Interview: Valentin Guillod – Conquering the top ten of MXGP with standard equipment

Valentin Guillod is back in the MXGP paddock this year on a fulltime basis after only racing four MXGP rounds in 2022. The Swiss talent signed a deal with the SR Honda outfit and it’s nice to see him back showing his true talent.

He was back racing a Swiss GP as it made a return to the calendar and the fans were wild – Guillod was in superb form finishing seventh overall with standard equipment.

We caught up with Guillod after the GP to discuss his day and more.

GateDrop: Valentin, first of all, back racing at a Swiss GP as it has returned to the calendar. Was it nice racing in front of a home crowd once again? I have to say the atmosphere was wow, it’s been a while I’ve heard something that loud!

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Guillod: Yeah, it was awesome. Wow, the fans were crazy, was really cool and awesome to ride in front of all the fans. It was a great GP, great!

GateDrop: Just on your weekend, can you talk me through your races? That first moto especially was very very impressive…

Guillod: On the paper, the result is just awesome. 7-9 for seventh overall, it’s been since 2016 in the GP’s the last time that I had finished seventh overall (laughs). I am really really proud. You know, we are a small team, we have less than one million budget. We are fighting against teams that have a five or six million budget, so it is really awesome. It was great, it was a perfect GP.

GateDrop: Last year I think you only did four rounds of MXGP, what is it like being away from the GP’s? It can be hard to come back in after missing nearly a full season but what you did over winter, you maybe aren’t back to your very very best but you are certainly getting towards it…

Guillod: Yeah, you know last January in the winter I started to train with Yves Demaria again, it was five years since I made any results. We had a lot of work to do to get back in shape and we improved week after week. This year, when we started in November, it was much easier because I had already a good base so it’s why now I already have a good level. I am still not 100% but I think that in May I will be really good. Also on the bike we still have to learn a bit to improve but it is going in a really really good direction.

Image: Mediacross

GateDrop: Just on the bike, it is a stock engine? I am pretty sure I heard it is… What’s it like racing against the factory bikes?

Guillod: (laughs). You know it is awesome to say that today I finished seventh overall, riding with a full standard bike – standard exhaust, standard electronic, standard suspension – everything is standard. It is really cool, for sure if we had a bit more budget we can improve more on the bike. But it is really good and it is great that the Honda bike has a really good base.

GateDrop: Just on MXGP and the level, we have Prado at his best, Herlings and Febvre back, the speed just looks unbelievable watching from the side of the track…

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Guillod: Yeah, you know, I think people don’t realise the speed we go (laughs). Okay, you always have 2-3 guys at the front that are fighting for the victory but from 4-12 it is the same group and then 13-18 is another group. Now it is really really fast, you make a little mistake and there is already one guy right there behind you trying to pass you. It’s really cool.

GateDrop: What was your thoughts on the track here? They went with the traditional track here this year instead of the man made circuit in the past – did you prefer it or maybe you liked both?  This one maybe isn’t a modern GP track but I feel it got good and technical…

Guillod: You know, for me I have known this track since 2004/2005, when I was riding the Swiss Championship on an 85cc. You know, they did what they can do with what they have, for sure there’s a lot of stones in the ground but I’m used to this and then with the water they put on it was still okay. It was technical actually, you had to be really smart with your lines and to not crash with the stones, it was slippery. For me, it was great.

GateDrop: Looking ahead to the rest of the season, you are obviously doing great in hard pack so why can’t these results still continue but I feel like sand is kind of your Achilles heel, especially the Lommel and Riola type of tracks… Any plans to put in sand riding to improve in this conditions?

Guillod: This winter we really really focused on the hard pack to be able to make the result that we did today and to still improve. So you know, we just put the sand on the side but for sure, for next year, I will spend a lot of time in the sand to finally be good in the sand. But for sure before the next few races in the sand, we will try to spend a bit of time in the sand to make not a bad result.

GateDrop: Just on MXGP, they’ve introduced the new wildcard entries – nice to see for the sport and MXGP to have full gates? Last year at times there were maybe only 25 guys…

Guillod: No, no (laughs). To be honest, no because when we are 22 riders on the gate, they are the 20 fastest guys on the planet, that is the first thing. Then people forget so quick, tomorrow people won’t remember who finished fifth or ninth so do you really care about the guys that finish in thirty-second? But yeah, it is like this. If people are happy with forty riders behind the gate it is great. For me, it doesn’t change much, I just try my best to get the best result I can.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Images: Mediacross