[Interviews]

Romain Febvre: I Shall Return

3 months ago | Words: Eric Johnson | Photos: Monster Energy

The 2020 FIM MXGP World Championship was set to be of terrific importance to Romain Febvre. The 2015 MXGP World Champion, Febvre, a Team Yamaha rider, unceremoniously cut ties with the blue marque near the conclusion of the 2019 MXGP title chase to change colors, approaches, and stances. Perhaps in need of a change – or even a spark – the Frenchman signed on the dotted line with the Monster Energy Kawasaki Race Team to pilot a KX450-SR works machine in 2020. A very significant move to be certain, all appeared to be well with the world before Febvre damaged his knee as a result of a pre-season shunt that forced him into injured reserve status for the season-opening MXGP of Great Britain, as well as the following MXGP of The Netherlands. Before Round 3 of the title chase, the pandemic spread its darkness on the moto world, thus sending Febvre back to home base to wait it out.
And that’s where Romain was when we tracked him down and asked just what was up. Concerned, yet in a positive mindset, Febvre steadied himself as the questions came flying at him. Take it away, Romain.

EJ: Romain, first off, how in the world are you doing? And where are you at?
RF: Yeah, I’m doing very good at the moment. Now I have recovered from my knee injury that I suffered there at the beginning of the season and it’s going well now with that. I am in Luxembourg at the moment. Since we now have to stay home, I decided to come here because I have a friend who has a place here that is quite big, and he has a motocross track and stuff. So I went to his place and stay over here, and I can still practice a bit and do some training. Normally, we are not allowed to ride, but it is a private track so we can. I keep trying to work with the bike and I have my race mechanic here with me, so we are able to ride here in Luxembourg.

While in Luxembourg, have you been able to stay in close contact and communicate with the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team?
Yeah, I’m on my own with my practice mechanic. Clement Desalle, my teammate, at this time … I don’t know where he is exactly. I heard that he is back in Belgium, but I don’t know if he can ride. I really don’t know.

Like many racers around the world – and really, the form of motorsport doesn’t totally matter – you don’t have a time or a date or an event to work towards. Everything is still in a type of to-be-determined reality. How has all of this been for you as a world-class motocross competitor?
Yeah, yeah, it’s really weird and difficult because, and like you said, we have no date to be ready for at that time. So in a way, like in one way, it is good for me because I could recover from my knee injury and try to get back to normal. When the season starts again, I will be ready and fit. So in one way that is good, but on the other hand, and like you said, it will be difficult because I don’t know when the season will start again. It is difficult to stay fit, but we don’t want to overdo it too much because we just don’t know. It’s quite tough and I guess it is like this for everyone. Yeah, we have to deal with all of this to find the best solution for practice. Still, I like practicing, but not too much. For sure, right now, I feel like we are not lazy, but that we are practicing for nothing at the moment. It’s tough, but we still need to continue like this. I’m hoping for not too much longer.

To your way of seeing things, and I know none of us know much of anything right now, do you believe that we’ll get any racing in this approaching summer?
[Sigh] Honestly, I don’t know when we will race again. Every day there is something going on and all this new stuff coming up on the news. Honestly, the French president told the nation that he will push the stay-at-home limit for another month, until the end of May. We have to stay home. For sure, the racing with the fans and venues, it’s going to take a while to get that going on in a good direction. Honestly, I hope it’s going to help us this year with some racing, but I don’t know when. For me, I feel before August, we may not race, but I just don’t know.

So what have you been doing to burn time off the clock? Dare I be so bold, this virus lockdown is getting old…
Yeah, I’ve started to feel my conditioning again. I just want to be back to 100 percent again. If I need to slow down before the season starts, fine. I can then go back again when I’m 100 precent. When they were racing in England and Valkenswaard, I wasn’t fit at that point because I missed three or four weeks of riding. Now I am doing a lot of that. Now I can do everything. I can run, I can go cycling, I can ride, I can do quite a few things here. Like everyone, I think also that we are playing cards and many things like that during the day because we have to stay home. Yeah, I guess that’s how it is.

How has the Monster Energy Kawasaki Race Team been for you? You took a big leap of faith in making such a remarkable change.
Yeah, I really like it. I think first of all, they are French – most of the guys in the team are French. That makes it a little bit easier because we are talking the same language and the feeling among everyone is really positive. Yes, and like I said, I really like the bike. I don’t say that Yamaha wasn’t good or something like that because I was a champion with them and I was riding and racing really good with Yamaha, but I feel great on the Kawasaki. Kawasaki and the team help me and Clement as much as they can. I didn’t know anyone on the team before, so I needed to get to know and learn everyone. The technical side, like suspension with Showa, I never worked with them before, so I have had to get used to that a little bit. Also, with Dunlop tyres, I never worked with them in my life. I also need to learn the tyres. But it is going really good and I am really happy about the team and, of course, the bike. Hopefully, we can do some great things together.

And the MXGP classification in the World Championship. There are so many fast and talented racers. The depth of talent runs deep, doesn’t it?
Yeah, it’s getting better and even now we have Jorge Prado and some guys from the 250 class coming up, so it brings the level up even more because the young kids that come into the class want to prove themselves. Yeah, the level is really high and we are all fighting for the very best position, so we will see. I think when racing starts again, we will have some very good racing in the GP class.

Perhaps another world title for you?
Yeah, for sure. That’s the goal, huh? It’s also great to be in the new team and everything that comes with it. The motivation is up again and it is also what I wanted to find again. I wanted to have new motivation with the team and to get the new bike and to make everything fresh again. It’s all I wanted and it seems to work now. And we’ll just have to wait until the racing gets going again.

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