Seven-time Enduro World Champion Kari Tiainen talks about what he’s been up to after his retirement from professional racing.
Kari Tiainen is one of the most successful Enduro riders of all times with seven World Championships and 77 GP wins under his belt. After nearly two decades dedicated to professional enduro racing Tiainen made his last appearance in a race in 2008 at the ISDE in Greece.
Now, when he’s about to turn 53, he is completely focused in organizing enduro, trail and snowmobile trips and routes through the Lapland Adventure Center and Exdreames companies.
Taking advantage of the invitation to the KTM Adventure Rally in Finland Carlos Larreta got the chance to catch up with him and get an inside look in to how life is treating the multi time enduro world champion.
How do you redirect your life once you stop being a professional enduro rider at the highest level?
“KTM wanted me to start working for KTM Nordic, but also as a team manager in the Enduro World Championship, as Juha Salminen was returning to Europe after having been racing in the United States and had made it a condition in his new contract that I be his manager. It was a bit of a complicated situation and everything came because he didn't like Farioli's way of working, a system that hasn't changed anything over the years.”
And you accepted the job as manager, but you didn't want to join KTM Nordic...
“Exactly. My family and I were very comfortable in Spain and I wasn't seduced by the idea of having to live all year round in Finland. There were no other options, so in July 2006 I started Exdreames, which started working well... until the crisis came. People didn't take their bikes to the repair anymore – our mechanics were out of work... and the truth is that it was a dramatic change of circumstances.”
And then came the BMW project, which burst into the World Enduro Championship and hired Juha Salminen, David Knight and Marko Tarkkala.
“Yes and I accepted their proposal to work with them, even though many people at KTM didn't like it and were angry with me. But at that time, I no longer had a contract and I didn't receive any money from KTM. They didn't put a stamp on my forehead as if I already belonged to them for life.”
You spent four years working for BMW and after you started a new project with Formula One star Kimi Räikkönen
“Yes, Kimi loves motocross and wanted to make it easier for young Finnish riders to enter the World Championship, and for that a team was set up, Ice One, which I took over. Unfortunately, in the first season we found that the level of our riders at that time was not the right level for a World Championship and it was difficult to get sponsors.
“Kimi had put a lot of money out of his pocket, so we had to change direction and for the second year he set us the goal of finding fast and cheap riders, of any nationality. That's when we signed Dean Ferris, taking advantage of the excellent relationship I had always had with the Australian riders, including Shane Watts himself. It's a pity that the injuries prevented Dean from showing his true potential.”
That lasted two years and then you had the opportunity to start a new business in Oulu, north of Finland, isn’t that right?
“Yes, through a friend of mine who has great resources and is a very important person in Oulu, we got a huge shop there and started a new stage that was going to take us five years. But we were unlucky: on the one hand, my workloads were huge, as we continued to set up activities with Exdreames and I lacked time for everything.
“On the other hand, there were several circumstances that ended up disrupting our plans: the downturn in the Finnish economy, the announced reduction in taxes promised there by politicians and that did not materialize, and lastly, the lack of snow for two consecutive winters, which nearly stopped the sale of snowmobiles.”
Recently you have started working on a new project called the Lapland Center Adventure with a friend, how’s everything going on?
“Yes, indeed, my financial situation didn’t allow me to reach the agreement that I would have liked, and I have approached this project taking many risks, but I have a lot of faith in it. Now we will be working in Finland until October, when we start our tours in Spain and Morocco, focusing above all on Andalusia, and with the arrival of winter we'll be back here to get fully involved in the snowmobile adventures.”
All the trips and tours are guided by Manolo Barnés and Kari Tiainen, who admits to be riding between 30.000 and 40.000 kilometres a year.
“Also working with us is my wife Katri, who is in charge of sales and some other functions in Ranua's offices, and we have in mind to incorporate two more people and maybe even my son Valtteri.”
Photo credit: Carlos Larreta
Word Credit: Carlos Larreta
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