Features 10 Aug 2022

Five Questions: Mitch Evans

On breakthrough Swedish MXGP weekend, improving form and MXoN.

Team HRC’s Mitch Evans registered his best result of the year at the Uddevalla round of the MXGP on Sunday, breaking through for a qualifying race win, then finishing with 10-4 moto results for sixth overall. MotoOnline caught up with the 23-year-old this week to ask him Five Questions.

Image: Supplied.

How were you feeling coming into Sweden?

I’d only been to Uddevalla once in 2019 and I like the track – it’s quite small and its slower average speed and tighter corners are similar to the tracks I grew up racing in Australia. In 2019 I was coming back from a concussion and was struggling on the bike, but I still rode well, finishing seventh overall in the MX2 class. Going into this weekend I was feeling good. I’ve recovered well from my massive crash at Lommel two weeks ago and was excited with the progress we’d made with the bike. I’m feeling much more confident in the bike and when I’m on-track I’m not doubting or second-guessing myself any more. At Sweden I felt I could ride within my limits and know I’d post top five lap-times, and that took the stress off, for sure.

Were you happy to finish sixth overall on Sunday after winning Saturday’s qualifying race?

Not really! Considering how I felt on the bike and after winning the qualifying race on Saturday, I wanted a podium at least and I was going for the win. That qualifying race was the first time since racing in Australia where I felt like I was just at a training session, I wasn’t held back by my fitness or strength, and I could try different lines to figure out if I could push more in certain places. Every time I’d see the pit board it was just showing lap times, exactly like practicing at a track. I was really excited for Sunday, but unfortunately, I lost my rear in turn three and restarted in last place. I pushed my way through the pack up to 10th, and I was disappointed with that, but people said I still rode well. In the second moto I wasn’t aggressive enough during the first couple of laps and lost positions, and it was quite difficult to make passes. I basically played follow-the-leader for the rest of the race and finished fourth. That’s my best result of the year and I set the fastest lap of the race, so I can’t be too upset, but I was hoping for more, that’s for sure. The team was really happy with my riding, especially after qualifying, and it was nice to reward my practice and race mechanics with a win. It’s not fun for them when I’m back in 20th. It was quite funny, as during that qualifying win, my mechanic wrote ‘breathe’ on my pit-board, but I’m still not sure if he wrote that for my benefit or for his!

Image: Supplied.

Why are your results steadily improving this year?

It’s a combination of things. I’m getting my fitness and strength back and over the past couple of weeks we’ve made really good progress with the bike. We didn’t test during winter as I still had pain in my wrist, which meant we came into the season behind the eight-ball and trying to use some of the race weekend sessions for testing. We have a new frame on the Honda this year, so the suspension characteristics are quite different, and it’s taken a while to find a setting that works. I feel like we made some great changes the week leading up to Loket in mid-July, and now I have a lot more trust in the bike, can attack corners a lot harder, and feel like I can have a lot of fun with it. Having my older brother, Richie, over here at the moment has helped heaps as well. When I’m testing with the team I know what I want, but I have a hard time getting my point across with the language barrier. Richie’s able to ask me different questions to describe what I’m feeling and he can then relay that to the mechanics. My wrist has also improved a lot. This weekend was the first where I didn’t feel any pain at all, so that’s encouraging. I’ve also struggled with strength in my arms towards the end of the motos, so this week we changed to a lighter-feeling clutch and I could use it all moto. Beforehand I could only get halfway through a race before I had to stop using it because my arms were so sore.

Who would be your idea team-mates if you get the call-up to represent Australia at the Motocross of Nations?

The Lawrence brothers, of course – their riding and results speak for themselves. I don’t know what’s happening, but I’d like to be there, for sure. It would be cool for the three of us to get chosen for Team Australia, as we all raced together growing up. Well, Hunter and I raced each other and Jett was the annoying little kid being a smart-ass in the background the whole time [laughs]. It’d be pretty awesome for all of Team Australia to be on Hondas, too. If the team that gets named is myself, Hunter and Jett, we’d be one of the favourites and I’m sure we’d have a really good chance of taking the win.

When can we expect to hear news of who you’ll be riding for in 2023?

From my side, I have no idea as I haven’t signed anything for next year yet. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be in Europe as I have my life set up here now with my girlfriend and I’m really comfortable here. We’re expecting to receive a contract on the table soon, so in the next few weeks I’m hoping we’ll have some news to share about who I’ll be riding for next season.