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Interview: Seb Tortelli discusses the Stark Varg, Arenacross UK, Prado, Lawrence and MXGP

Interview: Seb Tortelli discusses the Stark Varg, Arenacross UK, Prado, Lawrence and MXGP
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After Belfast Arenacross we caught up with Seb Tortelli as he involved in the Stark Varg project. The Arenacross UK series is the first competitive racing with the new electric brand so it’s an exciting time for the brand.

Tortelli talks to us about the bike, how close it is to Motocross action as well as his thoughts on Jorge Prado, Jett Lawrence, AMA and MXGP.

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GateDrop: Seb, we are here in Belfast with your new project, Stark Varg, first of all, what was the decision for choosing this series, Arenacross UK for Stark to burst on the scene?

Tortelli: Well, it was from talking to Matt Bates who I have known for a long time, I’ve even raced a couple of rounds of this in the past. It was an opportunity open to us to race this Arenacross. We are very motivated and he was the first guy to allow us to race as a full manufacturer so fortunately we were able to come to this series. We are very happy Jack Brunell, Justin Bogle and Eddie Wade as part of the team. All these guys put a lot of effort to be out there on the track. We have a young but an experienced team at the same tie so it is amazing.

GateDrop: You have also been racing the French SX series but no championship points available so to speak. But has that helped you developing the bike and making improvements for this series?

Tortelli: Definitely. We started in August last year, that was the first time we were able to race with one bike in the French SX championship. That made it a great experience for us and it meant we came here building up with a little bit more experience. We still have the need of more experience to build the bike better. That is always the racing life should we say but we came to this with three riders and more ready than last year.

GateDrop: The first round in Manchester, to take the win and get the red plate… Was that a surprise to happen so soon? It’s a fast championship with Conrad and Tommy. Jack is obviously one of the contenders but to win the first round, you must be very happy…

Tortelli: Definitely, winning the first in Manchester was a big surprise but a good surprise. It was really nice and that was out first actual race win on the Stark. It was the first win for Jack too so for both to happen at the same time in Manchester, we were super happy. It was a very big surprise for us but in a good way. It pushed us to the front and we had two weeks to keep working. The guys went to Spain and France to prepare for this Belfast round. The Belfast rounds for us also went good, we kept the red plate at the end so that is positive.  Jack is strong in the championship and has the experience. Now we can see more things are coming together.

GateDrop: I think one big positive with the bike is the starts, they are so good. If the guys don’t get the holeshot they are certainly in the mix in second or third usually. As we know, starts are very important in Arenacross…

Tortelli: For sure, it is very important to get a good start. I mean they say a start is 50% of the race and especially when you race Arenacross, it is even more important. We have no gear, it is a single gear so it is a good advantage that they don’t have to shift, that makes it very good for us. You know, we always have good starts so that is a good thing but it’s everything together. The bike is more simple making it easier to race and ride, also. That was the politics and we are here, the Stark CEO wanted a bike accessible for everybody and make it simpler. At the top level but also at the regional level.

GateDrop: Just on the bike, the next step is probably racing Motocross at a high level. Realistically how far off do you think that is?

Tortelli: I don’t think we are too far off. We are making a lot of progress and racing Supercross will help us on the outdoors a lot to be better. This is a new technology and we are also learning. Every month we are getting a new future on the bike that we can push with updates.  When we make progress on the racing side we can update the bike and make it better for every customer who purchases a bike. Every month we do updates and then we get the bikes better and better. With that comes better management of the power which makes it better for the racing. With everything together, I think we are getting close to it.

GateDrop: Two riders I would like to ask you about racing AMA Supercross at the moment. The first one: Jorge Prado. Obviously you made the switch from racing the MX world championship to racing SX in America. I think it would be fair to say that SX has changed even more since then but what advice would you give to Jorge Prado and what have you made of his performances so far?

Tortelli: I think Jorge Prado has been making great performances. I mean that is not an easy thing one coming from the GP’s without a background in Supercross. In the past he did go to America to practice Supercross so we know he has experience but racing is a different thing when you have a new track every weekend. Actually I think he has done a great job, for me it is a big challenge what he is doing.

I did it myself but I personally made a mistake where I think I should have raced in the Lites (250cc) class in the first year to learn to get more experience and more track time and practice time. He went straight to the big bike like I did so maybe it could be a mistake but I mean so far he has been doing great. To do top ten, I mean this year you have a lot of riders that are going to be up there. We have ten plus factory guys so to be able to be up there in the top ten is really good and good performances from him for the first time.

GateDrop: The other rider I’d like to ask you about is Jett Lawrence, amazing and the thing that stands out to me is in America, especially the AMA Nationals the tracks are fast and flowing. But Jett actually rides smooth and technical – like a modern day Stefan Everts. How would you describe him as a rider?

Tortelli: For sure, Jett Lawrence is impressive. I mean what he has shown I only have respect, it is his first year out on the big and you have to be smart. If you win in the first year, the rookie year, it is amazing. He is a great rider, he showed his technique on the 250cc and he is carrying that out on the 450cc which is pretty mind blowing. Going out for Supercross and winning the first race, it is also mind blowing. They say there is a black card against the one that wins the first race in AMA Supercross that they can go on to win the championship. So far I think it is going to be a strong season for him, he has showed he is strong already. It will come and he is a rider for the future, for sure. His style is strong, there’s different ways to be fast but he uses his technique. I have seen him practice and racing, he is the same rider. He is capable of going fast in every condition and is a smart man. Altogether it is a good package to be there for a long time.

GateDrop: Just on MXGP, we are gearing up for the 2024 season and I would say it is wide open. There’s so many guys that can win with guys coming back from injuries and make what’s MXGP so hard to win? I think there’s so many different style of tracks makes it hard to win…

Tortelli: You know, I think this year that MXGP will be pretty stacked. We’ve got Romain Febvre who is getting better and out of injuries. Seewer who is joining him on the Kawasaki and you’ll have Herlings coming back strong, I am sure he wants to get better again. You also have Gajser going for it. It is going to be a tough championship and there’s going to be many guys out there racing strong. The starts at that level are also very important because we see most of the time the guys at the front are capable of winning and there’s little difference in the racing. I mean it is going to be a super interesting season but by the end it’ll probably be a battle between two main riders, we need to find out who the two main riders will be fighting for the title.

GateDrop: On the MX2 World Championship, there’s a lot said about it with it being an U23 age rule this that and the other but for me there’s so much talent coming through. You’ve got Längenfelder, the Coenen’s breaking through. It will also be wide open with Jago Geerts moving up…

Tortelli: Yeah and you know we have Stefan Everts son, Liam who has been doing really good, also. Like I said it is going to be an interesting season, I been to some GP’s and still watch the GP’s, I watch Supercross too. This 2024 season has a lot of things to expect on both sides of the pond. It is super interesting for the championship and we see guys getting faster and stronger. With all the effort of all the teams actually, I think they’re making the bikes better with more performance and the riders are working hard to be even better than ever.

GateDrop: Just on the French riders, you must be a very proud Frenchman when you see all the talent emerging. At the MXoN last year it was unbelievable as they simply dominated the event…

Tortelli; Yeah, we have a strong pool of French riders right now. The youth is a little bit more timid, we don’t have as much young riders right now so that is something the French federation will have to work on but it’s evaluation. I think we have some guys that are getting older but are still very fast and strong so we will be there for a while.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

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