Following his illustrious 10-year Dakar career, Jordi Viladoms hung up his racing boots at the beginning of 2016 to take on a key role within KTM’s rally team. Becoming the Sport Manager the Spaniard has been busy putting his vast experience to good use with the goal of guiding KTM’s official riders on their quest for more winning glory.
With Dakar Rally 2017 just around the corner, Jordi Viladoms talks about his new role within the Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team and his plans to assist his riders in what’s promising to be an extremely demanding two weeks of racing in South America …
Jordi, how has life changed since you became KTM’s Rally Sport Manager?
“Despite spending more than 10 years as a racer myself, everything was new when I became the Sport Manager. I had to make changes in my daily routine and my approach towards racing and other riders. It’s been a huge learning step but the goal has always been the same – to find the best way to offer my experience to our athletes and help them perform their best at any given day.”
Looking back at your first season as KTM’s Rally Sport Manager, there was plenty of podium topping success coming your way …
“We’ve been really busy during the past 12 months but everything is working well. After securing victory during last year’s Dakar with Toby Price, we went on to contest the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with very good success. As a team we won all events we took part in. Eventually our riders Sam Sunderland and Toby Price finished second and third respectively in the 2016 championship.”
What exactly does your new role within the Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team involve?
“I’m responsible for the riders and their performance. During the events I take care of all the racing details trying to put my experience to good use. Communicating with the riders as much as possible is key. Together we form our strategy for each race and each stage. We do lots of team briefings, where I pinpoint the most dangerous parts of the stage. I’ve raced all the Dakars in South America so I know a lot about the terrain. I know how important it is to have a clear goal for each stage and a solid team of people who do their best to help you achieve it.”
But you work isn’t restricted to just the duration of the events, is it?
“A huge amount of the work is done during the season. We’ve set up a training base in Igualada, Spain where all of our team riders spend a considerable amount of time before the Dakar. We’ve got training rally bikes, mechanics, support vehicles and a fully equipped workshop. I’ve also set a number of routes around the area for roadbook and GPS training. Some of our riders, like Toby Price or Sam Sunderland, stay with us in Spain for longer periods of time between the races. We want to give as much as possible to our riders to make them faster, stronger and capable of winning as many races as possible.”
From rally racer to Sport Manager. How stressful is it having to deal with different personalities now?
“The challenge was big but I’m glad I accepted it. The key is to work hard on improving every little detail of your approach towards racing and towards other people. Probably the largest amount of work is done away from the races. Spending time with each rider allows me to get to know them a lot better. With such a strong line-up sometimes we have our riders battling it out for stage and rally victories. Along with individual success, my job is to make sure we all stay together and fight for the same goal – to always bring KTM on top.”
How do you handle the responsibility of continuing KTM’s 15-year-long winning legacy at the Dakar?
“The responsibility is great but we have all the right tools to continue winning for years to come. I feel blessed to be working with such exceptional riders. The level of competition at the Dakar is huge, so having riders with so much talent and willingness to work hard makes everything easier. As for me, the transition to Sport Manager wasn’t done overnight. I started working with KTM riders before my last Dakar as a racer. It was shortly after Marc Coma announced his retirement and all of us at KTM knew we had to work really hard to find his replacement. Our goal was to offer our riders everything they needed to maximize KTM’s chances to continue winning. Toby Price spent a month at my home last year, so in a way I feel part of our big success in 2016.”
In which ways do you plan to assist the Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team riders during Dakar 2017?
“I’ll be there to organize all the little details and give any kind of answer to our riders. With the exception of Uruguay, I know most of the places the race will cross. I know lots of the tracks and plan to put my experience to good use. In the mountains of Bolivia weather conditions can play havoc with a rider’s performance. I will be there to make sure our riders have the right gear for the job. Experience has always been important in this event. I remember few years back we were racing across Chile’s coastline and there were loads of parallel tracks from fishermen going to the sea. Spotting the places where riders need to be more careful on their navigation will be one of my jobs during Dakar 2017. We’ve built a great relationship with our riders and they all trust my input. Combining their talent and speed with the experience I can offer them can make a difference.”
With Toby Price entering Dakar 2017 as a defending champion, would you say he’s a favorite for the win in Buenos Aires?
“Winning it last time out definitely makes Toby a strong contender, but in a race like the Dakar there can hardly be any favorites. The possibilities for him to win are high but there’s also a long list of other contenders who’ll be giving their all to get the win. Toby is a very talented rider and he’s also very clever. The combination of these two could be decisive again in 2017.”
Along with Price, there’s no shortage of talent within KTM’s Rally Team. What do you expect from each one of your riders?
“Starting with Matthias Walkner, he’s really smart and approaches every race with professionalism. As a former world champion he’s proven he can win rallies and knows exactly what he’s doing. He now has to put everything together for two long weeks in South America. Sam Sunderland is one of the fastest rally riders at the moment. Living in Dubai means that he spends a lot of time training in the desert and that’s helped him read the terrain better. He’s really strong in fast sections and physically he’s one of the fittest athletes in the sport. I think he has a good potential to do well in Dakar 2017. As a five-time Enduro World Champion Antoine Meo has loads of experience racing bikes but unfortunately he was declared unfit for the race because of the pain. Mexican Ivan Ramirez will step in for Meo to ride the Dakar Rally. As for Laia Sanz, she never ceases to impress. Time and time again she’s shown how strong she is mentally and physically. She’s a true fighter and a very hard worker.”