The muddy Grand Prix of Italy was a nervy time for Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings but the 20-year-old Dutchman was still able to pick up his 13th chequered flag of the year and eighth podium finish from the nine rounds so far.
A gigantic 139 points at the head of the MX2 standings means that the 2012 and 2013 champion is firmly on course for a third crown with his 250SX-F. We spoke with him just after his second place at Maggiora…
DBR: Quite a bit of rain here…and I think that’s the most nervous I have seen you before a moto…
Jeffrey Herlings: Definitely, that’s what I told you when I saw you! It was going to be special. Racing in the mud is such a gamble, whoever gets the start will be running up front, like Tonkov in the first moto and then the same with me in the second.
You see some different results, like Philippaerts taking second place in MXGP – the guy did a great job – but that would normally not happen in dry conditions. Anyway we did a great job for the championship and took a lot of points over my nearest competitors like Jonass and Guillod and Tixier.
DBR: You were sixth in the first race and looked like you were already in championship mode by going nice and easy…
JH: Yeah, but also after a few laps my bike was getting very warm and the power was popping and I could smell the clutch. I knew I could not push any more and would just have to survive and take 10 or 15 points instead of zero. I just rode for the championship…while in the second moto I put the hammer down.
DBR: Around the Winners Circle afterwards you looked really p*ssed off and went looking for somebody. What happened there…??
JH: Well….everybody tries to beat me in the MX2 class. I’m a target and in the starts somebody is always trying to cut me up.
In the second moto Tixier and Guillod got lapped but kept riding in my way. Gajser closed up 10 seconds on the last lap simply because Guillod did not move. I was so p*ssed. If you are getting lapped then just move out of the way! I know they are racing as well but if I did the same to them then they would also be p*ssed. I thought it wasn’t so fair.
DBR: Guillod mentioned something about you cutting him off at the start…
JH: I wasn’t supposed to but Gajser pushed me wide. They know I would never do anything like that and I try to race safe because I’ve had so many injuries already. I don’t want to get in trouble and don’t want to p*ss off other riders on purpose. I think it is a bit childish and if they want to beat me then they should do it straight up, like Guillod did in England where I gained a lot of respect for the guy.
DBR: So half of the season is done are you quite content with where you are, your form and position?
JH: Yeah, I’m super-happy. I’ve ‘only’ won four rounds and that is not the ‘normal’ me. I’ve been second four times and missed out in Argentina due to that crash and DNF in one moto.
I’ve been consistent and that’s why I’m almost 140 points in front. It doesn’t mean much when you think of last year though: I still lost it. I think the only thing that can stop me this season is an injury. We will see, and in the second part of the season are a lot of great tracks for me like Lommel, Assen, Glen Helen, Mantova and Latvia. It should be good.