An exclusive interview with Niki Tuuli, who is stepping up to the factory-backed Kallio Racing Yamaha squad in World Supersport for 2017.

The Finnish rider stormed into the headlines by notching up up three second places in three races in the World Supersport championship, and in the process beating some established names, and caught the attention with Kallio Racing to secure Yamaha backing for a full 2017 campaign.

Tuuli reflects on his racing education in Finland ice racing helped him hone his skills in World Supersport and how a stint of national service in the Finnish army gave him a career boost.

Crash.net:
Is it true that you're currently having difficulty with your racing commitments due to doing your national service?

Niki Tuuli:
Yeah, I've been in the army for the whole year but thankfully I've only got 4 days left now so will be able to focus on racing more.

Honestly though it only got in the way of my racing a bit so didn't ruin things completely.

Crash.net:
So did you have to negotiate with the army when you needed to be away racing?

Niki Tuuli:
Yes, it's true so in a way the Finnish army supports my racing.

I'm not in the army again next year but it's good fun using a machine gun.

Crash.net:
Researching your career is a little difficult for me as I don't talk Finnish - please fill us in

Niki Tuuli: A common problem, I started racing in 2004 with Minimotos when I was 10 years old but that was only with the Minimotos.

I started riding 600's in the IDM Yamaha R6 cup in 2012. After I won that championship I continued racing in the European Superstock 600 with my own team but by this time Vesa (Mika Kallio's brother) had noticed me and was helping me.

My father was actually a pretty successful racer himself - he was the first Finnish rider to take part in a 600cc WSS race - so I think the enthusiasm came from him. But his success was mainly in Finland.

I may have got the idea from him but the drive to race is all mine, it's something I wanted to do. I didn't do it just for fun though I was keen to make a career of it right from the start.

Both my parents support me a lot in my racing but my main support has come from my grandfather.

Crash.net:
Surely between national service and weather it's pretty difficult to get started in racing in Finland?

Niki Tuuli:
For me not really they're just difficulties you have to live with. In summer time it's fine and we've got maybe 6 tracks where we can race. The only problem is that they're quite small tracks so don't really prepare you for the international tracks like Jerez.

The problem for tarmac circuit racing is of course is the winter but that's fine for us because we keep our skills up by doing ice racing with Motocross bikes.

In America they use flat tracks to improve bike control and here we've got ice racing. The only problem can be the spikes in the tyres but we haven't had a problem yet.

Crash.net:
So your ice racing skills transfer well to track racing?

Niki Tuuli:
Yes, definitely. It's a difficult form of racing and means that I can practise in the long winter months - in my recent races in WSS I've noticed that those skills helped me a lot.

Crash.net:
Tell us about Kallio racing

Niki Tuuli:
It's a team run by Mika Kallio's brother Vesa which is running and helping a number of Finnish riders like myself. Mika also comes along to help when he can but at the moment he's a little busy with KTM.

They are running a couple of young riders in Finland and one in the Spanish championship and this year they will also be running 2 riders in World Supersport - I'm one of those.

I started racing with the team in 2014 in the Superstock 600 class of the European championship and I have to say that it was quite difficult at the beginning and I only won 1 race in Assen and finished the championship in 4th.

I feel comfortable in the team because it is all Finnish speaking and has good resources for the riders, I've got 3 mechanics and a total crew number of 10 to 12 depending on the race. Mika and Vesa's father also comes to help me out.

I have always ridden a Yamaha and the team has always stuck with that bike.

Crash.net:
Does the team get any official support from Yamaha?

Niki Tuuli:
Not this year but we're going to be getting some support for next year [2017].

Crash.net:
How did your rides in this season's WSS come about?

Niki Tuuli:
I was actually racing and practising in Finland and the first part of the WSS wouldn't have fitted with that. I also had to serve my time in the army so the first round that I could ride was Germany and all I can say is that when I got into the WSS series it really went as planned.

Crash.net:
How did you feel on the grid before that race?

Niki Tuuli:
I was pretty nervous because it was a big step up in level from my racing in Finland.

Honestly though in a way for me it was easy because I didn't have any pressure and wasn't fighting for the championship and all I had to do is get what I could get.

It's true that I was really nervous but I had been waiting for that moment all year so it also felt really good.

Crash.net:
Did you have any expectations?

Niki Tuuli:
As I said, I was nervous but didn't feel any pressure for results, I just had to go out and do what I could.

Just from testing and practise we knew that if I handled things right a podium would be possible so there was a lot of motivation so perhaps I can say that our plan was a podium and I got that.

Of course WSS has very strong competition and even though I knew the bike was good, getting that podium surprised me a bit. As I rode the race though, even the win seemed possible.

At the moment our Yamaha seems to be every bit as good as the Kawasaki and MV and if you asked me I would say that it's the best bike in WSS.

Crash.net:
As someone riding their first race that season and not fighting for the championship, did you feel any pressure to not get in people's was and show some respect?

Niki Tuuli:
Oh that's easy - maximum attack at all times!

I really enjoy racing against riders like Kenan though, beating him would really mean something.

Crash.net:
In the last race it looked as if the win was possible - was that you being sensible and taking whatever place you could or didn't you have the pace?

Niki Tuuli:
Kenan was actually very strong in the last 2 laps and I was also really keen to take my podium so I felt that it was better to finish the last race of the season on the podium than in the gravel trap. Missing a gear in the last 2 laps also helped that decision.

Crash.net:
Has your career changed after those impressive race performances?

Niki Tuuli:
Yes, maybe a little. I'm contacted more by the media and enjoy doing interviews like this one but I wish my English was better. I think I will have to do some learning to prepare for 2017 to do better interviews then.

Crash.net:
...and what is happening in 2017?

Niki Tuuli:
Well, it will be so much easier because we will have a Yamaha supported team and new bikes - we'll have the old model first and get the new one from the European rounds. Kallio racing will be the officially supported Yamaha team.

I'll be riding a full season in WSS so with the extra support, people and new bikes our target has to be the championship

Crash.net:
But your contract is with Kallio racing right?

Niki Tuuli:
Yes.

Crash.net:
Past WSS Yamaha champions have included Sam Lowes, Chaz Davies and Cal Crutchlow - which do you see as a model for your career?

Niki Tuuli:
I think Sam Lowes, I remember watching his riding and really being impressed. My target is Moto2 in the same way that he did it.

Crash.net:
...and how about your current sisu [Finnish spirit] level.

Niki Tuuli:
oh very high!

Crash.net:
Thanks Niki

Niki Tuuli:
Thanks.

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