MXA INTERVIEW: ENZO LOPES TALKS ABOUT HIS OPPORTUNITY AT JGR
Currently 16th in 250 points, with a 13th overall at the last race at Colorado’s Thunder Valley, Enzo Lopes is a kid on the move. Already a national motocross superstar in his home country of Brazil, Enzo decided it was time to move forward with his professional racing career. Relocating to California in 2016, Lopes was planning on privateering it this summer, until JGR Suzuki came calling. Originally hired as a fill-in for the injured Jimmy DeCotis, Lopes now has a ride with the team for the rest of the outdoors series. While you may have not heard a lot about the number 816 JGR Suzuki rider, I am certain you will by the series end.
By JIM KIMBALL
ENZO, LETS BEGIN WITH GROWING UP IN BRAZIL AND RACING THERE. WHAT IS THE MOTOCROSS SCENE LIKE IN BRAZIL? Well, motocross in Brazil used to be really big, but we never had an amateur scene like you do here, so you would race 50’s, 65’s, and 85’s and then you try turn pro, and ride the MX2 and then MX1 class. It is pretty different now though, and motocross is not that big in Brazil. We do not have much support from sponsors. But growing up in Brazil was really good, and coming here was a huge step for me. I am stoked to have made a move, and now it’s paying off.
NOT ALL THE MOTORCYCLE MANUFACTURERS HAVE RACE TEAMS IN BRAZIL. Yes that is right. I am running a JGR Suzuki here. But Suzuki is not in Brazil, as a team or anything. And even Honda, Yamaha, and the others are not as big as they are here. So that is really different from the USA.
WHO DID YOU RIDE FOR IN BRAZIL? I grew up in the privateer days, and when I went to the MX2 class in Brazil, I got big help from KTMl. In 2016, I moved to California, and I had to leave the guys who helped me in Brazil. It was pretty hard for me, and for them, but I had to take the next step in my career to be where I am now. I am thankful to be here with Suzuki now.
YOU DID WELL RACING IN BRAZIL, RIGHT? Yes, I think I won 11 championships between motocross and arenacross in Brazil. So I am glad that I became a big name. I do not want to sound cocky or anything, but to be representing Brazil right now on a factory team, it is really, really good. I am so happy about it.
YOU ARE UNKNOWN IN THE USA, WERE YOU A SUPERSTAR IN BRAZIL. Yes, that is right. Most of the people do not really know who I am in the USA. But with being on the track now, hopefully my results will show, and people will start looking at me. Like I said, to be representing Brazil with JGR has been awesome. Since I signed with JGR everyone in Brazil, my family, fans and everyone, are so pumped about this opportunity. I am so glad about it and I cannot wait for more racing now.
YOU A RED BULL SPONSORED ATHLETE AND THEY DON’T JUST SPONSOR ANYONE? To be sponsored by Red Bull is awesome, and to keep that sponsorship being on the JGR team is even better. Sometimes you have to go to a team that has different sponsors. So to keep Red Bull, and have JGR, has been good. They have been helping me since 2011. I was one of the youngest guys they ever hired, so that was really cool, and really, really helpful for me. I love them, and could not thank them enough. They helped me achieve my dreams.
BEFORE THE JGR OPPORTUNITY CAME ABOUT, DID YOU HAVE ANY OFFERS? Before I got the call from JGR, I was privateering it. I had planned on turning Pro at Hangtown this year. I was on the Star Yamaha amateur team, but my year there was not the best, but they were still looking at me. Then last year at Loretta’s, in 2017, I talked to Suzuki, and even Honda of Europe, but both deals did not work out well. When I got the call from JGR, I was just on cloud nine.
JGR SUZUKI IS IN NORTH CAROLINA, HOW HAS THAT BEEN? I am just thankful that I got this opportunity. Jeremy Albrecht (team nanager), and all the guys are like a family to me. I love all the guys and I have a great friendship with the other guys, like Justin Hill. North Carolina is awesome, like the weather and everything is perfect for riding. The place at Huntersville, where the team is based is perfect, and it feels like I am dreaming.
I am just thankful that I got this opportunity from them, Jeremy (Albrecht, Team Manager), and all the guys here are like a family for me right now.
ARE LIVING IN NORTH CAROLINA? It is really good to work closely to the team and that is why I am staying here. It is good testing during the week, progressing on the bike, and ee have our own track and it is awesome. It is really humid, and now that the races are going to start to be on the East Coast, like Tennessee, it will be more humid that California. So it is good to practice under this characteristic
HOW DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN TO ADJUST TO AMA NATIONAL TRACKS? The first two, Hangtown and Glen Helen, I raced as an amateur, so I knew how the dirt would be. But it got way rougher than on the amateur days. I had never been to Colorado, but the track was really good. The dirt was like Brazil, hard pack. It got dry at the end of the day,.
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHERE YOU WOULD LIKE TO FINISH IN THE 250 NATIONALS? The 250 class is really stacked. I mean there are 20 riders who are very fast, so I try to do my best always. I know that if I put in osme fast laps that I can get into the top 10, or even top 8 ; it is just a matter of time. I am looking forward to doing that.
YOU WERE ORIGINALLY A FILL-IN RIDER, BUT NOW YOU WILL BE ON JGR FOR THE REST OF THE NATIONALS. HOW DO YOU FEEL? I try not to think about it and take it day-by-day. I just try to do my best at each race, and don’t try to think about the whole series. My contract was only four or five races, because I was filling in for Jimmy DeCotis, so I have been just going to take the most of this opportunity, and trying my best.
YOU ARE RACING OTHER FIRST-YEAR AMATEURS, IS IT IMPORTANT TO BEAT THEM AND BE THE THE TOP ROOKIE? I raced Garrett Marchbanks for most of my amateur career. And at my last race as an amateur, Jordan Bailey wast here as well. I raced Justin Cooper at Loretta’s 2017, before he turned Pro. So I raced all these guys and I know I have the speed. It is just a matter of time before I get good results like Marchbanks and Justin Cooper.
DID YOU EVER THINK ABOUT RACING THE 250 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN EUROPE? It has always been my dream to be a Supercross Champion and AMA National Championmotocross. My dream is here. I had some opportunities from both Honda and KTM in Europe, but I think I have a good talent for Supercross. I have never had the opportunity to race Supercross, so I cannot wait for next year. Hopefully I will be an American champion soon. Back in 201, I got second in the World Junior Championship in Italy. Jorge Prado got first, and I know him well. He is my friend, and I have raced him before. But American racing is my dream and that is what I want to pursue.