Interview: Pauls Jonass

Understated and possibly under-appreciated, Pauls Jonass comes into 2018 looking to defend his MX2 world title – and he isn’t afraid to wear the number one plate he earned in 2017! 

Despite a crash in the first moto, Jonass got his season off to a solid start last weekend in Italy going 2-1 in MX2 and is ready to get more racing under his belt at Hawkstone park this weekend in preparation for the MXGP season that begins in Argentina on the 4th of March.  

Off the track Jonass is quiet, polite and down-to-earth – you would never guess he is the reigning world champion! But once on the bike Jonass’ talent really shines, he has raw speed that very few can match and last year the Latvian managed to harness that speed with consistency to take his first world title. 

It got Jonass a lot of recognition in his homeland, he won sportsman of the year and helped give motocross extra exposure during a brief visit home to rest and recover from a tough season.  

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But now his focus in on 2018, and Jonass has been working since November to prepare for his title defence.  

We caught up with the friendly Latvian this week to discuss his winter preparation, wearing the number one plate and racing Hawkstone this weekend! 

Just starting on Sunday, you had a big crash going for the lead then big tank slapper, but you rode well to come back to second and rode very well in the combined race, where you pleased overall with your day? 

Yeah I was actually really happy with the weekend. The first race of the year you are a little it nervous and have the excitement and everything, I wanted to make the pass too quick in the first lap and just made a stupid mistake and crashed. Overall the riding was good, I didn’t take any risks, I had that close one but at the end of the race I didn’t take any risks. I caught Hunter but then backed up, I made some small mistakes and decided to stay on two wheels and not take any chances. The most important thing is to get the excitement out and calm the nerves down (in pre-season). 

The super-final race I was also pretty happy. Okay, in the end maybe I didn’t ride so good anymore but the first 15 minutes I was happy with my riding and that was pretty good. We still have some other pre-season races to do just to get race time under my belt before the first GP. 

How did it feel to wear the number one plate? Are comfortable having that plate on your bike after winning it last year? 

Yeah, at first it was difficult to see it on my bike – it was strange to see! But now I am used to it. It’s just a number, it doesn’t make any difference if it is 41 or 1. I am quite confident going into the season with number one.  

You have Hawkstone this weekend, is this a track you like and are looking forward to competing on? 

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 Yeah, I did Hawkstone park for the first time last year and I really enjoyed the day. There is a lot of racing and a lot of time on the bike and also the track is pretty nice. Also in England there are always crazy spectators and it’s really nice to race there in front of many spectators. Also in England there are many Latvians so I hope to see some Lativan flags next to the track! It’s always important to have as much riding a possible in the pre-season races, to get a lot of time on the bike to try some different things and see how it works.  

Jonass. Pic: Taglioni

How has the offseason been for you being world champion? 

The off-season has been really good. After the last GP I went back home for a month and spend time over there and relaxed over the season. I did some media things and everything but just to spend some time at home, I really enjoyed. But since the beginning of November I have been fully focused on the job and working hard to get ready for the season.  

You didn’t race the Nations, as a precaution from your head injury from 2016, do you feel a lot better now on the bike since your break? 

Yeah that was the reason why I didn’t do the Nations because of my head.  I have been riding for three months now and it’s been really good – no problems. I am really happy with how everything is going and I am looking forward to this season.  

You had a change of coach from Marc de Reuver to Harry Everts, can you talk us through that switch and how Harry is helping you? 

Yeah I am really happy with how everything is going with Harry. He is the father of a ten-time world champion, he is so experienced and won four world titles himself. For me it was important to have someone next to me who can support me more mentally than maybe with the riding. Harry knows how to do it, he has been around for so long. Some people say, ‘ yeah Harry is old school’ and things like that. But everything is working and I am really, really, happy with how everything is going.  

And on your teammate Jorge Prado, he is moving to Cairoli’s team. Does that make things a bit easier because you don’t have a rival under the same tent or did you find it strange he left? 

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I don’t really think about it so much. That was his decision and for me it doesn’t make any difference. It doesn’t matter under which tent you standing, we are all under one team with the same bikes and same equipment. We are still teammates.  

When you are racing your teammates, do you notice you are having to be more careful around him than another rider? 

Yeah for sure. I am a guy that, if you are racing your teammate, you want to race as clean as possible but sometimes on some tracks it’s difficult to make a clean pass and sometimes you have to make a little bit of a dirty pass on your teammate but that’s racing. We all want to win and do our best.  

The first round of the World championship is in Argentina this year. Is that a track you like and to have the big crowd there? 

Yeah I think it is really nice it is going to be the first GP. With the location and the track to go there is really nice. The spectators are amazing over there, in 2015 it was really crazy, I surprised to see how many people care about motocross over there. I think it’s good to have the first GP in Argentina.