Thomas Kjer Olsen eager to conquer demands of the 450cc in second MXGP season

Former MX2 championship runner-up and Grand Prix winner Thomas Kjer Olsen is hoping a change of team and colour will flick his MXGP career into a higher gear in 2022. The forthcoming world championship campaign will be only the Dane’s second in the premier class.

Olsen endured a difficult rookie season with the Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna FC 450 F and his 2021 debut was marked by physical problems, injury knocks and the subsequent effect on his confidence. The 24-year-old was placed in the tricky situation of having to lead the squad with teammate Arminas Jasikonis needing the entirety of the ’21 term to recover his potential after his serious accident at Mantova, Italy in 2020.

IceOne’s eventual change to run Kawasaki equipment for 2022 meant Olsen would be looking for his third team in as many years for this season and was placed into DIGA KTM next to MX2 rookie Liam Everts. The transition leaves Olsen on GP-and-title winning machinery and in ‘orange’ for the first time since he entered Grand Prix competition in 2017.

“I’m on proven and winning equipment; the first few times it was weird to see myself in another colour but I’m loving the KTM,” he said exclusively. “2021 was tough but it was a year where I learnt a lot about myself and there are so many things I can do better. It was taking time to figure out this whole 450 thing. Yeah, I’m a big guy but I’ve always been big on a bike! In the past, whether it was a 250, a 125 or an 85, I was able to manhandle the bike how I wanted. Last year it felt like the 450 was kinda manhandling me! I’m still getting to grips with it…but I know it will come.”

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Olsen won his first Grand Prix in 2017, which was the year where he began a three-season streak of top-three MX2 championship finishes. He claimed race victories every season – with injury ruining an expected title bid in 2020 – until 2021 when he was forced to bump up to MXGP due to the MX2 age ceiling. In ‘21 he was actually the top rookie by finishing 9th in the championship standings. His best GP motos came with 8-7 results both in Russia and Italy.

“For me the first step into 2022 was to take a break and re-charge the batteries after a long year,” he admitted. “I needed that pre-season and recovery and then I’ve just been working my way into it. The winter has been nice and smooth and I’m just missing a little bit of time on rougher tracks now.”

Once again Olsen will not be able to count the experience or competitive presence of an MXGP teammate but linking up with Everts has had benefits.

“I’ve been riding with Liam and it’s always good to have another person there for training,” he says. “Obviously I’m a bit quicker than him but I’ve also had Stefan pushing me in terms of the lap-times.”

For the first time Olsen will not be part of an official factory team although the German DIGA crew will run with satellite KTM status for 2022 with Red Bull backing as well.

“Everybody wants to do well and everybody is passionate. Yes, the team might not be labelled as ‘factory’ but they are just as hungry. Right now, I just want to focus on each session and each event, do the work and believe in myself.”

Words: Adam Wheeler

Pic: Ray Archer