A lengthy chat with Jeffrey Herlings occurred at the EICMA show in Milan this week, but that was not all! MX Vice editor Lewis Phillips also got an opportunity to catch up with two-time MX2 world champion Jorge Prado and discuss a range of topics. The conversation floats from his final season in MX2 to his future in the premier MXGP division. There is also a fair amount of talk about his desire to race in the United States as well! The podcast can be listened to below or alternatively you can read the lengthy interview.
MX Vice: I have spoken to you a hundred times this year, so we do not actually have much to talk about. Before we get onto some interesting stuff, just go over your season. It was obviously perfect. You won the title. You won like a million races. Perfect.
Jorge Prado: Yeah. I said it many times. It’s been an awesome season. Even better than what we already expected it to be, winning pretty much every single round. I’m so happy I could make it happen because like everybody says, once you win it once to win it the second time is always more difficult. I could make it happen though. I’m very happy with the progress and about moving up to the 450 for next year.
One thing I never got to talk to you about is Uddevalla. You won the title there, but then you lost the record of consecutive wins. You did not care, I guess, because you won the title. That was the main thing. Was there a little part of you that was like, “Ugh” though? You took it so far. To fall at the very last one was a bit of a shame.
Yeah, yeah. I think things are like that. That second moto I was going out and I said, “Now I really want to win,” but maybe that willing to win made me make a mistake. After winning the title maybe the concentration wasn’t there. Anyway, I was still feeling good. I came out. I didn’t start perfect, so I moved to third place and then I had a small mistake. I crashed and then the lever of the clutch just moved up, so I couldn’t use the clutch at all. This made it very difficult on a track like that.
Luckily the last laps, I could get some good rhythm and even getting one of the fastest laps of the race even without a clutch. I was just riding and almost caught [Adam] Sterry. I was two tenths behind him at the finish line. That means two tenths from the win. It was okay, because I won the title, but like you said there was a part of me like, “Ugh. So many races one, one, one. This could have been one more.” Everybody makes mistakes. I think this is pretty much the only mistake I made. I made two or three, and this is one of them. It was okay. No problem.
It’s funny, because I remember that race. Not because you lost a GP for the first time all year, but because the last part of that second moto was probably the fastest you went all year. I remember just watching the times and being like, “He is not going anywhere.” Then suddenly it was purple in all sectors. I feel like – considering you had no clutch and such –you could still go, “I killed it.”
Yeah. Something that made me very happy was that I crashed and then I was struggling. Normally I’m used to getting to the corner and – like every single rider – taking a bit of clutch or just in the braking when it’s so slippery helping myself a bit with the clutch, but I couldn’t use it in this occasion. It was completely bent up. It was in a place that my hand didn’t arrive to the clutch. I tried to put it down a couple of times, but it was so hard. I couldn’t do it. What I want to say is that the last minutes – once they put the last ten minutes plus two laps – I started getting that rhythm and I got faster and faster.
I was not even thinking of getting tired, and this was the second moto of the day. I was happy that I felt good physically, because most of the races I start first and I finish first. Those last laps I go a little bit down just to secure that first place. This time I had to fight to get other riders that were very far. I couldn’t even see them. That surprised me. Im very happy, because this means that we did a very good job on the physical side. That I also could see in different races this year.
One more thing on this year before we go into the future and everything. You won an insane number of races. Too many. Did that help you in a way when you got to round eight and were sat on the line going, “Okay, I’ve got this. I know I can do this?” Did the pressure of keeping the streak going kind of play on your mind a little bit? Did you get to the point where you were sat there going, “I need to win, because second place is terrible?”
Everything came quite good for me. I was very concentrated. I made the starts and made the moto. It’s not easy. It’s not easy, because it’s easy to make mistakes as you go so many times first. I led so many laps this year. Insane.
I think you led something like 560, then the rest of the class together led like 44.
Yeah, it’s a lot of laps that you can make mistakes. You also have pressure to finish in that position. One thing that you say that is true: For me this year getting a second place or a third place – everything that wasn’t first – I would have been not happy. Not happy at all, because when you know you can win and did it ten times in a row… You don’t think about getting second, because you know that you need to win. You know you can win.
If you have the possibility to win, you need to win. If you can’t, you can’t. Having that was also a bit of pressure, because I didn’t want to disappoint myself. It was more of myself, with knowing that I could do that. There was always a bit of pressure that I put to myself, but at the end of the day once you go riding you try to also improve race by race. You try to do different things, learn and do something good.
It is weird. We have just spoken about Uddevalla, because you got fourth in a moto. Really, who cares? If any other rider got fourth in a moto, no one would care. Seeing as it is you though and you are perfect, that is like a big thing that we have to talk about. It’s weird. Really, we shouldn’t care. It’s the same as if you went 2-2 at a GP this year. I would have come up to you after and we probably would have done a really sad interview about how it was the worst weekend of your life, when really…
In France, when first moto I was first and then I got second…
Big deal. It should not have been.
It’s funny, because on Monday or even Sunday afternoon after the race everybody was sulking that I got beaten. Man, I won the GP! I didn’t get beaten. I got beaten one moto. At the end when you get the people used to seeing you in the first spot, a second spot is bad. Okay, it is also a part of the process and you learn. I learn a lot with these things. In France for example, I remember I lost a bit of the concentration and that bit made the guy [Jago Geerts] pass me and win the moto. I put in a lot of hard work after that race again. I remember since that day, I didn’t lose the concentration anymore this season.
We are done with that. 250s are gone. It is over. Forget about it. 450s… You are obviously ready for this. You want this. You were kind of forced up to 450s but, from what I understand, you do not want to be on a 250 anymore anyway. That part of your career is done. You won two world titles. Moving on…
Yeah, true. Two world titles is a lot. I’m so happy. It’s the past. Now I’m looking forward for the new bike with the 450. I had a great time riding the 250. Very, very good memories. It’s a bike that I will always remember. This bike gave me so much. I’m so happy. When I think about the 250, a smile comes onto my face. The last two years have been a dream. This year I was living the dream every single weekend. It’s the past though. Now we need to look to the future and get ready for the next step.
What’s been going on since the ‘Nations? Have you done some more testing or have you just been off? Are you already making progress with the 450?
After the ‘Nations I took time off, then I went for two days of testing and then again time off. Now I’m starting to get into the physical training again. It was time to get some holidays after a long season. Last year I didn’t get so much. I had to do surgery to take out the thing in my elbow. This season I said, “Okay. Now I go holidays. Just relax. Do just nothing, just relax. Good.” The testing went well.
We did two good days of testing. Put the bike to fit it to my style. I was riding the ‘Nations with a bike made for, let’s say… Not made for me. It was a bike already made. I couldn’t put it perfectly into what I like, because there was no time. I didn’t ride so much on the 450 before ‘Nations. Now with these two days, we focused on putting everything and having a good base. I’m very happy. I’m very, very happy. KTM did a great job.
In the little bit of riding you have done on a 450, or testing even, have you been taking power out of it to make it feel a bit more like a 250? I spoke to Mitch Evans yesterday and he said he has done two days of testing with HRC and he’s already taken some power out of it, because it’s so aggressive. Have you done that as well?
No, no, no. I didn’t take out power. I like a lot of power. No, I didn’t do that.
What about physical training? Gym and stuff like that? Is your programme changing much with that stuff? Most MX2 guys have to stay lean to stay on a 250 – you never had that problem. If anything, I guess you are doing more to bulk yourself up?
We spoke with my trainer, Claudio [De Carli] and everyone to make a good programme for next year. We are starting now and putting everything into working on the things that we think we can improve. I’m very happy. We are taking it very seriously. It’s a big step. I’m also very happy that I have very good guys helping me to get better physically and on the bike. We need to work hard physically. We will make a step for sure. We will make a step, because we have a hard training programme for next year.
It is going to be your first year on a 450. There is going to be a learning process, but we saw at the ‘Nations that you are pretty good on one already. Are you going in thinking about the world title? In your position, that is kind of what you are here to do. That is what you are paid to do.
Honestly, a top five would be very nice. Count the riders who won titles in this class and there are like seven guys with world titles, but then there are seven or eight riders who could be on the podium. Just a podium in the MXGP class is a great weekend. However, as a racer and as a world champion already, you always get out and try to win. Maybe it’s not possible. Maybe yes, but if it’s not possible I will try.
That’s what we can do to get better. If you don’t try, you cannot improve. I will try to do my best every single time I go out. The title… Maybe it’s something too big for me at the moment. We will just progress during the season. I would like to not get injured, because it’s something that breaks your progress and the growing. Just trying to stay on two wheels, take it easy, learn and take a lot of experience for the future.
Knowing how competitive the MXGP class is going to be, like you just said, is that actually quite exciting for you? Like you say, this year there were times where you did not have any competition. The thought of having these insane battles with Jeffrey [Herlings] and Tony [Cairoli], does that actually excite you a little bit?
It’s like you are going back to racing!
Yeah. If I need to battle with these guys, it means that I’m already on a good level so hopefully yes. We’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. Will be good next year. It will be fun.
Everyone thought that you wanted to go to America, and when you were obviously doing your deal that was where everyone thought you were going to head. It didn’t happen. You have got four more years in MXGP now. That has not killed the American dream, but obviously that is going to make it harder if you do want to go at the end of this. What went into that decision and is America still on your mind?
I think even if I stay here for, let’s say, four years in the MXGP class and I want to move to the USA and ride supercross, I think it wouldn’t be… If I get a good winter, I think it wouldn’t be a big problem. Things change. I am very happy with the team where I am, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team. The structure of Claudio De Carli has been amazing to me. When you find home, it’s hard to leave.
When you feel home in a team and feel that everything is correct you don’t need to move. It will be hard to find something like that, if there is even something close to how good I feel here. I’m not saying that there I’m not going to feel good but here I feel very, very good. It is tough to change something that is good.
I guess the nice thing for you is having the confidence to know that if you do one day go to supercross, you can jump straight in and be good at it. We posted that video a couple of weeks ago and that was when you were fourteen, but you already had it pretty dialed. Whenever you want to go, it’s kind of ready for you.
Yeah. I think also with the support of the team, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, they have always been supporting me. I think if one day I want to make the move to America, they will be there to support me. I have no doubt, because they have been always there. If I ever want to go there, it will be I think no problem.
Last thing, what is the plan from now? We have talked about what you have done since ‘Nations, but are things about to get really intense or is it still quite slow for a while?
Yeah. Get a good physical training, study with the bike and slowly get better. Put a lot of hours on it but take it easy. I need to do some off-season races and then we will see. Soon we are again at the first round at Matterley Basin. We’ll see. Hopefully it is not muddy [laughs].
One more thing. Speaking of the calendar, you have got a Spanish GP back. It looks like it, anyway. It’s a TBA, which is scary, but that will be cool.
Yeah. I know they are working very hard to get it in Spain. I think we deserve one GP in Spain. We’ll see. We’ll see if they make it or not. Hopefully yes. There are a lot of possibilities that we have a GP next year.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer