Jeffrey Herlings, Pauls Jonass and Glenn Coldenhoff all took off immediately after the final moto in order to catch a flight that would get them home as early as possible. Dirk Gruebel was there with the rest of the staff at Red Bull KTM, however, and working all hours to ensure that the bikes were crated up in the correct manner and that everything is in order. Dirk still made time for an exclusive MX Vice interview, where he covered many hot topics.
MX Vice: I guess you have got a freak of nature under your tent! Had I told you that you would get two overall wins out of Jeffrey Herlings on this trip, then I guess you would have called me stupid and told me I was terrible at my job!
Dirk Gruebel: Well, we came here to make… Let's say damage control. Manage as less points as possible to give away, but already last week he surprised everybody even if he looked a little bit sketchy the last couple laps. He was really exhausted and tired, but I cannot blame him. He did not ride for nearly three weeks and then coming back in such difficult conditions, like Pangkal Pinang, and winning there… That was awesome. This week, same thing. New track. Nobody knew what to expect and it is pretty hot here, so very exhausting. So many riders faded away.
In the second race it looked it was going to be a mix between him and Clement [Desalle], because Clement really wanted it. Jeffery was not riding at his best. He had a little bit of a problem to find his rhythm, it looked like. But still, end of the day, he managed again a 1-1. We cannot ask for more. Now he extended his points lead. Tony [Cairoli] got a bit hurt last week unfortunately, but still Jeffrey did the best he could. Nobody thought he would come back after that injury so good and still be dominating. He is just an amazing guy.
Going back to last week, just how stressed were you watching the second race? I know Wayne and Ruben were freaking out with the pit board, so I am guessing you were a bit stressed as well.
Well, he said before; "I am not going to push the limit because I am not fit. I should not do it. I can hurt myself more if I go down again." Everybody agreed with that. The plan was just to ride as smooth as possible and, even if it gets rough, then let it go and just manage second or third or whatever. I had some points when he made an unplanned whip, I call it, towards the pit lane.
Everything could happen and he had his moments there, then he went down and Tony passed him. I was like, "Okay. Now stress is over, all done." Then Tony crashed again and it all started over again. It is just crazy. He managed his strength really well and it is unbelievable how good he knows his body. When he sees a win, he is not going to let it go.
I guess it is tough, because coming in from the race last week I am sure there was a part of you that kind of wanted to shout at him and tell him he was stupid. Then, on the other hand, you were stoked, because you had won the overall. It must have just been a weird thing to manage.
Of course. Firstly, I was a bit angry. You should not be, because he won, but on the other hand he went over his own limits and should not force luck. He did already with the crash. It is just amazing. What can you say? You cannot be angry at a guy who is winning. I am not telling him, "You are stupid." Of course not. He is just awesome and how he can also handle pain. He never complained one time. It is unbelievable.
Were you a little more comfortable to let him do his own thing this weekend and decide whether he wanted to go for the win or settle for second? Did you just kind of leave him to his own devices?
Yeah. This week was completely different strategy. Of course he knew if he had a good start he was going to go for the win. He had two decent starts and went right away there for it. Tim [Gajser] pulled away a bit, but then in the first race he got him back. His strategy does not work with Jeffrey, because they are just contrary.
Tim pushed so hard the first fifteen minutes, but Jeffrey pushed really hard in the last fifteen minutes. That is where he got him; he runs him down, like all the other competition, and he managed himself. We try to assist him a bit with his pit board, but in the end of the day he knows himself the best and he does the best out of it. We saw he is capable to win and it is just awesome to see.
Moving on from here, is he going to be able to land in Europe and just get after it with training every day or is he going to have to rest? I guess the collarbone must have been made sore or aggravated a little bit on this trip.
For sure it is sore. He is going back now and probably going to have a checkup, another one. If it is still in place, everything is tight and good, then we will consult the doctor and take it from there. Now he knows there is no time for another screw up.
Moving on to the MX2 class, I think Pauls had a good day. Obviously the results maybe do not show it, but this was definitely better than it has been. There have been worst days this season.
Yes, definitely. Pauls looked good yesterday already. He looked really good this morning. You could see the attitude in him. The first race went perfect. The second one he went down and when they ran over him, they really hit the helmet. One guy went straight over his helmet. I do not know… Rang the bell a bit, let's say, so he told me the first two laps he did not feel that well. Looking a bit at what to do and where the balance is and everything.
Once he got going he rode really well. I am really proud of him and how he managed to come back. There are not that many riders here, so of course it also was a bit easier, but in the other side there were big gaps he had to close and he managed it well. He is tied in points now with Jorge [Prado]. It is not the best for him, but for the championship it is awesome. That is clear. We will see. Pauls is capable of doing good things and is a hard worker. I think the coming races will work out for him.
It was actually a really busy day for you. Even with Glenn Coldenhoff, he had the penalty and I saw you were talking to the officials for quite a while. What happened there and what is your view on it?
It was unfortunate. I saw the crash from Romain [Febvre] and he just went down, then at the same time Gautier [Paulin] landed beside him and then Clement. There were no yellow flags set up. Then the first yellow flag appeared on the top of the table when Max [Nagl] took off. But they go up the hill, they go down the hill and then there is that roller before so they see everything except the yellow flag. They see this guy on the ground and then when they see the face you see a yellow flag, but it is too late.
Glenn was just on his rear wheel and the same thing for him. You cannot blame the boys. Nobody is jumping intentionally on the yellow flag, for sure not, but on the other side the FIM need to execute the rules at this point. Of course it is always dangerous if somebody is a hurt rider on the track or whatever, but I do not know. Maybe it was a bit harsh. A warning would have helped maybe, since these guys are not really the rascals out there who mix up the whole field every week.
They have one incident a year, let's say, and that was it. They felt a bit disappointed, because the penalty is really high. Ten positions back in these circumstances is a nightmare for both of them. Everybody really rides hard and it is demanding in that heat and stuff. It is double hard on you.
We obviously know that Glenn is going to be moving on next year now. Do we kind of take that as confirmation that Pauls is moving up or is that still up in the air?
He is most likely moving up. Beginning of the year already he said, "Next year I am going to go MXGP." I think that plan he is going to stick to, no matter what happens.
Do you need to find another MX2 rider then? I guess you will have the same structure this year.
It is still open. We always have an MX2 rider. This year is the first year we split it up between the two teams, but Jorge does good over there and he feels comfortable. It was the right thing to do for him. At the moment I am looking also at who I could take, to be honest. It is not that easy. If a name pops up you say, "Okay, could be top five finisher. Maybe that is a possibility." It is too early to say yet.
I guess it is tough as well, because of the age rule. You could pick up someone like Darian Sanayei, for instance, who would come in for a year, do really well, but then he would be off again. You want to build someone up and go on a journey with them, I guess.
Yeah, you want somebody who has at least two or three seasons with you. With Darian, I really like his riding style. I like how the guy is, his whole mentality and everything. Very nice guy. I would like to work with him. It makes no sense for us for one year and then we have the same problem. We have too many MXGP riders. That is clear. It comes with the age rule. You cannot force it.
For some guys it would be better if they could stay longer, of course. Not everybody is like Jeffrey Herlings, Ken Roczen or you name it. Tim moved on early. Not everybody is like that. Some guys are just made for that little bike. At the same time, you also need to make space for the upcoming riders. If they block it… It is a give and a take.
Finally, the calendar was released last week. Looking at it all, what are your first thoughts? Is there anything that stands out?
It is going to be tough. We spend really a lot of time already in airplanes and in airports and traveling takes its toll, also on the mechanics who are always going back to base to refresh stuff and fly out again. It is difficult. It is not getting easier. If you have six overseas rounds, plus Turkey and Russia, then it is also a high price tag. Even for us, as a factory team, it is getting difficult a little bit on the financial side. This travel is expensive.
One thing that stood out for me is between the two Chinese rounds, there is actually a ten-day gap. The second one is on a Wednesday. Already I am thinking that the riders are going to want to go back in that time, because it is just enough time, but then that is going to be tough on resources.
That is a tough call. At home there is always some work to do. Of course maybe if you can take two or three days off or whatever it is also nice, but it is the same thing. You spend another fifteen hours this way or twelve hours back and forth, then back and forth. It is a lot of hours in the airplane. It takes a toll. It is the time differences, because then you get jet lagged and stuff.
Sometimes it is better if some of the staff stay there and takes two or three days off, but the riders want to train. It is always difficult to find some training stuff, like bikes and everything, overseas. I do not want to let them out on stock bikes, to be honest. They are on such a high level, so it is a bit risky. You come prepared, of course, but I am not a fan of it. We will see. It is an early calendar. It always changes. It is only July now, so we will see if this is the final one.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer