Kimi, did you race motocross yourself and how did it start for you?
As a child, I started the same way a lot of kids did back in the day with an Italjet mini-bike. It was a 50cc auto that taught me about balance, machine attitude and throttle control. I suppose that is where my love of off-road and MX came from. I did not compete on two wheels so much as a youngster but later I did some club races on a KX250.
I’ve always liked the challenge that MX riding gives you and how physical it is. It’s such a great feeling and after riding you always feel you have really challenged yourself – in a really positive way.
Were you allowed to race motocross as a Formula One driver?
Sometimes I went riding in small club races but it was just for fun and I have a small track at home here with the kids. I did not race at a high level and I felt it was part of my fitness programme. I don’t know what any of my teams thought about it as I never mentioned it to them.
How did you start to build the team?
At first of course it was with completely different people but it wasn't how I wanted; it was too messy. Then I spoke to Antti around 2010; in fact I almost hired him as a rider at first. Then half-a-year later, when I heard he was stopping, I called him again to come and run the team. Now the direction is very good. We always wanted to come back to Kawasaki; now is the second year together and we have a great relationship with the Japanese people and the whole Kawasaki group. Kawasaki is pushing a lot and it's great to be part of the team and the group, helping them to develop the bike.
You must be delighted with the recent success; five wins-in-a-row.
Of course it's nice to win and we have been working for this for many years. But sometimes results come, sometimes not, and injuries are part of the whole business; we always want to win but it's a small difference between fifth and winning. It's great to be winning, and we take it when it comes, but we know how easy it is for it to go the other way. Last year was tricky with Romain injured and of course it was also the first year for us with Kawasaki. Romain has been riding well and is now winning, and Mitch is getting stronger so we can hopefully get two bikes up-front before too long.
Are you satisfied with the development?
Yes; it's been a busy couple of years, first changing the manufacturer last year and then taking on the new bike. It was almost like starting again from zero this year with the new bike, but we were prepared and we now have everything how we want. There are always things which can be improved even more but it needs to be a process that makes sense. You can do things very quickly but it needs to work well; it has to be 100% what you want. And the work is never-ending to make the riders even more satisfied.
Did you ride the new KX450 yourself?
We have a new baby this year so I've been busy with family and haven't had the chance to ride the new bike myself yet, but hopefully I can find time to ride again this winter. In fact I have a KX250 and a KX450.
Franky speaking I was amazed how easy and good they are to ride. For sure, my riding has gone to the next level with the Kawasaki bikes I have.
Is the 450 good for you or do you prefer the 250 for everyday riding?
I don’t train or ride every day so I prefer 250 at my own track in Finland. Maybe the 450 for me is better suited to a bigger track and if I had more time to ride. It’s a serious bike and you have to approach it in a serious way.