The collaboration between Yamaha Motor Europe and the Rinaldi Group has yielded an unprecedented eight world championships in the past ten years and once again in 2009 the Yamaha Factory squad - now with the slightly different name of Yamaha Monster Energy Motocross Team - enter the MX1 GP series as reigning champions.

Leading up to the first round of fifteen on the 2009 schedule at Faenza, scene of emotional title-winning scenes with David Philippaerts six months ago, YME Racing Division Manager Laurens KleinKoerkamp gives his views on the rapidly approaching new campaign and Yamaha's motocross perspective.

42 year old Dutchman KleinKoerkamp directs Yamaha Motor Europe's Racing Division and is responsible for overseeing the company's competitive organisation in a number of fields, including World Superbike and World Supersport. He has been with the company for 18 years.

Q:
Laurens, another season begins and once again you enter as world champions. How does it feel to be top of the crop for the eighth time in ten years?

LKK:
It is simply a great feeling that makes me feel so proud of the riders and the team. We have set our own standards very high and it's unreal what the Rinaldi squad and Yamaha have won through the years. The key point is though that the riders, team and Yamaha each year are 110 % committed to doing it again. There is not the slightest sign of taking things easy and thinking that this success comes automatically. To achieve this level of motivation and mental approach over-and-over is the secret for me of winning over a long period of time.

Q:
As one of those individuals responsible for bringing David Philippaerts to Yamaha it must have given you enormous pride to see what happened at Faenza last year?

LKK:
Of course, this is what we all do it for. There is only one thing that ultimately counts and that has to be about becoming number one. To see the emotions pour out from David and the team was a fantastic sporting moment. It was pure and feels so rewarding.

Q:
What is your view of the MX1 class? 2008 was exciting and it looks as though 2009 will be more of the same...

LKK:
With the years we had with Stefan at Yamaha it was special because of the sheer dominance we enjoyed. The attention was spread beyond the motocross world, as 'the best motocross rider' angle and the records broken, which was so appealing to all. This gave Yamaha and the sport in general very good wide coverage with a focus on MX1 as the 'top class'; which I think was important.

The last two years have seen more excitement on the track with more riders having a chance of winning and this change is good for the sport as well. This will continue in 2009 I think.

With the maximum age limit for MX2 being introduced in 2010, automatically there will be further focussed attention on the MX1 class as the clear top category and MX2 as the new talent series. I think this is positive as I have always believed that having one top class makes it easier to appeal to a wider audience. It's easier to understand and interest grows more when there is talk of a more limited group of 'stars'. Those stars start to get their own image and characteristics in the people's minds, and this makes it more interesting for general audience to follow what these individuals are doing. I truly believe that having 'stars' is the key to further expand the interest in our sport.

Q:
David and Josh have both been in good form during pre-season...

LKK:
Yes, we are very happy with their performances so far, even if we have never been totally focussed on winning in the pre-season races compared to the importance of the GP results. It is always nice to win a race obviously! What is more important is the testing of some new development parts in race circumstances and the riders building their form for the first GP.

Our riders have perhaps a slightly different approach here. David is almost in top shape already, where Josh has chosen to build it step-by-step and be ready at Faenza. Both riders are on schedule and confident to compete for the win on 29th March.

Q:
What about the De Carli team? It means that Yamaha will have their strongest ever presence in the premier class...

LKK:
Antonio is such a huge talent as we all know. Having won the MX2 title twice and becoming a little older and stronger physically now the time is right to make the switch. We all remember his wild-card MX1 debut win at Donington in 2007 but Antonio is very clever and realised that on sandy tracks he needed more strength to be able to win. A rider of his talent must aim for the top in the top class, be ready for it but also not wait too long. He needed a next big challenge. With Tanel Leok the team has got MX1 experience onboard that will bring top results, and this is important for Antonio but in particular also for development of the bike for Claudio de Carli.

Q:
Tony is no longer in MX2, so the landscape has changed a little for Yamaha for the first time since 2005 but the YZ250F still has some very worthy riders...

LKK:
With Antonio and Rattray moving on, the title fight is open. Having finished 3rd last year Nico Aubin is a clear candidate, but an injury-free Davide Guarneri now has to show consistency which should make him a title contender as well. Consistency is also the challenge for Zach Osborne, who no doubt is very fast but needs to score well when a win is not possible and avoid DNFs. A nice aspect of MX2 I think is to see how the young talents grow. Alessandro Lupino and Deny Philippaerts should be ready to make the next step and Evgeny Bobryshev has had a great pre-season. It will also be interesting to see Loic Larrieu getting used to world level coming from the European championship.

Q:
It was a real shame about Katherine Prumm's injury. Have Yamaha's priorities for the Women's World Championship now changed?

LKK:
A little bit. We had planned to help Katherine get her title back, but unfortunately it was 'not to be' this year. In the meantime the economical crisis had started and we decided not to recruit another top women rider. Having said that, we give a little support to a young girl from Parma - Chiara Fontanesi - who will enter in the 3C Racing team on a YZ125 in the Women's World Championship.

Q:
Yamaha has such a long and fantastic record at the highest level of MX-GP. With the economic crisis affecting global motorsport it must be encouraging to fans of the YZ machinery that the company still continues to race with full intent...

LKK:
Racing is part of Yamaha's DNA, although it is definitely difficult to maintain the racing investments at the same level in the coming short-term as in the past. Nevertheless, our aim for 2009 it to fight for both the MX1 and MX2 world title and we have the machinery, riders and teams to do so. At the same time it is clear we have to reconsider all racing aspects to secure the future, whether team and rider costs, the racing calendar, travel costs and possibly even technical regulations. We also have to keep making it more interesting and beneficial for partners and sponsors to enter our sport. Also if we can further increase the spin-off benefits of GP racing for our marketing divisions and development divisions, it's a reason to keep on justifying our racing investment.

 

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