Interview: Roberts Justs discusses his career and Motocross in Latvia

With the MXGP World Championship restarting in Latvia with three rounds taking place in a week we decided to catch up with former GP rider from Latvia, Roberts Justs. Justs had a pretty good career in the MX2 World Championship and has plenty of top ten results but unfortunately after a number of concussions was told he’d have to stop his Motocross career which was a big shame.

Justs is well and truly still involved in the sport though as he’s enjoying coaching some younger riders. With the MXGP World Championship set to restart in Latvia, we decided to catch up with Justs to discuss his career, the sport in Latvia and more.

Gatedrop: Roberts, let’s start with your racing career, you are a young rider in the GP paddock with the Latvia Elksni Honda team. Just how were those days being part of that team?

Justs: I went straight from the 125cc to MX2. It was a big step, but that was the best option I had and I think for me it worked really good. Latvia Elksni Honda was really like a family team to me with my brother and all the mechanics who I knew already for a long time.

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Gatedrop: Was it difficult racing against the factory bikes in the MX2 World Championship and just how stacked was the class?

Justs: With HSF I had one of the best bikes in paddock, it was definitely competitive enough. I remember my first seasons in GP’s, then I was riding against riders who I look up to and still now it feels like everyone was super fast back then, but when you start getting better yourself, then it feels like everyone is not that fast.

Gatedrop: What did you find the most difficult thing when you started racing the GP’s? You were relatively unknown and probably not a lot of people believed in you..

Justs: Actually I don’t know, for me it was a dream to ride GP’s and nothing felt difficult, I enjoyed everything. I started with Latvian team, and in Latvia I was one of the best riders, so many people believed in me.

Justs on the Latvia Elksni Honda! Pic: Benjamin Ricard

Gatedrop: You had some good results with the Latvia Elksni Honda team – when you look back you must be happy and what races stand out the most with the team?

Justs: Probably my second GP where I scored my first points, because going in to the first season I didn’t expect to score points so early in the season.

Gatedrop: The HSF Logistics team spotted your potential and signed you up, how did that feel and how was it being part of the team – a step up, was there more pressure to perform?

Justs: It was a really great team. I got all the best material and everything, so I knew that now everything is up to me. For sure I put more pressure on myself, but there were no pressure from the team.

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Gatedrop: You had some very fast team mates – Vlaanderen, Bogers to name a few. What sort of things did you learn from that and who did you learn from the most?

Justs: I was happy with my team mates, we trained together and pushed each other every day on the bike as well as off the bike. I learned from both of them. They have completely different riding styles. So I tried to take the best from each of them.

Gatedrop: What races stand out the most with the HSF team – you had some top ten results, it must have felt good to prove some doubters wrong?

Justs: I think Arco Di Trento 2016 where I finished 7th. I got the holeshot and I could battle for quite some time with the top guys.

Gatedrop: At the end of 2016, you were advised to stop racing, can you remind us why? A big blow as I believe you had an MXGP lined up for the following year and plans in place..

Justs: I crashed pretty hard in the French GP qualifying race. On Sunday I was feeling a little better, so I finished both motos. In the end I found out that I was riding with quite a heavy head concussion. It was half way in the season and I had to do some good results to sign a contract for next season in MXGP. So I took two months off and after a few weeks of training I raced the GP of Assen where I bumped my head again. And then after 3 months again. After that I had a lot of headache for long time and doctor didn’t allow me to ride again.

Justs on his HSF-Logistics KTM. Pic: Martin Plesnik

Gatedrop: What’s the sport like now in Latvia compared to when you tried to make it? Pauls Jonass success looks to have really helped with a number of young bright talents emerging as well..

Justs: For sure Motocross is more popular because of Pauls (Jonass). Latvia needed a guy like him. Before wining world championship to the junior riders was feeling like mission impossible, but now that Pauls done it, more kids start believing in it.

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Gatedrop: With the amount of young talent currently in Latvia, who stands out the most for you and who do you think has a chance of being the next PJ?

Justs: If we look at the 85cc guys, then we have quite a few good ones. With Karlis Reisulis and Edvards Bidzans going top 5 in Junior world championships last year. For next year Janis Reisulis and Markuss Ozoliņš have good chances in Junior World championship.

Gatedrop: You’re now involved in coaching, which young riders do you currently work with and what do you try and teach them? It must be still nice to be involved in the sport.

Justs: I work with a group of top junior riders and with few adult riders from EMX250. I also do a job at MXGP Academy and I try to show them how the professional sports works. We work a lot on riding technique, but I also help them with mental training and physical training. I work with a guys who really want to get better and they are working their ass off and that’s why I probably like my job.

Gatedrop: Lastly, MXGP resumes in Latvia at Kegums for a triple round, you must be looking forward to that? It’s great news for the sport in Latvia as well as it should create a lot of attention!

Justs: Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s really great for the sport here in Latvia.

Interview: Andy McKinstry