Interview: TJ O’Hare discusses her WMX season

TJ O’Hare signed with the 114 Motorsports team for the 2021 season as Livia Lancelot decided to sign up an WMX rider and it’s turned out to be a good decision. Aussie rider, O’Hare has improved a lot this year and was able to break into the top ten of the very competitive WMX series so it’s been a successful season for her.

We caught up with O’Hare to discuss the season, thoughts on the WMX series, plans for the future and more.

GateDrop: TJ, you’ve been racing WMX for a few years now. When you first made the move over from Australia, how quickly would you say you adapted and what things did it take you a while to get used too?

O’Hare: Technically, this was my third season. My first season got scraped 2 rounds in so last year was my first full season. I think I adapted to the riding side of things pretty quick. What took me time was getting used to being here alone and not having my friends, sister or someone to come back and hang out with after a day riding or a race weekend. I’m someone who likes to be doing something all the time and I suddenly had a lot of downtime and not too many mates here. This year with my Team 114 Motorsports Honda is really different as I’ve got a solid crew and are close with my team. This makes a huge difference.

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GateDrop: In terms of the racing, what’s the biggest difference racing the WMX compared to racing in Australia?

O’Hare: In WMX there is a full gate of top quality riders…as there should be racing a World Championships. Whereas growing up in Australia we would be lucky to get maybe 20 riders on a good day. Also, the tracks here are way gnarlier, bigger jumps, bigger ruts, and way tougher. In time, I hope my experience will help elevate the field and women racing in Australia.

GateDrop: Just on the WMX tracks, obviously there’s a lot of variety, is that something you enjoy? Did it take you long to adapt to all the different surfaces?

O’Hare: I actually find they put the WMX on a lot of hardpack. I was never a good hardpack rider but over the years I have got a lot more comfortable on it. I really like all the tracks I’ve got to race over here and look forward to every new track I go to.

GateDrop: Coming into the 2021 season, you signed a deal with the 114 Motorsports Honda, how did the deal all come around?

O’Hare: Last year we struggled with the setup we had and already halfway thru the year knew we needed something else. We were at the end of what we knew how to do if that makes sense so my mum got in contact with Hinko from One Above Management and we started to work with him. The first thing he mentioned was that every rider is different with different needs, that it is important to find the “right” team for each rider. Thinking about the setup I had at the time and the conditions, this was right. He knew Livia as he worked with the boys on the team last year so they had a good relationship. Hinko is a big fan of the work Livia does with the team, Giacomo, and MXGP. They talked for a few months and everything seemed to work out as we both wanted.

GateDrop: What’s it been like working with Livia Lancelot? A former WMX champion herself, she knows what it takes!

O’Hare: Before making the decision to work together, one of the big things my parents, Hinko, and I knew was that that Livia would understand exactly what is needed for me to become the best I can. It’s been pretty sick. When you talk with Livia it’s like “wow she believes in me” and I was kind of like “ok well if you believe in me then I should believe in me”. I’ve always been a hard worker but with the way Livia works and inspires I have more drive to go training everyday and work on all our weak spots so that we can consistently battle with the front riders. As you said she’s been in my shoes and knows how it goes and how to be a champ so I try and take everything she says on board and we see how far we can get.

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Pic: Thibault Photography

GateDrop: Did it take you long to adapt to the Honda?

O’Hare: Actually not long really. I felt really comfortable right away as the bike was setup well and it felt natural. I really like the bike everything has been good.

GateDrop: For the first time ever the WMX raced in Lommel this year, what was it like to ride that iconic track? The track was just brutal this year!

O’Hare: Yeah, that’s pretty cool they gave us the opportunity to race at Lommel. It’s an iconic track, that the best riders in the world talk about it, and I was keen to try it. While I thought I knew “sand” coming from Western Australia, the track was even more gnarly than expected. It’s a track you need to be patient with and find the flow, pretty much the opposite of what I did in the race but it was still sick to experience it. Next time around I will be in a better position for what Lommel throws at me.

GateDrop: How would you describe your WMX season so far?

O’Hare: It’s been a learning year as we knew and had planned for. The first rounds where difficult and I felt like I made a lot of mistakes. My team and those around me that know kept saying that its all about learning and progressively getting better, that it will come as I was putting in the work. Slowly we made progress throughout the season which is nice. I didn’t feel like I put it all together until Spain so was good to get a good result and some nice starts.

GateDrop: From the outside it certainly looks like the level is a lot stronger this year, what’s your thoughts on the 2021 WMX level?

O’Hare: Indeed the level has increased every year and I think we are peaking right now. The lap times are all super close within let’s say top 15-20 and we all work super hard so it’s to be expected that we push each other to up our game each season. It’s really good to see and makes us just keep wanting to work hard to be the best.

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GateDrop: What is the plan for 2022?

O’Hare: Without question the plan is to again race WMX with Team 114 Motorsports and be consistently at the pointy end of the pack. I know that with the team around me that I can do it and continue to improve and get faster. However, to be over here away from the support of my amazing family, it’s very expensive. So this winter there will be a lot of work trying to bring onboard commercial partners to help me continue racing. If anyone is keen to help give me a shout.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Thibault Photography