The 2018 season is shaping up to be even more exciting than usual for Dutch teenager Raivo Dankers. After the HSF Logistics Motorsport team ceased its activities, Raivo’s family decided to set up their own team. The former junior world champion and double European champ got off to a great start. Out of the four motos he’s raced, so far he’s won three. Just one week before the start of the EMX125 series in Valkenswaard, Dankers enters his last serious test in the form of the highly regarded Dutch Masters of Motocross, getting underway this weekend in Markelo.
Raivo was literally brought up with motocross. The 16-year old Dutchman was only 10 days old when he visited his first race. Dankers himself turned out to be one of the most promising Dutch riders of his generation. International success in the 65cc and 85cc have earmarked the KTM supported rider as a high potential. After a disappointing 2017 Dankers is keen to set the record straight this season.
Congratulations, it seems you hit the ground running!
Raivo Dankers: “Thanks. Things went well at the ONK events in Gemert and Boekel. I made some mistakes in the second moto in Gemert after winning the first race. Last weekend in Boekel I won both races. However I expect more international competition at the Dutch Masters of Motocross in Markelo. So I will have to bring my A game, but my goal is to get a top-3 there.”
Gemert couldn’t have been any more different from the Spanish tracks you visited earlier this year. It almost looked like ice speedway, the soil was so hard and slippery!
Dankers: “Yeah, the surface was still very frozen, but the conditions are the same for everyone. You just have to be prepared for everything and anything. Luckily I was up for the challenge!”
After several years for HSF Logistics Motorsport – one of the best European privateer teams and one with a particular interest in bringing up young riders- you had to look for another solution. How did that work out?
Dankers: “Actually, I only knew quite late that my previous team would stop. That meant we did not have heaps of time to arrange everything ourselves for Team RD10. There is a lot to take care of! I’m still on a KTM but we switched to another engine tuner. Furthermore, we have some small changes like different handlebars from Neken, a different look to the bike too. Yet we didn’t go crazy to change everything. On the contrary, a lot of stuff has remained exactly the same. However because I am the only rider in the team we do not have to take anyone else into consideration. That everything is focused on me actually gives me a good feeling.”
You’ve left adifficult 2017 season behind you you. Especially in the EMX125 things didn’t go according to plan.
Dankers: “True, national races went well but the European Championship events did not go as we hoped. Ottobiano was okay. Unfortunately, more often than not somthing happened in one of the first laps. That would knock me outside of the top-20, after that you’re forced to play catch up all the time. It happened to me from the first round in Valkenswaard. Although the first races of the season at been positive. That is why I am now making sure to avoid the same situation.”
So what’s your goal in the EMX125 series this season?
Dankers: “My goal is to finish in the top-5 in final standings. Of course I am particularly looking forward to sand races such as Lommel and Assen.”
I understood you’re spending the year at the High Performance Center Papendal (the Dutch Olympic training centre) where you combine elite sports and education. The same goes for your fellow Dutch riders Rick Elzinga, Raf Meuwissen and Brian van der Klij. I think that must be a great situation!
Dankers: “Definitely. Last year I had been there for four months during the MXGP Rookies project. The facilities and the people around me are amazing. By now I feel very much at home in Papendal as well. In the weekend I return to my parents, which is not so far from Papendal.”
Being among other riders in the same age group means there’s more incentive to push each other and challenge one another. How is it to deal with competitors like Raf, Rick and Brian on a daily basis?
Dankers: “Well, let’s say that you keep it in mind that ultimately you want to defeat them! But during the week we laugh together and yes we actually make each other better at training. ”
What are your strengths?
Dankers: “In terms of riding, I would say that jumping comes the mind. The guts you need to do stuff has never been an issue. Furthermore, I am quite down-to-earth as a person. Even when I’ve just won, I am getting busy in my mind to prepare for the next race.”
By Tom Jacobs, Photos by Niek Fotografie.