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MX-GP: David Philippaerts: Ready for the return

2008 MX1-GP World Champion David Philippaerts starts his fifth season on the works YZ450FM and this could be one of the most pivotal in the tough Italian’s career. Observers at pre-season races across Italy have commented that the 28 year old is back to his full-revving self and is competing with a smile on his face after recovering from a double wrist break last summer. ‘DP19’ has not looked this relaxed coming into a Grand Prix campaign since that fateful first with Yamaha in 2008 and this bodes well for Monster Energy Yamaha and their three pronged attack on the premier class with Steven Frossard, Philippaerts and Shaun Simpson leading the line.

Philippaerts has been a member of the MX1 elite for the better part of five years and now boasts the familiarity and experience of a seasoned-veteran at the top level. Here he talks recovery, re-emergence and refuelled ambition for 2012…

David, physically and mentally is it great to be back where you belong?
DP: It feels great to be back racing. It had been seven months in between my crash practicing in Germany and coming to Mantova for the Starcross International and I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was! It was good to see my level at Mantova and through the Italian Championship and know a little bit more about the training and work that needed to be done.

You seem bit more relaxed. In the past it was a very serious approach to the racing and the work…
DP: Yes because – in a way – my responsibility has changed. I have to concentrate on getting back to the level that I was before. In the past I rode to win because my fitness and speed meant I was near or at the top. The goal is still the same – to win – but I also have another priority and that’s to recover and get the fun back.

Having the injury you must have thought afterwards ‘well I’m actually a lucky guy’ to have the team, the support, the bike etc…
DP: Yeah. After I was injured I thought that Yamaha might want to stop with me but they continued their support and that’s really good for me. I’m with the team for five years now and that backing really motivates you. The same for the sponsors. They kept their belief in me and it’s important to see that. It was the first time I’ve suffered an injury that kept me out and away from the track and it was nice when people really show their feelings towards you in those hard moments.

How was it then coming through the winter preparation phase? Did you have to do anything different?
DP: It was hard this time! I started from zero and even on the bike in the first days it was very hard. I’ve needed to do more than before. In the past I travelled to Mantova to win but this time I knew I had the drive and the style to ride fast but winning was not going to be possible just yet. I am on the path back and I hope it will be a short one.

In 2009, ’10 and ’11 you were always going for championship but now it is a bit like 2008 when you were the rookie in Yamaha…
DP: Yes because perhaps people’s expectations are lower and they don’t know if I can come back after this injury!

…but look what happened in 2008…
DP: Yeah! We will see! MX1 is a bit different now. In 2008 there were less people able to go for the title now I think there are more with better possibilities. I think it has become more difficult every year.

The 2012 YZ450FM. What did you want?
DP: Not much. I was really happy with the bike from last year and when I started riding this year in January I felt good straightaway on the racebike. I didn’t have many requests, just one or two tweaks for my style but I think we have a very strong bike again this year. We changed the pipe and I’ve noticed the difference with the starts. This is where we missed a bit last season but now it is perfect. We had a good exhaust set-up in the past but I think Akrapovic is the best for Yamaha on the track and I really like what it gives the bike.

How do you feel about going to the sand of Valkenswaard and then straight to hard-pack with Sevlievo and Fermo?
DP: At this level you need to have top speed around every track and it might be sand and hard-pack but the preparation of the circuits is good and the difference is not so dramatic. I rode well at Valkenswaard last year [he finished 3rd for a first podium of 2011] and I like Bulgaria. Fermo is not one of my favourites but it will be a home grand prix so it is a bit special.

You’ve always had a large and loyal following in Italy…
DP: I think I have good fans in Italy but also in Belgium and other countries and maybe that is because they can see the work I put into the sport and my riding. I push very hard and maybe they appreciate that or enjoy watching it.

The Motocross of Nations will be in the sand of Lommel this year. Italy hasn’t had much luck at the Nations but this should be a good track for you and Cairoli…
DP: It will be a hard race but I don’t think there will be many countries going for the win on this sandy track, maybe Italy, Holland, Belgium and the USA. I think we have a good opportunity but it is only one day of racing and it depends on how you feel. Perhaps you feel great but your team-mates don’t…we will try our best. For me personally it has been two years that I have missed out and I want to come back because it is the best race in the world. I really want to be in Lommel.