Sunday, February 21, 2010

Simo Kirssi

Simo Kirssi is a man of few words. The 26-year-old from Helsinki prefers to let his riding do the talking and therefore interviews are rare. However, during a break from pre-season testing in Italy, the ‘flying Finn’ spoke to BMW Motorrad about his plans for 2006 and his ambition for success in this year’s motorsport programme.

Simo Kirssi

There’s an old saying that talent will only take you so far, and that you also need a little luck on the long road to success. Well, Simo’s lucky day came two years ago in April 2004 while participating in a German Cross Country race (GCC), when by chance he met a man who would turn out to be his future manager and mentor. Simo was only really racing because he was visiting some friends in Germany and decided to ‘have a go’.

Like a lot of privateers, Simo had sunk all his spare funds into racing, even to the point where he no longer had enough money to get back home to Finland. Buying spare parts for his bike was completely out of the question but – somehow – he won this GCC race against very strong competitors such as motocross world championship runner-up Fred Vialle.

Despite the win, Simo would still have been forced to stop racing due to lack of money and no one would have ever heard of him but Ulrich Hanus, Executive Director of off-road racing organisation ‘Baboons’ took a big risk and offered him a management contract there and then. That was beginning of Simo`s professional career and also the start of his involvement with BMW Motorrad’s motorsports department. Simo soon paid back Ulrich’s faith in him by winning the 2004 German Cross Country Series.

Simo came to the attention of many BMW fans with the HP2 Enduro in May last year when he set a new record of 09:05.65 in the gruelling 13.3 km Iron Road Prologue at Erzberg in Austria. In a field of more than 1000 entrants, Simo went faster than anyone else had ever gone before – even beating his nearest challenger by a massive six-second margin. He then went on to achieve a runner-up spot in the Italian and European Cross Country Championships. Overall, it was a great debut year for the BMW factory rider, but one he hopes to improve on during 2006.

“I was not happy with my results from last season,” said Simo, who first rode a motorcycle at the tender age of six and actually competed in his first international race at just 12-years-old. “But I was surprised to win the Iron Road Prologue at Erzberg last year and am looking forwards to this year’s event because we have some new parts for this kind of race.”

After year’s of riding lightweight dirt bikes, Simo had no problem adapting to the vicious power delivery of BMW’s HP2 Enduro and has in fact already tasted victory on the 105 hp bike in 2006, at the Baboons Snow Speedhill event. This consisted of 60 riders all competing against each other for the fastest time up an 800-metre ski slope!

“I’m not sure whose idea it was to race motorbikes on snow, but it was great fun because the HP2 Enduro has a lot of power and you can use all of it in the snow. I had been riding motocross bikes for most of my life and thought that it would be difficult to switch over to the HP2 Enduro but I was surprised at how easy it was.”

One would imagine that growing up in Finland gave Simo the skills to race a motorcycle on any kind of surface and it is clear that he has a fondness for the country of just five million inhabitants that holds its sports starts in high esteem (Simo cites Finnish motocross stars Heikki Mikkola and Pekka Vehkonen as his heroes). It is also obvious that Simo has found his niche in life, and is quite happy to exploit it.

“I love everything about Finland – the lifestyle, food, nature, environment and the overall harmony of the place and the people. The Finnish rally drivers are also the best in the world and I try to get home every year to watch the World Rally Championship round there but up until now I have never been tempted to have a go competitively. It’s the same thing with road racing or desert rallies, such as the Dakar. They are great fun to watch but I’ve no plans to ever try and compete in them.”

Simo is, however, used to riding on the limit and during his military service, even served as a motorbike scout in a fighter battalion. However, unlike a lot of off-road riders, he enjoys road bikes (“as long as they are powerful”) and has even tried his HP2 with street wheels. But it’s the challenge of the various off-road races that Simo is looking forward to as part of BMW Motorrad’s motorsport team.

“We have a strong team in place for 2006. Jimmy [Lewis] and Chris [Pfeiffer] are good riders and the rest of the team works really well together. I’m just concentrating my efforts on the immediate future though and am enjoying my racing. I don’t really want to think too far ahead in terms of my future. It’s a scary sport we’re involved in and there are some moments – like when a big jump is going wrong – that you fear for yourself, but then you soon forget about it.”

See Simo and the rest of the team in action at the following events throughout 2006.

Date, Event
April 15-16 ICC, Malandrone
April 22-23 ACC, Reisersberg
April 29-30 GCC, Tollwitz
May 13-14 ACC, Tirol
May 20-21 GCC, Walldorf
May 26-28 Erzberg, Austria
June 3-4 Endurance day, 24-hour
June 4 Baja 500
June 17-18 GCC, Höchstädt
June 17-18 Obersaxen Hillclimb, Switzerland
June 30-July 2 Pikes Peak, USA
July 1-2 GCC, Mernes
July 7-9 International BMW Biker Meeting, Garmisch
July 22-23 GCC, Goldbach
August 24-26 ACC Waldviertel
September 2-3 ICC, Cassale Monferrato
September 9-10 GCC, Mühlhausen
September 16-17 ACC final, Mattighofen
September 23-24 GCC final, Eckolstädt
7-8 October ECC final, Schefflenz
15-17 November Baja 1000

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