Interview: Mikkel Haarup talks Triumph and his season so far

Images: Nigel McKinstry | Interview: Jonathan McCready

Mikkel Haarup gave Triumph the dream debut in the MX2 world championship with a podium in Argentina and from there the Dane has shown the speed we all knew he had in what is his final year in MX2.

We caught up with Haarup in Maggiora to discuss his weekend and a great season so far on a bike and brand that is impressing everyone in it’s first season in dirt bike racing.

Watch or read below:

Mikkel, you’ve been really good all year, but just talk us through the weekend. Yesterday didn’t go too well. I saw you limping off. Are you okay that way?

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Yeah. Yesterday in the qualifying race, I was off to a decent start. I was around 5th, and crashed on the jump, on the landing, and I followed through because I was in the air by the time he crashed and, I landed on his bike and I obviously come to a complete stop instantly as I landed and yeah… I damaged my knee a little bit, my groin, but yeah. That’s why I had to jump away, but, got everything checked up.

Nothing broken, luckily, just a lot of damage. But, yeah, we can deal with that. So we were doing a lot of work throughout the evening yesterday and again this morning, and, I got the green light to go and ride. And yeah. So, we had to obviously do some sort of damage control this weekend, but, overall, I actually felt good today.

My riding wasn’t too bad, but, yeah, I had to come from the outside every time and, wasn’t easy to pass. I had a little mistake in the 2nd moto as I was challenging for 4th place, but, but overall, solid, solid weekend considering what we had yesterday. And, I think once again, we just proved, how good our starts are from the outside really, because I had to to come from way out. But, yeah… Obviously, we’re chasing more than just, yeah, like a top 5, 6, 7. You know? We wanna get near the podium and and get on the podium and and win ultimately. So, yeah, frustrating, but, that’s part of racing, I guess.

So as you mentioned that your pace been really good all year, which means, obviously, the bike is really good. Did you expect a podium in it’s debut, which you must have been overjoyed with. Did you expect to be that fast over the winter? Did you realize this bike’s pretty good and I’m going really fast?

Yeah. We we did really good testing throughout the winter. I noticed that the bike is really great all around. Like, we could do consistent starts, bike was always working well, so for me it was easy to adapt to because every training, every race, it was always the same. And, yeah, overall, it’s a good bike, very solid, and I think that’s that’s why I wasn’t too surprised when we showed up in Argentina.

I could feel it already on Saturday, and, on Sunday, we made it happen. And yeah, we’ve been close, many weekends, I would say, but just, yeah, mistake here or a rider crashing in front of me and get caught out or something. Small things has kept us away from better results, lately, but, I feel like it’s gonna turn and and hopefully soon, so we can get back on the box.

Image: Nigel McKinstry

We have a brand new manufacturer that had good results, good starts, in America and obviously here as well with you and, Camden. Did you expect when you signed that this bike would be on the podium?

I did. Because, I see the people working in the team. I see, I met the engineers. And when I tried the bike the first time, I knew it was gonna be a good bike. Obviously, you know, there’s a lot of things that has to go right in order to get to where we are now.

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And, we’ve had a really really, really strong winter. The the boys have been doing good. We’ve made adjustments throughout, both on the setup, on the engine, on the frame, you know, how you would, what you would expect with a new bike. And even though we’ve done all these changes, we still managed to stay competitive and, and improve as well. So I think it just shows how well the bike is put together.

And, yeah. Just enjoying really showcasing it. But, yeah, when I tried the bike the first time, I knew immediately. You’ve got Kawasaki, KTM, Husky, those sort of brands.

Does it feel like a KTM or Husky, much the same, or Kawasaki, or is it on its own unique feel?

It’s very much in between the two, I would say. Obviously, every bike has its perks and negatives, but, I think this bike is really solid all around. It’s easy to set up. I’ve been I think mainly because of the aluminum frame and the way that they’ve, yeah, set up the bike in the from the beginning. It’s got a strong strong engine.

We’ve had very few, technical issues, which again shows how how well the team is working. And, yeah, it’s just, it I would say, it’s very much in between a Kawasaki and and a KTM. Yeah.

Do you share much information with the AMA team, or is the GP team working on a different date because of the traction?

I know that the Vince team manager has been sharing quite a lot of that. Obviously, there’s a limit to it because they are riding mainly Supercross. Mhmm. So we cannot use all of their data, and they cannot obviously use but I assume now when they’re doing the outdoors, they do use a lot of ours. Obviously, they have some restrictions that we don’t, and and same the other way.

They’ve got some fuel that we can’t run. So, yeah. That obviously puts a limit to how much you can you can copy each other, but I know they talk back and forth, especially throughout the winter when we were still in that testing period.

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Image: Nigel McKinstry

There’s talk that the AMA and MXGP are gonna have a combined race in America, the top, I presume, 20 of each class in the next year or two. Would you be excited to be involved in that?

Yeah. Sure. I haven’t heard anything of it, but yeah, sure, of course. I love racing, so why not? Yeah.

Keeping the American theme, Ricky Carmichael’s heavily involved with Triumph. Have you met him, spent time with him, learned anything from him, or how’s that been for you?

No. So Ricky hasn’t been in Europe, from what I know ever since I came with the team. But, but I’ve heard yeah. I think he was very much an influence, especially during the testing period. Okay.

And, you know, when it comes to racing and setting up the bike for racing, it’s more of an individual thing. Yeah. What the rider’s like because, yeah, someone like Ricky is built different than other guys, you know, he’s short legged, very aggressive, you know, the way that he rides the bike. So I think if he set up the bike the the way he wanted, obviously, it wouldn’t be easy to ride for me.

Yeah. So at one point, I guess he has to say, take a step back and and just be the ambassador, but, I’m I’d love to meet him, and, he has shown great, support, like, on social media and stuff. So he’s definitely keeping an eye out, but, yeah, the guy’s busy.

And do you know what you’re doing next year yet? This is your last year, I think in MX2. Are there any plans?

No, No. There’s nothing yet. No.

Image: Nigel McKinstry

And just on your career, you have a lot of ups and downs. You’ve obviously had a lot of talent. Factory Husqvarna, and then you came back again with Dixon showed your potential. And now, again, you have a factory team, and you’re really I feel blossoming into what what your full potential is. Do you feel a kind of relief that you’re you’re climbing that ladder back up again and showing what you can really do?

Well, it obviously, you need to be in the right place at the right time for this to happen. And yes, like you say, I’ve had some ups and downs. I think mainly just because of teams and yeah, the way that things have been with injuries as well, obviously, plays a part, but, I I’ve never been worried to the point where, yeah, it’s not a worry for me because you know, I have a goal in mind, and I’m chasing that goal, and, obviously, you need great people, great teams in order to make this happen.

So that that is obviously something I’ve had to chase, but it’s never been to the point where I started worrying because I knew if I can get a good bike, I will be up there in the front.

It’s just getting all the the puzzle, I guess. Consistency, and I mean, this season is far from done. And, I’m enjoying it so much. I love the racing. I love just the the way that we can be consistent.

I mean, look at the boys now. They’re throwing bottles around, there a very good team atmosphere and it just makes me enjoy the racing a lot, you know, like, it’s not only there’s the hard work, and then there’s the enjoyment, which makes the hard work even more fun. You know what I mean? So I did a good job of season.