Back To The Start - MXGP 2020

Posted on May 22, 2020

It feels amazing that is was nearly three months ago that we were all so excited to head to Matterley Basin for the opening round of the MXGP championships. Three months of waiting and possibly another three to go. Yep, that is life in 2020.

There is no doubt in my mind we go racing in 2020. Already borders are opening, major events are allowed big crowds and the World is opening up again. As we all start to breath a little easier, the MXGP competitors start to feel the nerves of battle. 

Maybe not in August, but who knows, maybe we do all end up in Russia and Latvia in that month, and if not, I can 100% see us in Belgium, Sweden, Finland or even China, Indonesia and Argentina. Yes, lets go back to where we started 2020, and the British and Dutch GPs. Also lets look at what Herlings and Gajser think so far.

Yes, Red Bull KTM Factory rider Jeffrey Herlings is 1-1 for the first two GPs of the season, but in races its two for Herlings and two for Gajser, and there lies the interesting story of the 2020 until now. The points are 94 to Herlings and 85 to Gajser, but that is just the beginning of the story of 2020.

A four-time World champion in Herlings and a three-time World champion in Gajser, both mentally and physically near their peak, but still improving enough to surprise the other at any moment. One 25 the other 23. Whatever happens in the GPs we will see at the end of this year; we are going to see fireworks.

Despite losing badly to Gajser in the opening race at his beloved Valkenswaard, Herlings came back as only Herlings can. When it counted in both England and Holland, Herlings did the job, and no doubt, he knows he has a slight upper hand over his rival at the moment, but he also knows that it won’t be an easy season when we do return.

“Second race (in Holland) was for the overall right? That second moto I was very motivated to go for it and I knew I needed a good start and I pulled it off and I could focus on my own riding. If you ask me, I prefer to win at Valkenswaard, or Indonesia, sure Valkenswaard. The first one was my own fault. I didn’t’ expect him to come from gate pick 33 to be there straight away and 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 and I could not get past Jorge. I was still in shock and then he was faster than me and 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.”

An older, wiser Herlings is without question making big steps in finishing a season as strong as he starts it, and he looks forward to the battles with Gajser as they head into the restart of the 2020 season.

“I think mentally I am strong and confident and having peace and silence and being okay to win and not dominate anymore. Today was great and I am so happy that I could keep my brain relaxed, keep it together and accept second and 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 hard pack, 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 incredibly happy with my bike, we didn’t change too much from last year, just some small adjustments. I prefer up front and I prefer to be hunted down. It doesn’t matter, as long as I am first across the finish line.”

The KTM factory rider knows that his rival will come back after this quiet period and control some races, for sure on hard pack tracks like in Russia, Italy or even France.

“100% (Gajser can go 1-1 this year), places like Russia, or Arco, he will be really good, A lot comes from starts, a lot comes from confidence, and with him, that gate pick, to come out that good, it is all confidence and 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.”

Gajser himself knows that until a season is done with both riders starting and ending at their physical peak, then nobody can claim to be the fastest man on the planet, and the HRC rider just smiles when he reads anything about somebody being the fastest man on the planet.

“I just laugh when I see all this, like they are writing on the internet. I prefer to not talk and do it on the track. Even on the 450, when he moved to MXGP, he was not 100% and I was, or he was 100%, and I was not 100% in 2017 and 2018 and he was riding amazing and feeling good. We have not come together both feeling good and we will see this year. It is not just me and Jeffrey, we have Tony with a lot of experience. He struggled with something in the pre-season races, but I know he will be there this season, also Prado coming from MX2, he will be strong. Also, a lot of other guys like Febvre, Seewer, Desalle, Jonass, Jasikonis, so many guys. It will be an interesting season. You want to start the season on a high note. For sure I was practicing to come England and Holland not 100%, because if you are like that at the beginning, after a couple of Grand Prix’s you can go down. I think maybe come at 95% and so you can move up as the season goes on. We are racers and every race you enter you give your best and try and win.

As for another championship, Gajser would love nothing more than adding his fourth title in 2020 and head into 2020 even with Herlings and aiming to become a five time champion next year and join legends like De Coster, Jobe, Smets and Geboers.

“Sure, I mean, as a child I was always dreaming of becoming a World champion just once and to be a three time World champion it feels unreal and I am happy with the career I have and we still want to improve and get better, each year we put more effort into the training and how to adjust the bike. It is a love of the sport. I cannot imagine not going to the races and going somewhere else to enjoy. Maybe when I finish, I can, but for now, I love going to the races and when I wake up in the morning and go to the track at 7am, I love it. We were born with something to have this motivation, because it is a totally different lifestyle to the normal people. Every hour we have planned to be better. The Gym, eating, watching yourself on television, then more training. I love it, and I cannot imagine without it. Even in winter if I take a week off, I miss the feeling of racing after two days.”

So now we wait, but as the days move on, and borders open, motocross tracks open, and events are being run, I get the feeling we will see more of the battles between two of the greatest Grand Prix riders to ever live. When the gate drops in Russia, Latvia or Lommel, we know that Jeffrey Herlings and Tim Gajser will be ready and waiting.

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