Interview: Dennis Verbruggen on his GP career and titles

Ex Belgian rider, Dennis Verbruggen had a pretty good Motocross career for himself and has a number of titles during his youth career which he can look back on with good memories.

In 2002, Verbruggen won the 85cc Junior World Championship and three years later clinched the 125cc Junior World Championship. The Belgian also has a European 250cc title to his name beating the likes of Frossard, Van Horebeek and Joel Roelants to the title in 2005 – a lot of talent.

We caught up with Verbruggen to discuss his racing career, titles and more.

Gatedrop: In 2002, you won the 85cc Junior World Championship. What are your memories from winning your first world title?

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Verbruggen: That was such a great weekend for me! I claimed the European title already just before the JWC was held, so I could travel there with a super positive vibe. On top of that, Millsaps and Pourcel were the top favourites for that race, that put me in the underdog position going into the race. I did what I could, and it was luckily enough to win the race. If there was one thing that stood out for me, that was the reaction of the people around me. They were like: how is this reality, as the year before I wasn’t even close to winning on that level.

Gatedrop: In 2004 you just missed out on another title but in 2005 you won the 125cc Junior World Championship, what do you remember from winning that title?

Verbruggen: Compared to the 85c title I entered this race as a top favourite. The pressure was high on everyone involved because of the 1 day race. We worked as a team, I did my thing, and we made it happen.

Gatedrop: A year later and you’ve stepped up on the 250cc and clinched the EMX250 title, I would say that championship probably isn’t as big as it is now a days but nevertheless a superb title to win and what sticks out when you look back at it? What kind of competition were you up against?

Verbruggen: I don’t think there was any difference in level compared to now if we speak about the racing itself. There was Frossard, Van Horebeek, Roelants and more, we had a good generation going. We had hard battles on sketchy tracks, I think the EMX title in 2006 was one of the hardest titles to win for me.

Gatedrop: Your first full season in the MX2 World Championship was in 2007, how did you find the jump up to it? The speed was fast at the front with guys like Cairoli, Searle, Pourcel and Rattray to name just a few..

Verbruggen: When I made the switch to GP’s in 2007 it was my first year where I fully focused on Motocross and became a professional racer. Overall I was really happy with my first year in MX2, I showed good speed having a few top 5 qualifying races/time practises and some decent results in the Sundays races. Compared to now, coming from the European series back then was a lot harder. I never saw any of those tracks before moving up to MX2, while now the EMX is held on the same tracks. Also, there was no age limit on MX2 back then either.

Verbruggen in action at the Irish GP at Desertmartin in 2006 of the back of winning the EMX title. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: At the penultimate round of the series that year at Donington Park, you finished fourth in the second moto! It was your best ride in the series so far, how did that feel and what do you remember about that GP?

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Verbruggen: I have kept such a good memory of that weekend because a lot of things happened during those 2 days. The one thing I will never forget is that moment before race 1, my mechanic Mike says to me: Listen I am going to video your start because your last 5 starts you have been last out of the first turn every time, and not last but like 10 meter after last (laughs). It was the funniest video ever as I pulled 2 holeshots that day where mike overscreams the whole pits. It was a great way to end the season on a high.

Gatedrop: The next couple of years injuries weren’t great for you but you got on the podium at the 2009 Belgian GP in front of your home crowd at Lommel. Can you talk me through that weekend for you and what it felt to get on the box in front of your home fans? You beat some big names that day!

Verbruggen: It’s the most memorable weekend of my whole career. I had so much bullshit over me during 2008, and worked so hard going into 2009, it was such a relief for my emotions. Also, just before that weekend, my dad almost died when he got heart failure as well. I called him up after Saturdays qualifying when I got 5th and told him I felt so good on the track. He wasn’t allowed to be outside or do any activity after his surgery, but he showed up anyway on Sunday. I always believed we knew I was going to make it happen that day, that’s why he showed up, he was scared to miss it.

Gatedrop: When you look back at your career what other races stand out for you and why?

Verbruggen: I have had so many good memories during my career that there isn’t one particular moment.

Verbruggen at Desertmartin. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: Being a young rider trying to make it in the Motocross world, what would you say is the toughest thing?

Verbruggen: The toughest thing is probably different for each rider. If I speak about myself, the hardest point was that the people that believed in me didn’t have the knowledge or finances to support me in a way where it would bring me to the best me I could be. While there was plenty of people that could have helped me out in the right way, but all they did was saying I never was serious on my sport and left me hanging. It apparently is easier to always talk sh*t than to show the way.

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Verbruggen at Mallory Park GP in 2009. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nigel McKinstry