INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: JEREMY SEEWER
“If it wasn’t for Jeffrey Herlings, so-and-so would be the 250 World Champion.” How many times has someone said that? Jeffrey Herlings, the darling of 250 GP racing, has been on another level for the past few years. Yet Herlings has failed to win the last two titles due to injury. As a result, Jordi Tixier (2014) and Tim Gajser (2015) ended their 250 careers with fairytale titles, while Herlings likely sulked in some dark corner.
What does this have to do with Switzerland’s Jeremy Seewer? The factory Suzuki racer is currently second in points. And while he’s 87 points behind Herlings, he’s in the same position as the two 250 World Champions before him–both received a gift of sorts when Jeffrey got injured and couldn’t clinch either title. This time around Herlings is out with a broken collarbone. The next GP is this weekend in Switzerland, which Herlings may or may not sit out. If he does, the GP series doesn’t race again until August 28th in the Netherlands (Assen). It is possible that Seewer could close the gap even more. We caught up with Jeremy to talk about his career up to this point, and whether he can beat King Herlings.
By Jim Kimball
Photos by Massimo Zanzani
How did you become interested in motocross while growing up in Switzerland?
My father was riding dirt bikes, so I really had no choice. Initially I was a bit to shy to ride a motorcycle, but when I was around seven years old I rode a Yamaha PW50, and then I was hooked on dirt bikes. Motocross in Switzerland is a little-known sport. We have hardly any motocross tracks in the German part of Switzerland. There are not very many riders coming up through the ranks in the German speaking part of the country. It is a little bit better in the French part of Switzerland, but still not that popular. However, the Swiss Motocross Championship is pretty organized if you consider the little riding possibilities, and the popularity of the sport in the country.
You did your first race in 2003 and quickly progressed to win a 65cc Swiss Championship two years later. How did you advance so quickly?
I don’t know, but I did excel very quickly on a dirt bike. I had a lot of fun riding, and really began to love the sport. Somehow winning that first Swiss Championship came easy. I never did race any of the International 65cc motocross rounds, so I don’t really know how good I actually was. When I first began racing the 65cc I couldn’t even finish well enough to earn any points, but then one year later I won the Championship. That was a very enjoyable time.
How were those next couple of years?
I switched from 65cc to 85cc small wheels in 2006, but the problem was that I was too small and short. It really took me some time to get used to the 85cc bike. In 2007, I moved up to the 85cc big wheel class, and I also started to do some international races, like the ADAC MX Junior Cup, and did pretty good. I think that moving up from 2006 to 2007 was one of the biggest steps in my racing career. I won 85cc Swiss Championship in 2008.
“I WAS STILL GOING TO A REGULAR SCHOOL LIKE ANYONE WOULD, SO I HAD TO WORK HARD AND STUDY A LOT TO BE ABLE TO FOLLOW THE OTHERS AND PROGRESS THROUGH.”
When did you begin focusing on international competition?
I went completely international with my motocross racing in 2008 on the 85cc bike. I finished a close second in the ADAC MX Juniors, and also made some podiums in the European Championship series. The was the time when I really had to decide if I wanted to continue on with motocross seriously, or be a normal kid and just do it as a hobby. At the time I was still going to a normal school, and did everything that a kid that age would do. It was very difficult to be traveling to all the races and still do well in school. My dad and I traveled all through Europe together, and I found it very interesting. It was especially interesting attending races in countries like Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania. I realized how good we had it in Switzerland compared to some of these poorer countries. One of the biggest highlights of the year was going to the Motocross Juniors race in Taupo, New Zealand. The style of the international tracks was much more technical and difficult in the European Championships. There were some very sandy tracks that I had to work hard to get used, too. As I said, I was still going to a regular school like anyone would, so I had to work hard and study a lot to be able to follow the others and progress through.
In those early years of racing through Europe were you able to get much support?
I had some really good support from some private sponsors. We had a good friend that worked hard to help get some sponsors and support. He was able to find people that really believed in me, and most of them are still with me! Also, after I won the 65cc Swiss Championship in 2006, Suzuki Switzerland gave me some bikes and support. Actually, every year their support grew until I ended up on the Suzuki factory team where I am now. Until I got on the Suzuki factory team we did a lot of the stuff ourselves with good support from Suzuki Switzerland. We were kind of running our own Suzuki team back when I was riding a 125cc in 2010 and 2011.
When did you move to the 250 World Motocross Championships?
I tried my very first GP back in 2012 as a wild card entry back when I was still doing the European Championships. I finished 14th and 18th in the motos and was very happy with that. My first year doing the complete MX2 season was in 2014. I was the third rider on the Suzuki factory team, so I would say I was a “semi-factory rider.” I was also still in school then, and I had to finish my apprenticeship, which wasn’t very easy with all the traveling. The goal was to finish 10th that first full season, and that was what I did. I was very happy, but I knew that I could do even better in motocross if I was able to practice and train more than just racing on the weekends.
Only one year later, in 2015, you finished fifth overall in the 250 Grand Prix series. That’s quite an accomplishment.
That was my first year as a full-time Pro racing the GP’s, and I could really prepare myself for motocross. I was then the main MX2 guy at Suzuki, so I received a lot of attention, and they based everything around me. They developed a motorcycle that fit me. My goal was top five, and I achieved that. I also got on the podium for the first time in my MX2 career, and that was one of the best feelings in the world. That was what I worked so hard for all my life, so I will never forget that. Still, there were some things I could have done better, but afterwards you are always smarter.
“WITH [STEFAN EVERTS’] PAST EXPERIENCE FROM HIS RACING CAREER, HE ALWAYS HAS GOOD ADVICE. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT THE BIKE, TRAINING, OR A RACETRACK, BECAUSE HE KNOWS THE ANSWERS.”
Now the Suzuki factory team is run by Stefan Everts. How does that effect you?
It’s just so amazing to have him by my side. I didn’t know him that well before, so I really had no idea how it was going to be. I have to say that everything is working very well, and I really like his way of thinking. His style and help definitely fits together with me, and that alone has made me stronger. With all his past experience from his racing career, he always has good advice. It doesn’t matter if I have a question about the bike, training, or a racetrack, because he knows the answers.
Didn’t you recently sign another contract with factory Suzuki?
Yes. I signed for one more year–2017–for the MX2 class. I have to say the decision was not difficult, and that Suzuki made it very easy for me. They have given me so much support all through my career. Of course, I did have some other opportunities, but for me there cannot be anything better than working with Stefan and all the other Suzuki team members. I’m very, very happy with everything, and everyone involved with the team. That is very important to my success.
How do you feel about Jeffrey Herlings? He is so fast in the 250 class, and there are so many people that say he should be in the 450 class.
I don’t really care about all the talk or gossip about whether he should be in MX2 or MXGP. Everyone is different, and everyone can make their own choices in their life. Whoever is my opponent is who I am trying to beat. I’m not losing any time thinking about whether he should be in the MX2 class or not! I try to win when I am racing, and try to finish ahead of any rider I’m racing. But as far as beating Herlings, it is not easy. He is such a talented rider, and works with the bike like no one else does. It’s not impossible for me to beat Jeffrey, but everything will need to go perfectly to finish in front of him.
You are very young. Will you ever come to America and race a full series?
That’s a great question, but at the moment I am not thinking about racing in America. I feel very happy over here, and everything is going well. Of course, I do think about racing in America where the sport is so popular, and on TV so often. At this time I cannot really say a definite yes or no, but let’s see what the next few years will bring.
Can you share something about you that we may not know?
Until two years ago I was still in school, so there was not much time for anything other than studying and racing. But now that I am out of school I always have my Apple Macbook with me, and I like to design my own clothes, stickers, butt patches, helmets and stuff like that. Actually, all the gear that I am running is designed by me!