David Philippaerts’ record in the premier MX1-GP category is enviable. The 25 year old Italian has won Grand Prix in each of his three seasons and finished 6th, 1st and 4th in that time. A mix of steely determination, acute fitness, a tidy but occasionally explosive riding style and a hint of Latin temperament create a formidable rider and one of the very best competitors in the division. Philippaerts will be aiming to regain his crown in 2010 while also refine the new YZ450F.
You are the only MX1-GP rider for the team in 2010. Will this be an inconvenience?
No, I don’t think so. Having a team-mate in MX2-GP instead of MX1-GP is not much different for me to be honest. We have different goals. The new bike means we have had more work to do for the set-up but overall I am very happy with how things are and how they look for 2010.
How do you feel now that the pressure of being defending champion has gone?
The sense of pressure is the same because I will continue to do my best, like I did in 2009, and again there are many riders that can do well in this championship. It was an up-and-down season last year. I pushed a lot in the winter-time and maybe this caused some of the physical problems that begun during the early GPs. I had a virus which meant that my body’s performance was not consistent. This was the big problem and then little things like the broken finger in Portugal did not help. I stayed at home a little bit more this winter, instead of training and working away and in Belgium, and did not go into the mountains for ski training until the New Year.
The new 2010 YZ450F has proven a worthy machine so far...
Yes, the bike has been kept quite close to the standard bike because it is already a strong machine. We have worked a lot to make the YZ450F personal and special for me and every time I ride or test I feel happy. The fuel injection makes it more responsive and feels very different to the carburettor; I like it. Ohlins suspension was a new feature for all of us but they work very hard and we will get some good data on this and other areas of the bike in the races we have ahead. The real test will be at the first GP. It is a new bike so we still have some things to learn when we compete at the highest level.
The second Grand Prix is the first of two home races in 2010, at Mantova then Fermo...
The track at Fermo is very natural and I know they have been working on the facility to make it ready for the GP but I think the layout will be different when we arrive. Fermo will be a new track for everyone, even the Italians! With the Starcross and Grand Prix we will have Mantova twice and then onto Fermo for the last round. The last time we ended a season in Italy was in 2008 and if we could have the same situation as we did (he was crowned champion at Faenza) then this is very good for me!
What will be the key to another championship?
I have to keep taking points and keep getting near the front in the races, cutting down the mistakes by not making small crashes and keeping pressure on the other riders. I will be doing my very best this year. I will have to push more than I did in 2008 because the level of the competition is higher with both the riders and the technology. I know I will have to win heats if I want the title.
Soon-to-be 20 year old Frenchman and former BMX star Gautier Paulin brings his remarkable talents to the Yamaha Monster Energy MX Team and the 2010 YZ250F for his third attempt at the MX2-GP series. The likeable and professional youngster took a step into exploration of the AMA-SX championship with three appearances at the beginning of the year and a sustained period of training and preparation in the US. Paulin will be the first MX2-GP representative for the team since Cedric Melotte in 2005.
Your first outings on a Yamaha were in an AMA SX arena. How was that for you?
It was a really good experience and I had some great races. I was a bit tired after the first round in Anaheim because I had been training and recovering from my injury after the Motocross of Nations but I did OK in Phoenix and then again in Anaheim II. I had a good sensation about what I could do there and it was a boost to my confidence. I knew the level of the speed and competition would be very high, the tracks would be difficult and they all want to win, so I wasn’t surprised. I learnt where I was gaining and losing my time. If I can go back then I know what I have to do to be at the front. Supercross benefits from being inside a stadium and that helps with the image presentation but I think it says a lot about the world championship that our sport is very close for the organisation and overall good impression.
So you trained and spent most of the winter in America?
Yes, I was there more than two months and I felt my fitness improving and it is better than ever now; which is really cool. I have never felt in as good as shape as I currently am. When I got back from America and went running for the first time at home I killed my personal best time; all of this helps mentally.
How is it working with the Yamaha Monster Energy MX Team?
To join a team like this is a great opportunity. I will be in a lot in Italy. I only live about 500km from the workshop, so it is not too far. They really are a ‘Team’; all the people are close, like brothers, and all totally have the same goal which is to provide the best for the rider. I like the image of the team and they have won and achieved so much. Last winter when I was deciding what to do for 2010 I asked to test the new bike and the next day I signed the contract because my mind was made-up. My dream is to go and race in America but with a team like this, when I see the organisation, the motivation and work that is done on the bikes, then I can stay in Europe. I have never had team treating me like this.
What are your thoughts on the 2010 YZ250F...
I was riding a lot on the Yamaha before I left and then did a lot of Supercross and motocross in California. The chassis on the production bike was the first really good point for me - it is crazy - it feels like a bicycle. The standard engine had a very strong bottom end which was also a big positive. We are now fine-tuning the race-bike. We have been working with Ohlins on the suspension. I don’t think that this team has to prove that they know what they are doing with the preparation of the bikes.
It must have been tempting to switch to MX1-GP, especially after your win at the ’09 Nations...
For sure I am fast on a 450 and many people like to tell me! They also say I am too big for MX2, but I had one eye on Supercross with the 250 and I knew that a full season on a 450 would very different; we have to be careful with the extra power and 15 GPs is different to just one race. I am young, still 19, and my goal is to get that MX2-GP title this season and think directly about MX1-GP. I had a strict diet over the winter and have made sacrifices to keep my weight down and keep fit and I have never taken these steps before. I really want to be at the front this season and will do whatever it takes.
What will be the key to championship success?
To be really fit, try not to be nervous and use some experience in the races. I know I am fast and I know I can have the best bike possible. I know I have the physical condition to race two motos at 100% so when I am on the bike I just need to pay attention to my technique and think about my riding.