Jeffrey Herlings interview
Posted on November 25, 2022
Five-time World motocross champion Jeffrey Herlings has had a long time off the bike. More than a year not racing and multiple surgeries to repair yet another injury. It has been a long 12 months and despite the constant setbacks, Herlings is excited to come into the 2023 season and get himself in the same position he was in in 2021, when he took his fifth title in a sensational battle with Romain Febvre and Tim Gajser.
As always “The Bullet” was kind enough to give us 10 minutes to talk about his injuries and also his plans for the coming few years. What we will likely see is him doing two or three years in MXGP and then ending his career racing in America. We also talked about World supercross and the AMA Supermotocross championship at the end of the season.
MXLarge: How are you doing with your injuries and were you able to improve some of your old injuries?
Herlings: Well, I am back on the bike a while now around a month. I could have done the last few races in September, but I wasn’t keen on doing that, missing an entire season and coming back for just one or two races, there wasn’t any point in doing that. I let the injury heal properly, or as good as it could. I had multiple surgeries, even though it was a clean break, they had to plate it and the first surgery in Belgium went wrong and that is why they had to do two more surgeries afterwards, to get it as good as possible. The bone had healed, but it wasn’t in the right place. They had to scrape some bone off here and there to make the pain go away you could say. Now, when I ride, I can still feel it, but it isn’t too bad. At the same time, they made another surgery to my right food, the one I shattered four years ago, so that improved that side a lot, that side is now really good, while the left heel is still a little sore when I am riding. Not really pain, pain, but I can feel it.
MXLarge: So how is the riding going now?
Herlings: Yes, we are doing a lot of riding, because we have a lot of things to test. Obviously in 2022 KTM brought out a new bike and I didn’t spend hardly any time on it, because of the injury I had. So, we had a lot of things to test, so I am doing a lot of riding right now.
MXLarge: Tell me, being out for so long, the longest you have been out, and you know about being out, you are the expert at it.
MXlarge: But being out so long, were you able to get away from the sport and have a normal life?
Herlings: I didn’t watch all the MXGP race, but I followed all the AMA races. I followed most of the MXGP races, but the season this year was pretty boring, with Tim dominating. I don’t want to rude, but it was terrible to watch.
MXLarge: Yes, compared to 2021 it was pretty boring.
Herlings: Gajser had a big lead, Febvre was out, I was out, Tony retired, Desalle and Paulin were also gone. It was a one man show really. The MX2 was exciting, and I watched a lot of that fight between Tom and Jago. I did a lot of cycling in the summer. It was weird to turn on the television and watch the races and I felt I could have raced with those guys and was capable of racing those guys. On the other side, whenever I had an injury, I never took my time, I would come back and try and fight my way back as quickly as possible. I would come back, not fit, crash my brains out again. I have had so many injuries, I just want to give my body the time to heal, fix the other foot, so I can hopefully do a few more years of racing. I have been in the business for a while now, but I only got 28 a couple of months ago, so I still have a few great years left in me. I actually read your article about Stefan and me, with our injuries. You mentioned that Stefan had his best years after 28, so that is something.
MXLarge: Reading that story, because as you said, Stefan had his most successful years after two years of major injuries and everyone had written him off. I don’t think people are writing you off, but it has been more than 12 months off the bike, so there might be some question marks. You are always motivated and proved in 2021 you are probably the fastest guy. The fact Stefan came back like he did after two years of injuries, does that also motivate you a little, maybe another five titles possible, or is that being too optimistic?
Herlings: Five is being very positive. In Stefan’s time it was way different than now. They used to have at times just one moto a day, also just 12 rounds, while we have 20, we are also way more overseas, plus they had three classes back then, we have two, but only really one is the priority class. I don’t see myself winning five more championships. My goal is to come back in 2023 and try and be smart. I want to try and do the same thing as 2021, just be at every single race and just be consistent. We saw this year with Tim, by being consistent even with some difficult races in the summer, he won the championship by a lot of points. I hope to have a few more years of racing. Next year is my final year with KTM, so I need some good results if I want an extension again.
MXLarge: As you said, the AMA motocross was really close with Tomac and Sexton and they really showed how fast they were at the MXoN. I can imagine because you thought of doing that series, it must have been hard to watch at times, because the racing was really good. Did you ever see yourself battling those guys as you sat watching?
Herlings: Yes, I did. I just didn’t make it. I was back on the bike on the second week in May, but two weeks to prepare wasn’t going to be enough. At that time, I had already missed eight of the MXGP races and I then decided to get my other foot fixed, because I knew the season was done anyway. My ultimate goal would be to do a few more seasons here in Europe and then end my career racing a year in America. I would love to finish my career with one year of outdoors. It is a short series, and just one day and I am a big fan of that. It is a pity by then Eli (Tomac) will probably be finished racing, but at the same time there will be some new guys coming in.
MXLarge: How about racing Jett Lawrence on a 450?
Herlings: Yes, me and Lawrence, so he is like 10 years younger than me, but who knows. It would be nice to do an outdoor series, but first I need to focus on doing the 2023 MXGP championship.
MXlarge: This World supercross thing, at the moment it is a thing for older riders, but you are so desperate to race and maybe there comes a time when you want to continue but are in your early 30s and slowing down. Would you consider doing that World supercross championship in the future?
Herlings: I believe the tracks were pretty easy, the British one and the Australian one, they didn’t look that tricky. They were not as difficult as Paris or the AMA races, so who knows. There were not that many good riders around, but I heard the prizemoney was pretty good. I mean Kenny did it and Eli did the first one, but outside of those two, there were not many good riders from America. I was surprised about that, but it looked nice. There are so many championships now, with MXGP, World supercross, AMA supercross, AMA motocross and I hear so many rumours about other championships coming. For me, there should be Grand Prix in Europe and in America just AMA supercross and the Nationals. If you are an America racer and you want to do all those championships, you are pretty much racing all year long.
MXlarge: How about that World supermotocross championship being run in America, three rounds in October, is that something you would like to do as a wildcard rider?
Herlings: It is hard to say and depends on the track. I mean, I am a motocross guy and to run whoops, I even see some of the leading American riders struggling in the whoops and they ride them all the time, every single day for eight months in the year. If it is something like that German one, that was just a motocross track with a load of jumps and no difficult sections. It also depends on what the championship offers and if KTM want me to race it and also depends on where I am racing.
MXlarge: The F1 went well this year for the Dutchies, and we have the World Cup football at the moment. Did you enjoy the F1 and following the World Cup at the moment?
Herlings: The F1 was a bit boring this year with Max winning like 15 of 22 rounds, I am also a big Hamilton fan, and I really enjoyed the battled between them in 2021, but this year Max and the car were just too good. The World Cup, I don’t believe we will be in the final or win and it is strange watching the World Cup in the winter, not as much atmosphere.
MXLarge: Last question, I know it’s a while off, but do you know your pre-season plans leading into the 2023 GP season, maybe that Lierop International or Hawkstone Park, which you seem to do every year?
Herlings: I will do Hawkstone Park, which is a done deal. I am considering Lierop; it will be the week before Argentina and all the rest will depend maybe some Spanish races or Italian races. They will be in front of Hawkstone and Lierop. I will do four races for sure before the season starts, because I don’t have any time on this new bike, and I want to come into the season feeling good on it.
Ray Archer images