Jeffrey Herlings was simply perfect at the Grand Prix of Germany, much like he was in Trentino and Portugal. Students of the sport will study the tape from the event for many years to come. What was the key to his success on a track where most struggled to find an edge over their fellow competitors? MX Vice editor, Lewis Phillips, caught up with the current series leader for an exclusive chat beneath the beating sun on Sunday evening.
MX Vice: Perfect weekend, really. I do not think that you put a foot wrong at all…
Jeffrey Herlings: No. That is good, right? It was a good weekend. I think it was important yesterday to be first in pre-qualifying to have the inside gate. From there on we could pull off a holeshot, so very happy with that. To come out on top today with both moto wins, I think it was a pretty dominant performance. I am just very pleased and happy with it.
I was watching you in the second moto and I just couldn’t remember if I have ever seen you look this good, especially on a track like this. Is this the best you have ever felt, particularly on this track, even compared to your MX2 days?
Yeah, I felt so great on the track. It is not really my favorite track, like I said, but today when you get out from the first lap and basically from the second turn, you can just do your own thing like a training session. You can just focus on your riding and your own lines. You do not have to battle with your competition – that makes it easy work.
On a day like today, or weekend like this, starts are particularly important because let’s be honest, the prep was not great. It was better today than yesterday, but this is not exactly the best Teutschenthal we have seen.
No. I think the best I have seen it was at ‘Nations. I think in 2013 the track was really rough and a lot of places to pass. I remember [Eli] Tomac, I think, in that second moto he came from like mid-pack to second. I think it was first moto and he came from almost mid-pack to second before he had a big get-off on that leap jump, on the high jump. I think it was not the best I have seen it, but I think today it was pretty decent and good.
If you compare this event to last year, obviously you swapped moto wins with Tony [Cairoli]. Do you think that you were so dominant today because you are so much better than last year or he has gotten worse? Is it a little bit of both?
I definitely think he did not get worse, but last year my starts were not on point and today they were. Last year I started both motos outside the top five I think. Now after one turn I was leading both motos. His starts last year were both holeshots and now he did not start within the top five I think. I think it was because of his bad starts and my good starts that it was a different result this year compared to last year.
Watching you heading into the corner before pit lane, obviously everyone was doubling as you came off the start straight. Everyone was using the bank on the side of the track to get the lift, whereas you were doing it from the middle. How difficult was that and what kind of went into it from a technical standpoint?
Well, I actually didn’t see the line. I only saw the line in like end of the second moto, the last few laps, that they went through the bank and then jumped like a double. I went through the middle and I just rolled the first one and then just wheel-tapped some bumps, so I just did not see it.
In the second moto obviously you stopped doing that, so was that just because you did not feel like jumping from the middle was worth the risk? What was that?
There was not really a lift from the middle, so that is why nobody basically jumped from the middle. I did it first moto, but I did not do it second moto. Second moto I was just rolling the first one and then did some wheel taps over the bumps. At one point, like six or seven laps to go probably, I saw they were jumping from the bank. Then I did that and I think it was way faster.
In the first moto, on lap two or so I noticed the team told you to improve in sector one. You immediately did that and then through the rest of the day you were half a second quicker each lap. Was there anything that you can pinpoint that you did there?
I am just a good student I think! I just do what I get told. I do not know. I did not do anything different in particular. I saw sector one that I am too slow and they put it on the pit board probably. I did not really focus on it too much. I did not change lines – I was just a little bit more aggressive I think. Like I said, I did not change too much. That is actually pretty weird.
Was that the same in the second moto? Your sprint speed right out of the gate was phenomenal. You were two seconds a lap quicker. Obviously the track did not develop that much to where you can do special things like a sand track, so was it just a case of feeling the flow and just being aggressive?
No, I felt a good flow. I was just straight in the zone. I was leading and I had nobody really behind me pushing me, so I could just focus on my own race. I think that definitely helped.
Finally, you came in with a twenty-nine-point lead I think. You have now got forty-eight or so. If I told you that coming into the weekend, you would have taken it, but this does not change anything for you, does it? What you are doing is working, so why change?
Yeah, definitely not going to change. I remember I came here at this track with one hundred and forty or one hundred and fifty-point lead, then I broke my collarbone. The next GP [Sweden] I almost lost a pinky and then the next one after that I dislocated my hip. It does not matter how big the championship points lead is. It ain’t over until it is over. Definitely I prefer to be forty-eight points in front instead of behind but, like I said, it does not mean a thing.
It is almost like those injuries, they sucked, but they maybe helped your career in the long run, because you have got this outlook of a veteran like Tony. You know how to play this game now.
Yeah. I think it is very important to be consistent and be good every single race. This one, we tried to do I think. If you look at my average from this year, my worst from out of the eight GPs was a third place in one moto and all the others were first or second. Until now I have been very consistent. I know I am not going to be first, second or third for twenty rounds probably. It is important to be consistent. You see [Jason] Anderson won a championship that way. Cairoli and [Ryan] Dungey won multiple championships that way. I think the main thing is to really be consistent and try to win when I can, and when I cannot win I just try to be on the box or at least be close to the box.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer