Dirk Gruebel, the team manager on the Dutch side of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing awning, has enjoyed a lot of success with Jeffrey Herlings and Pauls Jonass in recent weeks. Gruebel has an interesting perspective, for that reason, so it seemed like a great idea to get his thoughts on everything that happened at the Grand Prix of Great Britain and learn more about the way that Jeffrey Herlings works.
MX Vice: A perfect weekend for you, 1-1-1-1. I do not know if you could really ask for much more.
Dirk Gruebel: No. Both crowns here in the tent. Our Italian side of the team is 2-2, so we cannot ask for more… Otherwise we would need to get more riders, it looks like. Absolutely blown away.
Did your guys make you nervous at any point? Obviously Pauls [Jonass] had a tight battle with Jorge [Prado] and Jeffrey [Herlings] left it really late.
For me today was hard. I am really exhausted by now. It is not from running up and down… It is more like mentally drained, because it just takes its toll. You are there from the first minute of the race and both classes now, it is so tight. Jeffrey really waited until the last two laps. Amazing what he still can pull out of his sleeve.
Do you know Jeffrey well enough now where in that second moto, say halfway through when you are watching him lose time to [Antonio] Cairoli, to watch him and be like, “It is coming? He has not shown all his cards yet. He is going to pull this out of the bag?"
Yeah, we can tell. He always has something extra left. Credit to Tony today, as he rode really at his best. He would have deserved to win, the way he rode, because he pushed from the first to the last lap. In-between Jeffrey did not look like… He looked at the points also. He lost motivation to catch him, had some mistakes and then [I was] starting to doubt.
But three laps to go they were like, now typical Herlings move. One go and that is it. Again, he pulled it on him. I think Tony does not like that lately, because it is not the first time that he leads ninety-eight percent of the race and then the other two percent he just gets passed. That is a bit sad for him, but Jeffrey is just better at the moment it looks like.
Have you had a conversation with Jeffrey where he has told you this is his plan? Is that actually a conscious effort to do that in every race or is that just the way it is working out for him?
If he has a good start, you would have seen him pull away today. He would have been gone. They would not have been able to catch him. Of course he was tangled a bit at the first turn and came out three and four, then you need to make your way up. Tony made a hit and run strategy, but it is not the first time that did not work out but that is all he can do. He rides at his best. He just goes as fast as he can and if you catch him in the end, it is out of his hands unfortunately.
I noticed that Wayne, Jeffrey’s mechanic, put on the pit board in qualifying a lot to do double, triple, double through the waves section. He kind of struggled with that and then got it down in the second moto. Were there a lot of conversations behind the scenes about whether that was faster and why he was struggling through it?
We looked at it and it looked way faster when Tony did it, but when Jeffrey did it actually not. He did not gain that much time there. We went into him a bit and you need to try of course and this and that, but he did not lose time there. He had two or three times a perfect sector doing double, double and double, but then he started also doing it. Then he did triple, triple when he passed him in that lap. Obviously that helped him out and he got the confidence, but you cannot push him to something that he is not up to. That showed it again.
Another interesting thing that Herlings always does is he turns up late to the starting line. Even the sighting lap today he was the last rider on track and walked up just as everyone was going out. What is the reason behind that?
Today he said, “Yeah, I go last and there is less mud." That’s his game. We know he is late, but this weekend he was actually too late because the bike was still in when they started putting the curtain down. I do not know. He just plays games – that is it.
I have got to ask you about the pass. There are a lot of different opinions and lots of different angles where you can see different things. I saw an angle from behind where it did not actually look like he hit him that much. Has there been much talk about that? Any bad feelings?
It created quite some tension at the moment. We have been prepared, me and Claudio, to be there to support each side or just to deescalate if necessary. From my point of view, it did not look pretty, especially the second hit, but from the pit lane you cannot see it in a good angle. I hear from other people that it was just in the end two lines coming together and then he could not avoid him. I do not know. I have not seen it on TV yet. I cannot tell you really.
He does not do something like that intentionally to ride his teammate down. It happened and everybody expected it way earlier. We could see when we came back that from every team was somebody there, probably waiting something will happen now, but it was just a matter of time. Let’s keep it on the good level and not that it escalates to something. They should keep riding clean. I do not like that. Once they are there, they are out of your control. You cannot pull the string there.
I guess you and Claudio had to be prepared for something like this anyway. When you have two guys racing that close over twenty rounds, something is going to happen even if it is an accident.
Of course. We are prepared, but we also talk a lot with each other. We said, when it happens, it can happen on the rider level, but it should never happen that it transforms to the team level. So far it never did and we have it under control. We also need to be strong there. Like you said, it is exceptional to have two riders on that level who push each other every week to another level. It is just racing. One they are out there, it is out of our control, but we need to keep the control when the racing is over.
Moving forward, both Jeffrey and Pauls, is there anything that they are looking to work on with their bikes or themselves to get better? Can they get better?
There is always constant development, but now during the season it is not that much and we do not have reason to speed up things with the set-up. Obviously Jeffrey is riding at his best. The bike looks good for me out there. We have some stuff in the pipeline. It is a brand new bike for this year, so the testing in the fall, of course we want to make some improvements, but now is not the right time to go testing and go wild.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX