In the second year of the FIM 500cc motocross world championship, Belgian Rene Baeten won that nation’s first world title over Bill Nilsson and Sten Lundin in 1957. Baeten, who lost his life in a motocross crash in 1960, had a lasting influence: Belgium has since amassed an astonishing 52 FIM motocross championships. With racers such as Baeten, Joel Robert, Roger DeCoster, Harry Everts, Gaston Rahier, Andrea Malherbe, Eric Geboers, Stefan Everts and Joel Smets (to name bit a few), the small Euopean country has racked up 24 500cc, 18 250cc and 10 125cc FIM gold medals.
However, a Belgian rider has not won a title since Steve Ramon got the job done in 2008. Enter Jago Geerts. Aged 19 and already a former Junior Motocross world champion as well as an EMX 125cc champion, the 19-year-old, now signed to the Kemea Yamaha Official MX2 team again for 2020, was third overall in this year’s FIM MX2 series. And in a cool call-out to his Belgian motocross heritage, Geerts’ father Herman was the tuner to former grand prix star Marnicq Bervoets, who just happens to be the Kemea Yamaha team manager. It’s a small world!
With all of his experience in the sport, how was your father as a race dad? What did he teach you and advise you on as you progressed in the sport?
My dad has a lot of experience in motocross, so he was the best race dad and teacher that I could imagine. He always stays calm and relaxed. But if he has some tips or sees me doing something wrong, he will tell me and give me the right advice. My dad is easy to work with.
How is Marnicq Bervoets as a team manager?
Marnicq is a good guy. He always wants that the riders feel good and if you ask him something he will give his advice and he will try to help you as much as possible. Obviously he is also really experienced, so it’s always good to talk with him about the races.
The Kemea team appears to be a great fit for you. How do you feel about the team and your surroundings?
I signed in 2017 with the Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha racing team. Immediately when I started to work with the team I had a good feeling and that just never went away. The team works professionally but there is still a relaxed and fun atmosphere. It is just how I like it. They don’t put too much pressure on the riders and that’s also a good advantage I think.
Tell me about your 2019 season. You started out in the top 10, but four or five rounds into the series, you consistently were inside the top three. A good season for you?
Yes and the season didn’t really start that good. At the first two rounds I made a lot of mistakes and that cost me a lot of points. But round three was in the Netherlands and I really like that track. I got my first podium of 2019 there and that’s where it started to go in the right direction. It was a real confidence boost for me because i knew that I had the speed but I just made to much mistakes in the first two rounds. So after that it went better and better and in France I got my first race win and went second overall. That is really the highlight of the season for me. I ended up third overall in the championship and I got six podiums this year. Yes, I’m really pleased with my season.
How did you feel about your competition in 2019?
The level in MX2 was really high this year. Of course there was Jorge Prado who won almost every race. Only a couple riders managed to beat him and I was one of them. But there were five to 10 riders who had the potential to finish on the podium. It was difficult to predict who would end up on the podium at the end of the weekend so that made it also exciting.
You’ve won all along in your young career — 125cc world title and EMX. Do you expect to win in 2020?
Yeah, I won a couple EMX championships. In 2014 I won on the 85cc and in 2016 on the 125cc. 2016 was my most successful year yet. I also won the world championship and the open Dutch championship that year. For 2020 my goal is again to fight for the overall podium in the MX2 class. If everything goes well I might have a chance to become world champion. But that’s still far away now. I just want to have a good winter and then we will see.
Who will you have to beat to make a run at the title in 2020?’
My rivals from this year will be strong again for sure. Only Prado moved up to the 450 class. There will be some new riders that move up to the MX2 class so I will have competition enough, I think.
What will you during this off-season?
I went on a small holiday but now I’m training again for the next season. Tthe first race is coming soon. In January we will be going to Sardinia where I will do some training and ride my first race of the season.
Would you ever like to race in the USA?
My focus lies on the world championship at the moment. I think for myself that I prefer to just stay in the world championship. But for sure I would like to do some training in the USA and maybe I will change my thoughts after that. I don’t really think about it now, that’s something for the future.
Do you get a lot of national attention?
Motocross changed a lot in Belgium the last 20 years. Before almost every village had a motocross track. Now there are, I believe, only five motocross tracks left. It’s a shame to see that such a motocross-minded country can change so much. There is almost no media attention left for motocross and there are less and less riders. There are still a couple really talented riders left in Belgium so I hope we can change the negative atmosphere that’s around motocross now.