Interview: Brian Hsu – still has aspirations to race in USA
A bit of a forgotten name in Europe: Brain Hsu. There is no doubting how much talent Hsu has as back in the day he was superb with Suzuki winning the 2014 EMX125 championship and also had two Junior world titles to his name. Make no mistake about it, he was one of the biggest names emerging in the sport.
However, injuries and making the decision to try and race in America means things haven’t really paid off for him. Despite going to America on a couple of occasions he still hasn’t raced an AMA Supercross but he is hoping to go in 2024.
Hsu was racing the French Supercross at the weekend on a Fantic and Kevin Frelaud from Daily Motocross was kind enough to send us the interview for publication.
Brian. How come you’re back in French SX this weekend, and especially this year?
Hsu: I’ve always wanted to concentrate on Supercross, which is what I’ve always enjoyed doing. Last year, I suffered an injury that crippled me for a very long time. For a year and a half, I couldn’t train, couldn’t do physics, it was very difficult. In Europe, the best SX scene is the SX Tour. I wanted to do the whole season, but I didn’t ride the first few events because physically I wasn’t ready. I started in Saint George de Montaigu and then did Brienon. I’m doing these races to get back into the swing of things and get back into the swing of racing, but I’m still being careful because I’m still having problems with my leg. After two or three minutes, it hurts.
Are we talking about the injury that prevented you from competing in the 2022 SX US season with Rides Unlimited?
Hsu: Yes. We’d finally managed to get everything in place over there. We had a team, we had the bikes, everything was ready. I trained there and everything was going well, I was making good progress and two weeks before the opening of the East Coast on which I was to ride, I had a little fall in the whoops and unfortunately, the handlebars came to compress my groin and I injured my femoral artery. We went to 9 doctors, we couldn’t figure out what was going on. This injury prevented the blood from circulating properly down my leg, and I was very lucky because my body eventually did what was necessary to ensure a minimum blood flow to my leg. We waited, one month, two months, then three, it was getting worse. At the time, the team and everyone around me were really positive about my debut in SX US, and I’d made great progress. This injury put a stop to everything for me. Finally, we found out what the problem was and flew back to Taiwan to have the operation – twice. The femoral artery was blocked because it hadn’t been irrigated for a long time, so they had to clean it out and sort of remake it… It still hurts because even though – as my doctor says – my veins are as good on the left as they are on the right today, the problem comes from the fact that my muscles have lacked blood irrigation for over a year. So today, I’m having problems with my muscles.
Who’s helping you today at the French Supercross? You are racing a Fantic?
Hsu: This year, for the very first time, we decided to do everything ourselves. When you don’t ride for a year, everyone forgets about you. We’re trying to find sponsors here and there, but it’s really hard. We’re doing the season ourselves this year, to rebuild.
Do you still have World Championship ambitions? I know you’re no longer eligible for the MX2 class, but is an MXGP program conceivable in the future? You did some good work in 2021, in MX2 racing the final five rounds…
Hsu: My objective is really Supercross, because that’s where I get the most pleasure. As far as the 2021 World Championship races are concerned, they weren’t even on the initial program. My Italian sponsor was really pushing me to do MX2 to get some exposure. I was only riding Supercross and he was telling me to “come and do MX2”, whereas I wasn’t at all ready to do Motocross, long rounds. But we did it anyway, I got better race after race and finished 12th three times, but right now I still want to go to the USA to try my luck.
Do you still have people waiting for you there where you’d have to start all over again?
Hsu: The team (Rides Unlimited) is still waiting for me. They waited for me throughout the 2023 season but I couldn’t go back because of my injury. Fortunately, they’re still waiting for me and they’re trying to get me back. The team owner told me that after seeing me ride in training, he’d want me back for the following year too. At least I’ve got a local team, but I need to find the budget to be able to live there from now on. Right now, my goal is to ride on the East Coast next year.
In 2021, you say you had no particular preparation in MX, but you still did some great races in MX2. Didn’t that open any doors for you afterwards?
Hsu: It’s hard to say. Of course, people saw that, but given that my goal was to go to the USA .. Once they know that, they’re not interested in you anymore. If I get Italian sponsors, they want to see me ride in Italy. If I get German sponsors, they want to see me ride in Germany. I can’t do everything.
I hear you’ll be riding in Japan at the end of the month…
Hsu: [laughs]. Yes, I am. I’m originally from Taiwan and ever since I’ve been riding 65cc, I’ve always dreamed of going to Japan to ride. When I won the Paris Supercross in 2019, I met Kehoe Abe, a Japanese rider. From there, I had a contact and this year, I had the opportunity to ride for Kei Yamamoto’s team on the Honda. It’s going to be a really great experience, because although I’ve ridden in Taiwan, it’s not the same as in Japan. Who knows, maybe new doors will open for me in Asia?
So you’re not just focusing on the US? If you get any offers, will you consider them?
Hsu: Yes. It’ll be a great experience too, and it’ll give me the chance to meet new people and explore new avenues. I’m leaving next week for Japan. I’m still travelling a lot [laughs].
The step between the SX Tour and SX US is pretty big. When you went over there at the end of 2021, did you find it easy to adapt to the tracks?
Hsu: In Europe, the tracks are smaller, the sequences not as big, the laps faster, yes. Over there, it’s bigger, taller, you jump higher, further; you have to breathe a little more in the air [laughs]. Over there, I trained with amateur pilots, but they were far from slow. In two weeks, I was able to do more than they had done in a whole year. I knew that adapting to the terrain wasn’t a problem; I just needed a little time to get used to the terrain and the sequences. The races might have been different, requiring a new adjustment because I’d never experienced a Supercross race in the USA.
What do you remember of your time with the Everts, at Suzuki?
Hsu: Oh [laughs]. That was a long time ago. I started at Suzuki with Geboers. I rode in 85cc, 125cc and made my debut in 250. We always had the same team and it worked really well back then. The last year, when Stefan Everts arrived, he changed everything about the team. In detail, I can’t say exactly what happened behind closed doors. I was there to ride, the business was none of my concern. I worked more with Harry than with Stefan, because Harry was present at training most of the time, with his stopwatch in hand…
Zoltan, Brian’s father intervenes: Tell him that the bike was unstoppable…
Brian: Yes. The main problem was the bike. We had to use air suspension at the time, and I couldn’t ride on it. In factory teams, you have to use the equipment they want you to use. I’m a rider who doesn’t ride hard, I have to be able to be at one with the bike, I have to work with the bike, and the bike has to work with me. On this bike, I couldn’t because of the suspension, and that was a problem for me. It might have worked for other riders, but not for me.
Zoltan: With Sylvain Geboers, I was Brian’s mechanic. The bike didn’t just shine, it matched Brian. After that, the bike only shone, and he couldn’t ride two more laps. In Brian’s contract, there was a clause to transfer him to the Suzuki US team in 2017. That was the plan. From there, we ran into new problems in the USA because there was no team to speak of, and they wanted to set up a 450 team first. Jimmy Albertson was supposed to take over the Suzuki team, but he lived in the middle of the USA and didn’t want to live in California. We went there, but they didn’t know what direction to take, they just knew that they wanted to start with 450s, while Brian was in 250s. We rode 250s once with a brand-new RM-Z, fitted with a 49-tooth sprocket… it was impossible for Brian to ride SX with that. We went back to the hotel, waited a week, nothing was happening… We were spending a lot of money there, €1,000 a week. It was huge for us. We told them to sort out their problems, and that we’d come back when everything was ready.
A few weeks later, when we were back in Europe, Chris Wheeler – from Suzuki – called us back to tell us that they had found a solution, and that it would be with JGR Suzuki. We were back in Europe, everything had fallen behind schedule, it was February 2017 and it was too late for us. Maybe we made a mistake… We decided to stay another year to prepare in Europe and we offered them to come back in 2018 to ride for Suzuki; we couldn’t go left, right, like that, and Brian finally rode for a private Husqvarna team in 2017.
Brian: In 2019, I won every SX Tour. I won every race at Arenacross in England, beating Thomas Ramette, Cedric Soubeyras. I beat everyone, I even won at the Supercross de Paris. Again, the plan was to go to the USA, but then Covid came along and all plans fell through!
Finally, you’ve been trying to go to the USA for years?
Hsu: Since 2016, we’ve been trying…And when I’m finally there, when everything’s going well, I take a sh*t crash in training…
You ride with a Fantic here in France. You should be riding a KTM for Rides Unlimited. Why did you choose Fantic?
Hsu: Because it’s the cheapest [laughs]. KTM is too expensive for us. I wanted to ride a Suzuki, but with RM-Zs you also have to prepare the engines, and that’s still too much money. We tried it last year, but I couldn’t send the triples out of the corners with the original Suzuki…
Interview and images: Kevin Frelaud