We catch up with Argo, an adrenaline junkie and racing thoroughbred.
See interview after the cut
NM: Can you introduce yourself to the folks that are not familiar with Argo the racer?
Argo: “Hi, my name is Argo Raak from Estonia and I have been living in Nigeria for the past 17 years. My Nigerian name according to my friends is Emeka based on my knack for trade anc commerce like the igbo men.”
NM: Can you tell us how you got into street riding and how that developed into wanting to race bikes?
Argo: “I have been riding bikes since I was 10 years old. Racing is something that has been part of our family for as long as I can remember. My dad used to take me to all kinds of races when I was a kid. My grandfather was a race car driver in those days, so racing DNA was passed to me I guess. I can call myself an adrenaline junkie and bike racing gives me the biggest dose of it. So, that is why bike racing…”
NM: What is the fascination with wanting to go fast and how do you mitigate risk especially at such high speeds?
Argo: “Funny enough doing all those crazy speeds I’m very careful and calculative of the risks that we are taking. On a track, a lot of the danger has been eliminated and it gives us possibilities to push more. You have to be sure that your bike is in top condition to enter the track, to do that kind of speed from 204km/h to 70km/h cannot be done with riveted brake pads from road side mechanics.
NM: You broke into the consciousness of racing fans in 2015 when you claimed the top step in the above 1000cc on the closed course. That category was scrapped and you raced in the 1000cc. Has there been any significant difference in both classes?
Argo: “I think above 1000cc isn’t particularly as forgiving of mistakes whereas, 1000cc is a bit more forgiving. Also, 1000cc bikes are easier to handle handle in my opinion. Top speed of those bikes are the same, difference is in braking distance. I think our new track is better suited for the 1000cc than above 1000cc.”
NM: From racing on both the closed course and the race track, which would you say you prefer?
Argo: “Race track always comes first because less things can pop up during the race. There is big difference in safety. Closed course can never be 100% safe.”
NM: You came with two bikes last year, BMW S1000RR and Aprilia RSV4, both European bikes. Coincidence or intentional?
Argo: “(The) Aprilia was bought brand for the 2016 BT. I still like the way the bike handles (around) the track… S1000rr was bought just some months before as a back up bike based on factory readings. My aim was to make a selection between them after test runs. BMW was 4 seconds faster than the Aprilia, so we used it for the 2017 BT. I personally like European bikes, so it was kind of intentional.”
NM: You hit the track running last year, setting the fastest lap, starting on pole. How demanding was this physically and mentally?
Argo: “Some people pray before the race, I take a deep breath and try to keep calm (laughs). I think with the kind of machine we ride, it is more mental than physical. In my opinion, the number of laps we are doing is too small, you just get to warm up when everything is over. So there is no time when you get physically tired during the race. And I can’t say I am in the best shape (laughs).”
NM: It must have been disappointing not finishing first after your promising times on track.
Argo: “(smiles) I am not disappointed at all. After the first lap, my gear lever bolt was broken and I did the rest of the race in second gear. So for me, it is a good achievement.”
NM: What team umbrella are you racing under? What are their expectations from you?
Argo: “We are racing under under ARGOTIOS BIKE Showroom umbrella. We are racing for ourselves. If we can do good times on the track because of the shop’s input/modification on the bikes, it is good advert for us.”
NM: You fit your race bikes with slick tyres, is there any competitive advantage?
Argo: “We also have tyre warmers. What gives the competitive advantage is having better grip on the track. Difference would be much bigger if we would not have loose sand on track.”
NM: Are you ready for a wet race come the next qualifier, especially with tyre selection?
Argo: “For a wet race, we have a new set of tyres. I do not see a possibility of making better lap times in the wet.”
NM: You came in second in the first qualifier of 2018, are you happy with the pace you showed throughout the session?
Argo: “There is always space for improvement and we still have two more qualification races. So we bring out some new tricks and see how it goes.”
NM: Where will you consider your strong and weak sections on the track and how are you trying to further enhance and improve on them respectively?
Argo: “I can say our strong sections would be the straight lines due to the modifications on the bike. I need to personally improve on bends.”
NM: What are your expectations this year?
Argo: “To enjoy my race as usual. I hope more people get involved so we have more challengers.”
NM: Who would you consider your biggest challenger for the top step this year.
Argo: “There is a new guy from Lagos with a BMW S1000rr (Gbenga of BKG racing for those who don’t know) who did good times on the track. Everyone in the race will challenge you, that’s why it is a race.”
NM: We have seen a number of teams book private sessions at the track to improve their times. Are you confident that you will be able to keep up with them especially as they have had more time on track?
Argo: “I think if the track had not been so far from Abuja, I would visit it every Sunday. It is well known that practice makes perfect especially when it comes to race track. We must keep up if not on the track then we keep up in the workshop by modifying the bikes to get the best out of them.”
NM: How do you prepare physically for race weekends.
Argo: “Does not drinking alcohol count (laughs).”
NM: Is the country ready for the adoption of Motorsports just yet in your opinion?
Argo: “We are just in baby shoes with Motorsports in this country. If only people can realize the investment opportunities in the sector…Everything in Nigeria takes time and we have to start from somewhere…Motorsports is a multi-million industry in so many other countries. It takes time for local investors to realize that here.”
NM: How do your friends and family make of this passion of yours? You not only ride street, you tour, your haul bikes around the country then you RACE!
Argo: “My family is behind me, they wish me the best. No one has ever tried to stop me doing what I love.”
NM: If you could change anything about race weekend, what will you change?
Argo: “Let the race weekend become race week. We have other categories apart from bikes. One day is not enough for everyone to race.”
NM: Thank you for your time. All the best.
Argo: “Thanks. I would like to use this opportunity to say big thank you to the person who made it all happen. Mr. Moto, you are just something else. If we can just have more people like you, Nigeria would be the best place for for Motorsport. I wish you lot strength to keep it up. I know it’s not easybut you are making history here. I hope one day they will tall about you in the history classes as founder of Motorsports in NIgeria. All the best.”