Tom Vialle talks 2022 KTM, title pressure and running ‘solo’

Tom Vialle will enter only his fourth season in the FIM Motocross World Championship in 2022. Since 2019 the Red Bull KTM rider has won races every year and holds fourteen Grand Prix wins and one MX2 world title to his name in that short period. The 21-year-old heads into perhaps his final MX2 term (and the first season of a fresh long-term deal with the Austrian squad) not only having to develop the brand new KTM 250 SX-F but also carry the mantle of the factory team on his shoulders.

Red Bull KTM fielded five riders in both classes of the 2020 championship and six in 2021. For 2022 the reorganisation of the Pierer Group brands meant the title-winners were initially halved to a three-man effort and was reduced to two with Rene Hofer’s tragic death in December. Jeffrey Herlings’ recent broken left heel means that Vialle is now in the unenviable position of being the sole rider in Red Bull KTM colours for the start of the 2022 MXGP and the British Grand Prix at Matterley Basin. It’s an odd predicament that the Frenchman has faced before.

“We’re not sure yet but for Matterley it could only be me in the team,” he said to us exclusively and in the absence of any confirmation by KTM that a fill-in racer will be used, the recently retired Tony Cairoli being the most natural choice.

“In my first year I was also alone! In 2019 I went to England and Jeffrey was injured at that time and I just did the best I could. The situation now is pretty s**t for Jeffrey, and, for me, it’s always better to have a teammate to talk about the track and the race conditions.”

This article continues below

Vialle scorched to 5 wins and 9 podiums in a dazzling ten-round streak during 2021 and once he’d recovered from a freak hand injury caused by a practice collision with rival Roan van der Moosdijk. He was vying with Maxime Renaux in contention for the MX2 crown until an accident that led to a fractured foot while at the Grand Prix ‘triple’ at Arco di Trento ended his plight. After tussling with Jago Geerts in 2020 and countryman Renaux in 2021, Vialle is expected to be one of the main contenders again in MX2 and before a likely switch to the MXGP class beckons in 2023.

“I train every day to win,” said Vialle on his expectations. “To be one of the guys expected to go for the title feels ‘normal’ for me. That pressure was already there in 2020 and it came up again in 2021. I understand it. I really enjoy being at the front of a race, much more than fighting for fifth, sixth or eighth. There is much more adrenaline. I enjoy being the favourite more than I feel pressure from it.”

Vialle will likely resume his rivalry with 2021 runner-up Geerts, now Yamaha’s main hope of defending only their fourth possible crown in the MX2 division since 2004, but he also must spearhead KTM’s development of the brand-new generation of SX-F. The 250 is the most successful in the category but has undergone a radical overhaul.

“It’s a brand-new bike and there is quite a difference; not that big though because it’s still a KTM and you can feel that,” Vialle explains. “The frame is different and it’s a new engine so it’s taking a bit of adaptation but we’re working well, especially with the suspension and the engine feels very good.”

Vialle blitzed 22 holeshots in 2021, 18 more than former teammate Mattia Guadagnini. His speed and starting prowess will come under the microscope again once the competition begins in the UK on February 20th.

Words: Adam Wheeler

Pic: Ray Archer/KTM