When Suzuki pulled out of the FIM Motocross World Championship, it obviously put a lot of riders and team members in worrying positions. Hunter Lawrence, for instance, is one of the hottest talents in the series, but was suddenly left with no gig for the fast-approaching season. Things have worked out quite nicely for the likeable Australian though, as he has landed a four-year deal with Honda that includes a move to the United States.
MX Vice: The whole Suzuki deal fell apart quite quickly but, considering that, it seems as though you really landed on your feet. You must be pretty stoked with how everything has worked out?
Hunter Lawrence: Yeah, for sure. When we found out about Suzuki finishing and stopping it was quite stressful. Jeff Majkrzak, Ziggy and the guys from Geico were really helpful with the whole situation actually. I do not think that the deal that we got would have fallen into place if it wasn’t for them. We had an option to go to America early, but I told them that I wanted to stay for one more year. I want to be world champion and achieve something here. I want to achieve my goals and my dream.
They supported me one hundred percent, you know, so they went to work with my manager. They were working their butts off day and night to sort something out. They are still working and sorting the finer details out now, but it was awesome that it came through. I get on the Honda one year earlier than planned, so I’m happy with it. Everything has been good so far. There are a great bunch of people from Geico and 114 Motorsports. I am excited for next year.
How did it work then? Did the Geico guys speak to Honda in MXGP and try to find you a place? Even though you are on 114 now, are you already halfway to being a full-blown Geico rider?
Yeah, basically. Dan Betley got in contact and spoke with my manager, then it went back and forth. I don’t know the finer details of who they were talking to, but I know they were talking to Honda Europe. I still had to finish races, you know, so I just told them to leave me out of it. They sort of went out about their own business and got it done. I am pretty sure they just went back and forth with Honda Europe and found me a spot. It is obviously difficult for a team to want to sign a guy for just one year, you know?
You are going to have a few Geico parts on your bike, right?
Yep, they were awesome to help us out. It is really good. We asked when we went to Geico and stuff and they were awesome with supporting us with what I thought I needed to do to become a better rider in the future. They were all for it and said that they wanted to help me out as much as they could, which was just really comforting. We are not under contract with Geico for 2018, but they are still helping us out and treating us like we are. That is just their good will and the type of heart that they have. It is awesome. What better way to start a relationship? I know a lot of teams would not do that in Europe – that is for sure. Yeah, they have been unreal with every aspect.
When Suzuki told you that they were not having a team next year, it was obviously quite late. Did you ever look at going over to America a year early?
Yeah, for sure. We found out quite late and stuff. It was not on my mind at the time, but at one point it seemed to be the only option. I had already spoken about what I wanted to do and they just made it happen. I could have gone. I just think it would have been silly to go over there, worry about supercross and try to learn that before I have really hit my stride in Europe.
I want to be a world champion. That is my goal and that is why I am here, working my butt off in the freezing cold. It is not just to waste time and fill in spots on the gate. I have come this far in Europe now, so I might as well get some reward out of freezing during the winters and the other difficult obstacles that I have had to overcome.
Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself for next year? If you spent the next five years in Europe, there is no doubt that you would be world champion. If, for whatever reason, it does not happen next year, are you going to be a bit disappointed and wish that you could have another stab at it?
Yeah. But, at the end of the day, I am just going to rock up and race my dirtbike as hard as I can, regardless of where I am in the world or what position. Whether I holeshot or am thirtieth in the first turn, it does not matter. I think I am mentally strong enough to take it race by race, race my dirtbike and have fun. I have got a good crew of people around me and good people in my life, so putting pressure on myself is not going to be an issue. I can switch on as soon as that helmet goes on and race my dirtbike, just like I know I can. It is obviously going to be difficult, but we just have to roll with the punches and keep working. You get out what you put in.
A three-year deal with GEICO Honda is pretty massive, not many people get long-term deals like that anymore. Were there any other American teams that showed interest in you?
Yeah, for sure. Three years with Geico is awesome. It is really comforting, like I said, to already have a good relationship with them, even though I have not really started there yet. I am super excited and hope that there will be many more years after that. I would like to stay on the same bike for longer than a year, you know, as the past two teams have shut down. I am looking forward to it. We were talking and stuff, but I definitely think that we have made a good decision for our future. They are all like family guys and good blokes. The feeling was good from the very first time that we met them, just because they are good people who you can trust. I am happy with it.
Have you got much experience with supercross, even on the smaller tracks in Australia?
Yeah, I would do supercross every year when I was growing up through the junior ranks and stuff. I have been in Europe for two years now though and have not done it. I mean, I could have forgotten everything or end up picking it up faster than before. We’ll find out when I get on a supercross track again. I am super excited to get back on one though.
Going back to the moment that you found out that Suzuki were not going to run in MX2, did you freak out at the time?
I did not grasp it at first. I got told on Sunday at Jacksonville, after the racing. I was still pretty happy, because it was a good weekend and stuff, so was on a high. To get told that sucked a bit, but I did not fully grasp it. My manager and Dad understood a little better though. It was difficult at that time in the season, as a lot of guys were already signed or had just signed the week before. It was definitely a bit of a spanner in the works for us. We thought we were bad, but the MXGP guys were even later. We felt sorry for ourselves when it happened, but I cannot imagine what it was like for those guys and the mechanics too.
One thing that everyone hinted at all year, but you obviously could not confirm it, was that Jeremy Seewer had a bit of a faster bike than you. Can you confirm that now?
Yeah. I think I can now! It was coming into the start of the season. I mean, he was going for the title and obviously there were two other MX2 guys. When you have three MX2 guys, you know, you have like four bikes to the halfway mark in the season and it is a lot of budget basically. You know how it is. The more money you spend on an engine, the more horsepower you can generally get out of it. It came down to a little bit of that – that is just how it was. I am not pissed about it, because all I wanted to do coming into the season was learn through the experience. I think it made me a better rider and helped me create more skills. Not having the horsepower that some of the other guys had, I had to come into the corners faster and that sort of thing. I do not think it was a bad thing that I did not have a faster engine, because it created a better rider for when I do get one in the future.
Finally, what are your plans for the winter? You are back from Australia now, but are you going back over there for Christmas?
I am here now. I just did one trip to Australia and have been back for like five weeks now. It was just one trip over, because my whole family is here and taking the whole family over is really expensive. We only do that trip once. That was the first time since we first came over to Europe actually! We’ll stay in Belgium now and just keep training here until Argentina.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Suzuki Racing