Interview: Camden Mc Lellan on his first MX2 GP of the year, JM Honda and working with Joel Roelants
The start of the season didn’t go the way that Camden Mc Lellan would have wanted after travelling to Argentina for round one and then getting injured before the main races. The South African has been out of action but made his return at round seven in France at a brutal track.
Every session, Mc Lellan improved and now he just needs to get races under his belt to improve and adapt to his new JM Honda and racing the MX2 World Championship.
We caught up with the friendly South African after his first GP of the year in France.
GateDrop: Camden, first GP of the year after not starting in Argentina, a very tough track to come back at but I feel there’s progress there and especially with that second moto…
Mc Lellan: Yeah, like you say it is my first GP back and it was tough, especially yesterday, the track was gnarly. I am just happy to get through all the sessions. Now I will take it step by step every weekend to try and improve. I want to get to the front and get some more good starts like the second moto and see how it goes.
GateDrop: Just how is everything going with the JM Honda team and the new bike, visa problems meant you only got back in Europe in February so you haven’t even had that much time with them yet after the injury as well…
Mc Lellan: We had some problems at the beginning of the year but fortunately the team stuck with me. It would have been very easy for them to let me go and for them to find another rider but they were honest and stuck with me. I think I’ve only been on the bike 15 times the whole year. I got to Belgium in February just before Argentina, about a month before it. I rode 10-12 times before Argentina and then got injured so I didn’t do a whole lot of riding on the bike and still haven’t. Now if I can put in the hard work throughout the week and then make a step every weekend, it will be good.
GateDrop: You have been used to the KTM and Austrian brands, how have you found making the transition to the Honda and how much different is it?
Mc Lellan: Actually, it’s not too much different. The Honda handles really well, it is nice to ride the bike and it’s smooth on the power. There honestly isn’t too much difference, it just handles a bit different and it’s lower to the ground which I like a lot. For the rest it is pretty similar.
GateDrop: You’ve raced a couple of MX2 GP wildcards here or there, but this is your first full year after racing EMX250 for a while, what was it like jumping straight into MX2 this weekend with not as much prep as you’d have liked?
Mc Lellan: It was tough, I only did one day on hard pack before this GP and it was in Genk, it was pretty flat with no ruts and no hills. I was really unprepared for this type of track, but the best training is racing. I thought it would be best to come here, jump in and just give it a go this weekend. I think it worked out really good, every session I got better and every lap I felt better. We made some good steps with the bike as well this weekend.
GateDrop: As you say you need races now to improve, are you in for the Dutch Masters this weekend?
Mc Lellan: Yeah, I need to be behind the gate and get better so I will be lining up at the Dutch Masters.
GateDrop: It’s been a short timing working with him but what’s it been like working with Joel Roelants? He looks like a lot of fun but I’m sure at the track it’s serious when it needs to be…
Mc Lellan: Like at the beginning, it was really hard to read him because away from the track he is all jokes, full of sh*t and he doesn’t give you a break. But at the track, he is all business, he is unbelievable though. This year I feel physically the best I’ve felt ever, as I should but I mean I’ve made a big step. On the bike, with my legs, my muscles and everything in general, he has been there and guided me, so it has helped a lot. I think with him, if I keep to his programme, listen to him and follow his steps, I think by the end of the season we have a good chance to ride up front.
GateDrop: On making the jump from EMX250 to MX2, I feel in the difficult could be tough for some riders but in recent years, there’s been a big focus on the EMX championships by Infront and now the jump up is maybe not such a shock to the system?
Mc Lellan: I agree. I believe now adays that if you run up front in the EMX250 class, Rossi and Zanchi they proved it today. If you run up front there, the speed isn’t that much different. It’s just really the five extra minutes, you feel those, trust me. For the rest, EMX250 is stacked with 40 guys and MX2 is not so there’s not really much to come into a GP unprepared for if you race EMX250. Especially if you race at the front, the level being so high in EMX250, everyone wants to win there too so it’s not so different.
GateDrop: You are coming from South Africa, when you are away from home for such a long period of time, is that tough? Or do you love being over here just as much?
Mc Lellan: It is tough, sometimes I miss it especially when it gets hard. There is no one to look to, but Joel is really good with that. If I have any problems or anything, he is more like a friend that a trainer so I can go to him. I have some friends but even though it is tough, it’s not too tough. I know I am here for a purpose and I know that purpose, every day I wake up I know that purpose. It’s not too tough.
GateDrop: Kiwi’s, South African’s and Aussies typically usually look to America more and that’s their dream, I feel like you were like that at the start but now maybe you are content here and to become an MXGP rider in the future?
Mc Lellan: I think it is easier for those three countries – South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to go to America where they speak the native language. The sport is also really good there at the moment but for me growing up, I always watched American Motocross and it was the dream. Europe was cheaper so we decided to come here first and then I fell in love with the GP’s, you know, you don’t get atmosphere anywhere like this at the French GP. It is really easy to fall in love with it, for me it is about being on my bike and if I make a living out of it and doing what I love no matter where it is, it’s also good for me.
GateDrop: Also the GP tracks, they’re so rough and technical, I think riding them will only make guys better riders?
Mc Lellan: 100%, I agree with that. If you look at the Lawrence brothers, they are cleaning up over in the States. They did all the dirty work here, they learnt everything over here. It is arguable, I don’t want to get too into that (laughs). You never know who is listening and find offence, but I mean it is two different worlds. GP’s possibly more rough and more technical whereas the AMA, they focus more on Supercross and it’s a bit more intense I think because of the flatter tracks. It’s just different.
Interview: Andy McKinstry
Image: Fullspectrum Media