There is a consistent spine to the formidable Red Bull KTM team, a squad that ruled MX2 from 2008 until 2014 and both MX2 and MXGP classes together from 2010-2014. Tony Cairoli and Claudio De Carli’s set-up compromise one element and are zoned on the premier MXGP class while Dirk Gruebel oversees Jeffrey Herlings and the conveyor belt of talent in Pauls Jonass and Davy Pootjes in MX2.
For 2016 KTM and De Carli decided to expand their core potential and acquire the signature of recently-turned 25 year old Dutchman Glenn Coldenhoff, a tidy and focused rider who snared his first Grand Prix win riding a KTM in 2013, captured podiums until injury in 2014 and then aced the Grand Prix of Latvia last summer in what was his first term in the MXGP division and on a 450cc motorcycle.
Quiet but with an easy smile, poster boy looks and a determination that is hard to match in a Grand Prix paddock already full of purposeful and dedicated athletes; Glenn Coldenhoff is a prospect. A natural in the sand and tirelessly striving for improvement in every area of his profession it can sometimes be tiring just interviewing and talking to “The Hoff”: you have the impression that this is a young man that simply does not cease.
Coldenhoff has an open sense of humor and welcomes a joke. Combine this easy character with the kind of determination that attracts and impresses the likes of De Carli and Motorsports Director Pit Beirer, it is no surprise that he has earned his shot with the team aiming to be MXGP champions once again. We grabbed the Dutchie before practice began at Losail in Qatar for the first round of eighteen last weekend for a chat …
You won your first GP on a KTM so when it came time to talk with the factory team did you have an idea in your head about what it would feel like to ride and be a part of the set-up?
“Yeah, for sure. I do think there is a huge difference between the Japanese bikes and the ones from Austria and I could feel it right away. Like you said, I’ve ridden a KTM before for another team in MX2 and honestly that was where I started to have some success. From that year I started making results on what was a good bike and very fast in the class. I think it was a big step in my career, and now I am back! I hope there will be a similar step now.”
“Like you said, I’ve ridden a KTM before for another team in MX2 and honestly that was where I started to have some success.”
Being in the factory team means you will get all the support you need … but that also brings some pressure doesn’t it? Like we saw with Tommy Searle last year you cannot afford to miss the results …
“Maybe this is true but I signed for two years and I feel that we all have the same goal. Everyday I train and I have the aim to be at the top of the class. So that feeling of wanting to do well is always there. From the team itself there is no pressure and we are always looking for better. In the winter we have already done so much testing in search of the perfect bike. I was really happy to get the opportunity from these guys and to have the knowledge that they believe in me. I have always looked up to this team. Jeffrey [Herlings] was already in there pretty quickly and those bikes have been unbelievable for a few years now. So I was really excited when I signed the deal and couldn’t wait to start.”
How were those first few months? Did you have to cope with a myriad of testing and mechanical options?
“Not really. I started with the set-up that Tony [Cairoli] had been running and to be honest it felt pretty good right away. The base of the bike was already very good and the engine is very strong, which I quite like. In the end I think we did more testing in the last two months than we did in the beginning and we made the bigger steps then.”
Was that mainly with suspension?
“We tested mostly with suspension; we did a lot! I’m really precise in this area and with the balance of the bike. We didn’t do so much with the engine because I liked it from the start. We played with some new exhausts from Akrapovič and this has also helped with throttle control.”
You timed this move well as it seems like KTM had just built their best ever 450 SX-F …
“Yeah! But I never tried the old KTM 450 SX-F when I was with KTM in MX2 … not even the KTM 350 SX-F and everybody was asking me when I signed if I’d be on the 350 SX-F. There was no talk about that in the team and we jumped on the 450 SX-F straight away and I felt great.”
You’ve always been part of Dutch or Belgian teams. How has it been with an Italian set-up?
“Fine … but they have a bit of a different lifestyle. I am struggling mostly with the late dinner times! We are used to eating breakfast, then at twelve for lunch and dinner at six. Those guys don’t eat before eight! It was the only thing I had to get used to and I’m still adjusting. The team is very relaxed and there is a low-stress environment, which I quite like.”
So 2016 is your second in the MXGP class. You started 2015 with a modest goal of top ten/top eight finishes and you made that happen but your results also swung wildly from positions outside the top ten to wins in Latvia and a podium in Assen. You also had to contend with two injuries …
“It’s true that it was a bit up and down. It started off quite badly with broken toes on each foot and if you are not 100% in such a strong class then it is already difficult. I had some nice peaks in 2015 and this year we are trying to make those happen a bit more and to clear away some of the other worse results. I haven’t changed my training or approach that much. We have worked on some sprint riding and longer motos and have done a bit of everything. I am working with Joel [Smets, Head of MX] on the training program and have kept the same doctor and same gym routine.”
The last time you started a season fully fit was 2014 and you had something like three podiums in the first five rounds. Any chance of a repeat of that form in MXGP?
“For sure it is going to be harder because the class is really tough but at the moment anything can happen! The first three international races did not go so well for me because I struggled with arm-pump and was a couple of seconds away from the top guys – which was a lot – but Grand Prix is different and the practice sessions allow you to get used to the track and permit more time to acclimatize.”
I know you are not a ‘superstar’ and someone who likes to bask in the spotlight so is it handy having Tony next to you soaking up most of the attention? You can do your own thing …
“Yeah, I think so. He is very famous, especially in Italy and it is quite crazy to see. I like to be a little bit in the shadows so I can continue my work. I’m happy like this.”
Lastly the KTM orange is becoming very appropriate for a Dutch invasion! Three riders from five in the Red Bull team are now from the Netherlands …
“Yeah! I really like it to be honest. It’s really nice. Having three Dutch guys in the best team in the world is pretty special. Also my mechanic who came with me is Dutch and the guy working for Davy as well.”
If Herlings can actually make it this year then you are potentially going to have a very strong Motocross of Nations team …
“That would be really nice to have three guys from the same team. If we are all strong at that time then I think that will happen.”