Jeremy Van Horebeek interview

When Jeremy Van Horebeek (31) was announced as the leader for the brand new Beta SDM Corse factory team, many eyebrows were raised. An Enduro specialist Beta in the MXGP? However, The Jerre showed with good results in the Italian internazionali that the RX450 was born under a favorable star.

After two races, the Brabant rider from Limburg is joint third in the MX1 and fourth in the so-called Supercampionato. At Beta they are understandably over the moon. This is nothing new for Jeremy because since the birth of his two sons, Nyo and Jaxen, life has been smiling at him. High time for an interview with the ex-MX of Nations champion!

How much has fatherhood changed your life as a sportsman?
Jeremy Van Horebeek: “That is the best thing there is, having children. I must also say that it is not too bad. They are very good, they already sleep. It’s not as tough as I expected. Motocross is still my life, I love to ride and the kids motivate me even more now. That is only positive! ”

And you had twins?
Van Horebeek: “That’s right, but the advantage is that they are in the same rhythm. They usually go to sleep around 11:00 am, which is also good for me as it is my bedtime. Then they sleep well until about 8:30 am, so you can start the day with a fresh head! ”

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Did that fatherhood play a role in your decision to continue as a professional rider?
Van Horebeek: “After I knew I would stop at SR Honda, I wasn’t immediately looking for something else. It had all been good for me. In itself it should not really because there is also a life after motocross. Especially when you see how it goes in some teams when it comes to attracting riders… That’s a bit ridiculous in my opinion.

Unexpectedly, I received a phone call from Beta telling me that I should try them first. Then I started testing their MX prototype, and the first impression was immediately positive. The conditions were also good, which made it twice as positive! Yet the financials was certainly not the deciding factor. I had already decided that for myself in advance. If the engine would not suffice or there would be no future in the project, then it is not necessary for me. But I certainly see a lot of future in the Beta MXGP project. Even in the few months that the new engine has been available, they have made a lot of progress. ”

What reference did you use to compare the engine?
Van Horebeek: “The last two years I rode a Honda, so that was my point of comparison. In itself I turn much easier with the Beta. The frame also performs much better than that of an old Honda. I have never ridden the new CRF450R so I cannot compare that. But in terms of handling it is still a day and night difference with my old Honda. Really crazy how different that feels! In terms of engine, they have no experience in motocross so that is all new. That is still a bit of searching, but the basis is very good. The main work. are now our starts, a lot will depend on that. But otherwise it looks great already. ”

Then it is probably lucky for you that the GP season starts later. That way you will have more time to fine-tune everything.
Van Horebeek: “That is indeed perfect for us. We finished our preparation in Sardinia and we decided to take part in the Italian championship races as well. Not with the intention to perform immediately, but to gather important information. As you say, the adjustments in the calendar also give us more time to develop further in the run-up to the first GP. ”

It seems that Beta has found the right rider in you the right rider for this project. Someone with name and experience, who can still achieve strong results, but can also provide input from a technical point of view.
Van Horebeek: “I can compare the feeling with the Yamaha Rinaldi team. A very family feeling. Fabrizio Dini, the enduro team manager, also gets along very well. He used to ride motocross World Championship so he knows what we are talking about. That feels very good and everyone is super motivated. The CEO of Beta, Lapo Bianchi, is also very modest and accessible. Communication is also very fast at Beta. Ultimately, you are only in contact with three people. It’s not like a big factory where you have to ask 100 people to get something done. So all lines run directly, and everything is also made in the factory in Italy. In that respect it is really a factory team. Nothing we are working on is currently for sale, it is a pure prototype. I think that is very nice to experience, to contribute to this. I have signed a two-year contract, although I think it will be my last two years as well. I want to put all my energy into this for another two years, after that there is another life waiting for me. ”

As a factory rider you were a fixed value in the top five, even in the last two seasons you still stand out as the best privateer in the World Championship. In terms of results, will you have to adjust your expectations with a completely new engine?
Van Horebeek: “I know it will take time before everything is ready. But the basics are not bad at all. I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised. As I said, it remains to be seen how performant we will be in the start. But in terms of riding it is already very good. Of course I also know my own sporting value. At the moment, that is simply the top 10 in the MXGP. In recent years there have always been so many fast riders! Okay, with Clément Desalle and Gautier Paulin who have retired, there are two top riders less but others will take their place. I myself have nothing more to prove, although I do know that with a good start and with my level I can reach the top-5 anyway. Obviously, I depend on the evolution of the engine. But I am not afraid of that. ”

Is it true that there are people involved in this project that you knew from your time at Rinaldi?
Van Horebeek: “No actually not, but you can compare it in terms of mentality. Chipa, who used to be my mechanic at Rinaldi, is a good friend of Fabrizio Dini. That may have made everything a bit easier. The base, of course, comes from Beta. On the other hand, there are suppliers who have followed me. Such as Kayaba for the springs and HGS for the exhausts. And there are a few more partners. That’s great to hear that people still want to participate in this project! ”

Had Beta somehow hit your radar before due to their strong enduro performance?
Van Horebeek: “No, actually. The past months I was not involved in motocross at all. The first contact was made via SDM Corse. It is also about a real factory team, but at Beta did not have the time to do everything themselves. And this was an ideal combination, because SDM Corse had the structure, the mechanics and the experiences in motocross. ”

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Have you come to appreciate the tuning and development of an engine over the years or has that always been your thing?
Van Horebeek: “The adjustment of the engine is actually the most important work of the whole year. In the past we have sometimes made mistakes at Rinaldi. Everything seemed to go well in the winter period until you get to the first GP. Then it turned out that we had worked completely in the wrong direction. That is why I am indeed very focused on it, but you also have to have the resources to do so.

In the past two years, there have been enormous limitations at SR Honda in this regard. It was very clear what we had to do it with and that was it. Space for development was very limited. These are not actually limits, you are at the source at the factory itself. At Beta are aware of the costs and it is not difficult about it. For example, they made an adjustment to the engine with a special piece. That was important for enduro but not applicable in motocross. They made it themselves with a CNC machine. Of course that is a big difference between a private team and a factory structure. As a rider that is of course also nice. You just have to ask and to the extent that it is possible it will also be implemented. ”

Did you already notice that drive during your second test session with the changes made based on your feedback?
Van Horebeek: “Yes, yes. The evolution from the first to the second engine was no small steps, on the contrary. The basis was therefore rather simple, based on their experiences of enduro. When you see where they are now, that is quite impressive. With a few small steps it even looks very good. The biggest challenge is undoubtedly electronics. They have no experience with that yet and that is really a must in MXGP nowadays. So we certainly have to develop and search further. ”

Is the bulk of the dirt bike derived from the enduro machine?
Van Horebeek: “No, because Beta didn’t have a 450cc engine at all. They already had a 430cc and a 480cc. Beta had to make that 450cc completely from scratch. The chassis is also a new development. Only the plastic and the fuel tank come from the enduro, everything else is prototype. What we are still using for the time being is certainly not the engine with which we will be driving GPs. ”

A factory motorcycle is not always better by definition. In your previous interview on Gatedrop, you indicated that before the 2014 season, riders showed little interest in the Yamaha factory bike in MXGP. After all, the results of Frossard and Roelants in 2013 were disappointing, as a result of which many riders were reluctant.
Van Horebeek: “That’s right, several riders were not keen to go to Yamaha. Because the previous engine was so bad and it was a new engine for 2014. However, it felt right for me right away. With a factory team you always feel the pressure to perform.

The atmosphere is therefore more fun in a private team, but in retrospect that is not entirely correct. Because you soon find out that it is not possible to change certain things in a private team. Now I am in a pleasant position. Everything is allowed and nothing is mandatory at the moment. You can’t expect a bike they started on just five months ago to be ready now. That is impossible, they also know that at Beta. However, thanks to my experience, things are going faster than they expected. ”

How’s your Italian by the way?
Van Horebeek: “Pretty good actually. I understand just about everything that is said. It also works quite well to express myself. I had already learned a lot from my time with Michele Rinaldi, that was a bit watered down, but now I am picking up the thread again. That is also a nice aspect because the communication is different than in English or French…. I also really like fatherhood. I can’t put it any other way, my life is very chill now. If you can do what you love to do. You are paid for it and you have a family. That is simply ideal! It is the intention that the children go to the competitions as much as possible. Fortunately, they are very good at traveling and they are good sleepers. However, I don’t like to put them on a path as a motocross rider. I don’t see much future for them in that. I’d rather see them do something else. Of course I would like them to be successful, but that is all still very early now, to know which direction they are going. ”

Some evolutions, including the closing of circuits, are certainly not positive. You previously mentioned the financial situation in the Motocross World Championship. But it looks like you have some of the things you put off you. Because you can’t change them, can you?
Van Horebeek: “I am no longer concerned with that. I like to just race, I prefer to do that. All the negativity that surrounds the sport… I am very neutral about that. I know motocross is broken in Belgium, but it just is. I’m really not concerned with that. It is not getting anywhere to invest energy in that.

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That is why it is not a good idea for me to let my children race. What are they going to gain from that? While you have to stay positive and fight against it. But what will it deliver? Nothing I think. I am also a bit older, in November I will turn 32. In the motocross world I am therefore not the youngest. This is different for the new generation. But what about the sport when my sons are 15 and they have to be there? What does motocross mean? I certainly ask myself that question. The corona pandemic is also such a source of negativity. But chasing yourself in that doesn’t help anyway. ”

The CEO of Beta is an engineer himself and closely involved in this motocross project. How is that different from a top manager of, for example, a Japanese manufacturer?
Van Horebeek: “You notice the passion, and it is also a family business that continues from generation to generation. Lapo is so motivated to make this project a success that they are also willing to invest. Beta also runs very well. They sell so well in the enduro that they can barely keep up with delivery. That is only positive for us. Beta is also looking further because they even want a team in the US. Then you know at least that you will have to invest a few years to determine whether it works or not. By the way, Beta used to be a supplier to KTM. Afterwards, their paths were split, but they know perfectly well what the fork is like. Lapo is very good-natured, when I talk to him it seems as if I have known him for 20 years. That’s the same family feeling I had with Michele Rinaldi. I’m in the right place here! ”

Thanks for your time Jeremy, good luck!
Van Horebeek: “You’re welcome, see you later.”

Text: Tom Jacobs
Photos: Betamotor / Davide Messora / IG Jeremy Van Horebeek