Our Steve Matthes recently called up FIM Motocross World Championship rider Tim Gajser (Honda HRC) for an episode of the Fly Racing Racer X Podcast. In the episode, Gajser talked about being back home in Slovenia, his 2024 season prep, preferring to train alone, his preseason injury and 2023 season, Jorge Prado’s champion season, qualifying races giving out championship points, watching Monster Energy AMA Supercross in the U.S., Antonio Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, and much more.
We took parts of the podcast and turned it into text for you to read here. Make sure to check out the full podcast though if you missed it.
Racer X Online: All right, as I was saying off the top, it is my honor to bring you the next Racer X Podcast guest. He is a five-time World Champion, a Factory Honda HRC rider. Of course, you know him well, Tim Gajser. What's up, Tim, how are you, man?
Tim Gajser: I'm fine, thank you. I'm good. I'm doing great just starting with the preseason training, you know, getting ready, getting back in shape. So, yeah, everything good.
Yeah, that was actually my first question. So, when do you start, you know, really getting into the New Year and the new prep and everything else? Like, is it around now?
Yeah, it was actually like the end of November. That's how we usually start every year, you know, at the end of November, beginning of December. So, yeah, basically this time of the year.
And you're in Italy now, you were telling me?
No, I'm in Slovenia. I'm back home. I stay here most of the time in the off-season. Just in January. We usually go to Sardinia where the weather is better for on the bike. But yeah, November, December, I'm here at home.
So, how are the tracks around there? How’s everything to ride there? I know, I saw a video a while ago. You had a little supercross track built at some place by your house. But how is it for, for practicing and doing what you need to do in Slovenia?
Yeah. Actually, in this time it's quite cold, you know, we have winter, it's quite cold. But anyway, I would say in the past couple of years it's changed a lot. So, I am able to train, also in December here around Slovenia, I have also one track in Croatia is three hours away from where I live where I train now the most is kind of like a sandy track. So even if the temperature is a little bit lower it doesn't get frozen. So, I train there quite a lot. But yeah, like I said first week of January, we usually go to Sardinia to spend there, let's say a month and until the race starts, because the weather is nice. We have like 20, 22 degrees. So, basically perfect conditions for trains on the bike.
So, it is similar to [Eli] Tomac in America, you know Tomac’s in Colorado. He's doing his thing, but everybody else kinda rides with everybody else. So, you're a little bit like Tomac over here where you're just doing all your work in silence.
So, yeah, something like that. I mean, I like to train alone. Of course, I have some riders coming to my track, you know, but I prefer to be on my own. I feel the most comfortable like that. And yeah, then anyway, we meet with all the riders on the race.
Hey, you broke your leg coming into last year's season. A real bummer for you, for sure. You come back; it takes you a couple of races to get up to speed. You win two out of the last three. How hard was it to come back from the leg? Was it a hard injury to come back from or did you feel as good as ever in the last bit of the season when you won the last two? Like did you feel right back to 100 percent?
Yeah, it was a big bummer especially, it happened just two weeks before first GP in Argentina. So, I was really disappointed because I had a great off-season, you know, I was feeling good on the bike. Everything was clicking, everything was going in the right direction. But then a little mistake and a big crash that cost me, let's say an entire year, you know, it took me like five months away from the bike. The injury was big, we all know that femur is the biggest bone in the body. So, it takes time, that you can start training again and to came back on the bike and then you need another couple of months to come back in the shape. So, it took me quite a while. But I'm glad that I finished the season quite strong here with two overalls on the end. Riding was good. I would say I was not 100 percent yet, but I was getting close to it. So, for me, let's say that the season, I was hoping that the season could continue because I was just starting to feel good on the bike again. But like I said, good motivation and everything for off-season.
Are you one of those guys like Tomac told me “I'm not watching the races. I don't care.” Like he watched them near the end to see if Jett Lawrence could keep being undefeated, but he was just miserable, being hurt. Or what are you like? Are you tuning in to the GP’s or are you just like screw it?
No, actually the beginning was really tough for me. So, basically, first five, six, seven GP’s I couldn't even watch. I was not even at home on Sunday because I knew that if I would be home, I would definitely switch to the channel and I would be upset, because I'm not there. I was just kind of following who was good, but never really watched full races.
Did you feel when you came back last year, obviously Romain Febvre was doing really well, Jorge Prado was up front in the points. Did you feel like anybody had stepped up their game to where you 100 percent couldn't match it? Like, did you feel like anybody, anything was difficult or different from these guys from before other years or did you feel like you won two of the last three? You said you weren't 100 percent did you feel like everything was kind of the same level?
I would say that Prado definitely stepped it up, you know, with his consistency, we all know that he's super-fast and he had a great start that are, let's say a key to his to his success, you know, and everything. Obviously, he's also like really fast on the bike, and everything. But I think he was really consistent this year, what was missing maybe in the past years. But also, Romain show like a good speed. I think he win six races in a row, I think in the middle of the season. So basically everybody, we all want to win, you know, so everybody is working hard, everybody tries to learn from the mistakes that they did in the past. So, I think every year they are more physically prepared, you know, better in shape. And also with the rule, you know, that we have here in the year of that you can buy just MX2 until 23 years old. So, every year good guys are coming up to MXGP. So, like every year the competition is more tough, like there are more great fights in that class and that's how it should be. It's a primary class. And I think every year everybody is trying to step it up and give that extra every year.
So, we saw Prado bank a lot of the points for the Saturday qualifiers. We had Jeremy Sewer on our show a month ago and he didn't like it and Prado is such a good starter. It's a 20-minute race, what do you think of these [qualifying] races and the points being given out? Honestly, I'm also not a big fan of it. But on the end, it's the same for everyone, we have to do it. Anyway, we had a race also in the past, but this year was different because they were giving points away. So basically, now we are not having, let's say two motos per week. We are having a third moto as well. So, definitely change a lot on the end. If you see it makes a big difference in the end, you can gain almost 200 points from qualification ratio. And that's a big factor on the end. So, I think most of the riders, you know, including myself, we are all focusing a lot, I think in this off season on the start, because start is, let's say a 70 percent of the race. I mean, 70, 50 percent of the race because if you start in front, it makes your life a bit easier. So, yeah, I think next year the key gonna be start and to be in front from the game.
I've heard from a few riders that Jorge rides a really wide bike. He really knows what you're doing behind him and it hasn't always made everybody really happy with him. Do you find that too? Have you had some run ins with him at times where you're like, “Hey, man, like try to keep it straight on the jumps?”
Yeah, we did. I mean, we had some conversations already in the past. I mean, he's still young, you know, obviously everybody wanna win. But I think it is important also to do it in a safe way, like to not get in trouble or doing dangerous things on the track already. Motocross is quite dangerous, you know. So, we don't need this kind of maneuvers. But I think he calmed down a little bit, I think he's growing up, you know, like he's getting older, more experienced and off the track, he's a super good guy. But as I say, on the track everybody wanna win.
Do you watch American supercross? Like, are you tuned in and following it and watching it?
I try to follow as much as possible, more I follow in the beginning because we don't have a season yet. When our season starts, let's say beginning of March, the end of February then I just watch maybe highlights. But now until, let's say February I'm following.
We saw you over here at the Monster Cup a couple of times. One time, it went horribly, one time, it went really well. You did really well, I think you got like, fourth or something or fifth. What did you think of those experiences? Did you enjoy that?
Yes, I was having a lot of fun. It was great to be there, to race in the stadium in Vegas. I came there a little bit earlier to do some testing as well in Corona. So, it was a good experience, and I don't know, maybe in the future maybe I can try some races. Obviously, I will never come for full season there, but still, something in me is, I like supercross. So, we will see.
Have you talked to the HRC guys about coming and doing a race a year or two?
Yeah, we talk almost every year but that was the end. It's kind of like difficult to pick when you go… but yeah definitely in the future I would like to do [one]. Yeah.