When Jeffrey Herlings announced he may be forced to America next season, it came as a shock to many, disappointment to some and excited expectation by others.
Initially it was presumed Herlings would go to MX1 as he is currently defending his title in style. But on twitter Herlings rebuffed that presumption by saying: “Im 18, the average European career age is let’s say 30 without big accidents, why race 12 years in mx1?.”
And it is an understandable point. Racing 12 years in one class is going to be long haul for anyone and finding motivation may eventually prove difficult. But that moves Herlings on to another problem.
Under current FIM rules the MX2 world champion is only allowed to defend his title once irrespective if he is still with the under 23 age limit. This essentially means Herlings cannot race MX2 next year and will have to go to the USA to race the smaller capacity machine.
However, he doesn’t really want to. Herlings isn’t a big fan of the USA and doesn’t really like the lifestyle and culture. Those who know him maintain he would prefer to stay in Holland and race the World championship in MX2. America just doesn’t hold the same allure to him as the others.
Wednesday’s meeting between the manufacturers, the FIM and Youthstream will have essentially decided on Herling’s short term future beginning next year. And it would look pretty bad if they forced him to go to the USA when he wants to stay in GPs.
Another complication is Herlings, even if he actually wants to go to MX1 (or has too), he does not really have a place to go right now. It is hard to think he would want to, or be accepted into the official MX1 KTM team beside Cairoli. That is an Italian team ran by De Carli entirely built around Cairoli. Max Nagl left and said he never felt totally comfortable there and Cairoli apparently wasn’t keen on having a title challenger in the same team.
Herlings would absolutely be a title challenger to Cairoli and it would be an uncomfortable seat to be sitting in under Cairoli’s tent. In order for KTM to facilitate Herlings in MX1 they would have to change their current structure and allow him to ride the MX1 bike under the MX2 tent ran by Stefan Everts, but then would that upset the De Carli team who have given KTM three successive MX1 titles?
Another long range option is to put Herlings on a Husky. Now run and owned by Ice One racing it would not be impossible for Herlings to run a KTM with essentially white plastics. But again that would mean Herlings riding for a new team without the backbone of Everts to support him.
Supposing then Herlings is allowed to stay in MX2, then people will call him a sandbagger, but is it really his fault he is so much better than everyone else? Not really. We, as fans would just be disappointed we won’t get to see him race Cairoli in MX1 if we are honest.
The option of going to the USA is intriguing, and for us fans it would be pretty exciting too, but if Herlings doesn’t really want to be there it will not be the best place for him.
Put yourself in Herlings shoes, why should he have to go to the USA if he doesn’t want to? He is the world champion, so instead of everyone saying Herlings has to prove himself in the USA, why not change it around, why not challenge the Americans to race the world champion in the World championship and not their own country?
To see current champion Blake Baggett ride for CLS Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 2014 against Herlings in the MX2GPs (if the rule is changed) would be a pretty mouth watering prospect! But unfortunately the reality is that will probably never happen.
Right now Herlings is being pulled in different directions. Youthstream ideally want Herlings in MX1 and the fans want him in America or MX1. KTM currently don’t seem to have a place for him in MX1 without changing their current structure but would have one in the USA (seamlessly replacing Roczen in 250s). Meanwhile Herlings wants stay in MX2 GPs, but currently can’t. It is all a bit of a mess, with each party’s agenda not correlating with anyone else’s.
So will a compromise be reached to give Herlings a viable option and who will have to compromise? The much anticipated results of Wednesday’s meeting will go a long way in deciding that. But right now Herlings is in a bit of an awkward, wait and see, situation.
All three options are possible, but it wouldn’t be surprising to the rule change to allow Herlings stay in MX2 GPs in 2014. But how good would Herlings v Cairoli be in 2014? Especially in the sand…
Article by Jonathan McCready
Picture by KTM Images/ Ray Archer