Antti, 2024 will be your third year heading the Kawasaki effort in the MXGP World Championship; how do you feel?
I feel confident - the entire team feels good - and I'm really proud of our cooperation with Kawasaki. It’s amazing how quickly the years have passed and this will already be our third season with Kawasaki! I’m really proud of what we have already accomplished with Kawasaki, especially last year, with the highlights being Romain's succession of GP victories and FIM silver medal in the MXGP and our role in helping to develop the new KX450. We are really looking forward to the new season; it’s going to be another long year with very strong competition. It will be exciting but also a very demanding year!
Last year you raced with the new KX450 and worked all season to refine it even further; how was it to work with the factory to help to develop a perfect bike for the customers?
Of course Kawasaki R&D and the factory created the new model, and the platform of the bike was very strong from the word go. Our factory bike was developed on the basis of this standard bike so all the credit goes to the Kawasaki engineers. They gave us a great base and, together with them, we worked to make an MXGP-winning bike, and now to offer such a good bike to Kawasaki customers. It’s been an exciting adventure and has also been a real education as we have learnt so much from them technically.
The 2024 factory bike has not changed a lot since last year; did that make the winter testing less strenuous?
For Romain it has been quite a simple approach; he already had a really strong base and could concentrate on detailed refinements to feel even more comfortable so the time went quickly for him, but of course it was a different scenario for Jeremy as this will be his first year with Kawasaki. We needed to do a lot of testing to find a base for him and enable him to feel comfortable; it was a long technical process, starting from things like handlebars, seat, levers, foot-pegs. It has been a very satisfying time and we accomplished it well; it was interesting to learn from another highly-professional rider like Jeremy, so it has been important for the team too.
For the first time you will line up two MXGP winners in the team; it’s must be a dream-come-true for a team manager?
Yes, definitely. To have two absolute top riders in a team and to work with two such professional riders is something that we have really aimed for and we are now able to accomplish that so it was a great achievement for us. They both trust in Kawasaki and our team and we will do everything we can not to disappoint them.
Another long season is coming; what are your expectations?
Our expectations are always high of course, so the goal is to win and fight for podiums all season. But on the other hand we know how unpredictable a sport like motocross can be so we will be keeping our feet on the ground throughout the season, working day-by-day, training-by-training, race-by-race, and see what arrives. It’s so important to stay healthy through the warm-up races and early-season GPs until the Indonesian rounds in July; the most significant part of the championship really starts from there. It's our target to stay calm, keep working hard and to be there for the long-run.