Features 9 Apr 2020

Conversation: Jed Beaton

Checking in with the Belgium-based Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider.

Words: Simon Makker

While every other Australian MXGP racer has rushed home in the face of the coronavirus pandemic that’s brought the world to a stop, 22-year-old Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Jed Beaton has elected to remain in his new home of Lommel, Belgium, to wait the situation out. MotoOnline.com.au caught up with the Tasmanian to find out why, as well as to get his thoughts on his new team and the opening two rounds on the MX2 World Championship.

Image: Supplied.

Tell us a bit about your current situation and where you’re living at the moment.

My girlfriend Holly and I are currently locked down in my apartment in Lommel. This is week three and the lockdown has been extended until the 19th. The virus hasn’t gone crazy like it has in Italy and Spain, but the only thing open is the doctor’s, the pharmacy and supermarkets. All the borders are closed, as are the tracks and everything. The team has had a bit of work to do building a brand new workshop, so they’ve been able to keep busy fine-tuning everything over the past few weeks, but they’ve pretty much finished now and will be on holiday soon.

So, Nathan Crawford, Wilson Todd, Mitch Evans and Bailey Malkiewicz all flew home to Australia now that the championship has been postponed. Why did you choose to stay in Europe?

I’ve got a full set-up here now, so it’s not like I need to go home – it feels like I am already, especially with my girlfriend here now. It’s good having my own space, especially if we have to be locked up all day. For me the risk factor of flying home with this virus going around was too high. My parents are in Tasmania and my brother, Ross, is in Melbourne, and if I flew back I would’ve had to spend two weeks in quarantine. If they make laws that I’d then have to be quarantined if I flew back to Europe, I would’ve lost a whole month. I thought it best to stay here, so I’m not stressed and the situation will sort itself out eventually.

How does it feel being in limbo like this and how are you keeping yourself sane?

At the start I was quite stressed out about it, but then I realised that everyone is in exactly the same boat and no-one has any advantage or disadvantage. Now I’m just doing what makes me happy – going cycling every now and then, keeping my fitness up, watching movies, playing PlayStation and spending time with my girlfriend, as we don’t really get time for that during a normal season.

Image: Supplied.

Looking back on the first two rounds, how do you think you went, performance-wise?

I was happy for the most part. I wanted to get through them the best I could and get in a decent position. I made a mistake in the second race at Matterly Basin and another in the opening race in Valkenswaard that both cost me podiums, but I had good speed. The errors I made were silly and it’s completely my fault that I missed out on both podiums. For being so early in the year I feel comfortable on the bike and was riding well, ready to build into the championship. The coronavirus has obviously thrown a spanner in the works for everyone and it could make it a really long year. There’s talk the series could go into November, so we have to be smart and be prepared for this to be a bit of a grind.

Your team this year has quite a different look to what it did last year and your early results are encouraging. Is it fair to say the new team dynamics are suiting you?

Last year I felt comfortable with everything straight away, but I had a shit off-season with injuries, then injured myself again in a pre-season race which effectively wrote my year off as I tried to come back too soon. This year the whole team has changed on the inside, with a new race team manager, Kay Hennekens from Nestaan MX. He bought a new workshop and brought a lot of the old team across to this new one, so it still felt familiar from a personnel point of view. I did some testing and I’m really comfortable on the bike, had a great off-season and pre-season. Now I have no doubts when I’m at races, I have a freed mindset when I go in, knowing I can race the full 30 minutes and be fine. Last year I had lots of doubts. People have asked me what the difference is this year and I say the only difference is I have had good preparation and I don’t have any niggling injuries. I know when I’m fit and healthy I can race well. It’s only early in the year and my race fitness isn’t at 100 per cent yet, so I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and building that again.

What is/was your goal for the season? Two rounds in, have those changed at all?

My main goals are to get decent results, build through the year and stay injury-free. Those haven’t really changed. Of course I have a goal of winning – everyone does – but it’s also about managing the championship really well. 20 rounds is a long series, but if rounds get cancelled and we have to race a shortened championship, my plans might change a bit. We’re all flying pretty blind at the moment and we can’t plan until we have some dates locked in and some certainty of what the future holds.