Crowned the 125 Youth Cup World Champion in 2015, Yamaha’s Mikael Persson took the unconventional route of jumping straight up to the senior ranks in EnduroGP. With a full season of Enduro 1 competition almost under his belt he’s beginning to find his feet.
Starting the year battling for a place inside the top 10, Persson has since earned results inside the top six in each of the last four GPs. Delivering his most successful performance last time out in Italy, Mikael came agonisingly close to a first podium result, placing fourth on day one in Fabriano…
Mikael, what are your expectations going into the final GP of the season in France this weekend?
Michael Persson: ”I really want to get a podium result. I've been battling for the top three in Enduro 1 and I'd love to end the year on the podium. At the last GP before the summer break, in Italy, I finished fourth on day one, so now I want to improve on that. It's been a long season and I've worked really hard, so now I'm really looking forward to wrapping up the championship on a high note.”
As the 2015 Enduro Youth Champion, what were the biggest challenges you faced in your debut season in the senior ranks?
"It's been a huge step for me. Last year in Enduro Youth, when I was having a good special test I'd look at my times and I'd be first or second. This season things were different. There were times I felt I rode a great test and I was still outside the top 10 in Enduro 1. As a racer I wanted to be up there fighting for the podium and it was tough to accept mentally. I had to take a step back to understand I couldn't have the same expectations. I learned there was no point in getting overly stressed. I'm happy I didn't give up the fight and continued working hard.”
2016 has also been your first season on a factory-backed team. What's it been like having the full support of a professional team behind you?
"I can't thank them enough for what they've done for me this season. It's been a tough year and all of us had to work really hard to reach the point where we'd be able to battle for podium results. They stood behind me in all the good and the not so good moments and honestly I couldn't ask for anything more. Being a member of such a professional team felt unreal sometimes. I didn't have to worry about travelling, race assistance and other trivial stuff so I could only focus on my racing."
From what you've learned so far, what are the keys for success in the highly competitive Enduro 1 class?
"I think staying consistent throughout the day and avoiding mistakes at any cost are the keys to getting good results. The level of competition is so elevated that any mistake could drop you six or even ten spots down the rankings. All riders in the class are experienced and they've learned not to make big mistakes. Sometimes I was maybe pushing too much, ending up making many mistakes."
The GP of France will also mark the return of your teammate Jamie McCanney. Are you looking forward to racing alongside him again?
"Jamie is a great rider and a role model for me. It's a bummer he was forced to miss most of the season due to injury. He's been racing the world championship for five or six years now and I feel there's a lot I can learn from him. One thing he taught me this year is to remain calm and not try to over-ride the bike. Watching Jamie ride I learned that I needed to ease down and not force things too much."
Overall, are you satisfied with the progress you've made during the season?
"It's been a great season and I'm satisfied with my progress. My two main goals this season were to get a podium result and finish inside the top seven in the Enduro 1 championship. I'm eighth now and in the position to fight for a better championship result this weekend in France. From battling for the top ten in Enduro 1 I became a regular contender for the top six. Apart from my double DNFs in Greece things have been moving in the right direction."