Mitch Evans was not involved in too many pre-season discussions, but ensured that he won’t be forgotten about again after a phenomenal ride at the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina. Racing in the FIM Motocross World Championship for the first time with Honda 114 Motorsports, a team that is in their sophomore term, Evans landed on the MX2 podium and gave Australian fans plenty to cheer about.
MX Vice: Your first MXGP round. Your first race with the team at this level. So many unknowns and, knowing all of that, did you expect this? Where the hell did this come from?
Mitch Evans: Honestly, I wanted to expect it. From the amount of work that I put in in the off-season I didn’t want to come here and make up numbers. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect this weekend at all. I just wanted to learn every time I was out there. I struggled on Saturday. After Saturday I said to myself that if I get a top ten then I’ll be happy. To land on the podium, I’m absolutely stoked. It’s been great working with Team 114, so we’re very happy. We have still got a lot of work to do, but we are going to enjoy this for sure.
You say you struggled on the Saturday, but you were sixth in the qualifying race. If that is you struggling, what can you do when you are at one hundred percent?
Yeah, I mean I struggled in the practice and qualifying. I just struggled with the high speed of the track. I knew once the race could come around that if I got a good start then it would be much better. I normally struggle to put one good lap together anyway, so once fitness comes into play it sort of helps in my favour. I wasn’t too concerned about it, especially after the qualifying race. I was a lot less stressed.
Is that maybe something that’s going to be a bit of a learning curve at this level? The intensity both in practice and at the beginning of the motos?
Yeah, absolutely. My first couple laps have always been terrible and it just gets amplified when we come to this level. That is going to be something I need to work on. It’s more so just trying to amp myself up before the race. Rather than taking four laps to get into it and finding my rhythm, I need to go right from the start. I think moto two was a lot better. We definitely made some improvements there.
I guess it’s even hard… There must have been nerves involved, all of that, so that makes it even harder to just turn your brain off and go for it.
Yeah. Honestly, I think I was more nervous standing on the podium than I was before the race because I had no idea of the situation or the routine or what to do. The nerves before the race weren’t too bad. I was just focused on what I had to do. It wasn’t too bad.
I guess the way that you rode at RedBud kind of helped you in that area, because in a way you have already proven yourself. Had you not done that, you’d have been a complete unknown. Even I, because of that, knew that you could do good. Situations like that must help.
Yeah, absolutely. Riding RedBud sort of gave me a bit of experience of what GPs are like but, as I found out this weekend, that’s way different again. That was kind of a bit of a mud race and I was on a 450. I was just stoked with how I got two good starts. That’s always been tough for me, getting good starts. Good starts help a lot and I was pretty happy with that.
International guys who haven’t grown up in Europe find that these overseas races help them, because it levels the playing field a bit. Obviously these guys have ridden here before, but they don’t practice here each week like they would at Lommel or whatever. Do you feel that helped a bit?
Honestly, I can’t answer your question because we haven’t gone racing at Lommel. From what I’ve heard though, yes. Most of the guys that I’ve raced have been coming here for two or three years. It’s not different. I’m normally pretty good at learning the track really fast, but this weekend I struggled because I’ve never ridden a track this fast before. It’s so high-speed. It was actually kind of scary, to be honest.
What sort of rider are you then? There are guys who are quite technical and good at reading the track, then there are guys who can ride this stuff by just turning their brain off and hanging off the back of the bike everywhere. What category do you go into?
Yeah, I’m definitely not the second one there. I’m more so when the track gets rough and technical, that’s where I sort of like to think I excel.
How can you handle these expectations now then? I’m sure you had a plan set out for yourself coming into the season. I’m sure a podium at round one wasn’t on that plan. How do you not get ahead of yourself and get disappointed when you go, say, 8-8 in the UK?
My goal for this season is to honestly finish every race, be healthy and learn as much as I can. I would have been happy with a top ten this weekend, so I feel as though it doesn’t put anymore pressure on myself at all. I have just got to take it day by day and keep doing the routine that we’ve been doing, because it’s obviously paying off. If I just keep my head on my shoulders, I think we can be consistent.
What’s tougher to get used to? Coming into MXGP and everything that comes with that or living in France?
Mostly living in France. The different culture, the different food and the different language. It’s been fun trying to learn French. It’s been tough, but I’m slowly picking up little bits. Honestly, I’ve found racing the GP this weekend so laid back. Sleep in, woke up, got to the track at 9:00 and don’t even start riding until like 10:45. Normally in Australia we are on track at 8:00am. I didn’t even get out of bed until 8:00 this morning! I enjoy it.
You say you are good at picking up a track quite quickly, but you have got like four hours to do that here. That isn’t really going to help you much!
Yeah, exactly. Honestly I had been told to take it easy in a lot of the practice and qualifying sessions, because there is a lot of racing. I found that today. I was pretty tired when I went to the line for moto two, but once I warmed up I was pretty good.
Finally then, moving on from here, obviously it was all good and everything, but what’s one thing that you feel you need to work on with yourself or something you specifically struggled with on the bike?
We have a little bit of work to do with the rear shock on the bike. It’s just a little bit soft. We just found out, because when you bring the race intensity you just push that little bit extra harder. Just make the shock a little bit stiffer. I need to work on my first four laps, making sure that my first lap is really good and not bad and lose a heap of time. Keep working on my starts, because good starts are a big help.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX