AMA Pro Motocross

The Debate: Making the best case for and against Jeffrey Herlings racing AMA Pro Motocross

jeffrey_herlings_static_2022_mxgp_427739_m01

Will Jeffrey Herlings switch to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship for the 2022 season? It’s easily the most eagerly-awaited rider decision in recent years – probably the biggest since US superstar Ryan Villopoto announced he would give MXGP a go back in 2015.

There’s certainly a case that can be made for Herlings, but I fear the one against is much stronger.

But before I get into a serious full-blown argument with myself (again), let’s take a quick look at how we got here in the first place.

Herlings had been announced as the headline act for the pre-season Hawkstone International. He then headed to Spain where, as expected, he dominated at Montearagon with two wins.

All was going well for The Bullet until an ill-fated official KTM photoshoot left him with an injury to his left heel.

Long story made a little shorter, speculation went back and forth on the time he would need to be off his factory KTM. While some fans in Britain hung on to the hope he would make it to Hawkstone or Matterley Basin, others suggested he would miss two to three rounds of MXGP, while KTM and Herlings remained non-committal.

Each time the FIM and Infront released rider entries, fans would scramble to see if the #84 was there. That soon ran out of steam as rounds passed and it became clear the injury was more troublesome than expected.

By this time, it was obvious the chance of a sixth world championship had gone with Team HRC’s Tim Gajser galloping away with the series.

With that realisation, the rumours began. Could the mighty Herlings turn his back on MXGP for the remainder of the year and finally get to race a handful of the AMA Pro Motocross rounds or even a whole season?

At the Portuguese GP, KTM’s Dirk Gruebel said Herlings had only just been cleared to put weight on his foot, and when asked about the possibility of the move to AMA he said there were lots of rumours and nothing is confirmed. In fact, he went further and said that even they (KTM) didn’t know.

Several weeks on and Herlings and KTM have stayed tight-lipped other than Gruebel saying that it would be good for the KTM group to have Herlings race in America.

Fans keen to see another legend added to the start gate at Fox Raceway on May 28 have been given one piece of glorious news with nine-time world champion Tony Cairoli confirmed for at least the first two races of the season.

Meanwhile, rumours suggest the Dutchman will soon be back on the bike, perhaps as soon as this week.

So should Herlings go to the USA and show the world he’s still the man?

Supercross is where the money is at in the US, and Herlings isn’t going to be doing that.

However, I think he has a burning desire to race in front of big, enthusiastic crowds on some of the best tracks in the world, and prove himself against the only other elite racers left for him to beat. Money is secondary.

While I desperately want to see Herlings return to MXGP for some much-needed interest – it’s a bit dull in the MXGP class this year, especially after the high notes of last season (or is that just me) – I would love to see Herlings do a full season of Pro Motocross.

The interest in that championship would go through the roof, which would be great if you’re called Davey Coombs.

What might also happen is a bit more respect for MXGP or at least its riders. You know, for the Americans who hang on to the notion that their series and riders are the best of the best and that MXGP is a lesser series.

And to be fair, I can see some of their arguments, with its trips to places that haven’t even heard of motocross and MXGP’s – at times – almost half empty gates.

But I feel it needs that full season for Herlings or the debate of the fastest man on the planet will just rumble on. Herlings needs to go for the full season and win the whole thing.

So the upside is his MXGP season is a write-off – for him and KTM. He might give KTM a massive boost if he goes to the US and wins and he’d settle the argument for good.

But there are some big negatives.

He would be going into the campaign with less-than-ideal prep time, after a long time away from elite racing. Herlings has only just got off his crutches and is headed to unfamiliar tracks with a semi-familiar bike against a few guys that will be absolutely on it.

That’s not great when you’re on the gate with Eli Tomac, Dylan Ferrandis, Ken Roczen, Jason Anderson, Chase Sexton, Adam Cianciarulo and fellow KTM men Cooper Webb and Cairoli.

As Cairoli recently said: “You cannot prepare for a season in a month.”

If he doesn’t win enough, we’ll never hear the end of it. His fans will argue he didn’t win because of the reason I’ve already stated, while US fans will rag on him to the end of time.

And what about his GP win stat. He is desperate to take that record away from Stefan Everts, even more so now that he knows he won’t get his 10 world titles. If something happened in America that would stop him from returning to MXGP in 2023 to see that record out, it may eat away at him – especially when he’s so close.

But in the words of our esteemed editor, Jeffrey gonna do what Jeffrey wanna do.

More Motocross