MXA INTERVIEW | RJ HAMPSHIRE TALKS ABOUT HIS HEAD INJURY, HIS BIKE & MORE

 

Geico Honda’s RJ Hampsire. 

Hailing from Hudson Florida RJ Hampshire’s early interest was a baseball career. But then around 15-16 years of age, motocross came calling. originally influenced by former Pro Tim Ferry, Hampshire decided racing was his true calling. RJ has overcome a very serious head injury, along with the routine injuries from motocross to become. A constant podium threat. We recenly talked to the 22-year-old, who while struggling with injury is continuing to race. Currently RJ is just outside the top ten in the 250 championship.

BY JIM KIMBALL

RJ, BEFORE GETTING TOO FAR AHEAD LET’S TALK ABOUT THE USGP IN FLORIDA LATE LAST SUMMER WHICH YOU WON. It was very cool. One thing was being in home state and the other was that so many family and friends were there. I don’t know, I just felt like I belonged to win that race. I just tried to bring confidence into that race, and I just showed up confident. I knew I could go out and win it, and that is pretty much what happened. It was cool, and it was awesome just to go into the off-season with that, which was pretty big. Then you know I gained so much fan base from overseas from the GP’s, which lead to a couple of off-season races which was really fun. I always wanted to do a GP, and it just so happened that we had the one in Florida. But I still want to try and go and do another one, a sand race or something. I am trying to talk the team into letting me go do one.

YOU BEAT THE WORLD CHAMPION; DID THE RACING SEEM A LOT DIFFERENT? The whole schedule thing is quite a bit different having the two-day event. Honestly, I like that more. I enjoy the way they do things. I feel like it was run really well. It was different, it was fun, like wow this is cool. The Euros are always good dudes. That was honestly my first time racing probably 90 percent of that class. That was just cool to race different people.

RJ in Washougal. 

SWITCHING FORWARD TO RIGHT NOW, WATCHING YOU RACE, AND WITH MANY OF YOUR MOTO FINISHES, YOU’D THINK YOU WERE BATTLING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP! I don’t know; It has been tough on me these last few weeks. We started off slow and I came off my injury from Supercross. I felt that I should have been right up front in the beginning, and we were not. Initially we were struggling with the bike pretty bad, along with myself. Six weeks into the series or whatever, we had that weekend off after Thunder Valley and I felt like I rode well there, but nothing too great. I came back east, and you can tell that I ride the East Coast tracks better. At High Point I rode well. Then at Muddy Creek, I had fourth the first moto, and had a pretty big get off the second moto. That would have been my first podium if I would have finished that lap and then Southwick came up; I am kind of like a sand guy.

I got injuries that a lot of people would be out an entire season with, but we are just trying to keep digging at it

BUT YOU’VE DONE WELL ON ALL TRACKS. They tell me I am just a sand guy, but I was able to back it up at Red Bud, which was cool that first moto. I just feel like I am getting my confidence back, but man these injuries take a toll. It has been tough to go home every week. Honestly it has been suffering all week just trying to come out and race on the weekends. It is not like I want to take a weekend off right now because I am riding well, so it is pretty much everything I can do in the week just to come racing. I got to practice the first time during the week recently, and it has pretty much been a month. I got injuries that a lot of people would be out an entire season with, but we are just trying to keep digging at it. I feel like I am riding good now and just need to put two motos together to get on the podium overall–and we are close. I have been so close already. I already had two moto podiums just since the last four races. I have been in the top five, although I should have been in the top five almost every round, so I just need to bring it every weekend.

YOU HAVE A COUPLE OF PODIUMS IN SOME OF THE MOTOS? I got a third at Southwick, and a second at Red Bud, but it has been tough there because I have not gotten an overall yet. We have been close, but I am not healthy. Still I feel confident in myself, I can block that out, and just go out there and hopefully battle for the wins.

It is an all new bike, and you really don’t know until you go racing. We thought we were there in Supercross, but for motocross you do not know until you go to Hangtown.

THERE ARE SO MANY FAST GUYS IN THIS CLASS. YOU JUST SEEM TO NEED MORE LUCK AND CONSISTENCY. Yes, I mean the last two incidences that I had were not necessarily my fault. Actually, both of them were not my fault at all, so that is what really bums me out, because I really had no doing in these injuries, and that sucks pretty bad. I should have been batting for a championship right now this year. I feel like these injuries, even in Supercross held me back quite a bit. I need to be battling for championships right now, and I have not even got an overall podium yet, so that is just a bummer. I am confident in myself that we can get one done, whether it is this weekend or the last three. I feel good. The bike is making a lot of improvements, so I’m just trying to heal these injuries and keep them moving.

RJ during the 2018 Supercross season.

TALKING ABOUT YOUR BIKE; IT’S ALL NEW, ARE YOU ADJUSTING OKAY? It is an all new bike, and you really don’t know until you go racing. We thought we were there in Supercross, but for motocross you do not know until you go to Hangtown. It took us a little bit to figure it out, but we are making improvements. We still have a lot of things in the works and the team is working hard to keep improving this bike. You know the chassis is awesome, the suspension is awesome. The engine is strong. We just need to keep improving. We still have room to go, so that is the good thing with this bike. There are still improvements that can be made.

YOU RECENTLY SIGNED A CONTRACT EXTENSION WITH GEICO RIGHT? Yes, I am pretty much with Geico Honda for my entire 250 career. It is home here. I have a really good relationship with the owners, my mechanic is awesome now. I am happy. Things are going good and Factory Honda, they have been a pretty big help and having Dan come on board with the team has been huge, I feel like we are one of the best teams around, so we will keep improving and get the results coming.

No one looks at you different just because you are beat up or you have stitches in or whatever

IT IS REFRESHING TO HEAR THAT YOU AND THE TEAM HAVE KIND OF BEEN SO LOYAL TO EACH OTHER. Exactly, I have had my struggles and the team has had theirs, but I am sure they will back me up on saying that. This is my fourth year with them and we definitely had our ups and downs. I am just happy that we are always so positive over here. I am happy over here and I feel like that has had a lot to do with this sport. If you are happy, you will continue to be happy. You are not struggling on the weekends or not wanting to come to the races, so I want to be here, and want to be there for them. They want me to do good, so it is all just positives. You know even my new mechanic this year, I am so pumped with him. He has been a big asset to my riding and whole program. He is awesome, so it is cool. Everything is going good over here.

RJ winning the MXGP round in the states in 2017.

WITH YOUR INJURIES AND YOUR HEALTH, THE WAY IT IS AT THIS MOMENT, I EXPECT THAT YOU WANT TO FINISH OUT THE REMAINING RACES WELL, RECOVER, AND THEN PREPARE FOR 2019.
Honestly, I am just recovering during the week right now. There are no excuses. Once you line up, it does not matter what happened during the week, or last week. We are just going racing and no one looks at you different just because you are beat up or you have stitches in or whatever. It is all a part of the game, so I just go out there and do the best I can, but I still feel like I should be up there.

I AM CONVINCED THAT YOUR RIDING LEVEL IS UP THERE WITH PLESSINGER IF YOU GET A DECENT START. I could agree with that. It is all just right into the race day. If you look at practice times, I am so far off, but don’t worry about that and don’t let it affect me coming in, because I am a racer and whenever the gate drops, I just try to block everything out. That is the thing that is kind of on my side, is I am confident in myself and able to block the pain out and just go out there and just do me. That is what I have been doing these last couple of rounds, this is the best I have rode, and I have been hurt. Honestly, it has calmed me down quite a bit, like I am more precise and just try not to make mistakes. Honestly it is the best I have been riding now. We will just try to keep this going. My strength is a little down, but you know I have to make that up with my riding style and limit the mistakes.

geico hondahondarj hampshire