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The Unit: Inside Red Bull KTM MXGP

When it comes to racing KTM might have an incredible record at the Dakar, or in Enduro or GP wins and titles in Moto3 … but it is in Motocross where the company have struck hard and fast in the last ten years and have won every championship going.

Emanating from the passion and roots of Motorsport Director Pit Beirer, the factions of Red Bull KTM in MXGP (the MX2 side with Jeffrey Herlings and Pauls Jonass complementing the Belgian/Rome axis of the MXGP division run by Italian Claudio De Carli with Tony Cairoli, Tommy Searle and Ken De Dycker) come together to form a friendly, efficient and fiercely competitive unit that it also one of the biggest draws in the paddock; one of the largest ‘honeypots’ in MXGP attracting fans, guests, VIP and onlookers to the two-truck structure and impressive Red Bull hospitality facility.

KTM MX Team Qatar 2015

Red Bull KTM Motocross Factory Racing Team Qatar 2015

The team has barely changed their staff roster since De Carli came into the set-up at the end of 2009. KTM have won the MX2 FIM World Championship every season since 2008 with four different riders and Cairoli has ruled MXGP since 2010. So for half a decade the squad have hosted two title-winning parties each year and are truly a behemoth of the sport, now flanked by an equally prosperous wing in the United States.

The KTM BLOG spoke to a small cross-section of the team that number almost fifteen to find out what its like under that orange awning at Grands Prix and how they function and deal with their lofty status …

Dirk Grübel (Team Technical Co-ordinator MX2 since 2011 now Team Manager): “My technical responsibilities are there like they always were but with ‘Team Manager’ on the title it means I am more in contact with the riders and have some other tasks like going to jury meetings and other official duties. I am going to more and more manufacturers meetings to represent our company there.”

Dirk Grübel, Pauls Jonass & Jeffrey Herlings Podium Thailand 2015

Dirk Grübel, Pauls Jonass & Jeffrey Herlings Thailand 2015

Wayne Banks (mechanic for Pauls Jonass and with KTM for almost four years): “In terms of pressure everything has to be right … but you have the time to do your job properly. With the set-up we have in MX2 with the practice guys in Belgium and with us just being the race mechanics it is a really good set-up I think.”

Davide De Carli (twenty-two year old training mechanic): “I’m a training mechanic for Ken (De Dycker) and also help the other guys. I am now working with Jeremy (Long, race mechanic) for Tommy Searle. This is my fourth year with the team and I’m also the manager of the De Carli Junior Team.”

Valentina Ragni (Team Co-Ordinator since 2003): “Sometimes I think my job is also a bit like a psychologist’s! Especially with the riders. You need to try and be close to them and to make them happy but all of them are different, the same with the mechanics. There are a lot of different personalities in the team and we all come from different countries. I believe you must be very flexible and very upbeat to do this job. If you are grumpy or conservative then it won’t work because you need to make everyone happy but also make sure that they respect you. It is a compromise.”

Wayne: “The most hectic moments at a race are if your rider crashes or you have other problems. The clock might start ticking a bit louder and time can be tight.”


Wayne Banks & Pauls Jonass Belgium 2015

Dirk: “Before the race the tension goes up of course. The riders get more nervous and the mechanics do their last things. Everybody gets a bit tense but we are all professionals and we are on a good level you don’t feel that anybody is freaking out or getting stressed.”

Davide: “It is not like we have ‘first’ and ‘second’ mechanics. We work together and share the job between the bikes and between Italy and Belgium.”

Dirk: “We have a really solid group and if somebody needs some help then we all give a hand. Maggiora (a wet Grand Prix of Italy in June) was a good example. All of the teams struggled with the weather and more or less half the paddock pulled engines. We had two guys on each bike and we went step-by-step.”

Davide: “The guys work really well and we all have the same mentality. That is the important part. My father trained the people and showed then how he wanted things and now all the mechanics think like him and have a lot of confidence in him and each other. He wants the family feeling in the team and creates this by us going out together and spending time together when we travel … not just the work.”

Valentina: “You sometimes have to deal with many people and I don’t hide! Your nerves can go to the limit if you have many guests and you have to – kindly – make them realize that you are not there to be their ‘waiter’ or ‘welcome girl’ or something like that. Sometimes you have to breathe deeply and almost use some yoga strategies!”

Dirk: “The office is way more laid back. There is no pressure for time or the other elements of a race weekend like the weather or a crash. We have a pretty relaxed atmosphere back home in the workshop.”

Wayne: “There are four or five of us that head back to Austria after a race and there it is more like a ‘normal’ job. I’d say it is different to some of the smaller teams where the guys get back and have to work on the practice bikes as well as the race ones.”

Davide: “This is the fourth year for me in the team here but I was always doing stuff with my Dad in the afternoon when school had finished. We know each other so well that we can work together easily.”

Davide de Carli 2014

Davide de Carli 2014

Valentina: “You get close with some riders and others less, and the ones you develop a bond with it can be sad when they leave but I always try to keep a relationship with them and even afterwards when they are with another brand. The same for mechanics and whoever is part of the team or is close to us. This is one of the nice things about Motocross compared to road racing. Here you can keep this family friendship across the paddock whereas there it is more reserved.”

Wayne: “I try and keep in contact with Pauls during the week and we send texts and keep in touch. Other than that we see each other at the races. I was quite close with Jordi (Tixier, rider in 2014 and 2013) and it was a strange situation last year where we had to do our own thing and Rami (Falt, with Jeffrey Herlings). Jordi didn’t do so well in the first three overseas races of 2014 and I thought then that the championship would be pretty much gone. That’s motorsport because you would never have predicted what happened to Jeffrey (Herlings broke his femur with a 145 point lead in MX2). I could not believe it when I heard.”

Valentina: “The last Grand Prix of 2014 and the situation in the championship between Jeffrey and Jordi was one of the hardest I have ever faced (Herlings returned prematurely to try and defend the crown in a series he had dominated until his injury but would ultimately lose to Tixier by just four points). I knew how much Jeffrey wanted the title and how much he deserved it. On the other hand if Jordi was there and he won then it was because he also deserved it and scored more points. Jeffrey has been with us many years and they have been such happy times but also disappointments, hospitals and I have been angry with him and sitting in jury meetings because he has done something! In the last few years he has really grown up and become much more mature. I know how badly he felt in Mexico and how painful his leg was. Even the day before we were making x-rays. To see him suffering so much was very hard to take. I also had to be happy for Jordi because it was one of the biggest and best chances of his life and just a week before his brother had been paralyzed in an accident. It was a moment that was difficult for everybody but of course KTM won and we were happy for the company. Still, feelings are feelings.”

Jordi Tixier, Valentina Ragni & Jeffrey Mexico 2014

Jordi Tixier, Valentina Ragni & Jeffrey Herlings Mexico 2014

Wayne: “I would not have believed people if they had told me a few years ago when I was working back home in Australia that I’d be involved in a situation like that one day. I would have though they were drunk or something … but strange things happen.”

Dirk: “There is something about racing … when I see the ‘15’ second board go up before the start I don’t know what heart rate I have but it gets high as if I was still out there myself. The excitement is still there and you cannot wait until that gate drops and they get to the first turn and you hope your guys get through without any problems. It gives you a thrill, a shot of adrenaline for the day.”

Davide: “Coping with the attention around this team is not difficult. I like it. I’m Italian and I feel very proud when the crowds are here and supporting us and Tony a lot. I like to see it.”

Dirk: “If you stand under this awning then you have the spotlight on you and what you do. You can see that effect with some youngsters sometimes! Experienced guys like Wayne and Rami don’t care about that. They do their work if there’s one hundred people watching or ten; they don’t mind.”

Wayne: “You get used to it. I just try and tune it out and it is a part of the job. I just go about my business. It feels normal for us now and I don’t feel any added pressure.”


Red Bull KTM MX Factory Racing Team Italy 2015

Davide: “Tony (Cairoli) likes to be liked and he wants to be part of the team. He wants to be part of everything and for that he stays in the truck a lot. It is the same away from the circuit. If he is not training then he’ll come with us to go fishing or do some Enduro.”

Wayne: “I suppose all the teams would like to beat us and I think even now this is still the biggest in the paddock in my eyes and to be in it is a privilege in my eyes.”

Dirk: “We don’t test at the races, that’s done at home. There isn’t enough time to try something new and the riders need a fully functioning bike that they know already. We make minor adjustments but nothing big.”

Wayne: “We’ve had a new bike this year and it has been good to be involved with that and the testing and finding out if something is good or bad. It has been interesting and it is the first time I’ve had a brand new bike to work with. I’ve enjoyed it. I would say that KTM is quite an open family. You know what is going on and it is not all closed doors. That’s what I really like about being here.”

Dirk: “Time goes so quickly. I have been really grateful for what we have achieved in the short time I have been back. Sepp (Sperl) who ran the show before me left on the highest level by bringing both titles to KTM for the first time in their history. It was some big shoes to fill but we have done it for many years now. It is one thing to reach the top … but to stay there is something else.”

Davide: “I like every part of the job. The travelling, the bikes, the people. I’m in Belgium a lot in the summer and then in the winter we’ll be in Sardinia or Rome for training and riding. The riders do their work together and not separately.”

Wayne: “You are not totally unaware of the racing around you just because you´re the mechanic for one guy. I remember at Matterley Basin this year Jeffrey was having a good fight with (Max) Anstie and (Valentin) Guillod so you are keeping an eye on your guy but also the race. When you can hear the crowd going mad then you almost have to look! I still get thrilled by watching racing even if it is not my rider.”

Valentina: “As you get older you do wonder if you can handle all the travelling but when I get to the race it is like a button clicks and I think this is just the passion for the racing and the sport. I think the atmosphere we have is really nice. We are a big team but we are close. When I am here I am happy. The biggest satisfaction is always the results and these riders are amazing and give us a lot of emotion but even on bad days you know that you have this big family around you.” Photos:

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