Interview: Thomas Covington – back in MXGP

It has been a tough 18 months for Thomas Covington with the young American going back to his homeland for the 2019 season only to succumb to injury and illness, meaning the US fans never got to see the best of the man that made his name in the motocross world championship. For 2020 it’s all change again with Covington back in MXGP but this time in the 450 class and on the Gebben/Van Venrooy racing Yamaha.

Covington got his season off to a sold start with sixth overall (5-11) in the mud at Hawkstone Park – a far cry from the sunshine of California and Florida! We spoke with a relaxed Covington who is happy to be back in the GPs and ready to get his 450 career started.

Welcome back to the UK! It’s a wee bit different from California in February!

Thank you! Yeah, it’s good to be back even if it’s crappy weather for the fans and everything, I had fun. The first moto was really good, I got off to a good start and then kind of made my way up to the top five pretty easily there, just trying to keep it on two wheels was the main thing. The second race I was good off the gate again but then in the first turn a guy slid out in front of me and I just went into him and that put me way back, about half a lap behind on the first lap. But still, I felt good on the bike this weekend and it was good to have it for a test and get some time behind the gate again because I haven’t raced in a while, so it was good.

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And these conditions, how much are you conscious of racing and how much are you taking it as practice? The conditions were pretty tricky out there!

Yeah, especially when the conditions are like this in a pre-season race, you don’t want to do anything necessarily risky. The first one was good because I got a good start, that always helps to get in a good flow. the second one too, even though I was way behind on the first part, I was able to get into a good rhythm and came back to eleventh I think. I’m happy with how the day went, just got to keep progressing until the first GP.

Covington Image: Nigel McKinstry

Although the conditions were pretty bad, are you able to pick up anything with the bike that is different from just going testing?

Sure, we’ve been trying a lot of things. It’s been a big change for me going to the 450 (Yamaha) from Husqvarna 250. We have been doing a lot of testing every week to get the bike dialled in. The team has been awesome and given me everything I asked for. Han with Solva suspension has been unbelievable, really understanding with what I want because I am pretty picky with the bike set-up, so it’s cool that he is able to work with me and progress together.

How long have you been over here and has it been tough to adapt back after being in the American scene?

I’ve been over since Christmas. Yeah, it has taken me a little while to get settled because we were travelling so much. I flew over to England just after Christmas then went to Belgium for a few days, then went to Spain for two weeks then back to Belgium then back to the UK! So I have been kind of all over the place and now looking forward to getting settled and looking forward to more of a routine.

Are you going to be based here in England or Belgium?

I’ll be based here in England and then going over to Belgium to test for the team whenever they need me.

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And on last year, it didn’t go well and you weren’t able to show your speed to America but Hunter Lawrence was, so was that a frustration to see that or a confidence boost because it shows where you would have been since you raced with him the year before?

It was probably a confidence booster if anything but I wasn’t really worried about anything up to that point, I was just trying to get healthy to be honest. it was a string of doctors appointments, everything like that most of the year so I was more focused on that. it was a bummer the way it turned out but sometimes that’s the way it goes, you have bad years, off years. Anyway, I’m happy I went, I learnt a lot, I was thankful for the experience but I am happy to be back racing in Europe too.

Covington Image: Nigel Mckinstry

And your health, is it okay now, did you feel fine in those races today? 

I’m 100% healthy for sure. But I took six months off completely, I lost a lot of my general fitness so it has taken a while to build back up but I am starting to feel pretty good, I wish I had a bit more time before the season. I’m definitely not 100% ready but hopefully by the half way point in the season I will be feeling like I should.

What are you expectations for MXGP, it’s deep with all the elite guys from MX2 graduating into it!

Yeah, it’s really tough. I am really not putting any expectations into it, just going out to do the best I can. Do what I know I have to do, get a good start and if I get the bike set-up how I want it, I know I can run a pretty good speed so we will just have to wait and see, I’m not really sure where I’ll stand.

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Images: Nigel McKinstry