so the fly aways as well. That must be quite exciting and get to race at Argentina for the first time…

Rizzi: I am really excited to do all the fly aways. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing team who are doing the full season. I’m just looking forward to getting the races under my belt, I think last year I did five or six GP’s so just to keep improving and I want to try and get some good starts then push for the first five minutes at the front. I want to keep pushing and extending that time at the front  until it’s the full 30 minutes where I can hold it up front.

GateDrop: On British talents, I feel like guys coming in after the likes of Searle, Watson and Mewse… In MX2 we’ve only yourself. Do you find it quite disappointing that not as many British guys do GP’s than in the past? You are left to fly the flag in MX2!

Rizzi: Yeah, I know, it is sad. There’s so much British talent but they don’t have the backing to do the GP’s. I think in total there’s only two British riders doing the GP’s, myself and Watson because Bobby Bruce is doing EMX250. It is what it is, I think coming through there’s a bit of British talent but they just need the backing to get to the GP’s.

GateDrop: Just on National racing, I imagine you’ll be doing the Dutch Masters, do you have any plans to do the occasional British wildcard race?

Rizzi: No, I don’t think so. The Dutch Masters and the MX2 GP’s, just doing them is enough racing. It is crazy and especially now not being in the EU, coming through the tunnel and stuff like that is pretty difficult for European teams.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Images: Leigh Wootton