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Herlings interview - Dominant

Herlings interview - Dominant

Jul 8

  • Interview

With 1-1-2-1-1-1 results in Indonesia, it is clear, “The Bullet” Jeffrey Herlings, is back and after what has been one of the toughest seasons of his careers in finding form, wins and confidence, the five-time World motocross champion is close to what might be his old self. He has told us, the old Jeffrey Herlings might be gone forever, but what we have seen in Indonesia, tells us something different.

Herlings though isn’t kidding himself, he knows that this opposition, in another five-time World champion in Tim Gajser and defending champion in Jorge Prado is the toughest competition he has had in his career and these two fellow legends of the sport, with eight World titles between them and around 100 GP wins, won’t be making life easy for the KTM man.

We caught up with Herlings after his win and he told us what he is feeling, how tough the competition is and also gives us his view on the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations, and what he expects from teams like Australia, USA and France. His like of American sensation, Haiden Deegan. As always, very honest and open on everything that is happening in his life at the moment.

MXlarge: Jeffrey, time for a victory interview?

Herlings: Sit down Geoff, you probably still have good knees to sit down, right?

MXLarge: I probably have better knees than you?

Herlings: No, my knees are fine, no problems with my knees so far.

MXLarge: Don’t say that mate, you just don’t bring that up. You have had enough injuries; you don’t need to bring up your knees are fine.

Herlings: Yes, you are right, touch wood (Herlings touches the wooden table next to where we are sitting).

MXlarge: Another GP win, and after last weekend Indonesia has really been good to you and you have started your climb to get closer to Tim and Jorge. Now just 17 points off the Jorge and you closed the gap to Tim also this last two weeks. How do you feel?

Herlings: You know Geoff, it should have been 1-1-1 last weekend, but could have, should have, would have. I mean, if I didn’t have that crash, I had a comfortable lead and then bent my handlebars and levers, but still got 1-1-2 and this weekend 1-1-1, plus some really good starts. I felt Tim and I were pushing each other really hard in both motos and we kept it nice and clean. I am happy to come out on top, because he put up a really good fight in both motos. It will be good heading back to Europe, although Loket isn’t my favourite track, but then Lommel and I really like that track.

MXLarge: Are we back to our best, or very close?

Herlings: I don’t know, you tell me. All I need is consistently good starts. I feel like, I am at the level now that I can run anyone’s pace, from the guys I am racing, but I have to be with them, straight from the beginning of the moto. I don’t have the pure speed anymore, where I can come from P9 to P1. You know what I mean. We will see, we had a great week in Indonesia and two rounds, we went 1-1-2-1-1-1. Without the crash when I that mud patch, it would have been six consecutive wins, plus I won the last moto in Maggiora, so I feel pretty good. We have done I think 60% of the championship now and I am like 50 points back. After four races, I was completely out of the championship. I am still far behind, but I am closing a little.

MXLarge: Great rider yesterday to set up today. Can you explain your Saturday qualification win?

Herlings: I was really happy that I got the inside gate here in Lombok and that helps me be straight away with the top guys. Normally with a normal start gate, I start fifth, sixth or seventh and then its too hard to come all the way back. I was fastest in each session and won the qualification race. Last week I was really struggling with jetlag, and I was only sleeping three or four hours a night. I was super, super tired and also with the heat, I was struggling a little bit. This week I have been training a lot in the gym, where it was hotter than outside, so I got used to the heat a little bit and, I had no problem this weekend. I hoped they left the track rough and were a bit more patient with the watering of the track.

MXlarge: You have caught up a lot of points on Jorge this last month, with his misfortune in Maggiora and your win today. He owned the red plate, so you can catch Tim if you keep winning right?

Herlings: Yes, I am like 15 or 20 points behind him now or something?

MXlarge: You are just 17 behind Jorge for second place.

Herlings: Yes, great, but eventually, you want to go to the first guy, right? As I said earlier, I have some good tracks coming, definitely and I will be open and honest, Loket isn’t one of my favourites, but Arnhem, Lommel and some more later in the season, I feel like there are some really fun tracks coming for me. We just keep trying and the goal was to be as good as possible, but I was never like I want to be World champion, but I want to be at all 20 races and if I do that, I will be one, two or three. The dominant days, they are over. Even today, I won, but it isn’t like a won by half a minute, you know? We just keep going from here.

MXLarge: It looks like the speed is back, starts are good. Do you feel you can win every GP?

Herlings: Winning every GP is a high bar to reach, but I hoped to win one again. I have been on the podium ever since Portugal, so I haven’t lost points in the championship since Portugal. I am still a long way behind in the championship, but we just passed the mid-season last week, so there are many races still to run and its still going to be a long season. A couple of riders will return from injury in the next weeks, and I have a few tracks I really like, like Arnhem and Lommel. I just wanted to focus on Sunday and go home safe from Indonesia.

MXLarge: It was tough conditions, weather and the track and you showed your fitness in that second moto, which is important right?

Herlings: We just kept pushing both motos, right until the end. In the first moto Tim made a slight mistake and I could back it off and the same happened in the second moto. Tim made a slight mistake, and I had a nice gap. I feel like we are getting better and better and I wasn’t competitive early in the season.

MXLarge: I don’t know if its just my imagination and I have mention it many times in my race reports, but I always find with 10 minutes remaining, you often make your charge and today, with 10 minutes to go, it seemed like you started to push, but Tim didn’t allow you to get away. I know you had trouble with your clutch, so maybe that didn’t allow you to get away. Was that the case, that you started pushing with 10 to go and why didn’t you make a break, as you often do?

Herlings: After about 20 minutes, we were together and at that point, I started getting problems with my clutch. At the end of the day, it is a technical sport, and it isn’t anyone’s fault and things like that may happen at times. So, my clutch was fading, just when I wanted to put in a push and I was struggling a bit with the clutch, but then Tim made a mistake, and I got a gap. I was happy when the moto was finished, because the last two or three laps, I was almost riding without the clutch.

MXlarge: Yesterday, you made some moves on Tim, where you weren’t really clean in your passing. That isn’t how you usually ride. Was that frustrating from the points situation or was it just something that happened. You said yourself, it isn’t really how you want to race.

Herlings: No, its not the way I ride. Even though I barley touched him, it wasn’t nice from my side. I honestly thought it was one lap to go, but it was two laps to go, and I thought I needed to win, because the inside gate here is so important. I really wanted to win that moto and there wasn’t another place I wanted to pass him. I could see yesterday, he was getting tired and because I thought it was the last lap, I went for it, and I did it on a low-speed turn and not a lot can happen, but I want to race them clean, and I want them to race me clean.

MXLarge: I just spoke to Tim, and he mentioned you and he talked, and he felt okay about it.

Herlings: Tim is a very humble guy, very respectful and to me, a great athlete. I went to him and said I was sorry. I saw him this morning and said I am sorry, this is not the way I want to race, and it isn’t the way we always race each other, we are always clean in our racing. As I said, Tim is a very humble and respectful guy and I respect him a lot. In Spain, he also blocked me and at the end of the day, we are still racing, and we are not here for playing and there are a lot of points and championships on the line. We want to be good with each other, but we still need to race.

MXLarge: You have obviously had a lot of injures and bad luck in your career, but as far as actually racing on the track. Has this first half of the season been the toughest for you, as far as racing over a period of time, where you continued to struggle with the results?

Herlings: Well, actually, since found five, I have been constantly on the podium, so that felt kind of good, but the competition, Tim and Jorge, the competition is just way better. Back when I was racing MX2, my bike was so much better than the rest, at least, that is how it felt. We wouldn’t really have competition, they took things less seriously, less money involved, everything was less. Right now, there are so many factory teams, so much support from the industry and all the brands want to win. The riders got better and better, so that is why its harder now. You don’t see anyone being dominant anymore. Jorge won the most races, but he hasn’t been super, super dominant, not like Jett (Lawrence) was last year in America. Everyone is fighting hard, and everyone wants to win.

MXLarge: When Jeffrey Herlings gets on a roll, your confidence, bike set-up, momentum or whatever, he can win multiple GPs. You mentioned how tough it is to win now, but do you have some confidence, that you can get on a roll and win multiple GPs?

Herlings: Depends, for me, it all depends on Loket. If I win Loket, then I think I can get on a roll, because there are a lot of tracks I really like after Loket. It makes or breaks in Loket. I have actually had really good days there, won championships in Loket, I won plenty of Grand Prix’s there, obviously had some gnarly crashes there, so I go there with mixed feelings, and I know it is a track where the other guys will be strong as well. So, we will go out, do our best, but it is just a sketchy, dodgy track, very tight, so we just have to make the best of it.

MXLarge: Last question, Motocross des Nations. I know it’s a long way off, but man, it looks like its going to be a good one. Team Australia has the two Lawrence brothers (Jett will be back for it), the Kyle Webster is riding really well, then we have Team USA, which looks like it could very easily be Tomac, Sexton and Deegan, and we have France with whoever they pick and the Dutch, which could easily be you, Vlaanderen and de Wolf, also a super strong team. We all love Matterley Basin and it’s a circuit that most of you love racing, including the Lawrence brothers and you know the American’s will be good there. What is your take on that race?

Herlings: That will be one of the biggest races ever. I mean, it will probably be Tomac’s last Nations, I don’t have 15 in my back pocket anymore, as you said, the Lawrence brothers. There are so many competitive teams, France are always super competitive, we as Holland, you can see me and Calvin on the podium again today. Kay de Wolf leading MX2, we will have a very strong team. The American’s can win, Danger boy, man, I love this kid.

MXLarge: Yes, he is pretty special hey?

Herlings: I just love him the desire, he puts in so much heart. I love watching him and if everyone is at the Nations, it will be a massive event.

MXlarge: Deegan is a bit like a young Jeffrey Herlings. Outspoken, very aggressive on the bike, and backing it up on the track.

Herlings: Yes, and he is super confident. I love it and he says what he thinks, like he is just going to beat everyone, and he goes out and does it and he is fast and good, and I just really like this guy.

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