Open Mic: Antonio Cairoli

Open Mic Antonio Cairoli

September 10, 2013 10:10am

Seven-time FIM World Champion Antonio Cairoli recently gave an interview to OTOR magazine (read it here) that he intends to race for another decade. The news could cause some dismay among his rivals in the Grand Prix paddock. The 27 year old Sicilian has been unbeaten in the premier MX1 class for the last five years (once on a Yamaha and four times with the KTM350SX-F) and wrapped his 2013 season by winning the final MX1 moto in the Lierop sand last weekend –- MX1 will be rebranded to MXGP in 2014. We grabbed some words with the second most successful Grand Prix rider ever who is closing in on Stefan Everts’ title tally of ten.

Racer X: You sealed the title two weeks ago in Britain with one round to go. Have you felt any impact of title number seven compared to previous ones?
Antonio Cairoli: For sure. It seems that ‘numbers’ are quite important for media in Italy and now I’ve reached the same total in motorsport as Michael Schumacher! This was a big thing in Italy and a lot of magazines and radio shows have called me about the seventh title. It’s cool, but has been a busy time also.

You keep mentioning your goal of trying to boost the sport and being active with your PR and social media but it means being occupied both on and off the track.
It is a big job and I can still do it because I have free time when I’m not training but Jill [Cox, girlfriend] is helping me also as well as some of the guys I have as part of the social media crew that continually post stuff. I can see that it’s working, so that’s good.

Cairoli clinched his seventh title at Matterley Basin, moving within three of Stefan Everts’ ten titles.
Ray Archer photo

So no time for fun after Matterley Basin?
Not at all! I went out on the boat for two days and that was not enough but I know there will be more time for that in November so I can wait.

Some of the chat about you being laid back about your racing and training must be totally off the mark. Does it bother you that people seem to think you are not a hard worker?
I work a lot but for sure the technique is a big part of my success and well as the experience I am gaining every year. Staying away from injury is such an important thing to always remain on the top. Maybe I’m not working too much on my speed and I have to do that a bit more but I’m always riding to my best level and it works and we win championships. I’m enjoying it. What people might think and say about me doesn’t even come close. Riding was my hobby as a kid and I’m lucky enough to be able to make a good living from it. I know I am fortunate and there are people out there busting their ass to bring home money every month. I train a lot, but I also make the most of life. If people don't know how hard I push in the winter and then how much I maintain my speed and condition during the season then I don’t care. My system has been working for me from my first year in Grands Prix and I see no reason to change so far!

Your second moto DNF in Britain was a shame; the only one of the year. After revving the bike like that when celebrating the title post-first moto did you ask the team why they didn’t swap the engine?
I wanted to say that … but they were all so happy about the title that I didn’t want to give them more work that would have been a big stress before the second moto. I thought the bike might have some problems in the race and it turned out that way. I didn’t get a bonus for the grand prix win but I had so much fun that day so it was OK!

Cairoli will represent his home country of Italy at the upcoming Motocross of Nations.
Ray Archer photo

It said a lot about your character and the way that you approach racing that you continued to try and get around the Matterley Basin track … like you actually needed the points!
Yeah for me it is always difficult to leave a race. Even though I had the title in the pocket I was waiting and hoping for a miracle that the bike would start working okay and maybe I could make the podium. It got worse and worse and eventually there was no option other than to stop.

Earlier in the year there was momentum and talk of you coming over to the U.S. to contest a National, especially with Desalle and Strijbos taking the plunge with the Mexican GP cancellation. What’s the latest spin on this in your view?
I’d like to think I could be on the podium if I tried one but it is a completely different way of racing on those kinds of tracks. I’m not so interested in doing just one event to try and prove something to I-don't-know-who. I know how important supercross is in the U.S. but I’m no good at it because I didn’t practice enough or didn’t have enough time to do it when I was a kid. I’m a professional racer and my goal is to win Grand Prix because it is a big series. I am part of it and I also see my role to bring it up to a good level in Italy. I see more and more people talking about it in the press and not so much these days that I should be going to the USA. The American subject only comes up in forums and from the same people who hide their faces behind nicknames and talk crap. I don't care about that at all.

What about something like the Monster Cup? Is that something that interests you?
You know I think that one could be a race I could do. It is just one event and doesn't seem to be a full-on supercross track. I never get invited though! I don't have the chance to talk about going! It seems that Red Bull is trying to do something different and for sure it is much smaller with the money but it is just the first event and maybe in the future it will be bigger.

Could we see Cairoli compete in the Monster Energy Cup in the future?
Ray Archer photo

So for Las Vegas if Feld or someone from Monster wanted you to come over, then would you call Pit [Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director] and say, “Hey, can we make this happen?”
Yeah, why not? It has been a long season but if there was a good opportunity to go there with the right support and make the race for fun then it could be cool. There is money involved and a lot of good riders, and I think it is a bit risky for people possibly going crazy for the prize money. I’m not a wild guy who goes wide open for cash. I’m not out there for that and I just love the sport. I cannot stay off the bike for more than a week or two.

What about Madrid then and this “Give me five” Red Bull race one week after the Nations that has names like Dungey, Roczen and Musquin down to compete?
We are going to talk about it this week. I haven’t heard too much about it yet with the structure and rules. We’ll talk about it now and make a decision whether we go or not.