Mitch Evans, of the HRC factory team, sure made his MXGP debut something to remember. Smooth as silk and nearly mistake-free, the Australian rider produced a top-five overall finish with 3-7 results for fifth overall—just four points off a podium finish.
I have always been believers of the Aussie. His pre-season results and now his opening GP performance have placed him in a very fortunate spot in the eyes of the motocross World. As I have said before, I think he wins a couple of Grand Prix’s in 2020, and nothing would surprise me to see him finish top three in the World come September.
Smooth, controlled and intelligent, this MXGP rookie has massive potential and, no doubt, factory teams will be lining up to sign his name if HRC don’t get onto it and make a good offer to the 22-year-old for the future.
After the MXGP of Great Britain was over, our friend at MXLarge [Geoff Meyer] caught up with Mitch.
Awesome weekend. I have heard from some people within the team that said you were disappointed, but you must be super proud because it was a very solid effort. The first race was incredible [a 4th] and the second race—despite the result being worse—was pretty good an even a better race for you?
Yes, I mean, it was a little tough because you come so close to the podium and just miss it because of one little mistake off the start. That is what I was bummed about. Overall, the weekend was really great. Riding in both motos was good, and my riding in the second moto was even better. I just felt a little better from my chest infection in the second moto. I tend to ride better in the second moto and I felt had I not spun up on the gate, I felt I would have been on the podium. That is why I was bummed. You put in so much effort and come so close to the podium and one mistake costs you big time.
That first race was awesome. You got well away from Antonio Cairoli and Clement Desalle and just had to deal with Jeremy Seewer. Obviously, Jeffrey was ahead, and you got close, but he then turned it up and ran away from you. Just explain that race for me.
Well, I have been working in the offseason and focusing on my first couple of laps being good, because I struggled with that a little last year. I was happy with my intensity in the first couple of laps. I think he [Herlings] was just setting the pace of the race, but then he saw me coming and put in one really fast lap. If you look at the lap charts, it was like three seconds quicker than before. That wasn’t a pace I was committed to on a track like that in the first round and I made a couple of mistakes, lost my rhythm and then Seewer passed me. I thought I needed to settle down a little, and get my breathing under control because that is what I was struggling with the most. When my breathing is off, I tend to get arm-pump so they pumped up a little bit and I tried to get that under control. I felt a little better towards the end of the race and started putting better lap times in.
I thought maybe you let Seewer pass because he was putting a lot of pressure on you. Was that the case or was he just quicker?
No, he just got me. We watched the race back and we passed each other in the same turn. I passed him on the outside and then he passed me a couple of laps later and we took the same lines. It was kind of his rut must not have been good early in the moto and then maybe mine wasn’t working as well later in the race. He just got me. I was riding tight and needed to calm down a little bit. My laps time I was struggling in the middle of the race and his pace was better.
Cairoli and Desalle were catching you, but then you came back at the end.
Yes, if you look at the lap times, they were slower in the middle and then I got them back to where everyone else was. I knew I needed to get my head back into it and not let the other boys catch me. In one lap I was catching Seewer again and that gave me motivation and I was just focused forward.
Obviously Jed Beaton got a second-place finish in the first MX2 race and you got a third-place finish, and I was thinking we might get two Aussies on the podium on the same day. Did you watch the first MX2 race?
Yes, I started watching the moto and I saw he was fifth or sixth or something. I started getting ready, and then my mum came in and said he finished second, which was awesome. When I came in from my first race, he was standing on the side of the track and said, “good job mate”. It was pretty cool we both had a good result in that first race. Bummer neither of us ended up on the podium.
Tell me what happened in that second race, because you obviously had a terrible start, but then passed a lot of really good riders and rather easily—well it looked easy. I guess it wasn’t?
I just got wheelspin off the gate and was last into the first corner and last around the first corner. I think from the rain in the MX2 race made the mesh slippery and I dumped the clutch too hard and spun the back wheel. I was so motivated to get on the podium, so I was just trying to pass as many guys as I could because I knew you can lose so much time in those first few laps. Once I passed Seewer, there was a bit of a gap to Desalle. At that point, I thought I would take a couple of laps to get my breathing under control. Because the whole time I was focused on getting forward, I wasn’t concentrating on anything else. Once I got the breathing under control and getting back into it, I just didn’t have that same intensity from before.
It was interesting because when you were catching Desalle. He was making a lot of mistakes slipping and sliding around and you seemed to be able to keep your wheels pretty straight. Could you see him making mistakes?
Yes, I could see that but the thing was, all the lines I was using, he was taking them already and I couldn’t see where I could pass him. There was one spot, but I couldn’t make it happen. He was riding a good pace but making a few mistakes. It was difficult to make a pass on him.
Have you watch the second race back? If you have, did you get to watch some of the passes you made, because you went by guys like Jorge Prado, Gautier Paulin and Jeremy Seewer rather easily? While it obviously isn’t easy, you made it look easy.
I haven’t watched it back and at the time you are just focused on getting forward. As I have said in other interviews, I don’t care what their names are. I know the work I do and the speed I have I should be up front.
Tim Gasjer charged through in the first one, you charged through in the second one. That Honda is sure fast enough, maybe even the fastest bike in the paddock. What makes it so good?
Yes, and I don’t know. You would need to ask the Japanese. I don’t know what they have done to it. It is good out of the start and that is all I need to know.
Obviously you were in the race, but that second moto from Tim was impressive. I have been told you and Tim have a similar speed in training. Is that true?
Yes, that is true, but I think on a track like we had at Matterley Basin, I normally struggle. Because the track is so long, it almost feels like you are racing Enduro. I struggled with the intensity the whole time. I think when we get to smaller and tighter tracks, I ride better because that is what Aussie tracks are like. But in testing, sometimes Tim is faster and sometimes I am faster. It is about replicating that speed on race weekends.
We have Valkenswaard this weekend, a nice sand track. Do you like Valkenswaard and what is your mindset going into Valkenswaard?
I expected it to be a deeper sand track, but maybe that is because it was dry last year but with the rain we have had, I expect it to be a lot deeper this year and probably still wet on the race weekend. I am looking forward to it. I enjoy riding sand and we will see how I do against the big boys. I will see how I do in the first free practice and then try and improve throughout the weekend. I don’t really know how my sprint speed is in the sand compared to guys like Gajser and Herlings.