Aussie import Mitch Evans (Team HRC) is looking to build on the highs and lows of his debut season in the MXGP class and establish himself as a front-runner on a 450 in 2021. Injuries may have limited him to 14th in the championship rankings this year but the 22-year-old showed huge potential.
After kicking off his campaign with a third-placed finish in the first moto of the year at Matterley Basin, next time out at Valkenswaard he dislocated his shoulder. The enforced break due to COVID-19 gave him extra time to recover and after finding his feet during the first couple of Latvian rounds he posted a string of solid results before crashing out in Spain and breaking his wrist.
“It was definitely a big learning curve but I settled in really well straight away and gelled with the bike,” said Mitch. “Right away I felt comfortable on it. The results came straight away. I started off the season strong and then unfortunately had this shoulder injury but it was a good transition to the 450 I thought and a good transition to my first time ever being in a factory team.
“It was pretty special and something I’ll remember for a long time. I learned many things, especially racing with the 450 guys. They seem to be able to put in the same lap times all race long and that’s something I really need to work on.”
It’s easy to forget that 2020 was only Mitch’s second year contesting the FIM Motocross World Championship after he made his debut in MX2 in 2019 for Livia Lancelot’s Honda 114 Motorsports team, podiuming at his first attempt in Argentina and again in Portugal.
“It’s unfortunate that I broke my wrist because I felt like that weekend was going to be my weekend. I had the mentality that I was there to win and even if I didn’t win I felt that I was definitely going to be on for a podium. I really wanted to get a moto win before the year was out but that didn’t happen so my aim is to get one as soon as possible in 2021. I’ve just got to be patient and my time will come.”
Just for the record, Mitch was running third behind Jorge Prado (Red Bull KTM) and Romain Febvre (Monster Energy Kawasaki) when he crashed on the fourth lap of the opening moto of the GP of Spain.
“I’m a little bit disappointed about what could have been [this year] but at the same time I had a great season. I believe personally that this season was better than last season and I certainly much more enjoyed this season, even though I had the injuries.
“I was so proud of myself that I was able to come back and start getting close to the front and challenging for podiums again. To me that’s most important. It was a bit of a bummer to end the season with another injury but I know I’ve come back from an injury once before – there’s no worry in my mind that I can’t do it again.”
On the eve of his third season in Europe, Mitch is finally getting used to the culture shock of living on the other side of the world.
“It was a big change. In Australia you drive 40 hours and it’s the same culture, the same language and everything. You drive 40 hours in Europe and you probably pass seven different languages so that and the food and everything was a bit different. It was good to learn and good to experience it all [but] it was definitely the day-to-day things that I struggled with the most – the racing came easily.”
Mitch feels that having defending champion Tim Gajser under the same awning was a big help this year.
“Tim’s such a great guy and a great personality and a real role model for younger riders. It was definitely a lot easier having Tim [on the team] because when we did testing I was able to see my lap times compared to his and knew I wasn’t far off – but it was about doing those lap times every race.
“The thing that really shocked me the most about racing with the 450s is that there are 10 to 15 guys who are right there every lap, every race. If you try to have one lap where you have a little breather and drop a couple of seconds someone’s right on your tail ready to pass you. Then if one guy passes you there’s someone [else] coming so there’s no time to rest.”
With next year’s first MXGP scheduled for Oman at the start of April, Mitch has just under four months left to prepare.
“I’m looking forward to 2021 and coming in healthy. My goal is to stay healthy all season long and just try to be as consistent as I can. Get good starts and stay out of the carnage as much as I can and just be there every weekend. As long as I’m racing every weekend then I’m going to be improving.”