Jonny Walker: “I think I really improved. I feel I came a long way in that championship and developed into a better rider. To finish the series as runner-up to Taddy Blazusiak in only my first season of endurocross was a great accomplishment.”
Were you confident that you could perform as well as you did?
Jonny: “No. I honestly didn’t know where I would fit in. In Italy I almost didn’t qualify for the main event. I was too nervous in my qualify race and made some stupid mistakes. In the end I had to win the Last Chance Qualifiers to make the cut. But after that something began to click. My nerves went away and I started to enjoy it. I was having a lot of fun on the track and I didn’t feel that I was forcing myself to improve – instead it just sort of came naturally.”
What was the biggest thing you learned from the 2012 series?
Jonny: “I learned how to manage the intensity of the race. The main events are short so you need to be able to ride to the limit of your capability but without crashing. Everybody makes mistakes, even Taddy, but it’s being able to correct them without crashing that makes the difference. You need to be patient and almost let the race come to you.”
While a lot of riders have switched to a four-stroke machine for 2013, you’ve decided to stick with the KTM 300EXC. Why is that?
Jonny: “I had considered moving to a 250f for the series but felt it’s best to stay with the two-stroke. That’s the bike I have the most experience of riding and I don’t think it’s necessary to change just yet. The four-stroke might have a smoother power delivery but overall I don’t think there is a big difference between the bikes. Also, with some of my extreme enduro races overlapping the series it would have been quite difficult to swap from one bike to the other.”
The last couple of months have been quite tough due to illness and injury. Are you back to full fitness again?
Jonny: “During the last three months I seem to have got more than my fair share of it. First I had to have an operation to fix my dislocated shoulder and after that I ended up in hospital with glandular fever and tonsillitis. Thankfully, all that seems to be behind me and I’m back to my full training schedule again. It was frustrating to be out of action but I tried to use my time wisely. I spent a lot of it watching videos and studying people’s different riding techniques to see where I can improve my own riding. Being forced to stop riding my bike has done me some good. I feel hungrier than ever before to race.”
Poland will mark your first official outing as a KTM factory rider. Are you looking forward to that?
Jonny: “Becoming a factory rider is something that I’ve always wanted to be and now that it’s happened I intend to make the most of it. Up until now I’ve had factory support from KTM so I’m already used to the team and how everything operates. But now as an official rider I’m very excited about pushing the limits of what I can do.”
What are your expectations leading into Poland?
Jonny: “I’m going to go there and do the best that I can. Last year I scored my first ever podium result in a world championship in Poland so I’ve got a lot of good memories of the place. Hopefully the track will be similar to what it was last year and allows for some tight racing. I know Taddy will be the main rider to beat but there will also be few others riders to watch out for. Everybody has improved and the racing is becoming much more competitive. Getting a good start will be key to a strong result. If I can do that then I believe I have a chance to win.”