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Interview: Petar Petrov discusses his plans for 2023 and the state of MXGP

Interview: Petar Petrov discusses his plans for 2023 and the state of MXGP
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One rider that has plenty of experience in the Motocross world is Bulgarian talent but now based in Belgium, is Petar Petrov. Being part of the Grand Prix paddock since he turned 15 years old, he has seen a lot in his sport and has had a successful career with the highlight being an MX2 GP podium at Lommel.

For the 2022 season, Petrov decided to race the British Championship and he has exclusively told us that for the 2023 season he will be a privateer running Yamaha machinery. 

We caught up with Petrov to discuss his plans and more… 

GateDrop: At the end of the 2021 season, you had to make the decision to leave the MXGP paddock, a paddock you’ve been part of since 15 years old… Was that a difficult decision to make? 

Petrov: It wasn’t really a difficult decision as 2021 didn’t go as I wanted. I broke my neck then I got back on the bike maybe two weeks and I broke my back. There wasn’t really a decision to make as I had no time to be ready for GP’s so that is why I decided to go back to the British Championship. It was not really a question of whether I could or not because I pretty much didn’t start riding until February after almost a full year out. I mean I was riding off and on but I was out for more than three months with my neck and then after two weeks back on the bike it was four months out with my back. I had no time to prepare and be ready for GP’s. I did have some offers to stay in the GP’s but it didn’t make sense for me, I was never going to be ready, be fast and healthy pretty much. It took me pretty the whole 2022 to get healthy. It was tough but I was happy with the British Championship. I was on the verge of quitting so I was happy the British Championship got me a little bit excited again. I was happy being back racing again. 

GateDrop: Just on the British Championship, you had a brief experience in the past with Roger Magee’s KTM UK team in the MX2 class but last year you were racing the MX1 class… How did you find the serious? Obviously very different to what you are used to but people outside the UK probably don’t realise how fast the British riders are at their own home tracks… 

Petrov: Exactly what you said. I mean there’s guys you’ve never even heard off but they’re really really fast on those tracks. The tracks are also a little bit different and something I’m not used to, the bike setup and stuff is a little bit different. It took me a little bit of time to get used to it but I did enjoy it and the level is high. In the MX1 class, you have the top five guys that are really fast and then another 5-6 guys that are also good. It’s a strong championship but I really did enjoy racing there, it’s way less stressful than the GP’s and the pressure is different but I had a lot of fun. 

GateDrop: Looking ahead to the 2023 season, can you tell me a little bit about your plans for this year? 

Petrov: My plans are a little bit strange let’s say (laughs). Thankfully I have some support from Yamaha and my sponsors so I have decided to do it by myself to be a full privateer for now. It didn’t make sense for me to sign for a team where I wouldn’t be happy. I want to be able to what I think I should and get the results that I think I can get. I decided to try and do this and go by myself, you never know what happens but hopefully it can give me a shot during the season. Maybe an opportunity will come and I’ll hopefully be ready, I am going to work hard. Hopefully I can get back my speed, be fit and everything proper. I plan to race the Dutch Championship at the beginning of the season then maybe some British races, some International races and maybe some GP’s. My goal is to be ready if an opportunity comes and hopefully it does. 

GateDrop: Obviously it is early days but can you tell me a little bit more about your setup, is it going to be something like Tanel Leok, Kevin Strijbos and Joel Roelants have done in the past? 

Petrov: I think it is more or less what they did and also Shaun Simpson. It will be something similar but I will have some support from Yamaha Bulgaria thankfully and some good sponsors that will support me. But like I said my goal is to be ready for an opportunity if it hopefully arises during the season. We will see what happens but more importantly for me is for my back and neck are recovered. I’ve now pretty much had one full year since the injuries so I want to ride properly, train properly and physically be more ready than I was last year. 

Image: Patje MX Foto

GateDrop: During your GP days, I would say your best days were probably with CLS Kawasaki but aside from that you had a great time with Kemea Yamaha. You must be looking forward to getting back on a Yamaha? 

Petrov: Yeah, I had a really good MX2 career with Yamaha and then after with Kawasaki. I felt I had some bad injuries at the end of my MX2 career and then also with Assomotor in 2018. I felt I was coming back, in 2020 I had a decent year with KTM but obviously in 2021 I got injured but I am looking forward to getting back on a Yamaha. It’s a really good bike already from stock so I am looking forward to it. I haven’t been on the bike yet but I should be back on the bike this week. I am really excited for it, I just got my bike and I’m really looking forward to it. 

GateDrop: Have you thought about your winter preparation yet? During the season you stay based in Belgium, is the plan to stay there or will you go to Spain/Italy/France or anywhere like that to prepare for the season? 

Petrov: I live in Belgium so at the moment I am here but the weather is quite bad here at the moment as it’s winter. I do plan on doing a few practices here but then we will see, we will probably to go Spain, France or Italy depending on the weather. We will see how it goes but like I said it’s a small structure at the moment but we will see. If an opportunity comes to do the British, do the GP’s or whatever it is, as long as it’s a good opportunity, the goal is to be ready. 

GateDrop: In terms of pre-season racing before the season starts have you got any plans? There’s Hawkstone International, Lierop and also the French opening round of the Elite… 

Petrov: I plan to do Lierop at the moment and we’ll see for the rest, I am not sure but maybe Hawkstone depending on a lot of things.  It comes quite soon so we will have to see about that one. Lierop is for sure and then we will see, I always look forward to Lacapelle but this year there is no Lacapelle so we will look into it and see what is possible. 

GateDrop: You’ve been in the GP paddock since 15 years old, a lot has changed in the Motocross world and especially with Covid-19 and the price of living increasing all the time. With things being so difficult at the moment how would you assess the MXGP paddock? You have to give Infront some credit as the entry fee price is dropped for next year but I still think brining back prize money would be even better for the future… 

Petrov: In 2010 I started racing GP’s and to be honest a lot has changed since then. To be honest I felt everything was going good until Covid-19 hit and Infront did really good while Covid-19 was there. They continued, I think doing a great job and pretty much saved the season. I think that was a great effort from them but since then, I don’t know what, but I guess the impacts of Covid-19 and everything, the economy is really really bad and things are really difficult. 

It has been a big drop and I feel like for 2023 it will also be a big drop. When you see many teams that are only having one rider which is quite unusual and I feel not really right. I believe it is the impact of the economy and the costs of everything increasing.

When you look at Yamaha and all the brands, they are all struggling to get bikes. It is a big struggling but I also believe that it is not easy for Infront either, I’m sure they are looking for solutions but it’s not easy for them to find the solutions during this time. It is difficult for Motocross and the sport in general but I hope they find the solution and we can get back to many riders behind the gate and to be able to support riders. I believe and I think it’s not right that many riders are coming in by money, they can get into MXGP and get into good teams and all these things. 

I don’t blame anybody as I understand the teams also. You know, they have to survive so it’s just a bad time. I hope it can come back to the good old days where there were enough rides for every rider, there was enough money for the teams and they could afford to pay the riders. We were going everywhere and we actually enjoyed racing. Now if you are injured or you miss something, you are pretty much finished as teams won’t take a chance on you which is really bad for the riders. I don’t blame them but it’s a shame because sometimes there’s riders that deserve a second chance, they can impress and get back to their top level. 

GateDrop: Just based on everything you said there, I agree with you, I think Infront did a great job until and over Covid and there’s a lot of reasons why numbers were low this year… Whilst as a fan having 19/20 GP’s is amazing, I do feel from a teams point of view it might be better to have around fifteen with most of them in Europe and with prize money. I feel then you might get ADAC, Dutch and British teams doing MXGP as well… 

Petrov: To be honest, will it help? I’m not really sure. Of course for the riders, if you go to a race and let’s say earn 1,000 euros or whatever it is for a tenth/fifteenth place… it will help for sure but I don’t see that it will help that much the teams. Here we are talking about a couple thousand euros a weekend, I believe it would help and for sure it would be the right step. I think it would motivate more private teams, private riders and probably myself this year because we could then go to a race and then at least cover my costs if I do well or whatever so for sure it would help. I’m not sure, having around fifteen rounds, that actually might help because then you have less travel costs, less bike time which means less parts so yeah, maybe. But I don’t know, they know more than me what should be done but it’s just what I’m thinking is something to look at.

I personally don’t agree with the U23 age rule in MX2. Personally I don’t agree with it because there’s guys that had an amazing MX2 career but then in MXGP they don’t have the same results. There’s guys that are built for the MX2 bike and not built for the 450cc so this is more a personal thing, you know. There’s riders battling for fifteenth place in MXGP that might be top five in MX2. I feel like it is stopping riders from making a living out of it and whilst it is filling the MXGP class it is emptying the top guys in the MX2 class. 

Interview: Andy McKinstry 

Images: Patje MX Foto

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