Nagl: “I am at the most difficult part of my career”
Grand Prix and Motocross of Nations winner Max Nagl is assessing his career options for 2018 with a very limited number of factory slots still available in MXGP. Nagl’s contract with the Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna team comes to an end this season and the works crew already have Gautier Paulin and Max Anstie on the rooster for next year and without the budget to field another three rider effort for a FIM World Championship calendar that will stretch to either nineteen or twenty events.
The 30 year old (this week) has fought to make an impact on the highly competitive 2017 chase with just one moto victory and not a single podium appearance to-date. The German is one of the most experienced riders in the class and began his GP career in 2003, earning saddles with KTM, Honda and Husky and finishing as runner-up in the 2009 premier class series. He led the world for the opening half of the 2015 campaign until breaking his leg at his home GP in Teutschenthal.
“I am at the most difficult part of my career,” he assessed on Saturday at Lommel last weekend. “I have no ride for next year and that should mean the end. I’m 29 and that is way-too early and young. I don’t want to stop and I think I have another five years. It is not just about riding and earning money, I still want to fight for the title because so far in my career I have achieved everything: I have bronze, silver and a gold medal from the Nations. Only the gold in MXGP is missing and I’m still working for it. At the moment it looks like I don’t have a factory ride for next year so it will be difficult to achieve that goal.”
Nagl is in the same predicament with at least six other Grand Prix victors or riders with GP podium form. When asked if he would consider a substitute or fill-in role for 2018 with a view towards discussions for 2019 (that will inevitably begin by spring next year) #12 did not seem too keen. “That’s possible but it is not my style,” he said. “I need to have everything organised this winter otherwise I cannot focus and motivate myself to train hard. I’m busy talking most days but the words I have from most teams is that there’s no money for three or even two paid riders. There are many riders in the same situation and there needs to be some kind of change – I don’t know what – or the MXGP gate will become less and less.”
This year Nagl, normally a serial holeshotter, has been struggling with his starts and locking the best set-up for the new metal grill behind the gate. He finally found a solution at the Grand Prix of France where he saw the chequered flag for the first time. “The starts are dialled in now and I had a holeshot on Saturday at Lommel. It took much longer than we expected,” he explains. “In the winter time we had the grill and practiced and thought ‘OK, not so difficult, we’re pretty good’. We tried some different things and also worked with the timing system but everything we tried didn’t make the starts any faster. When we came to the first races in Qatar and the overseas and we recognised ‘f**k, we are really off the pace with the starts’ so then we started to rush to find a solution and test and test. At one point I was really ‘over it’ because I couldn’t get a start and was always around twentieth on the first corner so I reset everything and went back to the basics from last year where we started in third [gear] and did the starts on my own and how I think is best without any timing aids. I got comfortable, went to races and we saw an improvement. Overall it was about feeling.”
Max has spent most of his career in the confines of the KTM Group but with the Austrians having ten riders already under contract for 2018 across both KTM and Husqvarna brands then Nagl has fallen foul of timing to steer an official 450 SX-F or FC450 next term.
Photos by Ray Archer