There were obviously a lot of eyes on Jeffrey Herlings at the Grand Prix of Qatar, as he was making his MXGP debut and attempting to overcome a wrist injury. Although things did not quite go according to plan, the Dutchman still secured thirteen valuable points in the series standings and was available to talk about his race on Saturday night.
MX Vice: The goal coming here was to get points and, hey, you did that, so I guess it’s good?
Jeffrey Herlings: Yeah. The day was just a bad day. We cannot make something which is so negative, we cannot make it positive. I haven’t ridden for a long time. I was injured on my wrist. I had a tendon or a muscle, which was kind of over-trained, so we had to rest. Then I did one practice before Ottobiano, then crashed there and then got surgery. First of all I wasn’t fit and then second of all I was racing against the pain. The pain was incredible.
I think anybody who broke a hand would understand the situation. When you’re racing with a broken hand it’s really tough. Every bump and jump; everything you just really, really feel. This is the situation and we have to make the best of it. I think the big dream is still alive. We’re really not looking good at all, but hopefully next weekend we can get a little bit more points and work from there.
Obviously the second moto was better than the first, which most people wouldn’t have expected. What changed between them?
I think we really changed the bike. I haven’t rode a bike for a long time, as I said, and that was still on my kind of fast side when I was going fast, then I was just going slow. Even the track was also really pretty slow. There were a lot of lines and stuff. I think the suspension was just too hard, because I had to hold on literally with my left arm. I got really bad arm pump.
For the second race we made the suspension much softer and we put a different clutch, because my clutch is really heavy. I’m pretty much on the clutch on the 450, just to get some pressure off the left forearm, so we put a really soft clutch. I think that really worked. But, still, we only got a couple of points; I still think the big dream can be alive. It’s a very long series and we just have to wait and hope for the best.
Would you change anything about the way you rode this weekend? In free practice you did a lot of laps. Do you think maybe it would have been better just to do a couple and save the hand?
Well, I just had to get used to riding again. I haven’t rode for a pretty long time and just had to get used to it. It was a brand new bike, so the suspension had to be run in; the frame, the engine and everything. Also I didn’t know where I was at, but every lap I did really wasn’t fun. I had a lot of pain, but we made the best of the situation.
How close did you come to not lining up here? Was it ever an option or were you always set on you will take part?
No, we decided Wednesday morning. We woke up and I did some mountain biking on Monday and that really hurt. So I tried again on Tuesday and got a bit better, but then racing is a different thing. So Wednesday morning I said, "okay, let’s give it a try." Our goal was to get between fourteen and twenty points. Obviously we got only thirteen, but I think for next weekend it’s the same thing; try to get around twenty points. By then we’ll be around fifty points behind the leader, but hopefully in Argentina I can be running up with the podium. Then I’ve still got seventeen races, then fifty points doesn’t seem so much.
If you keep riding with the injury, is there a chance you’re going to make this worse or is that not even an option? Infection, anything like that?
Well when the wound was closed there’s not really a chance of an infection, but I’m definitely not going to make it better the days I ride. A bone healing just takes like six weeks, average four to six weeks. So it might take a little longer now, but if the pain improves and improves it gets less and less. We just have to wait and see.
Is that a risk you’re willing to take then as long as you can get a good amount of points, like around fourteen to twenty?
No – that’s not enough. Next week we can accept to have another fourteen points or something, but we need more. We definitely need more than fourteen, so we’re going to try to get it… In Argentina we hope to be back on the podium. It’s a short time, but if you’re not still struggling with the hand by then it will be even more tough. We need to get some good amount of points by then.
What’s next for you then? Where do you go from here?
We just have to get it better and better, so that’s what we’re trying to do. It just takes some time, but we’ll wait and see. This week we hopefully can practice once. If not, we just go without riding to Indonesia and work from there.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX