Refreshingly honest, funny and charismatic, our exclusive interview with Ivo Monticelli is packed full of terrific insight.
Words: Edward Stratmann | Lead Image: ASA United GasGas
Part one of our chat shines the spotlight on topics such as how life is going with his new team, his plans and goals for 2023, his take on the state of MXGP, training with Jacky Vimond and Christophe Pourcel, his fondest memories, which bikes he liked most and his perspective on all the different teams he’s worked with.
Edward Stratmann: How’s life with the new team, ASA United GasGas, where you’ll race the British Championship and select MXGP rounds? How did the deal come about, you must be delighted?
Ivo Monticelli: I’m really happy to change things up. I’ve been inside the MXGP world for the last 10 years. I was enjoying doing it, but I don’t think MXGP works in a good way for a rider like me. If you are a top five rider, you get so much money, so it’s okay. But if you’re like me and the riders that are from six to fifteenth place, and you are already a good rider, you get like a normal salary for a worker. You end up spending it all by the end of the season because of travelling and everything so you make nothing really.
It’s crazy, we have a crazy life. We travel a lot and we’re all day training. I decided I would like to try something else to go race the ADAC (German) or the British. I ended up finding a solution with the team here in England. I’m really happy, I’ve already trained with them for two months and they’re cool. For sure, they’re a private team, but we spend now a month in Spain, where we have a house with the teammates and I really enjoy training with the team. Bobby Bruce and John Adamson are younger than me, but they are good, hard workers and we spend so much time together. And at the moment, everything works really well.
ES: Your new teammates would be excited having you on board due to your experience and easy going, fun personality?
IM: You know when you’re a little bit faster and all this, they can learn a lot. For me, I can also learn many things from them. I have experience from MXGP, but they have completely different experience in the British – like Johnny has ridden all his career in the British so he knows so much. He tells me things about the different tracks and how some are much shorter and slower. It’s good when you have good teammates, who are like friends, you can work together and improve on both sides. It’s good and I feel good at the moment.
ES: There’s definitely a trend with riders stepping away from MXGP to race other championships, such as the British, Australian and German championships, where they can have a more stable career and earn more in some cases. What are your thoughts on this?
IM: Yeah, it’s like this often. But I think it’s not the problem of the teams in MXGP, as it costs so much to do the GPs so it’s definitely not their fault. But this is the way it is at the moment. For sure, If I race well in England, I will earn more than if I do MXGP.
ES: What are your expectations for the new season, is your goal to win the British Championship I’d assume?
IM: You know, I think I have the speed, and if nothing happens, I can be one of the guys to battle for it. I don’t want to say too much yet. But for sure, I just want to start by winning races, but I still don’t know all the other riders. I know there’s like five or six riders, they have so much experience, even more than me, and definitely more on their tracks, so I think It will be a really tough championship with the top guys at the front. But for sure, I will try to win.
ES: How has the preseason gone so far and how are you feeling physically, you’d be doing a heavy workload at the moment to prepare?
IM: We were doing extremely hard training in Spain. We’ve been riding a lot in December and we’ll be back in Spain in January and I think February too because England is a bit too cold for me (laughs). I feel good at the moment, though. We also have some more testing to do with the bike in January, so I’m looking forward to racing already as I’m feeling good.
ES: Do you plan to do many of the preseason races ahead of the new campaign in places like Italy, Spain, England and the Netherlands?
IM: We’ll see for the Spanish Championship, as we are here and they have some races in February we can do. Maybe we can race those. I hope we go to Hawkstone cause I like that track. I really love Hawkstone. That’s it and then we’ll go race the British or maybe do some MXGP, I don’t know which one comes first.
We’ll just plan to do the European or Italian MXGP rounds and the ones that Bobby goes to for the European, so we’ll probably do five or six GPs maximum.
ES: How’s the body feeling right now, as you’ve had injuries in your career and a bad shoulder one last year too?
IM: I feel much more fit than all the last few years at the moment. With the shoulder, the doctor says it’ll never be as good as there’s too much damage, but I’m stable at the moment, so that’s good. I can train however I want.
ES: Having raced so many years in MXGP, how do you feel about your career as a whole, are you happy with how it’s gone? 2019 was obviously a highlight with Standing Construct.
IM: I mean, my career can be a bit better in MXGP, because I’ve had so many injuries. I don’t think I’ve done one full championship in all my life in MXGP due to injuries, which was my biggest problem. There’s definitely some good years, which I was really happy about.
2019 was definitely the best year. I passed many factory riders. I am happy about my career, I got good experience, had good people around me, so I’m quite happy about my career, but it could’ve been better for sure.
ES: Having been on so many different teams like Marchetti, JK Racing, Standing Construct, Factory Kawasaki and JM Honda, can you explain how they were and the differences between them?
IM: You know, Marchetti and JK are private teams. They have completely different budgets for everything. I remember having so much fun with JK in my first year on the 450. Then I went to Standing and it was really different, much more professional. I had to change a little bit, as I’m a really crazy guy, and with them being really professional there. They gave me a lot of stuff to try on the bike. They always made the bike how I wanted and this is the reason why I did so well when I was there compared to the private teams.
The same with Kawasaki. I never saw a team working so hard for the rider and giving him more than what he asks for. I also had a good year at JM, even if I didn’t race a lot. For a private team they work differently, more professional than a typical private team.
I was lucky to have good teams and people behind me in my career.
ES: Obviously you’ve had so much experience on many different bikes like Yamaha, KTM, GasGas, Kawasaki and Honda, so which bikes and their characteristics did you like and suited you most? Or does the team play the biggest role towards the bike?
IM: I think the best bike I had was the Kawasaki. It had the best suspension and I never had a problem with the suspension with that bike. But the way I ride, I think the best bike for me is KTM because Honda I had some problems with the suspension to feel comfortable. It also didn’t help that I didn’t race a lot. But KTM I like as I can be on the limit and it dances always a little bit, like me. I’m never straight on the bike, I’m always shaking (laughs).
ES: How was working with Jacky Vimond and Christophe Pourcel when they trained you? What were the key things they taught you?
IM: I really enjoyed last year with Vimond. I enjoyed it because I learned a lot, many things, especially with the mental side. He’s not the type of trainer who only does the fitness side, but he tries to make you really strong mentally and in a good mode to go racing. That was the key point he focused on, as many forget to work on this, especially for riders who are on a factory team and you feel so much pressure, it’s good to have a person to work on this and put you in a good position.
I also trained a little bit with Pourcel, he was pretty crazy, a bit like me. We trained together for a little while and I think he was one of the best talents in motocross. You give him a bike and he doesn’t know it and it’s crazy how he’s instantly so fast and comfortable. I learned a lot from both.
Jacky was like world champion, these people you know they not only have talent, but they have both – this and the mentality. To win a championship you need both and for a rider like me who’s never won a GP, you can learn a lot.
Stay tuned for part two, which will be coming out soon.