04/09/2009 | 1 comments
Motocross fans, by and large, are a knowledgeable lot. Those that follow the comings and goings of the sport’s top exponents, are quick to notice when anything is new or has changed. When an unfamiliar start number popped up at the front of the pack in both races of the Belgian Grand Prix at Lommel recently, the antennae were extended full length to get the full low-down on who the mystery man on Suzuki #128 is.
The man of the moment is Rasmus Jorgensen, a seventeen year old Dane, and let us get right into the facts and state straight off the bat that he is no relation to Denmark’s most famous motocross export of recent years, Brian Jorgensen. For the teenager, the events of the first weekend of July were like a fairy tale, and at the end of race day, his head was still spinning in disbelief. Up until the Wednesday before the race he was still blissfully unaware that his GP debut lay in store for him on the notoriously difficult sand pit of Lommel, and on Sunday he rode to a sixth place finish overall in the Grand Prix, a sensational entry into world championship racing.
There is a bit of delicious irony to this interview, which was conducted over a period spanning a few weeks. When we first started speaking to the Danish teenager, the concept was to elaborate on the troubles that he had had during the season and his experiences on the comeback trail, with a view on informing the motocross community at large that he is still very much alive and kicking. By the time we were done, the whole piece had acquired a completely different slant, for now it was directed at acquainting the world with the man who had produced one of the most remarkable Grand Prix debuts in recent times.
With a shock of blond hair and piercing blue eyes, the tall Dane can not be mistaken for anything but a Scandinavian. He has an easy, relaxed way about him, and his words and actions reveal a maturity beyond his years that was also apparent during his by-now much-hyped outing. Where other may have faltered whilst riding near the front of a world championship race, under intense pressure from some of the world’s top riders, he kept his cool. As the fastest riders came by, he kept out of trouble, all the while maintaining his own pace, and bringing his bike home in eighth – and seventh places in the two race respectively.
Let us spool back to the beginning of the 2009 season, however. A year that held so much promise for the youngster, very suddenly turned into seeming disaster when he sustained a serious shoulder injury at the season opener in Frankenbach, Germany in March. “The injury frustrated me big time,” he reflects. ” I worked so hard during the winter, and the moment I got up from the ground, I knew that any hopes of the European Championship title were gone. The shoulder was dislocated for more than 1 and a half hours and finally they reduced it under full anaesthetic. The doctor initially said I would be out for a minimum of five months, but I worked hard on my recovery, and after 3 months I was ready to ride again.”
“I had my comeback race at the European Championship event in Markelo,” he continues. “It started of well, and I was straight back to speed, being third fastest in pre-qualifying. I had a bad start in the first race and some riders crashed in front of me, but i could come back well, and my confidence grew. I then won a Danish championship race, and then we went to the European Championship event in Faenza. I was second fastest in time training, and in the qualifying race I came from 14th to third, just a few seconds behind the leaders. In the race I had another good comeback ride, but I crashed and injured my knee, and the outlook was grim again. I had the speed, this much was clear, but no results on paper, and I desperately needed to prove myself to teams and sponsors.”
The youngster is no stranger to success on the track, He has a string of Danish titles to his credit (on many occasions being the youngest rider in the history of the country to have achieved the particular feat). He was 7th in the junior world 85cc championship in 2005, and 6th in the 125cc Junior World Championships in 2008, and interspersed these with top results in international events like the ADAC Youngster Cup in Germany, where he finished second in 2007. He is also known for his supercross prowess, and is a favourite rider of many once the winter supercross series rolls along.
Despite his undoubted talent, Rasmus still finds it hard going to find the support to maintain his presence in the sport. “Everyone knows it it tough economically, and it is much harder to find support nowadays. Suzuki Denmark help me a bit, but the Suzuki International Junior team that I formed part of in 2008 stopped after the season, and this made things even more difficult. Motocross in Denmark is really small, although there are some good people trying to bring positive results to the sport, but this is my passion and my whole life, and I will do everything to keep going in the sport. I am very grateful for each and every bit of support, and I would like to thank all my sponsors and supporters. You all know that the support means a lot to me.”
The entry into the GP of Belgium came as a big surprise. ” I had no idea that I was going to be in the race,” he says, still incredulous at the pace with which events unfolded over the few days. “I got the call on Wednesday that Xavier Boog was still not well enough yet to ride, and they invited me to be a guest rider for the Teka Suzuki team. This was like a dream come true, and I did not hesitate for one moment. I am used to sand riding, so I did not have a worry about the track as such, but it was a really big moment for me.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The teenager grasped the opportunity with both hands and qualified in 12th position on Saturday. On Sunday he blasted off the line like a seasoned veteran and rode to eighth place in the first heat. ” I did not expect this,” he said after the race. “My goal was to slot into it, and I thought that if I’m in the points, I would be happy. It still hasn’t sunk in,” he admitted. “I feel like I’ll wake up any moment and find it was all just a dream.”
In the second race, unfazed by the buzz that he had created, Rasmus went one better. He finished seventh in the race, and when the scores were tallied up, he was sixth overall for the day, nothing short of astounding. The emotion lay shallow in his eyes after the race. “This weekend I will never forget. In the space of a few days my whole season turned around. A few days ago I was still wondering what I could do to make the motocross world take notice, and now all of this has happened.”
He was definitely not suffering for a lack of attention now. Supporters and well-wishers milled around, and the motoring press were beating a path to his door to get to know more about this exciting newcomer. Still, he remains with his feet firmly on the ground, already thinking about the next European Championship event in Lacapelle Marival in France. From a distance, we watch as Rasmus Jorgensen soaks up the accolades with quiet dignity. It is pleasing to see that in real life, feel-good scripts do exist …