In the latest issue of DIRT ACTION, we sat down for a chat with Australian Hunter Lawrence. If you haven’t had a chance to grab a copy – here’s a teaser!
Do you owe your whole career so far to the amazing mentorship of Scott Bishop?
Hahahaha, I can’t owe my whole career to someone who still to this day gets vanilla ice cream at any given ice cream shop. No exploration, curiosity, desire to discover what lays behind the vanilla bean, but I admire the loyalty to his vanilla ice cream – fair play. Bishop if you still go to subway for a ham and cheese on white bread sandwich, you’re not allowed to contact me!
Your family took a massive chance to move overseas. Looking back, it’s the correct one. Why did you choose to leave a factory-supported MXD rider and head overseas at such a young age?
Yeah that’s true, not many people know I had a deal at the time. It was GYTR Yamalube Yamaha that Scott Bishop and Mike Ward ran for under 19’s (MXD). When we had the opportunity to go to Europe, they were so great to us like they had been the whole time I was with them on the junior program. Basically, they said, this opportunity is too good to turn down and if I ever came back to Australia that I would contact them first.
Leaving when I did was great, I feel like it was perfect timing, not too late. In Jett’s case it was even more beneficial for him being so young and going as well. Being so young and training and riding those tracks in Europe creates such a great rider, training like they do and doing the winters over there it just creates good riders. Looking back on it I’m super grateful we got the opportunity to get out of oz when we did because it has developed me into the rider I am today.
Go from juniors straight to MX2, let the guys who take it seriously and want it, swim, and the guys who don’t take it seriously and don’t want it, drown.
What is your opinion on the MXD class here in Australia?
My opinion on the MXD class at the MX nationals is that it’s a waste of time. In my eyes they are better to wipe it away and make them ride MX2. There isn’t a stepping stone class in the AMA’s, but there is the EMX250 class in the GP’s which is realistically for the small teams who can’t afford to do all the fly-away GP’s. It’s also for the riders who have exceeded the MX2 age limit and don’t have the opportunity of a MXGP contract on the 450 so they go back to EMX, and other reasons. But from my understanding is the MXD rounds are at all the same rounds that MX2 ride. Why not wipe it? Go from juniors straight to MX2, let the guys who take it seriously and want it, swim, and the guys who don’t take it seriously and don’t want it, drown.
Europe can sometimes feel like another planet for an Aussie. Weird food, strange languages and weather patterns. They have bears and borders and they love eating off fish. A lot of is great to visit as a tourist, but how hard were some of the off-track challenges for the family trying to make a home there?
The whole European journey was a crazy experience for us especially as a family. The food side of things is different but it’s ok. What we shopped for and ate wasn’t that different to home, just the taste of things was a bit different but the food wasn’t bad. It was more when you were travelling to a GP or when you had a GP in Bulgaria or Russia, places like those the food is a lot different – Turkey was bad – so different in what they eat. And when you have to perform on race weekends not having the fuelling foods you normally do and that your body is used to can make things really difficult.
The most difficult part of living in Europe for us was the visas and the winters. In the winter time you could go two to three weeks of dark cloudy days with no sun, you won’t see the sun for that long and then on the days the sun does come out it is colder than when it’s cloudy because the low cloud coverage and haze almost creates a roof which keeps any warmth in. I’m still talking three and four degrees cold (laughs), but when the sun comes out it drops to zero and below even. The combination of mizzling rain and the cold the tracks fill up with water all winter and then you have some weeks or days where the temp drops to one or zero and below and everything freezes. You go from riding a deep sandy soupy track where the water filled in your tyre marks by the time you come around the next lap, to a rock-solid frozen track that you are speed biking around drifting turns. Only a day a quad would be fun to ride.
The tracks fill up with water all winter and then you have some weeks or days where the temp drops to one or zero and below and everything freezes.
But what really changed our mindset was one morning it was 6:30-7 in the morning, still dark and mizzling rain, we were on the way to the workshop early to pack and drive to another track some hours away. There were all these school kids riding bicycles in two and three degrees cold, mizzling rain, dark morning. They didn’t know anything else or any better, that was just what it was like and how it was, whereas in Australia when it’s raining majority of people stay inside and watch movies. Well, I did as a kid. So that changed our mind set of dealing with the weather and stuff there it was just a switch that flipped and from then on it wasn’t a problem, we just stuck it out.
On the track – what were some of the lessons you needed to learn before heading to the US? And how important a role did Stefan Everts play as a mentor?
Having Stefan as a team manager was good, we learnt a lot of things. One thing I learnt the most was don’t tick faster than the clock is going and that was just a patience thing. I wanted it so bad that I would make silly mistakes and crash because I would try to pass guys as soon as I caught them and not wait to set-up the pass. A bunch of other race craft I learnt in Europe, a lot of other things that I don’t remember as they are a habit now. But I couldn’t pinpoint one thing that I learnt in Europe and can say that is what makes me good enough to race competitive in USA, it’s honestly hundreds of things I learnt over the three years and even to this day in USA I am learning every day. You can never stop learning, mindset, mental, physical, bike set up, bike skills, anything we do we are constantly learning! But Europe just developed a lot of stuff that you can’t learn in Australia.
In MXGP you get a lot of track time on a race weekend. Do you prefer that system or are the shorter AMA rounds better?
The MXGP’s you have a lot more track time than you do in the AMA’s I can’t say yet which one I prefer because a GP is such a long weekend and an AMA is so short, but I think the more track time definitely would help me especially on these tracks I haven’t ridden before! Which was pretty much every round except Pala and Redbud (laughs).
For the full feature, including how Hunter compares Europe to the USA, who he turns to for advice, what he misses about Australia and so much more – check out issue #231 on sale here.