Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings made a welcomed return to the Grand Prix paddock last weekend at the Grand Prix of Netherlands, held at the Valkenswaard circuit. While he wasn’t racing, just to see the defending champion back was great for the fans.
Herlings, who injured his foot in a practice crash in Spain during the off-season is working hard to come back for the second Italian GP at Mantova. Something that would be rather amazing considering he won’t get back on the bike until the end of April, giving him just a couple of weeks to prepare.
“Obviously the longer I wait, the better the foot will be,” Herlings said. “KTM want me back as soon as possible, so when I have no pain, they want me to race. It isn’t good to line-up at Mantova and finished 15th, but when I am capable of riding, I will race as quickly as possible. It will be two or three months before I am back where I should be.”
What the Dutchman can’t work out is why it is him that seems to break so many bones. Despite a near perfect off-season just one accident and it was all over for defending his World MXGP championship.
“I never crash, but when I crash, I usually break a bone and when I crashed in Spain, I looked at it and thought it was broken. I didn’t crash once all winter and then one crash and I break my foot, I didn’t understand why this happened. I should be racing with the guys and winning on the weekend. I am not a healthy human being and I want to come back when I am fully healed. I prefer having it in the pre-season than while I am leading a championship.”
As for going for records, which is generally his goal, the idea of winning a GP is still in his mind and come the second part of the season, Herlings wants to be on top of the podium and drinking champagne. For the time being though his 84 GP wins will remain just that.
“Hard to say how many GP wins I can get. The second part of the season I want to be as good as I was last season. The last seven or eight races I want to be the Jeffrey Herlings I know. I will practice anyway, and KTM want me as good as possible, as long as I am there signing autographs and riding around. It isn’t realistic to see me at the front, but I will see it just as a practice.”
So now, just as we have done the last two months, we wait to see when the four-time World Motocross Champion returns and can claim his place on the start grid of the MXGP Championship. Obviously, a sand circuit like Mantova will be a good place to begin, but don’t expect fireworks as he slowly comes back from what has probably been the most difficult injury of his career.
Author: Geoff Meyer