Jeffrey Herlings absolutely dominated the Grand Prix of Belgium, round fifteen of the FIM Motocross World Championship, to the surprise of no one. Herlings is expected to demolish the competition whenever he rolls onto a sandy circuit. Did that come easy to him though? Was it an enjoyable weekend? The current series leader reflects on the weekend in this exclusive MX Vice interview.
MX Vice: I guess you are pretty good in the sand! Perfect weekend, really. Exactly what you would expect, but weekends do not get much better than that.
No, if I can do five more weekends like this… Four would be enough, actually, even with those results. I would be the happiest guy on the planet. It was a great weekend. Each practice faster. Did not make any big mistakes. I felt good, felt comfortable on the bike. The bike was working great. Three good starts and won qualifying and both motos.
Things change when you come to a race like this. Everyone expects you to win at a hard-pack track, obviously, but here it is a question of how far you are going to lap up to. How easy is it to ignore that sat on the line? Do your feelings change a little bit? You know that barring something catastrophic happening, even a crash in the first turn probably would not be enough, you are going to win here…
I know if I have a first-turn crash and Tony takes the holeshot, I know it is game over normally for the moto win. But at least I could normally get up to one of the podium spots. If that would happen in Swiss, I would have a first-turn crash, I probably will not get into the top five. That is just a little advantage I have of being born in the sand, let’s say.
Obviously, a lot of riders do not enjoy this GP. They hate it and they are probably sat right now just hating life. It is tough on you physically and everything, but do you have fun out there? At the end of the second moto can you honestly say that you were enjoying it?
No, I did really enjoy it. I have been born in the sand basically and I have been riding in the sand since I was a five-year-old kid. For me, it came more naturally, let’s say. But I really enjoyed it. For me it was not a walk in the park with the competition, but just riding it… I am good. I have done this for eighteen years probably.
Speaking of the competition, I think you lapped up to eighth in that second race. Does that surprise you? Those were some pretty good guys you ended up lapping. That is nothing to laugh about.
No, definitely. At one point I was lapping [Jeremy] Van Horebeek and [Shaun] Simpson and all those guys. They are fast guys, especially [Clement] Desalle. He is a great, great rider. Obviously, he is really good on the hard tracks and he is a bit less in the sand, maybe. I am a bit better on sand than I am on hard tracks. So, with that combination… Still, a tenth-place guy is still a fast guy.
I guess that’s where the lapping board that Ruben has comes into play. These guys are not used to it, so you actually have to find a way to let them know. If they saw the blue flag they would be like, “F**k that, that is not me.”
Yeah, probably. At this race we had a lot of lapped riders. Sometimes it gets in your favour, but sometimes it does not.
With everything that is going on at the moment with the Motocross of Nations, obviously the talk is starting. It is a great race, great prestige for all of you riders, but at the same time it can be the worst thing. There is already so much talk that is taking away from your victories, about [Eli] Tomac and everything. Does that piss you off? It is obviously good that people are talking about you in that regard, but it is almost like… Just leave it for now.
Yeah, obviously our main goal currently is to win the championship. It is nothing at the moment thinking about I need to race [Ken] Roczen or I need to race [Eli] Tomac two months from now. At the moment I am just thinking about how I want to win the championship and once that is under the belt, then I start thinking about that. Even the championship is still far, far away from achieving. We have still five more races. A lot of things can happen. Tony [Cairoli] is very strong physically, mentally, and he is for a reason nine-time world champ. For that guy it will not be done until probably Imola or Assen.
You obviously do a lot of laps on this track with training and testing through the winter and everything. When you come here, is your base setting good enough or do conditions change for the race? Is this the best that your base setting ever is?
No, obviously I have been on this track a lot, so we have a good set-up coming here. This week we did not change one click or one thing on the bike or whatsoever. We have been here so many times and we have a pretty amazing set-up for this bike anyhow, because we spent a lot of time here testing and riding and whatsoever.
At the same time then, coming here for a race after doing lap after lap, does it feel a bit different to other GPs?
Yeah. It is a little like a home GP, but obviously Valkenswaard and here I do not practice too much. Valkenswaard I basically go maybe once a year maximum and with this track I maybe go three to five times a year. That’s it. There are a lot of sand tracks anyhow, but I train more on the hard tracks than on the sand tracks because seventy percent of the races or more, I don’t even know exactly, are on the hard tracks.
Finally, moving forward everything is going in the right direction. If you take out the round that you missed, you have won every round since Russia. You obviously do not want to change anything.
No. It is good like this. If I win four more or five more, I am good. That is all I want to do. No, we are doing a great job right now. The team is doing absolutely a great job. The bike is amazing and suspension and everything. The people I am working with are doing a great job every weekend. I am pleased that we have done fifteen rounds, well I did fourteen, and there are only five to go. All the overseas are done. [There is] Bulgaria and Turkey, but that is not a really big trip. It will be Swiss, Bulgaria, Turkey, Assen, another home GP, and then Imola. Looking forward to it.
Just one thing that I thought about the Motocross of Nations quickly, at the moment how much are you begging the Dutch Federation, and [Calvin] Vlaanderen, to put him on the team? He is kind of a missing link. Are you over at the HRC truck just begging for him to go to RedBud?
Normally he will be the guy in our team racing the MX2 class. I called the guy from the federation and said, “He is the guy.” We need him on board. He has a double passport or whatever. He can race for Holland as well and for South Africa I think. I said we need that guy as a team. Hopefully we can go with me, Glenn [Coldenhoff] and Calvin. That is at least the plan and work from there.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer