DRD’s exclusive interview with Stefan Everts…
Local Boy Makes Good
Words: Chris Ritchie | Photos: Ray Archer/KTM Images
At Round 3 of the EMX125 European Championship, the overall round win went down to the final lap of the second and deciding moto held in conjunction with the MXGP of Spain. For Josiah Natzke, only a mere 0.7 seconds separated him from his maiden EMX125 overall win, but he finished on equal points with his KTM Factory Junior teammate and local hero, Jorge Prado García, and second overall for the weekend. It was an emotional defeat, bringing Natzke to tears, as it was hard lose that elusive overall win – at the time, anyway. But it showed the world what the young Waikato hotshot is capable of…
Saturday — Race 1
In the opening moto of the weekend, Natzke was able to convert an average 20th qualifying position and gate pick into a decent jump out of the gate, rounding the first corner in third and then quickly move into second in the following corner behind Prado García. He then made his way past Prado García, after swapping the lead during the early laps, and never looking back – winning his first ever European EMX125 race by over six seconds. To beat your teammate – and the current points leader – in front of his home crowd was no small feat. But to pull away from him to a convincing victory was something else! After an up and down opening two rounds of the series, Natzke was over the moon to have made the crucial breakthrough he needed, showing that he is a genuine contender for race wins and the EMX125 title.
Can you tell us how you feel about the first win in Europe?
It was good! It was a special moment, to be honest, when I came across the finish line. I wouldn’t call it a tough race, but I was definitely pushing hard because I wanted to win so bad. I got a pretty good start, considering I qualified 20th, so my gate pick wasn’t the best. I was third into the first turn, then straight into second in the next turn and I battled with Jorge for about three laps. We passed each other a few times, but I was able to make a pass stick, and gapped him a bit – I ended up finishing about six seconds. At the end, I dropped off a bit, just wanted to finish the race, not throw it away when I knew I had the lead. We’ve come a long way, and there were definitely a few tears and a few hugs after that one, ‘cause it’s such an awesome feeling.
You battled with your teammate Jorge for a number of laps and the local fans were going crazy! Did it feel like they were cheering for you, too?
I couldn’t even hear my own bike the whole time we were battling each other! I knew these guys were all cheering him on, but I may as well just pretend they’re cheering for me, and that was extra motivation! They’re all cheering him on, but I’m like, ‘nah, I’m gonna beat him in front of all of them’, and that’s what I did – I was stoked to beat him at his home GP.
You’ve had an up and down start to your European campaign after the first two rounds, so what does this do for your confidence looking ahead to the rest of the series?
It’s so good for me! Had a pretty average first two rounds in Italy and Holland, where I really struggled, but I’ve now shown that this is where I should be. Just need to keep my head on, and to keep doing what I’m doing, I want to keep the ball rolling – I need to pick up more points for the championship. That’s the plan, anyway.
Sunday — Race 2
In Race 2, Natzke was determined to back up his opening race victory with another strong finish, which he knew was within his grasp. His start was not as good as he managed in the opening moto, and he was forced to make some passes early in the race, but he worked his way into second on lap two and began reeling in his teammate, Prado García. In the end, his charge to the front was a lap short, as he very narrowly missed out on the overall win to Prado García, only hindered by lapped riders in the final lap.
So, today, that’s what you call a close finish! Tell us about your second race, and that nailbiting battle to the end with your teammate, Prado García…
It was a gnarly race. My start wasn’t as good as I got in the first moto. My teammate Jorge was able to pull another holeshot, but I got stuck behind some guys and he was able to pull a gap out front. Once I got into second, he was about five seconds ahead of me, so that was a decent lead. I had to work pretty hard to try catch him. I wasn’t able to gain much on him for the first part of the race. Then, towards the last part of the race, I caught right up to him, got closer and closer every lap, but couldn’t get close enough to make a pass – and got caught up with lappers on the last lap. That happens, as it’s racing. I was pretty disappointed with it all, but I can’t complain too much with a win in the first race, and then almost another win the second.
You must be hungry for more?
My confidence levels have always been high. I know what I’m capable of, and I knew I should’ve done better at the opening round in Italy, but that was the first race. It was good to get that one out of the way, get the feelers out there and see where I’m at. Then at the last round in Valkenswaard I really struggled in the sand, so it felt good to get the win in the first moto here in Spain. In the second moto, I just didn’t get the start that I needed, which meant I had to work a lot harder. In the end, I wasn’t able to get close enough to make the pass for the win.
How is the rivalry between you and Prado García? It looks like you are going to be fighting together until the end for this championship…
It’s all good. On the track, that was actually the first time I’ve really battled with him, as he’s always been up front. He’s still so young, only 14, but he’s a good guy who’s calm and easy to talk with. We like to make jokes with each other, like, ‘This is where I passed you, isn’t it?’ and ‘But I pulled the holeshot,’ so it goes back and forth between us – it’s all in good fun. Then we have Conrad Mewse from England. Everyone is cool to get along with, it’s a good team atmosphere, really.
You have had plenty of support from home this weekend, especially from your family and friends. They must be proud of what you’ve achieved, right?
Quite a few people gathered at my parents’ house and watched my races, and were cheering me on from back home, so I knew I had their support. I also had a lot of messages after my race win. As it was Mother’s Day, I wanted to do it for Mum. But, in the end, there was a piece of the puzzle that just wasn’t there for me in that last race. I did my best and gave it everything I had, so I now know that I have to work harder.
What will that involve?
I have a few smaller races, inclduing the Dutch Championships and also another International race – plus, all the training in between, too – where I will work on a few things, and try and get better as I go along. I want to keep improving!
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