Five minutes with Nick Kouwenberg
Last year Nick Kouwenberg took the European 250 motocross championship title at his home GP in Assen, The Netherlands, aboard the CRF250R. This year the JTech Honda rider is back to defend his title.
With the season now at its mid-point we took the opportunity ahead of the French GP to sit down and have a catch up with the Dutchman to get his take on the 2016 season so far…
“This year is a completely new year. I don’t think winning the EMX250 title last year has added much pressure. Luckily I don’t have the #1 plate this year so that’s a little bit of pressure off my shoulders, I still have the #644. It brought me luck last year so when they asked me which number I wanted I just went for the #644. In previous years I never had luck on my side and never had a consistent season but last year it was, I guess also I wanted to run another year of the #644 to not have any pressure with the #1 plate.
“I remember when Steven Clarke went with the #1 plate and it looks strange when the #1 is not in the top five. It focuses people’s attention but with no #1 plate this year people focus on the red plate instead, so I don’t have that pressure.
“People know that I took the title last year and, of course, people expect you to be winning races or really close to it and when you have such bummers in the beginning of the season with bad time practice sessions then it gives you a really disappointed feeling. You just want to do good for everybody; for the team, for myself and I feel bad that we had to go through all this before it gets better. I wish we could have been at the stage we are now in the first race.
“I think America in the winter hit me quite hard mentally and it was really difficult to be back in Europe in such a short time, to be ready and to be on the same level as the others, which I wasn’t. The other guys all had four or five months of training and I thought I could do it in one month. I think I then over-trained a bit in that month as I tried to get back those missed months.
“Going to the first round in Valkenswaard was really tough because mentally I knew I wasn’t ready. It was pretty muddy, a difficult track and normally I should have been among the top riders. I scored two eighth places, which gave me seventh overall. I was really disappointed, especially with time practice as I was 22nd to the gate. I tried to learn from it and after when we went to Latvia I thought it was going to be much, much better. I had to go 24 to the gate, which was even worse than Valkenswaard! From that moment it was really difficult to make the switch and to accept, or not accept, that you’re not good enough and I was scared that I wouldn’t get out of it. Still the races in Latvia went a little bit better and the riding got a bit better; I couldn’t run the pace for the whole moto but I had a few good laps in the race so that was positive.
“It was the same in Teutschenthal where after time practice I was 24th to the gate, it was really depressing but the racing went better. I had to come from the back, I think from around 30th, and came close to the top five. The riding was getting better and better and I try to believe in that. Every moto it got better so that was a positive thing but the time practice didn’t work out so well and I had a bad start gate pick, so I kind of threw my weekend away already because a lot of the time the start gate pick is really important.
“In Arco things really changed as I was able to take pole position, a huge step from 24th to 1st! At the end of the weekend we were fourth overall so that was closer to the podium. It wasn’t the best result that we could have had but it was a much better result than we’d had in the previous races.
“So we worked to build on that ahead of Spain. Last year I took my red plate at the Spanish GP, unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen this year. I had a good time practice and was really pumped about it, it wasn’t a first but it was very close. The second gate pick was good for the motos and I was hoping that we could get on the box finally.
“I think this year we have a different kind of riders, I think the only one I’m still fighting with is [Thomas Kjer] Olsen. I think at the moment Olsen is the man to beat and that’s what I want to do. My mind is the same as last year but it feels like I have to push a little bit more this year. The plan is to just focus on the top and get as close to the front as possible but if we finish 15th, we finish 15th. I believe that every week we have more chance to be at the top.
“I want to get better every weekend but I also want to win, before I stop this thing I want to win. If we’re not running for the championship anymore then it’s a release from the pressure but on the other hand if you push hard to win and you crash then you can’t win. I still try to stay with the same thing: I want to stay safe, maintain a good rhythm in the championship and don’t do any stupid things because if you crash then you miss a good points haul.”
Author: JTech Honda