BY JIM KIMBALL
At age 29, the Belgian MXGP rider is near the top of his motocross game. Finishing third overall behind the RED BULL KTM dynamic duo of Jeffrey Herlings, and Antonio Cairoli in the championship. Clement DeSalle was also able to beat the orange riders and win the Russian GP, just as he did in 2017. While several of his competitors are looking for employment in 2019, DeSalle will remain with Monster Energy Kawasaki. In doing so, he will be on the brand’s all new KX450, which may be just the trigger he needs to capture more wins. At the recent Red Bud Motocross of Nations we had a chance to sit down with DeSalle to find out more about him.
CLEMENT, THE 2018 MXGP SEASON WAS A PRETTY GOOD YEAR FOR YOU. Yes, you know, my goal this year was to be consistent and take the series moto by moto, and actually things went well. I was really consistent, I had like 9 podiums and 1 win, it was a good season. Of course, I was looking for the number one spot, but taking third at least was the final spot on the podium. I was one of the only riders who could win a GP besides the KTM guys, so that was a good. There have been years that I was not aiming for a podium spot in the championship, so I am really happy about my year to finish third in the Championship.
KTM HAS BEEN DOMINANT IN MXGP. OF COURSE, THEY HAVE GOOD RIDERS AND GOOD EQUIPMENT, BUT CERTAINLY AS YOU HAVE PROVEN, THEY ARE NOT UNBEATABLE. No, of course, they are not unbeatable, but they have a really strong rider right now and they have a good bike. We are working hard on this though. They can improve really fast when they want to improve a component on the bike or something and that is really important to their success. We know that they are really fast with this, and they have a really strong guy for the moment. The last few races were really difficult. He was faster than all the rest, and he was really difficult to beat. He was in the front at the beginning and it is not easy to catch him. That was what I was saying to my team; that he is so fast right from the start. It is a bit frustrating because I want to have the winning feeling more often than I was able to this year. Hopefully for next year, we can work it out and change that, to have more of a winning feeling. We believe in us and it is good, and really positive. I think we have potential with the new Kawasaki. I was training just a little bit with the 2019 bike, and it was looking very powerful, so we have good potential to be better with that.
SO, YOU THINK THE NEW BIKE WILL BE GOOD? Yes, I think so. I think so because the engine is already good, but now they changed it to fit the chassis. It is good because all the comments I gave after trying the standard 2016 bike at that time, they listen to the comment that I give to try to improve the stock bike already. I think that the changes that I saw are really good. The engine, being more powerful in some parts than in the past, and other changes are really important. I think it will help me to do even better.
I would really like to come to the U.S., see a little bit of the country, and race. It would be cool to actually come over for a complete season. When I see the nice tracks you have in America, and everything, it really interests me.
CAN YOU TOUCH ON THE GP THAT YOU WON THIS PAST SUMMER? It was in Russia on a hard pack track. I won there the year before, but it was a muddy race, and this year, I was feeling like the track was really fast. But it was in good shape for Sunday, it got a bit bumpier and more technical. I had a good start, I passed the KTM boys, and went on to win the moto. It was really a nice feeling. The second moto, I was second, just behind Herlings. It was really great to win the overall and win one moto there. Like I said, I just need this feeling more than once a year. So, I will work hard after this winter to try to be one step better. It would be great to improve ourselves again.
IT SEEMS LIKE AFTER YOU AND JEREMY VAN HOREBEEK, THERE HAVE NOT BEEN MANY FAST BELGIAN GUYS, UNTIL JAGO GEERTS (BELGIUM’S NEXT MOTOCROSS HOPE) IN MX2 THIS YEAR. Yes, it is true actually. It is strange to understand because to be honest, there are a lot more good riders coming from Belgium than ever before. But the programs, the training track, and everything else in the country is not so good for the young guys that are coming up because they don’t help the riders. We don’t have any good practice tracks anymore, so it is really complicated. When you are young, and you go to school and then you want to go practice on Wednesday afternoon and the guys have to drive two to three hours, it is difficult. This is really sad to see in Belgium, it’s a bit more difficult than it used to be, and that is sad. I hope it changes for the future for the young guys and for the fast guys to find places to train.
SOME YEARS AGO, WHEN YOU WERE WITH SUZUKI, YOU CAME OVER, AND I THINK MAYBE RACED ONE OR TWO OUTDOORS AND YOU DID VERY WELL. WILL WE HAVE ANY OTHER CHANCES TO SEE THAT AGAIN? The problem now is that our series is too long. I would really like to come to the U.S., see a little bit of the country, and race. It would be cool to actually come over for a complete season. When I see the nice tracks you have in America, and everything, it really interests me. But the problem is to come over while I am contracted to race the GP season. It is really complicated because we do not have enough time to stay good and healthy. We get tired from all the traveling around the world and racing 20 GP’s. The GP’s are two day events and the days are really long and not so easy, so it is complicated to come back to the U.S. again. But I feel that if I had the time to do one complete season in America that I would enjoy it.
YOU ARE SIGNED AGAIN WITH MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE MANY MXGP GUYS ARE LEFT WITHOUT RIDES FOR 2019. Yes, that is very true. In Europe, I think it is even harder than in the U.S. Like my teammate for the Motocross of Nations, Jeremy Van Horebeek who doesn’t have a team for next year, and he is a really good rider. I think a big problem is that in MX2 after you turn 23, you have to go to MXGP. The problem is that it is not really a good rule any longer. It was good for one way, but for the rest, it is not good because there are some really good guys in MXGP with no rides anymore. They are still really good because you know between 25 and 30 is when you are at a good age for racing. What I mean is that those guys are not old, and it is going to be tricky with the market, because some young guys coming from MX2, they are actually ready to go with much less salary. A MX2 rider is a lot cheaper than an experienced veteran rider and the experienced veteran will not want to race with no salary. It is not good right now, we are losing riders and sometimes losing teams. Something is going wrong for sure.