Interview: Brent van Doninck on a moto win at Hawkstone, Riley Yamaha and his training regime

One rider that has a lot of speed but perhaps the results last year don’t reflect that is Brent van Doninck but the Belgian is certainly capable of running inside the top ten of MXGP. The Belgian put in a last minute entry to contest the Hawkstone International event at the weekend and he managed to win a moto – some bad luck with a mechanical and first corner crashed spoiled three good moto’s but he can be happy with his speed.

The Belgian also opened up about issues he had last year after over training and a bad decision of when to take the second vaccine saw him mentally drained. A nice long break seems to have done him the world of good as he was fast at Hawkstone.

We caught up with Van Doninck to discuss the season ahead and much more.

GateDrop: Brent, you had a bit of bad luck today with a mechanical and a first corner crash but the highlight would have been the moto win – you must be happy with your speed?

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Van Doninck: The day started good with the quickest time in practice. In the first moto right away I felt there was something wrong with the bike. With three laps to go the bike blew up and I had to pull out. In the second moto we took another bike and had a pretty good start in fifth or sixth. I felt good and could work my way up to third after Ben went down and I was able to get around him. I was able to get Shaun (Simpson) and Thomas (Kjer Olsen) at the big double jump, I felt good, and it was a good moto. For the superfinal, the guys didn’t have much time to prep the bike and I missed my start so I went down. I broke the roll off in my goggles so I just decided to pull out, you can’t finish a moto here without goggles.

I am happy with my speed and how it went today but there’s just little things that need to get sorted. I mean it’s not a normal race, we didn’t have much time between the races at all but anyway I am happy with the day and I’m looking forward to Matterley.

GateDrop: A moto win must be good for the confidence, I’m not sure you’d have expected a moto win when you woke up this morning so you must head to Matterley feeling good?

Van Doninck: Actually, I won but it didn’t feel like I pushed that much. It felt pretty easy I would almost say but I mean I think that’s a good sign. I was feeling good and riding smooth but two years back I also rode good here at Hawkstone, I really like this track. This is one of the better tracks in Europe and I think the British tracks they have for the MX Nationals and stuff are probably better tracks than the GP’s. It was a nice long lap here and most the time the GP’s are in the 1.30’s or something like that.

GateDrop: Just on last year, I feel like you had a lot of speed, but it was frustrating because the results didn’t really match your speed! Also, towards the end of the season I know you were mentally tired, so have you had a break now which has allowed you to reset for the season ahead?

Van Doninck: We found out last year that I was a little bit burnt out and almost over training I would say. This is something I need to take care off more because last year I was pushing too hard at home in practice. After that I also broke my ribs and then I made a bad decision to get my second COVID-19 vaccine between Latvia and Lommel.

I just kept on pushing but I was burnt out and it was so bad at the end. We did a lot of tests and they saw that I needed a big break because my body was burnt out. That is why I decided to start my winter prep really late, I’ve only been back on the bike for 3-4 weeks and I haven’t rode that much yet so I want to build up a little bit this time. Last year I was good at the start of the year and then dropped back a little bit. This is something I have learned from last year.

Pic: Nigel McKinstry

GateDrop: You’ve obviously signed with Riley Yamaha for the 2022 season who have done a good job in the EMX250 series so far but this year is unknown territory stepping up to MXGP. Having seen you today though you look to be riding the bike well – what’s it like compared to the Gebben Yamaha?

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Van Doninck: The bike setup hasn’t changed that much compared to what I had at Gebben but the engine is a lot different. I really like this engine and it’s a really good bike and for a young team which they are, they do really good. For sure, everyone can learn and it will be a big step for the team going to MX2 and MXGP but I am sure they will adapt to it. We have Jef Janssen in the team as a trainer and he knows a lot. I think that we can do good things this year.

GateDrop: Going into the MXGP season what’s your expectations going into the season? Obviously MXGP is stacked and starts are very important so they will be key for you…

Van Doninck: You have to be realistic; you know? Everyone is so fast these days, but I know that I can finish between 8-12 and that’s my place. Maybe sometimes I can do a little bit better. Last year my best moto finish was a 7th in Russia I think but like I said between 8-12, that’s my spot I think.

It’s just hard to be consistent these days because everyone is so fast and everything has to be perfect. You need a good start, 100% fit and it’s a long season. This is something we are working on this year and I’ve got a new trainer to stay fit the whole year and sometimes training a little bit less – they have to hold me down sometimes because I want to do more. Even coming into today I was a little bit worried because I didn’t feel 100% fit because last year I did way more and trained way more. But actually I felt pretty good today so this maybe means I’m finding a better balance.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nigel McKinstry