Interview: Pauls Jonass

Pauls Jonass might just be under-rated. Lost in the hype of his former teammate Jeffrey Herlings and now his new teammate, Jorge Prado, it shouldn’t be forgotten just how fast and talented Jonass is!

In his first year of MX2 he was battling Tim Gajser for the title and last year he was battling for second place in the standings when he had a scary crash at Loket.

Now in his third full season, the just turned 20 years old Jonass is one of the favourites to take the title.

The friendly Latvian has been in good form in pre-season and just won the MX2 class at Hawkstone in his first ever visit to the famous circuit. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on his pre-season and to see how he is feeling with the Grand Prix season just around the corner.

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Just starting with your first pre-season race in Italy, you battled Prado in the first one but got arm pump, then won race two, was it good to get that first race jitters out of the way?

Yeah that was my first race since my crash in Loket, it was my first race in half a year. I went to the race and didn’t feel nervous but somewhere inside of me there was still some stress or something and I was struggling a little with the arm pump. But that was just the first moto when the track was flat, in the super final things already went way better, it wasn’t a really good race but it went better.

Also in Hawkstone I won everything in MX2 but I am still not really happy with my riding, it was pretty good but we still need to improve. I haven’t raced so much since July, I will do one more international race in Lacapelle, France before the GPs start to get more loose.

Jonass is ready to challenge for the MX2 world title. Pic: KTM

The track at Hawkstone looked quite rutty, do you enjoy those tracks or was it more to get race time on the bike?

The race in Hawkstone was really good preparation for the season. It is a tight schedule with the timed practice and three motos with a short break, so that is really good for training for the GPs for endurance. The track is really natural, I was thinking it was going to be more soft, but it was soft on top and then hard and tricky. So that made the track difficult, some places you had heavy going then other places it was hard pack and slippery, you needed to watch out and not crash. But like I said it was really, really good training and it was my first time in Hawkstone so that was quite special. The fans there – I didn’t expect to see so many spectators!

Just going back to that crash in the Czech Republic, that was a scary crash to watch nevermind be involved in, as bad as it was were you glad you’re injuries weren’t worse?

Yeah, after the crash I was off for some time but luckily there was no broken bones. I work a lot on that so I am really flexible so that helps with the crash so I thankful for my trainer Willy Linden who pushes me to do some gymnastic exercises and stuff like that. I was really happy to walk away after a crash like that. I had to take two months off but since I have been riding again everything is going ok.

You are working with Marc De Reuver now, how has that been going?

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I started working with Marc full-time in October when I started riding again after the crash. It is really, really good. I am really happy with how everything is going, he is helping me with everything, including mentally. Physically I work with Willy Linden but Marc helps more with the riding and has so many tips, it is a really big difference from last year. Last year most of the time I was alone on the track but now he is with me every time and helping me to improve.

You worked with Stefan Everts before, do you feel better with an ex-rider behind you, pointing things out, does it give you more confidence and less stress?

Yeah it’s really important to have an experienced guy by your side, I had Stefan and now Marc. It’s important for me, I like when someone tells me where I can improve, especially mentally it helps with the confidence and sometimes to be more relaxed. Sometimes they can push you and sometimes they need to break you. They can see things from the side on your riding and see what you are doing.

Looking ahead to Qatar, do you feel you will be 100% and what are your expectations?

The feeling is pretty good, we still have one more pre-season race and then it’s not long to Qatar. It’s a long, long season of GPs. I just want to go to every single GP and do my best and enjoy the racing, then at the end of the year we see the result. I want to stay consistent and do my best.

We have seen in the last couple of years you have a lot of speed, two years ago you were running with and beat Tim Gajser at times. Does that raw speed give you confidence that you can go for the title?

Yeah I try to not thing about it so much. I try to just do my best on the bike or when I am doing my training. I want to get myself ready and not look at the others but I feel pretty good and that’s important and then we will see how it goes!

Jonass surges to the front at Hawkstone. Pic: KTM

I know you probably don’t want to talk about the other riders, but with Herlings gone there is a lot of new hope I guess from the new guys coming in and the experienced guys like yourself and Jeremy Seewer. Is it exciting to go into the season with the ultimate goal achievable?

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Yeah with Jeffrey moving away from MX2 it makes the class more open. He was the top guy for many years and I think now many guys can see the title is open and it’s possible to win. We saw the years before when Jeffrey was injured then everyone went wide open for the win! I think it is going to be really good for the championship, it’s going to be a good year.

In 2015 you had that experience of winning races and going for the title, do you think that will help you this year because you have already been in that position?

Yeah, we will see! 2015 was a great year for me, it was my first full year in GPs and it was surprising to get the red plate and be a leader for a while. I was not ready for that then, but we will see this year with Marc and all my team we will see how it’s going to be but we won’t focus on that. I just want to focus on myself, do 19 GPs and see where we are it.

Interview: Jonathan McCready
Pictures: KTM