Brent Van Doninck is one of the many MX2 riders who is facing an uncertain future. When the final chequered flag waves at the Grand Prix of China in September, it will mark the end of his 250F career. There are still eight motos to go, however, so there are certain boxes that he still wants to tick before moving onto pastures new. All of that is discussed in this in-depth MX Vice interview from the Grand Prix of Belgium.
MX Vice: Not the home GP that you wanted at all, really. We are doing this midday on a Sunday, which means it didn’t go well. Yesterday you had a pretty scary crash. Not even a scary crash, but what happened after it wasn’t great. Talk us through everything that happened yesterday and how you kind of got to this point.
Brent Van Doninck: Yeah, yesterday I felt really good in free practice. I got third, I think, then in timed practice I just finished a hot lap, but it wasn’t a great lap. I came together with another rider after the finish-line jump. It was really stupid actually, because I cannot really remember how it happened. Came together, touched handlebars, twisted my handlebar and it threw me over the bars.
I smashed my head on the face of the waves section. You can also see it on my helmet that I really smashed the right side of my head. Since then, lights out. I was knocked out. People told me that I was shaking a lot. I talked about it with the doctor, with the specialist in the hospital. They said this is not an epileptic attack or something. You see it also many times in boxing games. Someone gets knocked out and they start shaking a little bit. It’s like a normal… I would not say normal, but a reaction of the brain.
They took some scans and everything, but everything is alright. I feel pretty good today, actually. I wanted to ride but the FIM doctor won’t let me ride. I do have a paper from the specialist in the hospital that he gave me the okay to ride, but the FIM doctor has the last word. He said, “No, you will not ride.” The rules are that if you have been knocked out for a few minutes that you are not able to ride. That sums up the weekend.
The FIM doctor didn’t do a test on you then? You didn’t even get a chance to talk about it? It was just like, “Nope. Not a chance you are riding.”
No. They did some tests yesterday of course, here at the track. I wanted to go to the hospital also just to be sure, to see a specialist and everything. Today I came back and saw the FIM doctor. He didn’t even ask how I felt. He was just like, “No, you are not riding today.” He didn’t even let me talk or anything.
I wasn’t really happy about that, but that’s the rules. He is the boss, so I cannot do anything about it. I’m really disappointed, because I have a lot of fans and friends here. Like I said, I feel pretty good today. I think I still had a chance to do pretty good, actually, so it’s a shame.
Hearing that you were shaking after you got knocked out, that must have been pretty scary. I guess one good thing is the doctor said that is nothing to worry about. When people told you that, you must have freaked out a little bit?
Yeah. I really didn’t know what happened at first. I woke up in the ambulance here and was completely strapped up. My neck in the cast. It was a little bit scary. First thought I had was like, “Is there something wrong with my back? Am I paralysed or whatever?” I didn’t know what happened. Then they told me I was knocked out for a few minutes and I was shaking a lot. That scared me a little bit. Then after when we did the scans and when they told me there’s nothing going on, I was not worried anymore.
I feel like, looking at your season up until this point, it has actually been really good. Better than anyone probably realises. Maybe the reason for that is the results haven’t quite matched up to the speed. Is that kind of how you see it?
I was struggling a little bit in the beginning of the year, but I’m doing pretty good at the moment. In Indonesia I had two really good races. Loket was not so bad, but also not my best race. I couldn’t really find the flow on this track. I didn’t feel that good actually there and then this weekend I felt great again. My speed is for sure much better. I’m still struggling with my starts.
This has always been a problem, because I’m a heavy guy. I’m eighty-one or eighty-two kilos. Next to that, I had some DNFs also already this year. That was bad. I’m feeling good again like in the past, like in my good years, I would say. I’m talking now like I’m an old guy… I’m still riding MX2 and twenty-three-years-old. I think my career still has to start also a little bit. Going to MXGP next year, if I have a ride, so we will see.
That was going to be my question. Do you feel like you are as good as you were when you were on a Yamaha and podiuming races? Do you feel like maybe you might be even faster than that now?
For sure I’m stronger. I wouldn’t say faster, but I think I’m quite on the same speed. Like I said, also it’s harder to show it these days in the races. I feel the level is wider. Now you have fifteen or twenty really fast guys here. I feel like when I was riding with Kemea three years ago there were ten fast guys. Even if I had a bad start outside of the top twenty, I would still finish in the top ten. That is really hard these days. Even the guys that are fighting for fifteenth, they are so fast and strong physically. For sure, I’m physically stronger than I was a few years ago. Just need to have a little bit of luck, a good start and I can do what I did a few years ago.
I feel like obviously had you not had the thing happen yesterday, you could have talked about top five or maybe even being on the podium this weekend. The last couple of weeks the speed has definitely been there. You can definitely put yourself in that conversation of finishing on the podium again. People forget you have actually done that twice in your career.
Podium is hard these days. You see also a few top guys that still didn’t make it to the podium. This race is in my backyard. Physically, to be honest, I think I’m one of the stronger riders in the class. I worked really hard this winter. I feel really good. I think I had a good chance to finish in the top five this weekend or maybe a podium if there was some luck on my side. Could have been a good weekend.
Looking at your season to this point, are you happy? Do you still feel like you have got a few more boxes to tick? Not only is the season winding down, your MX2 career is as well. I’m guessing there are a few things you want to achieve before you get booted out.
Yeah. My goal was to finish one time again on the podium maybe this year. It’s a shame I had a few DNFs. Otherwise I would be in the top ten in the championship, if I see my results. To be honest, I really enjoyed this year until now. Especially with the team… They are like family to me. They work so hard on the bikes. You cannot blame them anything, even if you have a DNF or whatever. They work so hard. There’s always an “if I did this or maybe I could have done this a little bit better.”
I don’t really have regrets this year. I always give it my best. I always give it one hundred percent. Even like last weekend in Loket, I gave myself one hundred percent, but I couldn’t go faster. I didn’t find the rhythm and the lines. Until now, I’m quite happy with how the year has been.
Onto next year then, which is obviously a hot topic at the moment. You have got to move up to MXGP. You have no choice. Do you feel like you are ready? If you could stay down for whatever reason, would you even look to move onto a 450?
To be honest, I think it’s time for me to step up to the MXGP. Like I said, I’m a heavy guy. I’m actually riding better with the 450 also. In the wintertime I was riding two or three months with a 450 and I was quite fast. I felt really comfortable also on the bike. To be honest, with the ‘Nations this year, I kind of hoped that they would have picked me to ride a 450, because this would have been a good chance to show myself on the 450 also.
Of course, Kevin [Strijbos] has more experience than me. I was a little bit disappointed because, like I said, it was a good chance to show myself. At the moment I don’t have anything for next year. We are talking a little bit with some guys, but nothing is sure yet. I hope I get a few phone calls after this one. We’ll see.
With those talks you are having at the moment, are you happy with the way things are going? Does it at least look like you may end up with something?
I think I will find something. Like I said, I have a big heart for the sport so even if it’s a free ride… Of course, I need to survive also. I need to live also, but if I get the chance to ride in a really good team or even a factory team for free then I would take it. You don’t get this chance maybe often, but we’ll see.
Are you stressed? Are you stressing out about next year or are you quite relaxed about it all?
For sure you are a little bit stressed and you think about it, but we still have a few races. Many brands are really late with their budgets, so many teams still don’t know what are they going to do. We’ll see. I don’t know how many guys, but I think there are eight or nine guys that need to go to MXGP. It will be hard, for sure. I think of the guys that need to go over to MXGP, I think I’m one of the better guys. Maybe that helps a little bit. We’ll see.
How about this then? I talked to a few teams about riders and stuff like that, but someone said to me they would be scared to put you on a 450 because of how much you rev the 250. Obviously, you have ridden the 450 loads and you are actually confident that you will going to be good on one. It’s not even guessing. You know you are going to be good.
Yeah. I know I’m struggling a little bit with the gears sometimes, especially this year. You need to rev the bike a little bit more, the Honda, than the rest of the bikes. It’s strange. When I ride the 450 I don’t have it at all, actually. A 450 I would say you can ride almost the whole lap in the same gear, because it’s so strong. I don’t have this problem with the 450, like I said, and also my mechanic said, “You ride the 450 much smoother than the 250.” That’s good. That’s not a problem.
Have you always revved the bike like that? I don’t remember you revving it that much on the Husky or the Yamaha. Have you always been a bit like that?
Yeah, always revved a little bit more but not like this year. I don’t know why, actually.
It’s like panic revs everywhere.
Yeah. You need to keep the bike loaded with revs as soon as you land on the jump or something. I don’t know. I kind of feel better with the Honda when I rev it a little bit more. I don’t know exactly why. The past years I didn’t really have that problem.
Any teams that are reading this and anyone who is looking for a rider, you are more than happy to talk? You are open? It’s not like you’re close to signing a deal, right? You are ready to ride a 450 and will talk to whoever wants to listen.
Sure. Call me.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer