Team Managers of the Rockstar Teka Suzuki World MX1 and Teka Suzuki Europe World MX2 squads, Eric Geboers and Thomas Ramsbacher, speak out on the imminent 2010 FIM Motocross World Championship, the new riders in their set-ups and the prospects for the season ahead.
The Grand Prix of Bulgaria at Sevlievo is the first round of 15 in the 2010 series and starts this coming Easter weekend.
Eric, a new rider and a new sponsor…the team seems to be moving from strength-to-strength despite these difficult times…
EG: Clement was confirmed late in the summer so the integration went smoothly over the winter time. The sponsor was only decided in February. Of course we were working on it behind the scenes for a while but the workload to integrate Rockstar in the team was immense. With Japan eight hours ahead and PST nine hours behind, Sylvain (Geboers’ brother and Team Principal) and I were making long shifts. We are really happy though with the operation we now have in place and that has been because of some excellent support.
What are your feelings about Clement Desalle? He seems a special rider in terms of speed and style. Is there still more to come from him both as a racer and representative of the team?
EG: Clement has a lot of potential to be a great motocross rider. If we can get him to adopt the knowledge we have in-house, he will be even stronger in the future.
Has the team changed its set-up for 2010? Any new technical partners or priorities for development on the RM-Z450?
EG: No major changes and we are pleased about that because we have very good partners.
What about the bike itself? In what ways has it changed for 2010 and what improvements did you want compared to 2009?
EG: As you know delivering good power with less noise has been the main focus and I am happy that we have improved in both directions.
Steve Ramon will have a new mechanic this year. Do you think this will bring out a different side to his riding?
EG: It was not an unexpected change and we knew already two years ago that Frank would stop to perform that role at the end of 2009. Bo is no stranger to Steve because they have worked together before and that will help both of them I’m sure.
Steve missed most of 2009 in what was his first serious injury problem. Do you think there is a bit more fire in the belly for 2010 as a result?
EG: Yes, I am sure he has set himself a big challenge this year.
With Ramon and Desalle, you have two quite different riders on the track. Is this a mix that was made on purpose and do you enjoy seeing this contrast?
EG: The choice was not made on purpose but it does bring us more information on the technical side because the difference is noticeable in all aspects of what they do.
The team won the GP of Limburg last year, which was one of the highlights of the season. Obviously it will be special to win at Lommel again, but are there any other events in which you think victory is a little sweeter than normal?
EG: No, not really, the championship is not decided at one GP so all 15 have the same importance!
How do you feel about the evolution of the world championship and the modern-day circuits?
EG: On the marketing side it is getting more professional every year. The circuits are leaning more towards outdoor Supercross which is good for TV but motocross in the ‘traditional’ sense is no longer present.
There is now a closer bond with the MX2 team and for the first timeee Suzuki could win championships in both classes. Are these exciting times?
EG: Very exciting and we all know that we are very happy and lucky to have a talent like Roczen. But yes, I am happy because in 2008 we announced a ‘return to dominance’ and we are on our way…
Thomas, 2010 will be a big year for the team with arguably one of the fastest and most popular riders going for the championship. Are you excited about the season and the future of the team?
TR: Yes, we are very much looking forward to this season. It will be good to get out there racing again. The last couple of years have seen the team move forward thanks to some excellent support and it has been very positive to witness this; it makes all the hard work so much easier to bear. In terms of the championship, we did a good job in the winter and so we are prepared for the season. However, inside the team we did not put any pressure on people, especially not to the young riders. We want to do our best but we must also remember that our riders are learning and developing.
It is difficult to remember that Ken is still only 15. Will he need some protection at times? He is still learning but has already shown he can win….
TR: Yes, he is still a kid in many respects. If he wants something then he will do whatever he can to get it and that’s the same at the race track. I have known him now for six years and he is so focussed on his goals that we can’t believe it sometimes.
How is it working with a teenager? Can it be difficult sometimes?
TR: Sure! He is a normal 15 year old teenager with good and bad sides, but in the end he is a really open-minded and friendly guy; you can only like him!
Is there any way in which Roczen can still improve?
TR: Of course there are areas. We work hard together with his father Heiko on this. As you said we must remember that Ken is 15 years old and for sure he can’t be ‘perfect’.
Arnaud Tonus is new onboard for 2010. Why go for a younger rider instead of perhaps a more experienced racer; someone perhaps who has even won races before?
TR: Jens Johansson (technical co-ordinator) and I have an ongoing list of interesting riders; we like to watch and observe. Towards the end of 2009 when Xavier Boog indicated that he wanted a move to MX1 – and we were also assessing our options -we had narrowed our list down to two riders. We decided to go with Arnaud because with him we can make a bigger step in the next two years and that’s ultimately what we were looking for.
What qualities does Arnaud have as a racer and as a person?
TR: As a racer he is not afraid of anything and technically is very good; he impressed us so much in this respect! As a person he loves to train and loves his job as MX professional. He is an unbelievably-nice guy; friendly, well-educated and organised. His family is 100% behind him and is looking for the same goal as the team.
What will he bring to the team? Is he an exciting project?
TR: He is an interesting project that we are very much looking forward to developing. We want that he goes step-by-step – first walking then running – as we are not looking for the good results at the first GPs. We want a solid season from him.
In what way is the team allied to the MX1 set-up?
TR: The team is 100% owned by TEKA and GRP (MX1) is the technical supplier. This arrangement works very well for us as Jens Johansson is the man in GRP that co-ordinates the technical crew around him. We are a small and flexible group and I thinkk that is what makes the MX2 team so unique.
How important is the involvement of people like Teka, Suzuki Europe, Fox and Bischof?
TR: The MX2 project is running with the technical support from Suzuki, but the financial budget is in our hands and something that we have to take special care of. We owe a special thanks to TEKA who came onboard and helped us out so much at the end of 2008. Without them and our other important partners, the MX2 project cannot exist.
How has the RM-Z250 changed for 2010? In what ways is it a better bike?
TR: The bike has gone through a big step. With the 2009 machine we were able to have good results but with the 2010 bike I believe we are closer to our competitors than last year and we are able to win!
The team is now gaining a reputation as one of the top squads in the MX2 series. How does this make you feel?
TR: When I started to build-up the team in 2003 I tried to make one step after the other and make big changes when the opportunity presented itself. Our biggest move forward was in 2007 with Clement Desalle when we headed into Grand Prix and worked with him for two years. This stage provided a lot of experience and then we took the chance to work together with GRP for the MX2 project. I feel quite proud of where we came from and where we are, but for sure our work is not done. Hopefully we will make more progress in 2010 and 2011 should also be an important season…
How important is it to win the German Championship and to keep racing at home?
TR: It’s nice to remember our roots and keep in touch with the people there and I know Ken feels the same, but the focus is the 2010 World Championship and each fan and promoter in Germany can understand this. We try to do as many races as possible and I also think that the ADAC MX Masters is the best national series in Europe.
Teutschental was an amazing time in 2009 for the team. Is the main goal for 2010 to repeat these scenes at as many GPs as possible?
TR: Ohhh! If I had a wish then it would be to repeat that experience as often as possible! That was the greatest moment for all of us.
Can you be World Champions in 2010?
TR: To be World Champion is a very big thing. I honestly hope that we can finish in the top-three with Ken and top-10 with Arnaud in 2010. I believe Ken has the potential to be World Champion in the next two years.
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