Interview: Josiah Natzke!

New Zealand’s Josiah Natzke burst onto the EMX scene in 2015 in the 125 class as part of a high quality junior KTM team alongside Jorge Prado and Conrad Mewse and under the guidance of Stefan Everts. But a tough year in EMX2 last season meant the 18 year-old Kiwi made some changes in his progame for 2017, and after his EMX2 win in Latvia on Sunday, it is evident that the changes are working!

Riding for Roger Magee’s Hitachi KTM UK team and now based in England, Josiah is happier and faster than he was last season. With the added experience Natzke has fought through the bad times and his determination to succeed and self-belief remains undiminished.

Relaxed, honest, determined and straight-talking , Josiah is always a good interview, so we caught up with him after Lativa to get his thoughts on winning again, moving to England and his tough season last year.

The first British championship round you were just back from NZ and had a third in the first moto and then a bike problem, but did that give you good confidence from your first moto?

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Yeah it was good but I got a good start and that made it easy if you know what I mean, where you started was kind of where you finished because it was so muddy. If it had of been an Lyng the first round and dry it might have been a different story!

The second moto there I had a bike problem on the sighting lap, I tried to race but it was too sketchy so I came in.

The second round was Lyng, then at Canada Heights for round three recently you got your first podium, did that give you a boost?

Yeah Lyng was terrible, then Italy the first round of the EMX was terrible as well! But then I got to do some testing on the bike before Valkenswaard, and Valkenswaard was already a little bit better, I was eighth in the first moto then I had a big crash. The second moto I started really good but faded back to 16th I think. Then after that I did a little bit more testing and got more comfortable and got that podium at Canada heights. I got to do a little bit more testing to fine-tune some stuff and got a win (in Latvia). I feel more comfortable where I am, I don’t like messing around in 20th!

In Latvia you won and you didn’t show any signs of nerves when you got in the lead, you were strong and in the second moto as well.

Yeah, during the week I’m fit and I’m fast it was just getting into that position. My qualifying is starting to get better and that gives you a good gate pick. My gate pick was ok, it wasn’t ideal but I holeshot both motos, in the second moto I knew I could do it after the first moto. Geerts, he didn’t make any mistakes, he was on it in that second moto but he’s, I call it a sand rat. It was good for me to hang onto the back of him and almost pass him at one stage, but then I just lost that real instensity.

The track looked tough to ride, were you able to attack it or did you have to ride safe and more conservative?

A little bit of both, the first moto the track was fairly easy to be fair, it wasn’t too rough. The first moto was early in the day but yeah the second moto was pretty gnarly! I had a discussion with another guy and a track like Ernee, that’s a track you can just hammer it and pin it everywhere, hit stuff hard but this track you have to be smooth and control it, you couldn’t just go for it.

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Natzke topped the podium in Latvia for his first win since 2015. PIc: Youthstream

Just talk a bit about last year, it was a bit up and down but you came on strong at the end of the season. What were your thoughts on last season?

I just had no idea what I was doing in that class! I just got chucked on a bike and go ride it. It was a whole new experience, the 125 class was easy. The 250 class was another level. You are racing guys that couldn’t make it to MX1 who come back down to EMX2. They’re like 25/26 and they don’t take any shit in that class! I wasn’t used to that and it was just something I had to learn. I didn’t really like the bike very much and I was struggling with that side of it. Towards the end me and the guy who was mechanic for me at the time, him and me just decided it was just us now and we have to sort this out, and we did. I finished well but no-one really cares about that, it’s the start of the season that counts not the end of the season.

This season you are working with Roger Magee, the team have a history of working with young riders and helping them fulfil their potential with rider like Shaun, Mel Pocock. How are you finding living in England and riding the british championship?

I like England, I like it way better than Belgium. I got sick of living in Belgium. When I first came to Europe I got told by the people I was working with, like Stefan and those guys, ‘you need to be riding in sand every single day,’ but that didn’t work for me. It might work for some guys but it didn’t work for me. But since I have been working with Jamie Dobb he brought me to England and it feel like home. I love living there, I live with Jamie’s nephew and him and me get on really well.

The British series, I like the tracks way more. I hated riding sand every day. I enjoy riding now. if you aren’t happy doing what you are doing you don’t get good results. If you are in Belgium every single day, riding the same thing, doing the same thing every single day, it gets monotonous. To be in England it’s refreshing and I have friends around, it’s just a good environment and it’s helped me. I definitely like it a lot better.

I guess culturally it’s a lot closer to NZ and everyone speaks the same language!

Yeah it does, the language – just going to the supermarket or setting up a bank account, anything that involves talking or communicating it makes things so much easier, I can actually read things! I don’t know why more people don’t do it.

Team-wise you were saying it took a while to get comfortable on the bike, you came to the UK just before the season but had been riding in the NZ summer. It’s a difficult timing decision then to jump on a new bike that close to the season?

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I think it’s just when I came over the timing when I came over wasn’t good. The team were travelling from Indonesia to Mexico so there wasn’t much to do for me at that time and I jumped on a bike that wasn’t set up for me. It took a long time to get the help on that side of things. But further along we have got the support and now it’s really good. Yeah at the beginning it was a bit difficult, you can see on paper the results weren’t good but now I’m getting the support everything is flowing. I like the bike and everything is good and hopefully it can keep getting even better.

Looking forward, this is your third year racing EMX, are you looking to stay go to MX2 and MXGP or go to America at some point? What are the short-term and long-term goals?

The short-term goals are to win every race from here on out. That’s what I want to do, the championship is a bit of a long shot. I would like to race some GPs, but I don’t want to be like ‘ok I won in Latvia, lets go straight to Germany and race MX2.’ I wouldn’t be ready for it, I need to clock up some wins in EMX2 because I want to jump into MX2 and be competitive and not mess around.

Long-term I don’t know, we will see what happens. America is something I would like to do at some stage. But I want to have a go at the world championship as well, so just whatever comes my way.

You are seeing you former teammates’ Prado and Mewse be successful now in MX2, does that help your confidence or make you a bit impatient to get back their with them?

Not really, Conrad has had last year in MX2 so he has that experience and when he went he struggled a bit. Prado, the kid’s just unreal. He holeshots and pins it for 30 minutes. A normal person like myself just can’t do that, I have to work a bit harder for it. With Prado it just comes natural, that’s just how it is. My time will come, I’m not stressed, I’m still young and just cause Prado can win a GP at 15/16 whatever it was doesn’t mean I can.

My time will come at some stage I hope and right now I am pretty happy where I am. I have heaps of time to jump into MX2, I don’t want to rush it and then ruin it for myself. That’s something where I made a mistake from last year. I didn’t think I had to learn, I thought I could just do it.