Red Bull KTM Factory rider Jeffrey Herlings might not be dominating, but he still holds the red plate, has won the first two GPs of the season, and is the man to be beaten. In saying that, I don’t think we have ever seen him be dominated like he has been in two of the four races so far in 2020.
With Tim Gajser possibly riding better than ever, Herlings knows that he might have to lift his game in the coming months to keep the HRC rider in second place. We caught up with the four-time World champion and talked about his weekend and also about the defending MXGP Champ, Gajser.
How does it feel winning at home?
It was a tough day at the office. The track was rough, and I have never seen it like this. I am a Dutch rider and I have never seen anything like this. We had a great battle and we gapped a lot to the rest of the guys. We did a good job and I am really happy with the changes we made overnight. I had a holeshot in the second one and that made life easier. I hope we get better weather in Argentina and in future races. We had a rough year missing Valkenswaard last year, and I hope it will be on the calendar in 2021 to get my 10th win. It is a long season and people are already getting injured and so many things will happen, but it is important to stay consistent. That is something I haven’t been able to do in the past.
You are unbelievable. I am looking at that first race, and I am thinking, “Tim really has you handled”, then you come out and do that in the second one.
The second one was for the overall, right? That second moto I was very motivated to go for it and I knew I needed a good start. I pulled it off and I could focus on my own riding. If you ask me if I prefer to win at Valkenswaard or Indonesia, sure Valkenswaard.
Yes, but still, it was a major turnaround.
The first one was my own fault. I didn’t’ expect him to come from gate pick 33 to be there straight away. I look back and my eyes nearly fell out of my head. I was like, “Damn it, where did he come from?” Then he passed me straight away and then passed Jorge [Prado] and I couldn’t get past Jorge. I was still in shock and then he was faster than me. He has stepped it up. Especially in the sand if you see where he came from in the sand to where he is now. Not just looking at me, but look where the other guys were. We were miles ahead of everyone else.
Ok, but in giving Tim compliments, you still have had two GPs and you have won two GPs. I wouldn’t say this is the best you have ridden, but it seems like it is the smartest you have ever ridden. You must be super happy with that?
I think mentally, I am strong, confident, having peace and silence and being okay to win and not dominate any more. Today was great and I am so happy that I could keep my brain relaxed—keep it together and accept second. Then when the possibility is to win, we take it. I go home now and feel confident and happy. In saying that if Tim is going to be this strong and also on hardpack, then we got a battle on our hands and I might have to step up my game. He has been impressive at both locations so far. Both have been muddy and different conditions, different to normal conditions. He looks strong, but I also know I am looking strong. I am very happy with my bike. We didn’t change too much from last year, just some small adjustments.
You now have 88 GP wins in your career, and you need just one to catch Antonio Cairoli and 13 to catch Stefan Everts at the very top. We all know that is a goal, but is that possible in 2020?
First up would be Tony and it feels bad to say it, but he is the one ahead of me and I want to pass him and get to second behind Stefan. Then I go after the others to get to first in that list. I mean, to win 10 championships, that isn’t going to happen I thin. But the 101 that is definitely possible.
You mentioned that track was rough, but what type of rough was it?
Rough and difficult are two different things. When you go to Lommel in the summertime in August, that is just rough. This was just difficult deep long lines, square bumps, and rain. For Valkenswaard, this was rough and difficult. It was a bit like an amateur track because the speed was lower, the bumps get more lines and the track was different. If you see the MXGP class, we lapped up to fifth place. It was half motocross and half enduro because of the conditions.
Both yourself and Tim looked really good leading but you looked a little out of sorts following. I know Tim said the starts are so important and obviously leading seems a lot easier. What do you think?
I prefer to be up front and I prefer to be hunted down. It doesn’t matter, as long as I am first across the finish line.
Are you expecting there will be GPs where Tim is actually going to go 1-1?
100%! At places like Russia, or Arco he will be really good, A lot comes from starts and lot comes from confidence and, with him to have that gate pick and to come out that good, it is all confidence. When you don’t have confidence, it wouldn’t work out so I know he has a lot of confidence. He is good. I have said it to you before, he is a three-time World champion and he will be good. If you ask me today, he is the biggest challenge for the championship, but maybe the others will also come.
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