Taichi Tanaka

Interview of the month: Taichi Tanaka

We grabbed five minutes with Trial star Taichi Tanaka (32) who tackled the Red Bull Hare Scramble for the final time this year. Here is what the charismatic Japanese ace had to say.

Bidding a fond farewell to the Erzberg Rodeo is Taichi Tanaka; one of the big personalities in the enduro paddock and concise proof of the international reach and appeal of this engrossing and impossibly tough event. After five attempts – and with a best finish of fifth place while sadly failing to finish in the 2014 edition – ‘TT’ is unlikely to barrel his KTM up the dark stones of that immense hill again. On a quick visit to Mattighofen we wanted the Japanese’s take on arguably the maddest and baddest enduro competition in the world.

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Taichi Tanaka

On first hearing about the Erzberg …
“It was about ten years ago when I saw a clip on the internet. It was amazing and immediately became a dream to go there, even if I had no idea about the real meaning and format of it. When I went in 2011 for the first time, I still had no idea what was going on in detail! I had to learn from scratch.”

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On that remarkable debut when he completed the race from the fifth row …
“I believe this was a surprise for everyone. As it was all-new I did really bad in the prologue runs and finished around 230th! Which meant the fifth row. Which also means – according to all the experts and even the super-experienced team manager of KTM – that you cannot reach the finish. In fact in those days a rider had never finished from the third row! But I made it. I had a super start and I amazed myself by going from checkpoint to checkpoint without any technical problems. I overtook more than 200 riders on the mountain and finished within the official race time. When I arrived at the finishing area it was like a shock. “Where the hell did you come from? This isn’t possible,” they said. Luckily I had my pass with all checkpoint stamps!”

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On the Erzberg bug biting hard …
“I was really addicted. I discovered that with better preparation I could do much better. So I did some specific training before the next visit with a new friend: Kurt Caselli. He did what I did the year before made his first attempt. At this time I did not know anything about him but he was so kind and helpful and such a great person. He invited me to his house in California in 2011 where we trained a lot. Basically he showed me how to go fast and I could show him some technical things. The result: a first row start in 2011. Again I had a good race and finished 7th. Now Tanaka-San was a name on the mountain. The year after we did exactly the same. Training together with Kurt in the US then front row start and again 5th. The same in 2013, 5th! So, in the end, I should not be too disappointed with not finishing this time because overall my statistic at this ultimate competition is still good. Other than that you cannot believe how much I still miss my friend and training partner.”

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On saying goodbye to the Red Bull Hare Scramble …
“Before I came here that was my plan as I want to focus more on my goal to develop off-road riding in Japan. But … never say never. Especially after this year’s experience maybe I have to come back one day.”

On finding his vision and direction for the future …
“My vision or dream would be to bring more and more young people in Japan onto an off-road bike. I want to build up something like a riding school, even for kids, to promote motorcycling as a really fun sport. Freestyle Motocross, for example, started from nothing and is now very popular in Japan and I believe I can build something similar with a format of Extreme Enduro which should happen close to or in cities. To develop something with friends, partners and young passionate people that’s my big goal.”

Photos: ktmimages.co, Red Bull Content Pool