Interview: Jeremy Van Horebeek reflects on his “perfect career”
What a career Jeremy Van Horebeek has had in the Motocross Grand Prix paddock. The Belgian has so much experience and will be a Factory Beta rider for the 2021 season but he has had so many good moments in the sport.
The Belgian might only have ever won two Grand Prix’s but he has 32 podiums to his name showing just how consistent he’s been throughout his career.
Van Horebeek has rode for Factory KTM, Kawasaki and Yamaha before private team, SR Honda but he’s back as a factory rider for what could be the last two years of his career.
We caught up with Van Horebeek to discuss his amazing career in the sport. If you missed part one of our interview with Van Horebeek as he discussed the Beta project, you can read it here.
GateDrop: Looking back at your career, In MX2, you were pretty much living the dream at an early age with the Factory KTM team. How was it being part of that team, you had some very fast team mates you could learn from but also some younger guys like Herlings that probably learnt a lot of you!
Van Horebeek: You know, I had pretty much the perfect career to be honest. I was with all the factory teams; I was third in the championship and second in the championship. In MXGP, I had a lot of podiums, only a few wins but many MXoN victories so I had an awesome career. There is always that dream to be world champion, it didn’t happen but that’s just the way it is.
I learned a lot during my career, I think I also helped inspire a lot of kids when I was only 23 years old and being on the MXGP podium every weekend. It was great and I also learned from a lot of experienced guys, so it’s been an awesome journey. I hope I can have two more wonderful years and then enjoy life without racing.
GateDrop: You won your first GP in 2009 at the MXGP of Catalunya in Spain – what do you remember from that day and how did it feel to clinch your first GP win? A dream come true I guess; I remember you on the podium and you couldn’t really believe it!
Van Horebeek: I remember that day really well. I was not on a factory team that year but that day I actually had the factory engine, and it was a big difference. On the last lap I was in a fight with Nicolas Aubin and they wrote on the pit board that I needed one place for the podium they said.
I remember it well so I thought that if I took that guy, I would be on the podium and it would have been my first podium as well. When I passed the other rider it actually meant I won the GP, so I went for it, it was a one in a life chance and I went for it. When I crossed the finish, I was really happy because I knew I was on the podium but actually it meant I’d won the GP. It was quite an exciting day and the start of a successful career.
GateDrop: In 2013, it was your rookie season in MXGP after signing with KRT and if I remember rightly you came into the season injured but you kept getting better and better. Eventually you ended up seventh in the championship – where you happy with that as a rookie?
Van Horebeek: It was a really good season; I had broken my finger but step by step I managed my way to the top five pretty much every weekend. Sometimes I would have a second place in the race, so it was great.
I was really happy with Kawasaki but then I got a really good deal from Yamaha with quite a lot of money for me. I went for it, nobody wanted to go there with the bad results from the year before with Frossard and Roelants. I went over to Italy and tested it, I was excited and went for it. The following year ended up being the best year of my career. I spent five years with Michele (Rinaldi) and it was awesome.
GateDrop: In 2014, you were so fast and consistent, podiums pretty much every week, you had so much momentum – second in the world! When you look back you must be happy when you think about 2014?
Van Horebeek: I was still young, and you had big names like Desalle, Cairoli and a lot of big guns that season. Everything came really easy for me that year, I was super fit and I had a great feeling with the bike. Now a days, you always have to change things with the bike because the tracks get so difficult but back then everything was normal and felt good. I was second in the championship, I was close but a guy like Tony Cairoli, it’s not easy to beat him (laughs). He was wonderful, I am really happy and thankful that I was a vice world champion in my career. Not many guys can say that.
GateDrop: You won at Loket that year – how did that overall win compare to the one in MX2 in 2009? I imagine it felt better because not only was it the premier class but the way you did it, passing Cairoli with two laps to go!
Van Horebeek: Just the way I won it; it was the most satisfying. We were on the podium every weekend, Tony, myself and some other guys. With two laps to go it the was the guy who would win the race would also win the GP, I was feeling really good that day.
I didn’t win a lot in my career because sometimes I rode too safe but that’s personal. But that day I really went for it, it was two really long laps because Tony kept the pressure on me until the last lap. I did it and just the way I did it, it was a really nice victory. It was the last one but a nice one (laughs).
GateDrop: The year after was Villopoto year and it felt like a lot more hype than usual because America’s best was coming over, you had some good battles with him. Did that maybe give you extra motivation to the MXGP riders? In the end that year was quite difficult for you with crashes and your teammate winning the title but still, a fifth in the world wasn’t too bad!
Van Horebeek: It was a tough year but still to finish fifth, to be a top five rider is not easy especially when there’s so many good names. When Ryan came there was big hype that he came over, but it was only positive for us. I heard that he said we are gnarly guys and really fast guys so it means a lot if a guy with so many championships says that about us, you only have to respect him for that.
We had great battles and I think that it’s not easy to come over from the USA to here because it’s just two different worlds. We have so many discussions about this, who is the best but it’s just different and that’s my opinion.
GateDrop: The rest of your time at Yamaha, what was it like seeing Febvre come up from MX2 and winning the title and races etc. Also, the level of MXGP the last 3-5 years has just been incredible!
Van Horebeek: It’s always like this, the fast and talented guys that move up from MX2, they always do good results in MXGP. It’s quite logical in a way because they are really motivated, it’s the same with Seewer now, he’s really motivated, and he’s not scared. I think it’s just logic in a way that they are doing good and it’s only good for the sport because the level is so high. I spent a lot of years with Romain in the Yamaha team and we had some tensions, but it was positive. It helped keep me focused and to get me to where I am now.
GateDrop: With regards to riders paying for rides, I feel like the factory riders and making a lot of money and possible the most ever but riders are paying/bringing sponsors for private teams. Do you think Infront could make changes to help and if so what? Perhaps prize money?
Van Horebeek: I’m pretty sure they help the private teams because I think they helped us and me especially when I was at SR Honda. I think the private teams should be really thankful that Infront do help because I am sure they do.
You know, you have big sponsors that spend a lot of money and even good riders, if you bring a lot of money and ask a team to buy a ride, the way of today, it is just like this. You have to accept it, okay I don’t care that the factory teams make a lot of money but it shouldn’t mean that talented riders should have to go for free or pay. It’s just ridiculous, we risk so much, all the taxes you have to pay if you want to do everything legal, you need to make money and especially if you are a top ten rider.
I understand if a top twenty rider is not making so much money, that’s logic but the top ten of today, they are making the show, so you have to pay them. Times have changed and it is what it is, that is why I am very thankful to Beta because they believe in me and the project. They were not afraid to give me a good salary, so I am really thankful for them and Giuseppe Bianchi the boss of beta, it’s just awesome.
GateDrop: I have to ask you about Belgian Motocross, when Stefan Everts was racing it was the place to be for Motocross but since then there’s be so many track closing etc. I guess it’s very disappointing and I imagine you’d like the Belgian government to help the sport once again!
Van Horebeek: Yeah, it is sad, but I don’t really want to speak about this too much. Stefan Everts has been busy with this for many years now as well as Joel Smets. It makes no sense to get frustrated about it. They will never help Motocross again I think and it’s just the way it is.
It’s a shame for the kids, not for me because my career is almost over. It’s a big shame for the kids like Liam Everts and even the younger kids, for them it’s just a shame. I think many other things are more damaged for the world than riding a motorcycle.
GateDrop: You recently became a father, how has that been going with the birth of your twins! Sleepless nights?
Van Horebeek: Actually no, it’s been positive, especially because we’ve had two, we thought it was not going to be easy, but we had a few difficult nights to find a rhythm, but they are doing really great.
They were also pre-mature as they arrived four weeks early so they were only 2.6 kilograms, on the 25th of January they will be two months old, now they are already over 4 kilograms so they’re doing great. Not so many sleepless nights!
Those two also made my decision easier together with Glenny, we are one family now and they motivate me so bad that I want to do it for them and for my family. It’s not for me anymore (laughs), it’s for them and also to give them a great life after racing.
Interview: Andy McKinstry
Main pic: Pirelli PR