We caught up with Loïc LARRIEU (F - Yamaha) at the 2017 Yamaha Europe Press Conference for a quick chat. The rider who finished 6th last year in EnduroGP has been on the radar for a few years now, and before long he’ll be rubbing shoulders with the cream of the crop…
Hi Loïc, we’re just a month and a half from the start of the season. How do you feel?
Loïc LARRIEU: “Better than a few months ago! I suffered a nasty back injury during a 24-hour race in France late last year and wasn’t able to ride until January. So I've been working hard. I am very happy to have stayed with Yamaha and with the same motorcycle; the Yamaha WR450F. It is a big step forward for me because every year since I joined Enduro I have changed motorcycle and team, so it made things quite complicated. A little stability makes me feel good! We know the small details that need to be improved compared to last year. And I am also pleased with the arrival of Jamie MCCANNEY (GB) into the team. At the moment, he is staying with our manager Marc BOURGEOIS in the South of France and this allows us to train together and push each other... In any case, we are trying to prepare for the season that is fast approaching!"
Back to the 24hr race, what exactly happened to you?
L.L: “It happened on my last stint, after 23 hours of racing. I do not know if it was the fatigue, the stress or the desire to finally finish this race and to seek the victory... I went over a big jump and I fell on my head, the bike fell on my back. It was a bad crash but I still wanted to finish the race, even though I was strongly advised not to try because of the state I was in. The problem is that there were after-effects... I was diagnosed with a micro-fracture of two vertebrae. So for a large part of the winter I had to rest and undergo physiotherapy and rehabilitation... now I feel good and I have no apprehension about riding the bike, and that is essential!”
“I am one of the lucky ones…”
You have a different life to many riders…
L.L: “It's true! In December I usually lend a helping hand to my father, who is an oyster farmer. It’s always very busy during the holiday season, and we are rushing around. It gives me a bit of time off the bike and reminds me how lucky I am... even though riding is my main job; it is, above all, a pleasure and a passion. When I’m working in the oyster industry, besides being a difficult job, it is not my passion, and it can be very challenging. I had to earn my keep, even though my dad was cool with me, and helped me out a lot. In any case this way of doing things has allowed me to appreciate how lucky I am, and also gives me a break from the world of motorcycling, and this winter it was a good distraction from my injury...”
How do think this second year with Yamaha will be?
L.L: “We made good progress throughout the first season. The whole team was new; the WR450F was also brand new. Unfortunately the race conditions, which were often wet, were not necessarily favorable to the bike as it is very powerful. I hope this season will be a bit drier and faster. In regard to the first race (GP of Finland), it would astonish me if we had good weather! But I hope that during the year the weather will improve... I intend to continue the momentum I had at the end of last season; with several podiums and day victories. This is the goal that we have with Yamaha and the team!”
What do you think of the ’new look’ calendar which has a variety of different races?
L.L: “This is completely new for everyone! We do not know what to expect... so it's not easy to predict or to prepare. You have to wonder if we will need completely different motorcycles for each race! But I think that is a part of Enduro: adapting to all types of terrains and all race conditions. In any case I hope that it will be good for us, and more generally, I hope it will spell success for the series and the discipline of Enduro!”
“Enduro is about adapting; to different terrains and different conditions!”
How do you view your new team-mate Jamie MCCANNEY? Can he challenge for the E2 title?
L.L: “I think he will be one of the title contenders! Jamie was injured last season, but it should not be forgotten that he was at the forefront in Enduro 1 from the start, straight after graduating from the Junior class. He already has a Junior title and a Youth Cup title. I could see during our pre-season training that he was very motivated... and if he has no physical worries, I think he will clearly be in the fight for the title in E2!”
Your contract with Yamaha will end this season, have you already thought about re-signing with them next year?
L.L: “I already rode for two years in the official Yamaha team in MXGP. And being in a French team is a great advantage for me. I am quite close to my manager Marc BOURGEOIS; he lives only 4 kilometers from home. And I got to know Alexandre KOWALSKI (Director of Enduro and Rallye at Yamaha) throughout last season. Yamaha now has a lot of support, and even though I'm coming to the end of the contract this season, I think the common goal is to continue to work together for years to come…”
Target for 2017?
L.L: “With the redesign of the categories, the level in EnduroGP will be very high this year! Basically, the objective was to aim for the title in what was formerly known as E2. But now this means being in the EGP class, and there will be stiff competition there! We will just try to stay the course and give our best... but on this subject; I prefer not to say too much and to simply do the job that is asked of me, rather than “big myself up” and add unnecessary pressure!”