What makes a champion in any sport? Is it hunger? Is it belief? Or maybe sacrifice?
20-year-old Spaniard Jorge Prado has sacrificed much to get where he is today. Through an insatiable hunger and dogmatic belief in his own abilities, he has become one of the most talented and feared riders in the world of motorcross racing.
He was the youngest World Champion in history at the 65cc level in 2011, the 125cc European Champion at just 14 years old and became the youngest two-time champion in history by claiming the MX2 title in back-to-back years in 2018 and 2019.
Prado is now one of the stars of a six-part docuseries, available to watch on Red Bull TV and YouTube, taking fans behind the scenes of the Red Bull KTM team and their 2020 season, which was an up and down year for the Galician.
The 20-year-old enters this season as one of the favourites to lift the FIM Motorcross World Championship, which begins at Loss in the Netherlands on the 23rd of May.
The Red Bull KTM rider’s journey to motorcross stardom began in the city of Luso, capital of the Spanish northwest region of Galicia.
Inspired by his father, who himself was an amateur rider back in the day, Prado said:
“Since I was young, I saw him riding at the weekend and I really wanted to join him. I started riding bikes since I was three years old, beginning with a trail bike and then when I was six, it was into motorcross racing and I’ve been there ever since.”
Prado won the Master Kids 65cc title in 2009 and it was following victory in the 65cc European and World Championships in 2011, that the Austrian Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team came calling.
Then, at the age of 11, Prado’s father Jesús made the life altering decision to move the family to Belgium, the home of motorcross racing with a record 18 MXGP Championships.
“The best thing was to move to Belgium because the base of the Red Bull team was there and you are closer to the tracks in central Europe. We had to do it because I’d no one to compete against in Spain but in Belgium you can ride anytime you want.”
Prado added: “It is very difficult to move to a new country at that age where you don’t speak the language; food; culture and you leave your friends back home. The first couple of years were very tough. It was a big risk but we had to make the best of the opportunity I had with KTM.”
The Galician did just that by winning the Red Bull Give Me Five crown in 2013 and the 125cc European Championship, aged just 14. Next on the agenda was the move up to the second level of motorcross racing, MX2 in 2016.
Double World Champion
Prado claimed his first MX podium at the Patagonia GP in Argentina in 2017 and quickly followed up winning his first GP in Italy.
By his own lofty standards though, the 2017 season never really took off for the 20-year-old as he finished seventh in the overall MX2 standings and suffered a serious elbow injury which required extensive surgery and a screw.
If he was to challenge for the world title in 2018, Prado was fully aware he needed a change in structure.
“In 2018 I moved to Italy and began racing with the KTM De Carli team who gave me a lot of confidence and became like a family to me. Also, I made a change to being a professional rider: I stopped school and stuff which helped provide the rest and extra training I needed to get better results.”
During the 2018 season, Prado went from adolescent to adult as he claimed his first World MX2 title at the Imola track in Italy, aged just 17. A milestone for a Spanish rider, who, in Prado’s case, confirmed that he was the new prodigy of motorcross racing.
He similarly obliterated the field the following year winning 14 of the 18 rounds scattered across the globe from Argentina to Shanghai, retaining his MX2 crown.
The World Champion isn’t just a dab hand at mastering the muddy tracks and daring jumps of motorcross, it turns out he is also champion swimmer in his native Galicia.
Just as balance, poise, and stamina are crucial to motorcross success, so they are in swimming too. Prado has these attributes in spades and he has been crowned Galician swimming champion along with competing for the respected Porta Mina swimming team.
2020: A Character-building year
As the world reeled from a global pandemic in 2020, Prado’s year was of a similar ilk. His first at the top level of motorcross racing, MXGP for Red Bull KTM.
The two-time World Champion entered the season’s first round in Winchester, England recovering from a broken femur he had suffered in pre-season.
Reminiscing on that tumultuous beginning to the 2020 season, Prado said: “Moving up to this new class with no riding at all during the off-season, getting only one week in-house and two weeks of proper riding…I wouldn’t call it training.
“Although, it was incredible that the following week I went to Holland and almost won the qualification race finishing fourth and then I had a crash the second day.”
Prado added: “Many people said I would struggle and this and that but they don’t think about what I had to go through. A femur injury; there are riders who would not take on those first two rounds, they would wait two months more just to return to normal training.
“I think I made an amazing recovery looking back at the first race where I was physically unfit and I couldn’t even train. I wasn’t worried about results straight away because I knew what I could do.”
The two-time World Champion was certainly taken aback though by a four-month exodus from motorcross racing that lasted from April to August last year. Prado spent his time wisely though recharging his batteries, rebuilding the strength in his leg and spending quality time with the people most important to him, his family.
“I am very happy that I have the family I have because they help me a lot in the bad times. I spent the time off during Covid with them trying to recover and being together in a very tough time. Since I was very little, they have helped me a lot.
“Like moving to Belgium; I don’t think it’s something a lot of parents would do, it’s a very risky move. So, I’m very grateful for them and everything they do.”
Following the pandemic-enforced stoppage, Prado began to hit his stride in MXGP claiming his first overall victory at Faenza, Italy in September. In October of the same year, the youngster was emotional when triumphing on home soil in round 12 of the Motorcross World Championship at the Intu Xanadu track in Spain.
As the Galician prodigy began to mount a title challenge against the likes of eventual winner Tim Gajser of Honda and Jeremy Seewar of Yamaha, his season would be brought to an abrupt and premature end. With four rounds remaining, Prado received a call from the MXGP authorities that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and would have to sit out the rest of the season. Another difficult moment in a challenging year.
“Being positive for Covid was very tough because I was still in a very good position for the championship. Everything I did, it didn’t matter anymore because I couldn’t compete in the last four races.”
Prado added: “I did everything to stay out of risk but yeah it was a real shock at the beginning. They tell you stop! And you don’t race anymore. I couldn’t believe it.”
2021 Title Challenge?
Speaking to the two-time MX2 World Champion, there is no doubt that this year’s target is to mount a serious title challenge. His Red Bull KTM team has not triumphed at the top level of motorcross since the Duthchman Jeffrey Herlings brought home gold in 2018.
Despite spending most of the 2020 season under a cloud of injuries, Prado showed more than once in the second half of last season that he is capable of mixing it with the big boys. He finished his debut MXGP season with five wins and six podium finishes from the last eight races he competed in.
The question now is: can he carry that stellar form and impressive speed into 2021 where the expectations will be even higher for the Galician starlet.
“This season’s preparation has gone very well. I haven’t had any problem with injuries and I could follow my program and even had a couple of races. I’m very happy with how everything is going at the moment. I think this year…hopefully if everything goes well, we can have a nice year,” Prado said.
The 20-year-old sensation is a realist but also extremely ambitious as to what he is capable of.
Prado enthused: “I’m working and training hard to win the Championship. I’m going for it.”
The 2021 Motorcross World Championship which consists of 19 events around the globe, begins in the Netherlands on 23 May and will end in Argentina on 21 November. Classified in some quarters as “the boy of records,” the 20-year-old who dons the number 61 is all set for a spellbinding 2021 season. He has the undeniable talent, poise and determination needed to be a MXGP World Champion. Now, all that is needed is a bit of luck and a smoother run at things than last year.
Either way, one should remember the name Jorge Prado.
Watch behind the scenes of Jorge Prado’s rollercoaster 2020 season in MX World: The KTM Diaries S3E4 on Red Bull Motorsport YouTube. The full docuseries starring Prado’s teammates Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings and more, is available to watch in full on Red Bull TV.