Antti Kallonen, was a successful motocross racer until a serious injury derailed his plans. Now he’s the team manager for KTM.
In 2005, Antti was offered a position in America working for then KTM Champion Juha Salminen. While his rider would eventually return to Europe, Kallonen stayed in America – and was asked to take on the role of Manager of KTM’s USA off-road Team. Now several years, and many championships later, Antti lives with his wife in Murrieta, California. With the 2009 race season coming to an end with the 2009 Geico AMA Endurocross Las Vegas finale hours away, we caught up with Antti. It may be Vegas, but it took much more than lady luck to get KTM the Championship.
Stay tuned to www.motorcycle-usa.com for more from the Las Vegas Endurocross this weekend!
Antti; let’s hear your thoughts on KTM’s 2009 season in AMA off-road Racing.
KTM has had another strong year; our roots are from off-road Racing, and we put 100% effort into keeping KTM as the number one manufacturer. We have established a great program that covers all the major off-road disciplines. Even though our team is large, we focus on each rider as an individual, and get them set up with the bike exactly how they want it. This has been just one key element of the success that has brought us WORCS, Enduro, GNCC XC2, H & H, Best in the Desert and Endurocross Championships this year.
Can you pick one race, or one championship from this year that really sticks out?
Jim, every championship that you can be a part of feels good – and special. There are so many that I could name but if we look at this year I would have to say that our WORCS Championship with Brownie (Mike Brown) feels very good – for many reasons. One of these reasons is that we are able to transform a Motocross/Supercross rider into an off-road champion in his first year! Personally, speaking for myself though, the 2006 GNCC Championship with Juha Salminen feels the best, because that year I was doing double duty. I had taken over the KTM Off-road Team Management responsibilities, but I still had one year left in my contract to be Juha’s mechanic. During the day I was working on bike’s and going practicing with Juha, while at night I was doing office work. There were many endless days then, and times when I got home at 3 a.m., only to have to get up the next morning at 7. You can only imagine how good, and relieved I felt to have won that championship!
Of all the different off-road race series that you guys
compete in, which one do you feel is the most difficult?
All of the series, as well as the riders, need their own preparation; there is not one uniform preparation that works well for them all. As far as with the riders, we work with each individually to work on their weaknesses and preparation. Every off-road series has their own degree of difficultness, but if I would have to pick one, I would say Endurocross.
What is it about Geico AMA Endurocross that makes it so difficult?
One tiny mistake can cost you many positions that you are not able to make back up due to the very short and intense race format – with Endurocross it takes 100% concentration throughout the entire race.
Since KTM has already wrapped up the 2009 Endurocross Championship, is winning this weekend’s event still important?
Yes for sure; our goal is to win the race. Since we have already won the title Taddy (Blazusiak) does not need to take it safe. He can go out there and give it 100% like all the other KTM riders. It would be different if we had not already won the Championship though; then our goal would be to take the title, rather than trying to win the race. I do think that this year’s Endurocross finale in Las Vegas will be one of the best races of the year!
Overall; how do you think that Endurocross is doing in America?
I think that it has taken off very well with its place in off-road racing and has been growing every year. With the constant improvements that have been made it is drawing more and more recognition world wide. Also, what is very positive is that most of the rounds have had very good crowds.
Is this the team’s last official race this year?
Yeas, this is our final major event of the year. Our riders may be racing some local races throughout December but, yes, as a team, this is our last race.
How are things looking for 2010?
I actually have just finalized our off-road rider line up for 2010. It is going to be another exciting year with a couple new riders joining KTM. The most recent addition to our racing program is our Factory Husaberg Team that will consist of multi-time champions Mike Lafferty, and Nathan Woods.
Sounds good Antti; with that do you have any final thoughts?
I would really like to take time to thank all the team sponsors, riders, and staff for the great season that we had!