Johan Boonen interview - Belgian GP
Posted on July 22, 2021
Johan Boonen is of course a former GP winner in the tough 500cc of the 1990’s, team manager for the Belgian Motocross of Nations team, and promoter of the MXGP of Belgium, set for Lommel on the first weekend of August.
We caught up with the Belgian to ask about how the event is going to look and what we can expect as far as protocols and other important parts of the always popular Belgian GP.
MXlarge: I first want to ask you about Oss, because it was a really nice weekend and I noticed you were in that legends parade. Firstly, had you ridden that track before and how did you find it and how was the weekend for you as a fan?
Boonen: Yes, I made a few rounds of the Dutch championships there. It was a great weekend.
MXlarge: I went there in the late 90’s for the 125cc GP and I always found it to be a nice little track. It is little for sure, but for a Dutch track it has some nice natural undulation and technical sections. Some of the 450 guys didn’t really like it, said it was too tight. What is your opinion of it?
Boonen: I think it looks nicer than it is to ride on. It is an old school track, and I was there with my son, and the current riders are not used to slow tracks anymore and the track was for them slow. I liked it, and to watch also, there were nice races, but I understand what they are saying. I know how wide a track has to be for the FIM, so it surprised me they made it in some places wider, but this didn’t make more lines, you couldn’t use it. It was kind of small.
MXLarge: Tell me, Lommel and the GP. We spoke last year about the situation, now 12 months later it has changed, and you have more room to organize the event. Can you explain what protocols the spectators will need and also how many people are allowed into the event?
Boonen: For the protocols, normally last Friday they would make a decision, but that was delayed because of the flooding in Belgium, so the meeting took place this week. The news I got on Tuesday was that we are allowed 5000 spectators, they don’t need to be checked for the covid virus. We have to test all the people who work at the event, the riders, mechanics, media, they all need to be checked under the protocol rules. This is the normal protocol for the GPs this year. Also, the VIPs need to do the test, and they will be allowed to go into the paddock, in amongst the workers.
MXlarge: What is a normal crowd for Lommel?
Boonen: When we have a very good year, around 11,000 people in the area, but this means also the paddock, so we might have 2000 to 3000 workers. We are allowed 5000 spectators, but that doesn’t include the paddock (so around 8000 in total).
MXLarge: Tell me, because it seems at the GPs already run, the police were very flexible with allowing the protocols to be a little bit flexible. England had a very nice crowd, larger than the 4000 allowed, and in Holland last weekend everyone had chairs to sit on, but it was flexible as some stood against the fences. Is it the same in Belgium that the police are more flexible with the rules?
Boonen: Yes, we don’t have to sit, nobody needs to have a chair. Everyone can stand or sit, that isn’t a problem. You do have to wear a mask, that is the official situation. When you enter the facility, you need to have a mask, so be aware of that. We have to give people the opportunity that people can wash their hands when they go to the toilet and that type of thing. We will have the Covid test at the track for those who need to leave Belgium after the race, following the rules of other countries when returning to that country. I think like in England and Holland there will be some flexibility to the way the police control the event.
MXlarge: I understand Liam Everts has brought a lot of interest to the EMX250 class at Lommel. Can you tell me about that?
Boonen: Yes, we have a special Saturday pass. A lot of people don’t usually want to come for the EMX races, but the interest in Belgium for Liam racing is very big. We have a Sunday pass and also a Saturday pass and a lot of people want to come just for the Saturday. So we have a Saturday pass for 25euro and then the Sunday pass for the MXGP and MX2 races.
MXlarge: So it is possible to have 5000 on Saturday and then another 5000 on Sunday?
Boonen: Yes, no problem. I think maybe the Saturday is nearly as popular as the Sunday ticket sales. We have very few Saturday passes left. It is a big surprise how the ticket sales have been for the Saturday, but Liam is very popular now in Belgium. We also want to give people the chance to see Liam race for 25euro. It makes it affordable for the crowd.