Interview part two: Neil Prince on MXGP and how the sport has changed

In part two of our interview with PAR Homes RFX Racing team manager, Neil Prince we discuss all things MXGP – rider salary, the money it takes to run a private team, track prep and much more.

If you missed part one of the interview, you can read it here as he discusses Josh Gilbert, Evgeny Bobryshev and Joel Rizzi.

Gatedrop: Gautier Paulin recently spoke out about riders paying for rides, whilst it is sad, this was happening in the 90’s as well. However, it does feel like for 2021 it’s went to another level – COVID-19 of course has played it’s part. What’s your thoughts on the matter?

Prince: To be fair I don’t really remember it happening in the 90’s, I never paid for anything I had. However, the budget for the teams aren’t getting bigger now a days and for a team to run it simply needs a budget. If the rider brings the budget for that ride for the year, they will then pay for the team to run themselves but the figure for running a full team is probably three times what the rider pays. Paulin did say that and I’m not sure what rider he’s on about and how much they’re paying for a ride. People need to understand that for doing every round of every series, have a mechanic etc – the amount of money is very large. You aren’t talking 50K, you’re talking 100K plus.

This article continues below

Gatedrop: The factories do sell thousands of bikes so I feel they should be able to put the budget together for two riders in each class. It’s the private teams I feel sorry for – what do you think Infront could do in order to help this situation? Would prize money help or something else?

Prince: I think prize money would be superb. Also, every time Joel does a round of the EMX250 series, it costs money to race per round and that’s already a cost in itself. It’s all money just to go racing, Infront could maybe help with that cost and reduce it. They could also look at the teams and see what resources they’ve got.

It’s all well paying a rider to go to a race but then you need more money just to go racing as well, it makes it trickier. There’s also a lot of fly away races, they’re an extra cost. You are probably talking 100K to do them properly just to do those five races so that gives you an indication of the money you need to find.

It’s a tricky one but you are correct, prize money would help because the team could then have less bonuses as well. It’s on the teams to run the riders at the moment really.

Gatedrop: You’ve got lots of experience being a rider yourself, how has the sport changed from your day to now?

Prince: I think the bikes and the riders have just got to a level now where it’s just so fast. When you go from a carburettor to a fuel injection, it’s just instant, when you go back to the carburettor days, you’ve got a low response, I would say that makes a big difference with how the riders have to be on the bike to make it happen. I think when you see the riders now a days, they do a fast lap and if you watch the helmet cam footage, they are properly pushing to the limits to find literally half a second. Sometimes it’s half a second from third to tenth place.

Neil Prince back when he was a rider for CAS Honda racing an International event at Tinkerhill, Ireland. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: Just on the track prep this year, between 2017-2019 there was a lot of track prep and they weren’t getting as rough as they used to be but I feel this year with the new format they were doing less prep again which saw tracks get rougher. What’s your thoughts on the job they done with the prep this year?

Prince: I think with the triple headers it’s been hard for the riders to do free/timed practice when the track is 70% rougher from the day before instead of building into it. You are right, the tracks are different. I think they done as good as they can though with the tracks, it feels like the clubs are more responsible now for the track prep and maybe the clubs are happier with it like that. Maybe it’s to do with the resources that they don’t have the machinery needed to prep it overnight, we’ve seen a few times this year that they didn’t even have a bulldozer, they just had a few diggers and that’s it.

This article continues below

Gatedrop: Every year there’s a lot of injuries, what would you put that mainly down too or is it down to multiple things?

Prince: The level being so high and the speed they hit the floor now. Before let’s say riders hit the ground at 20mph, they’re probably hitting it at 40mph now because the bikes have got that fast. The bikes have got quicker, if you look at road racing if they go off the track, they have 150 metres to correct it, in Motocross you’ve zero metres. You could literally be right into the post or whatever.

Pic: PAR Homes RFX Racing

Gatedrop: People do like to blame the tracks on the injuries but actually I agree with you, I think the speed of the bikes are a big problem these days. Do you think we need to think about slowing them down, are the 450cc’s these days just too fast?

Prince: I do think they could maybe bring in a limit of how fast they can be. If you’ve got a bike, they’ve got to check it a certain way and govern the 450cc horsepower. How easy would that be to do? I’m not sure but you are right, the speed of the bikes are too fast.

If you look at Bobryshev’s crash at Mantova, he made one little mistake and give the bike one extra bit of throttle and it’s took him an extra 20/25 foot in the air. That’s literally all it was, a little bit of the throttle on the take-off, you were supposed to scrub that jump but Bobby lost it and a little bit of gas and look what happened. It gives you an indication of how the bikes react whereas if that was a 250cc 20 years ago it for sure wouldn’t have the same effect as that.

Gatedrop: The 2021 MXGP provisional calendar dropped and there’s a lot of fly away races. What’s your thoughts on it? I was surprised by the fly away races given the current situation…  

Prince: To me they need to ask the teams what they think is a logical calendar and what can be done. Teams are losing money at the moment; I see a lot of factory teams running one proper factory rider. With the calendar having that amount of fly away races, you’ve already got to find an extra 100K just to do those fly away races. By the time you take the bikes, mechanics, hotels, flights – it all adds up. There isn’t much money left at the end of the day really.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Main pic: PAR Homes RFX Racing