Jeffrey Herlings interview – Hawkstone Park

We caught up with a realistic Jeffrey Herlings on his day at Hawkstone (7-2-4) and his comeback to racing after a year off, with the Dutchman acknowledging he has more work to do to get back to his old level (but he still had the pace to shadow race winner Glenn Coldenhoff in moto two). If you didn’t catch the video you can read or watch what he had to say below:

Jeffrey, first of all great to have you back and nice to see you racing again and doing what you love! How do you sum up today? It was a bit up and down for you and sketchy moments through the slower traffic…

Yeah! That’s where I messed up, in the slow traffic, to be honest. First moto, they use a different grid than MXGP, so I was going for it MXGP style with my RPM and the riding position and I just slid off (the grid) and was dead last. So I had a struggle to work my way through, I think I got seventh or something, I didn’t push that hard.

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Second moto was good. I got second on the start and was following Glenn the whole moto and yeah, it was decent, I was happy with it, my speed was good. I felt like I could run the guy’s speed. The last moto I was behind Glenn and actually wanted to go for the pass and then we got straight into the MX2 guys (they had a 3 second head start) and they were left, right, they were everywhere. one guy tried to move out of the way but he hit me into the bank and then a few other guys passed me and then I even tipped over and I just got fourth.

The first and third moto wasn’t good, my riding wasn’t good all day. I felt like, I didn’t really have pressure but I felt like my arms were pumping up and just didn’t feel like myself but I guess it’s normal when you haven’t race that long , you need to time to get back at it. It didn’t look good today but I guess in a few weeks it will (be better).

I saw in the first moto you were trying to shake the arm pump out…

Yeah, I had such bad arm pump, it was unreal.

How different is racing against Glenn and Romain compared to practicing all winter?

Yeah this is very different to practice, you can’t compare it. When I am riding, practicing, I am riding alone and doing my laps and I go home and feel like, ‘okay, I’m good, I’m fast.’ you know? But now it’s the first time I’m racing and it’s a different guy so it’s proven I’m off. Even though second moto, when I’m there, I had the pace. I’m not at the point when I’m 15 seconds down I can close them in so, I have work to do but I knew that. like I said, it wouldn’t be realistic to come and win all three moto’s so we got work to do but we will get there eventually.

This is your first year racing with the new bike and you’ve had a year off yourself and trying to figure what needs improving on the bike and what bit is you just getting back to race pace?

Yeah racing is completely different. I feel when I’m practicing I’m going third gear, braap, braap kind of thing. But now I’m in second, third, traffic, pressure from the front, pressure from the back so it’s a different story. I’ll take it like it is, it’s alright.

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Tim got injured last week, and you were careful through the back markers today especially first moto, obviously you just want to make it to the GPs, it’s a mega long season.

Yeah, today there was nothing to win, only things to lose. Also that last moto, we had a lot of shadow when the sun went down. i just want to go safe, my main goal is honestly just to, for sure I want to be world champion, but at the same time I just want to do all the moto’s. I believe once I get back in my good rhythm and do a lot of racing, I will get back to where I was, it just takes time and then I need to make sure I am everywhere (all rounds). The stupidest thing for me to do right now is yardsale myself and get injured as well. My main competition is out so, yeah.

You are likely to break Stefan Everts’ record, Stefan is going to be in the pits with you this year the way the set-up is with Liam, how nice would it be to have a legacy, a record that might never be beaten?

Yeah it would be nice. That is what I am aiming for, that is what I am going for to fight for a championship and beat that 101 GP win record.

There are a lot of world champions in the (KTM) tent this year, with you, Tony, Joel and Stefan (via Liam). How will that be to have that many champions and advice there but you are the one on the bike having to make the decisions, will it be difficult?

Yeah, I think there is like, if I am correct, 29 world championships under the tent, so there is a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge so I just have to make the best of it. I mean, I have nothing to do with Stefan anymore he is there as Liam’s father we aren’t working together but, for me, I do my own thing, and try to get the best out of myself.

And working with Tony, are you going to be working closely with him or is he going to let you operate how you know how to operate yourself?

Yeah he is in the team but basically, I do my own thing, like you see, he is not here today. I just do my own thing like I always have done basically!

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Finally, last year you were off, does that mean you love motocross more or did you find a life without motocross that you’d never seen before?

I love motocross more but after today I love it less because I got my ass kicked pretty bad and not all the top guys were here! I love the sport and I love winning so I know what I need to do to step it up and get a lot of racing under my belt. But I did miss it, I mean a year off was nice at one point but I still like being at the races.

Is that why you have extended your contract, because you got that mental break from the pressure? You have always been expected to win, I don’t know if people understand that that is a lot of pressure for a guy like you and you got break from that for a year?

Yeah that was pretty nice as well. But at the same time, like now, I don’t really care. People wrote that they expect Herlings to win at Hawkstone but I am just here to get racing under my belt and I knew my goal when I came here was to get racing in, not to beat Glenn or beat Febvre who raced last year, I knew it wouldn’t be realistic. So I didn’t really think about that, I just think about myself throughout the year and go as good as I can.

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Image: Leigh Wootton