Onlookers were prepared to write Antonio Cairoli off in the off-season, as the former champion has endured a pair of turbulent seasons in the FIM Motocross World Championship. The Italian has come out firing this year, however, as he swept the Italian Motocross Championship and then dropped Tim Gajser at the first Grand Prix. We caught up with him on Saturday night for a post-race podcast, but the transcribed version (presented by Atlas Brace) can be found below.
MX Vice: As far as season openers go, I guess that’s the way to do it!
Antonio Cairoli: Yeah, I’m really happy about how it went today. I came from a very difficult week; I was sick until Friday, taking pills and medicaments for my intestinal flu that I got back in Italy. I didn’t really expect to do such a great job. Yesterday in the qualifying race I was feeling a little bit weak, but today was the first day that I felt better again. I didn’t know exactly how much I had in the tank.
In the first moto I had a holeshot and then I could pull away a little bit, so I could control the race. The second moto was very difficult; Tim was pushing very, very hard and from the rest we made a good gap. Then I made a few mistakes, especially in the beginning of the race. I hit him in one corner, because he made a mistake a little bit, and then he crossed my way. I started hearing some noise in my front wheel, so I don’t know what exactly was going on and I slowed down a little bit. After ten/fifteen minutes, everything was still the same. The noise was not worse so I could keep going and, in the end, I tried to make a pass. It worked and I’m really happy about the double victory.
Seeing as you were ill coming in, did you maybe surprise yourself a little bit then? You maybe weren’t expecting to win?
No. I expect for sure to be very, very good, because I know that the pre-season races went very good this year. Only that problem with my stomach, I don’t know exactly how bad it was with my condition, but it worked good. I’m really happy about the first GP like that.
What about that pass in the second race? Obviously all of last year you couldn’t really run him down like that, but it seemed like you had it all under control.
Yeah, for sure. I didn’t say that last year he had a little bit easier life, because nobody really retaliated on his passes and I was feeling very weak. I didn’t really have the feeling to be faster and stronger. I was very weak all year. But, this year, I feel that I’m back on a good shape. I know still how to ride the bike; I think it’s very good to have fight with him, because he is a very nice rider to fight with. He’s very clean, like me. We have the same thoughts about fighting on the track, so it’s nice to have fight with him.
Would you say you are at the best now then, and the same as we saw you in 2014 and all of those other years that you won the championship?
Yeah. It is very difficult to focus, especially after so many years. Especially on the training days; it is not always fun to go training, like I have to say. But, until now I always find something fun to do. Also working with the team is always very nice, still after so many years with the same people. It’s like a family now. I feel really good. I think I can keep going for a couple of years and try to chase some more titles.
This has never been your favorite place, so I guess that the fact that you won so easily today gives you a lot of confidence moving forward.
Yeah. It gives me confidence, but I had some good races in the past. I never won the GP but it’s a track that I like. It’s very technical when it gets very rutted, like it was today. You can make the difference in some places. You can make a good pass even if it’s a bit difficult, but you can invent a good pass. I like such a kind of track.
It sounds like it could be the last time that we come here. Would you be disappointed to see it [the Grand Prix] leave the schedule or do you think it’s maybe time for something new?
Yeah, it is always disappointing to leave a place where there is such good organization with the paddock and with the track. It is something new that they bring to the motocross. It’s very sad, but for sure if we keep going on a track in a country like this with a little money they will organize something similar to this. It’s a shame because it’s a nice track, I have to say, I like it.
Obviously it looks like you’re feeling one hundred percent at the moment and everything’s going well. If there is one thing you think you need to work on moving forward, what would you say that is?
For sure my strong point always is experience, because I have so many years inside my backpack. I have so many years of racing and fighting, but I still can improve my feeling now on some technical parts and some riding stuff. I think it will be great for me to work a little bit more on the speed in some places, especially on the single lap. That is my weak point every year. Especially on the pre-qualifying race and on the single lap. I still have to work a little bit, but we are on a good way and on a good point this year. So, hopefully we can improve during the year.
You’re not looking to change anything on the bike this year then? Obviously last year we saw you really searching for the right feeling.
No, like I said, I didn’t have time to test the last two years. In the winter always something happened; I was not ready or the bike was just new for me. The 450 now, it’s some more years that I have ridden on it and this winter we could test a lot of stuff. I have to say that the bike at the moment is the best bike I have ever had. We can still improve for sure, but we are starting from a very good point at the moment.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX