Interview: HRC manager Marcus Pereira de Freitas

After this 2023 MXGP campaign, Team HRC General Manager Marcus Pereira de Freitas gave his thoughts on what has been an up and down season for the team and it’s two riders, Ruben Fernandez and Tim Gajser…

What would you give the 2023 season out of ten?
I think if you asked in January what I hoped for the season, and after what happened in Trentino, you’d get two very different answers. However, considering what happened to Tim, I think overall the season was probably around a seven out of ten. Of course, we go into every championship hoping to win, but Ruben still made a massive step with his results and the victory in Argentina was a moment I’ll never forget. Winning a GP is a great achievement and it really raised everyone’s expectations about what is possible. And credit to Ruben because he kept pushing throughout the whole campaign, getting podiums at rounds one, six, nine and eighteen, showing he never gave up. Then Tim coming back and winning two of the last three rounds was a good lift heading into 2024.

What were your impressions of Ruben’s season, on his riding and how well he integrated himself into the team?
I thought he did excellently. It is never easy coming into a factory team, but he immediately got on with every member of staff and his ability to communicate in many languages and just his personality as a whole is a pleasure to be around. As I mentioned, he won in Argentina and then got three more podiums, finishing fifth in the championship and perhaps if he hadn’t had the crash in Finland, he’d have got even higher. It was an impressive first year and we are very excited about what he can do next time around.

What about the performance of the Honda CRF450R for both riders?
I think we have an excellent platform to give both riders the opportunity to challenge for wins. The team work tirelessly, both here in Europe and back in Japan on the smallest details to try and improve the machine and I think it shows with the level of consistency out on the track. We are always trying to test and make things better and that’s what we are doing already, to make things better for 2024.

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Tim’s injury was obviously a massive moment, but how well did you think he did once he came back?
We saw straight away that Tim had the speed on his return when he was fastest in timed practice in Loket. However, then we saw the true affects of the injury when he couldn’t quite put it together in any of the first few races. We knew the motos in Czech would be a lot harder than practice because you simply can’t replicate racing when you are at home. Then there were three sand tracks in the next four, with the other one being Sweden which was almost impossible to pass on, so again, we weren’t expecting too much just because of how little he’d been able to train in the sand. Finally, in Turkey, Maggiora and Matterley, there were three tracks that he liked and he was able to win three motos and two GPs and just show everyone that he is back. The double win in Matterley was a great finish and he gave himself a lot of confidence for this off-season that he is still at the very top of the field when he is on his A-game.

How was the Motocross of Nations?
That was an incredible event to be part of. There were so many fans and the atmosphere was amazing so I’m glad that Team HRC was a strong part of that. Having Tim, Ruben and the Lawrence brothers in our setup was nice and it was a good chance to catch-up with our American colleagues. We stay in touch with them throughout the year, and they had a very good year, but it is always nicer to be able to chat in person and you can share ideas a lot faster and just work much more efficiently. We love hosting those guys and we hope they can comeback at Matterley Basin in 2024. Obviously, Jett showed us what he is capable of, and we can see why he was able to do so well stateside, so that was good to see as well. Both him and Hunter have a very bright future and we’re very glad they’re part of Team HRC.

Thoughts on the 2024 calendar release?
It looks like a similar year to this year, honestly. A lot of the rounds are the same, although in a slightly different order. There were all these rumours about new locations and going here or there, but in the end, it seems we will be familiar with most of the circuits. Of course, there are a couple of TBAs listed so we don’t know everything yet, so planning can’t begin completely but already we are working on logistics for what we do know and making sure we are setup as best as possible.

And what about the hopes for the 2024 season as a whole?
Our main hope is that we can go into the first round with both of our riders 100% fit and healthy. If we can do that, I think we can have a very good year indeed. Tim will of course be looking to win the title back and make it six championships, and Ruben will be even stronger than this year and will be pushing for podiums and victories himself. He is only going to get better and between the two of them, I believe Team HRC will be a strong force at every round of the campaign.

Words and image: Honda