Hours after winning the Grand Prix of Belgium, MX Vice editor Lewis Phillips sat down with Tim Gajser to discuss everything that occurred in the bottomless sand. There was a lot to discuss, as things change so quickly on a track like Lommel. Gajser discusses finally winning in the sand, Max Anstie’s impressive speed, sketchy lines, failing to lock up the title, taking Slovenia to the ‘Nations and so much more! Jump right into the bumper interview.
MX Vice: I think you had a lot more to lose than win today, because obviously this track is gnarly. Anything can go wrong out there. You are in a great position in the points, so the last thing you wanted to do is jeopardize that. To come out with a consistent day and a win just kind of sums up how everything has gone to plan this season. It seems like nothing can stop you.
Tim Gajser: Yeah, exactly. I didn’t expect a lot from this weekend, because I kind of prepared myself mentally. We always struggle here. I was ready for that, but actually I felt quite good. Already yesterday in the quali race I was feeling good and riding smooth. Today, again, in warm-up I was feeling immediately great on the track.
The track was super rough today and also starts were really important. I took two good starts. The second one was even a holeshot. Pretty happy with improving in the sand compared last year and past years. I was even surprised when I came there and saw again that I won the GP with a 2-2. Usually that never happens, but I was super happy.
How tough was it to kind of control yourself in the second race? Obviously, you could have won it and then even when you kind of settled for second Max [Anstie] opened it up for you again. Was it quite hard to not push too much? You could have given up more of a fight when he passed you, but you just settled down.
Exactly. I took a holeshot and then led for a couple of laps. I heard that Max was behind me. We already had a nice gap to the third one and then basically I just left him to pass me. It was not necessary to risk going over myself, especially in the sand on the track like that. I left him. He passed me. I was behind him for a couple laps. I took his lines where he was faster, then he made a mistake. He fell. I was in the lead for almost all the race until the last three laps, something like that, and also when I saw that Max was coming. I didn’t want to risk it again.
I just left him to pass me, because they wrote on the board that I can even win with a 2-2. I was enjoying it out there. Did not push too hard. Did not make so many mistakes. I think it was almost impossible to not make a mistake during all of the thirty-five minutes, especially on a track like that. In the second moto I did a couple of small ones, but I was riding really smooth and relaxed. I was just trying to ride without any mistakes. It was tough, but I managed to finish second in both motos and win the overall.
It was kind of like a weird class this weekend, because it was wide open. More so than usual, because on hard-pack you are kind of on another level. Max kind of put himself above everyone yesterday, but did you know he was out in the first moto? Were you waiting to see if he was going to come up? He was kind of like [Jeffrey] Herlings would be in a way.
Yeah. I thought that behind me it was Max at first, because when I looked back I could just see the KTM with white gear. I said to Nico and my brother, who were writing on the board, to not write the names. Then I would start to think whether it’s [Romain] Febvre and then Anstie. I said, “Just give me the gap and how much it is!”
I thought that Max was third. I was kind of surprised, because we gapped him towards the end of the race. Then I saw it was [Glenn] Coldenhoff. I didn’t know that he was out of the race from the start, but he was really fast today here. He showed in the second moto that he can really go fast on the sand tracks.
Did you learn anything from him in the second race when you were behind him? Did you see him doing something different where you were like, “That is going to make my life easier?”
Sure. I follow his lines where he was faster. I kind of picked his lines and then where I felt that I was faster I stayed with these lines. It’s basically how you have to do it. It’s easier if someone is in front of you. You can see if he loses time, if you gap or if you lose the time. I was able to see where he was faster and pick up some of his lines.
Where was one of the places where you thought he was faster? Is there one spot on the track where you can say you definitely picked up a good line?
It was after the start, the fast section, and then the long, left corner. Then before the single where we were launching. That left corner he found some nice lines from outside to inside. These kinds of things.
Speaking of that single tabletop thing before the start, it looked sketchy. If you were jumping the whole thing, you were going really high and if you cased it then it was nasty. If you just did a single-single, the hole in-between looked horrible as well.
Really true. Exactly. I was doing it [launching the jump] in the second moto almost every lap. Just a couple laps where I didn’t have a good drive out of the corner. I even did it, I think, on the last lap. I think with the 450 you have a lot of torque and a lot of power, so you can just come out of the corner in second gear and send it easily. It was a nice jump, definitely.
The quad was harder this year with the way the track developed. Did you think about it at all or do it?
Yeah, we were thinking about it in free practice. They left longer straights, so it was kind of really difficult to judge how much gas you have to carry. If you were too short, then there were ruts. If you were one meter or even half a meter too long, you could hit hard. It was really difficult to judge how much speed or how much gas you had to use to jump the quad. I think it was a good combination to do like triple, double and then from the single we jumped over the bumps into the corner. That was also nice.
Was there one really, really sketchy moment that you had this weekend that stands out in your mind? Was there one big thing?
I had some little moments, but never such a big one that I would say I was lucky to get away with it. No. Also, like I said, I didn’t push over myself. I didn’t go over one hundred percent. I was always there at ninety-eight or ninety-seven. Always keeping this three percent to not risk. I was riding quite smooth. With the team and everybody who was filming me or on the track, they said that I was quite… From the outside it also didn’t seem that I was pushing so hard. It was good.
It obviously rained quite a lot on Friday, which changed the track a little bit. How did you think it was compared to last year, just with how rough it was and stuff like that? Was it easier or harder?
I think it was harder. The sand with the rain, I think it was heavier. I also think the track overall was rougher than last year, because they left the track rough during the night. They just flattened the takeoffs and some landings. The rest they left the same and already in warm-up when we came on the track I was like, “Sh*t, we have to do another two motos. Thirty-five minutes there.” It was the same for everyone. I think there were many guys who struggled really hard.
Also myself, let’s say the last five minutes were tough because actually when you start to think about the end of the race you don’t push so hard anymore. You kind of case all the bumps. It’s kind of heavier, because before when you have your rhythm and pace you kind of just bounce around. When you slow down the pace, it’s like you hit everything. It’s even tougher, so definitely the track was challenging today.
You didn’t become world champion this weekend, which sucks, but Imola is looking good, as long as you score two points or something. Are these two weeks going to be really long? Are you just going to sit in your camper in bubble wrap and try to not touch anything or put yourself in any danger?
No. Definitely we are really close. If I’m honest, I’m really happy to not win here. Maybe to win it next week in Italy… It’s a home GP from the team. It’s really close to Slovenia. We expect many fans there. I think it’s a good place to wrap up the title. Like you said, if everything goes on the plan we can do that in two weeks.
I’m super motivated. I’m going to train like normal, because as soon as you start to think too much and try to avoid some stuff just to not hurt yourself then maybe something can happen quickly. I’m just going to go back home now, so tomorrow I will be home and then do normal training on the bike and in the gym.
Speaking of Slovenia, are you going to the ‘Nations? Do you know whether you have got a team? Is that all kind of working itself out?
Yeah. The team is not picked completely. We are still missing the third rider. We have to decide. My father is going to be the team manager of Slovenia again, so he has to decide. I think with Jan Pancar, he is riding quite well in MX2 and collecting the points. Here in the sand he was eighteenth or something like that.
I think we have a good team. We are going to have a good team for ‘Nations. Super excited. Last year we did not go in US, because it was quite far and I had to do a surgery on my jaw and everything. This year I think we can do a good result though.
Is there any way we can just put you in all three classes at the ‘Nations? I feel like that will be a good thing for Slovenia. It’s not really possible, but I don’t know. Maybe we can work something out.
Yeah. For ‘Nations, it’s always three riders. It’s not just you who makes a difference. It’s also the other two who have to score a good position. Like I mentioned, I think we have a good team. We’re going to have a good team for this year, especially with the sand. I think many, many, many countries will struggle. Just maybe Belgium or Holland, definitely they are going to have a chance to win the ‘Nations title. Overall, I hope they are going to change the track. For ‘Nations it’s super narrow there. I hope they are going to do some changes on the track. The rest, we will see.
You have just made me think that there are a lot of backmarkers at the ‘Nations. Like, a lot of them. If it’s going to be narrow, then I don’t know how that’s going to work.
Exactly. When you go off the track, you are immediately on the asphalt. The track is quite narrow in some places, especially when we have a finish line and then you have the one-eighty corner. You barely go in the pit lane of MotoGP and there it’s super narrow. Then the chicane there… I hope they will change.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX