KRT Manager - Antti Pyrhonen:
“It was a very long season, especially as the previous one had only ended mid-November so the off-season was very short, especially for us as we were moving to a new manufacturer. It was a highly intense winter and since then we never stopped as the 2022 season started early.
The year passed so fast, faster than any other, but we are happy and proud of this first season with Kawasaki and from here we can really advance even further to be ready for the battles ahead of us next season,” explained Antti Pyrhonen, who has a long experience as both a rider and as a team manager in the MXGP world yet no one will take a long break as next season will kick off already in February as Antti explains.
“We really started working hard soon after the final GP in order to prepare for next season as we have some new things coming up, which is great; that will give us some extra work and that’s why we didn’t stop working after Turkey. But it was good to end the season as usual in September; the season has not been affected by Covid so we can really start to work to bring the team to the next level.”
A new challenge
For Antti and his staff 2022 was different to all previous seasons as they collaborated with a Japanese company for the first time and needed to discover a new way of working. “To work for the Kawasaki factory is a big responsibility; I was really looking forward to it, and I was ready for it, but there are always new things - new people, new ways of working - for us so for sure there were many things to learn and control.
I am very proud of our team, our riders and our technicians who put in this enormous amount of work; everyone stayed focused and positive and kept working all season long. Without all this hard work it would have been difficult, and I am very proud of what they achieved in such a short time,” reflected Antti on his staff before talking about his riders Ben Watson and Romain Febvre.
“For sure it was not easy for Ben to carry the flag for the Kawasaki Factory team alone during the first half of season; he kept working and working, he had some ups-and-downs but when there were some downs he never gave up during the week and keep working hard. He was able to show his potential and, even if the results were not what he was expecting, there were many positives to take if you consider the circumstances of a young rider who was a rookie the previous season in the MXGP class.
Romain was out of action for six months but when he came back he showed once again what a fighter he is, a true warrior! After several operations he spent many weeks without being able to do anything apart from rest; it is the worst situation for a rider but then, after many hours of rehabilitation, he could ride again. I was surprised when, after less than ten hours on the bike, he told me that he wanted to race Teutschenthal so he could know how his leg was before going to Indonesia. I was quite surprised, but I trusted him and his experience, and he finished fourth; it was such an amazing achievement! Then again a fourth in Indonesia, and finally a podium in Turkey to end the season on a positive note.”
More to come
Antti knows that hard work pays off. “I’m optimistic for next season as we now have a full year of experience together with Kawasaki and we have a great racer in Romain. If he has a good off-season and stays healthy everybody knows that he will be a title contender; that’s the reality. Of course we still keep our feet on the ground and will continue working hard but I firmly believe we will be successful.
We have developed a great relationship with the Kawasaki factory staff; the relationship is really open and easy. It’s a great pleasure to work with the Japanese technicians and engineers as we share everything; we have a similar mentality regarding not only the bike and technology but also how to execute the work with professionalism. The respect between each party is great and this is unique in my opinion so I’m very happy that we have been selected to carry out this task for Kawasaki. Let’s go for it; let the good time roll!” concluded the always smiling and enthusiast KRT leader.
KRT Rider - Ben Watson:
Kawasaki Racing Team’s Ben Watson took time out to reflect on the 2022 season in which he finished twelfth in the FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship.
« Overall twelfth in the world is not what I was expecting from myself and I feel I under-achieved but I can only point to myself on that. Sometimes things didn’t work how we wanted but that’s how it is. Everything was new for both me and for the team; they wanted to do the best for me and they treated me so well all season; they looked after me as much as if I was leading the world. It was a new bike not only for me but for everyone around me, and it adds an extra dimension when you don’t know the people so well over years and they don’t know you.
We’re still in one piece at the end of the season and have learnt for the future. I didn’t handle it as well as I should have done, but it’s an experience I will never forget. The Kawasaki Racing Team is one of the biggest set-ups around and everyone’s eyes are on you.
l felt I was coming off a solid first season in MXGP and was looking to build on that, developing and improving. Looking at the big picture in the end I finished twelfth in the world which is something to be proud of but I wanted more so in retrospect I am disappointed with what I achieved. I felt big pressure, but I put myself in that position.
For me to be the leading rider while Romain was out during the first half of the season was difficult, but that’s how it is and at this level you have to take it. The short winter between the 2021 and 2022 seasons didn’t make it easy for anyone and it started off on the wrong foot through no fault of any of us. “
I had gone home after the last race of 2021 and was really sick; I was in bed for a week and almost ended up in hospital. Then two weeks later I travelled to Belgium, riding and training, and it was full throttle from day one to be ready for the new season. Now I’m just drained physically and mentally. It’s just been a really tough year and now I need to go home and get back to normality; I need to shut down, see my family and girlfriend and regroup.“
KRT Rider - Romain Febvre:
After a podium at the final round of the FIM MXGP World Championship in Turkey, Romain Febvre reflected on 2022 and, more importantly, 2023. With injury unfortunately part of a GP motocrosser’s career, Romain had to deal with a serious one last winter; after missing the first half of the season he could return to action mid-June in Germany. For both the Frenchman - as well as for the team - it was a tough period as he recalls.
“I was not yet at 100% but as I had a good feeling on the bike and as we had some good training sessions It was time to go racing even if I still felt some pain at times “.
His comeback was amazingly successful as he only missed the podium by two points. Fourth in Indonesia, Belgium, Sweden – where he missed the podium by a single point – and France Romain was surprised to finally get on the box in Turkey after his performance during the first moto at Afyonkarahisar.
“The MXGP class is so tight that normally you can’t expect a podium result with an eighth position in one of the motos. I was really mad with myself after the first race in Turkey as I crashed alone when I was in third position and missed the opportunity to get a good result,” he admitted.
Aided by another great start in the final race of the season he finally clinched a podium and, even more exciting, a moto win. “Between Saturday and Sunday we changed some settings on the bike and I was feeling more confident, not only at the start but also during the races.
To get a podium was important for me to conclude the race season, but even more important for the team who had put in so much effort all year long for Ben and me. It was a tough season for us but I had time to bind with the team and for sure that will help us to be even more competitive next season.”
Optimism for 2023
Last year the MXGP season ended late in November due to the pandemic measures but this year was a more normal season with the first GP in February and the final round in the first week of September.
“It’s great to end the season earlier than during the last two seasons as it will allow us to take a decent break before we prepare for 2023. I’m personally relieved to end the season now as I need some surgery to clean up my knee and leg; I raced this season with pain in my leg so I wasn’t able to train as hard as usual between the races and during the race weekends I also felt some pain. That’s how it is; we all know that this is also part of the life of many motocross riders and it was a year to forget in some ways.”
In conclusion he looked forward optimistically to 2023.
“To end the season on the podium is good for everyone, and now I can focus on having a strong winter training after a recovery period. We have good reason to look forward to next year as Kawasaki Japan will be more deeply involved and I’m sure that after a good winter we’ll be stronger than ever. The team is strong and motivated and I’m really enthusiastic about the future.”