Interview: Jeremy Van Horebeek on MXGP’s new manufacture and signing with Beta

The big news dropped last week that Beta will be entering the MXGP World Championship this year as a new manufacture. Beta have already created a new 450cc four stroke and after testing the bike, Jeremy Van Horebeek signed a two-year-deal with the new brand.

We caught up with Van Horebeek to discuss the deal, new bike and more.

GateDrop: Jeremy, we have a new manufacture in MXGP and Motocross in the form of Beta. Amazing news for the sport I would say, and I’m sure you agree – we need as many manufactures as possible!

Van Horebeek: It’s really important. Two years ago I think it’s been now that Suzuki quit the MXGP scene and another manufacture didn’t step up straight away. KTM took the initiative to run a GasGas team for last year which has been positive. Beta have decided to come from Enduro and it means another factory team so it’s only good for the sport and for the future. With all the COVID-19 stuff and all that, it’s not easy for the big manufactures to find a budget to spend in MXGP, MotoGP, Dakar and everything – it’s not easy.

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GateDrop: Just how did the deal all come around with the Beta? At the beginning of November, I heard they might be coming into MXGP – it’s sort of one of those rumours you don’t really believe at the start but now here we are!

Van Horebeek: I heard the rumour also but actually I wasn’t so busy with Motocross anymore because we expected two kids and that was the main focus. It took a while before someone called me because I wasn’t really looking forward to doing another year but then they called me from the factory. The first thing I said to them straight up was to see if the bike was safe and if everything else was good to get this project started. Also, the budget was important because many young riders, they just want a seat which means they ride for free. It’s ridiculous because you risk your life so for sure if I wasn’t getting a good budget, I would not do it anyway. But everything was positive, so I went to Italy and tested the bike, after ten minutes I felt straight away that this was positive, so I was motivated. From that moment we started negotiations, they offered me a two-year deal with really good salary.

GateDrop: Clement Desalle and Gautier Paulin announced their retirements from the sport. From the outside it looked like you might follow them at one point. Did it ever look like you’d have no ride for the 2021 season?

Van Horebeek: You know, I love racing and Motocross is my life but riding for free or signing for a low salary risking your life, it’s ridiculous. The plan was maybe to retire, yes but because I wasn’t really that busy with Motocross like I said, the family was in first place and the most important thing to me.

I always said to myself that if something positive came that I would consider it because I really love racing. For me, it is still too early to sit on the couch and do nothing. I was thinking about it but then the deal came and quickly together with the family we decided. We are all really motivated, and my two boys motivate me even more. I am really happy and excited to be able to do this with Beta.

GateDrop: I’d like to ask about the first day testing you done with the Beta, what were your first impressions on the bike?

Van Horebeek: A few weeks back I went to Italy and I rode with it. It is really impressive how light it is, how well it steers and the handling. I haven’t tested the new Honda yet but honestly for steering and the handling, it’s even more easy than with the Honda I had, and it was already easy with the Honda. That was really a surprise for me and it made the decision even easier. Okay, engine wise we are maybe a little bit off, but we have a lot of time and we have the factory behind us. We don’t have to be world champion tomorrow or anything like that, we will have time to develop the bike and make the results when we are ready. This is the fun thing about the project and I really believe in it.

GateDrop: Since the first day – have you been riding the bike and much and already been able to make improvements? In terms of the 2021 season, it’s all going to be about the bike and improving it, not going to be an easy job developing a brand new 450cc four-stroke, but I feel with yourself and Charlier on-board with the testing side, two good men for the job!

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Van Horebeek:  Yeah, you know the thing is they didn’t have a 450cc, Beta had a 430cc and a 480cc, so they had to make a new 450cc. That was the first step they made and then they changed the chassis and stuff. I think with Charlier, he might only do a few more tests, I don’t know the situation exactly because he does the World Enduro.

With my experience I think we can arrive quite soon with a really good bike. The focus is on the engine for sure, but the positive thing is that I have companies like KYB factory suspension, they will support me because they are more like friends to me. When I told them about the project, they straight away said that I could have the factory suspension. With some other parts, Beta will work with HGS exhaust and it’s now been two years since I’ve worked with those guys and they’re also really excited. I think it can be positive because I’ve a few brands behind us and together with the factory it might go even a little bit faster. With the Japanese bikes, you have to ask Japan and sometimes it takes a few weeks like in the past with Michele (Rinaldi), to get the parts took a couple of weeks. We will see how it goes but step by step.

GateDrop: Your deal with Beta kind of reminds me when Josh Coppins signed with Aprilia – I believe they didn’t always listen to him about the bike development which is a shame. I feel like it’s really important that the team listen to you and give you what they want within reason. How have the SDM-Corse team been so far to work with, and have you been guaranteed you’ll be listened too when it comes to the bike?

Van Horebeek: The thing is that I signed directly with the Beta factory so I’ve nothing really to do with SDM-Corse on paper. SDM-Corse will manage the team and the mechanics, but all the parts will be from the factory. If I need something I just need to see with the factory and not with SDM-Corse, but you know because of them is the reason why we have this opportunity.

I think that whatever I ask for from the factory that it will be no problem. It’s not easy to build a bike in the space of a few weeks so it will also take some time but the beta factory only has a few people that you have to call and they manage everything so that’s quite easy. I will not have to call like ten different people or anything like that to ask something, so that’s positive.

GateDrop: When you think about your expectations for 2021 – what are they? Do you think top ten results are realistic?

Van Horebeek: At the moment, there’s still a lot of work to do but the plan will be to be a top ten rider like last year. Maybe even if I can do some top five results, it would be awesome. It’s important to take it step by step, I don’t know if we will be ready for that at the first GP but that is definitely the goal.

If you are riding at the top today in the MXGP class these days, you are a really high-class rider because there’s so many talented, fast and good riders because of the age limit (in MX2). I would be really pleased, and I think that the factory would also be really pleased (with top ten results) but it might take some time, we will see.

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GateDrop: At Arco di Trento you had that scary crash getting tangled up in Gajser’s back wheel – how scary was that? It looked really bad and it looked like that could have been the end of your career but fortunately, you were fine!

Van Horebeek: Something like that had never happened to me before. My leg got tangled and Tim didn’t notice straight away but that’s logic because it was the start. The chain went through my boots and my knee brace, so I had a pretty deep cut and some burns. That wasn’t the worst thing, it felt like my leg could have snapped if it was a half centimetre more twisted, it could have snapped and it was a horrible pain.

When they took the wheel out it felt like my leg was like sleeping, I didn’t have so much feeling because the nervous were probably a little bit tangled up. After half an hour we checked and we had no broken bones, nothing serious, only a burn and a deep cut. It was okay at the end of the day and nobody’s fault, just a race incident.

GateDrop: Just on the SR-Honda team, you obviously had two good years there as a privateer, I was kind of surprised you’d be going separate ways for 2021. When did you find that out and overall, how was your time with the team?

Van Horebeek: The thing is people think that I left them, but it was Josse (Sallefranque – team owner), he said to me that he didn’t have the budget to pay me anymore. If a rider of my quality, a top nine rider that doesn’t get paid, you know I’m not going to ride for free.

If Nathan Watson wants to ride for free and Benoit Paturel wants to ride for very little money, yeah okay it’s fine for them but I’ve nothing to lose anymore and I could make more money by going to work in Belgium, you know what I mean? That was the only reason and I have no problem with Josse and I am really thankful for what he did for me. If there is no budget because of the COVID-19 and all that, it’s just the way it is. I have to move on even if we are good friends, it’s just the way it is.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pic: Beta