Photos by: Simon Cudby
When news came through that American racer Mitchell Harrison had signed with Bud Racing, to run the remaining rounds of the MX2 championship many people were not sure what to expect.
Harrison was very much one of the stand-out riders on the amateur scene in American, with multiple victories at the Lorretta Lynn Nationals. Prior to entering the professional ranks, Harrison rode for almighty Monster Energy Team Green Kawasaki outfit, and once he turned pro he was signed up by Star Racing Yamaha in 2016 and then a one-year deal with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory team in 2018.
Despite some solid results, including a podium at the Unadilla round of the AMA 250 National, and three strong performances in the USGPs in 2016 and 2017, Harrison was thrown to the wolves and left without a ride for 2019.
That was until Bud Racing Kawasaki called out for a rider replacement and a deal was quickly put into place. Now heading down to Italy for the fourth round of the FIM Motocross MX2 championship at the Trentino circuit, the young American is looking at making his make on the World scene, just like his good friend Zach Osborne and so many before him.
Firstly, congratulation on the new deal. Can you tell me how it came about?
Thanks very much. I really came out of nowhere. Aaron Nixon my good friend from Monster Energy called me. I have known him since my amateur days. So, he called me out of the blue and we had to act fast. I looked over all my options and figured out this is what I wanted to do. It is just an amazing opportunity and I can’t pass up on it. It is the World MX2 championship and you can’t pass up on that.
Throughout the years a lot of American riders have come here, maybe because the deal wasn’t right in America. Zach Osborne, Thomas Covington, Mike Brown back 20 years ago, or even others long before him. It appears racing here made them all better riders. It is such a diverse experience away from home. Now you have ridden some GPs and even podiumed one. How did you enjoy those USGPs?
The two USGP’s were amazing, the two-day format, you don’t do that in America and I am not the strongest time rider, so racing to qualify will help me out and you have more time to adapt to a track and I feel I can then adapt quickly. I mean supercross you need to adapt quickly. Those two USGPs, I mean, when I got on the podium at the GP, it was just as good as when I got on the podium in the US.
You have raced these guys in 2016 and 2017, finishing with 3rd, 6th and 5th, so you can run with them not a problem and you are more experienced now. How old were you back then?
I had just turned 18 in 2016 (he finished 3rd and 6th overall) and then I did that other USGP in 2017 at WW Ranch (he finished 5th overall). I have raced a lot of people in the class now, like Prado, Olsen, and a bunch of those guys and they are fast.
If I look through your results, even from Lorretta Lynn’s, and you always did well, a lot of top ten riders, some top five, a podium at Unadilla in the mud, which is good, because that is as European as you will get in America. You would think with those results you would get a better deal in US, but it seems so competitive that unless you are constant top three, you are out?
Yes, I think it helps me that race at Unadilla. I don’t know what it is about America, but you don’t seem to get two years deal and you are out if you are not winning. I had strong results but was maybe wishy washy and I want to be more consistent here. I think I can content for podiums over here every weekend. These guys are no joke and its just as competitive in Europe as it is in America, but I think I can contend for podiums and contend for wins.
Obviously, you were a teammate to Zach in the Husqvarna team, had you spoken to Zach about coming here to race?
Yes, I did talk to Zach, I talked to him before I made my decision. I am still close friends with Zach, and he is so wise, and he helped me make my decision. He knows what has gone on and I had never been here. So, it was great to get advice and he helped me make this decision.
I mean Zach is the same as your situation. He was a very good amateur rider, came to Europe, learnt a lot and headed back to America as a much better racer. Same as Mike Brown 20 years ago, or even Thomas Covington now. Is that a little your goal?
I think I can improve my confidence and my craft. It seems these tracks get a little rougher and it is different. I think overall confidence being over here by myself and taking on the challenge, it should make me a more confident human being. I am not sure the class is as deep here as in America, first to 15th in America is tough. I mean these guys are amazing so maybe I shouldn’t say that, but I feel I can be a podium guy over here.
Now the first round you will race next weekend is Trentino, and that is a track that really isn’t going to suit you at all, really rock hard, very slippery and as old school as it gets. Then you have Mantova and that is a track you should do well on with where you are from. How do you go into Trentino this weekend?
I will have only two days on the bike, so the first one no matter what I will be just like a test run. I have watched the track on video, and it doesn’t look awful, it looks like a fun track to race on and I am excited. I will give my all, but I will just ride and see how it goes.
What is the deal with Bud Racing, just for a few races or the whole season?
It is for the rest of the GP season and one race in Paris, a supercross race.
Oh, ok Bercy?
Yes, and I am excited for that race, I always wanted to do that race.
Had you been to Europe before?
How did you find it arriving, because it really is another World to America.
It is interesting. The only difference is the language and where I am staying in Holsinger a lot of people speak English and my whole team speak English. I tell them to speak French because I want to learn that language. It is a little of a different World, but I feel comfortable over here.
I think that just builds character coming over here. You mentioned you are by yourself, and a lot of stuff is different. I think that makes guys like Zach better, building character. In some ways an unsafe environment.
Yes, an unsafe environment and if you can succeed in that, then you can succeed anywhere. It can help you tremendously in life and I think that is why Zach has so much confidence.
Do you know Thomas Covington or Darian Sanayei at all?
I know Thomas well, I talk to him here and there. Darian, I know from racing the A class in the armatures and he is a great guy and its nice to have him over here and we are pretty good friends, so maybe between the races we can go sightseeing together or something like that.
Tell me about your amateur career?
On 50s and 60s and 80s I wasn’t that good, I wasn’t a top ten national guy and I had to work hard. In 2010 I got my first Lorretta’s 85cc podium finish, which was remarkable for me. I also got my first win there, which was amazing for me, as I wasn’t too great at it, I just wanted top five and got the win. I moved to Georgia, as I am from Michigan and you could ride all year long in Georgia, and then I started picking it up and once I got to superminis I started winning and growing my confidence.
What is your character on and off the track?
I would say I am a nice person, approachable and give you the time of day if you are respectful to me. I won’t approach people, but I try and be as nice as I can because we all deserve to be treated equal. On the track, I try and ride aggressive, but not dirty, but if somebody pisses me off, then I will try and get them back.