Even though racers from France are consistently among the frontrunners in any given edition of the MXGP Motocross World Championship, a member of the French Republic has not won the MXGP World Championship since Romain Febvre snagged the FIM Gold Medal in 2015.
Maxime Renaux of the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team is out to fix that.
The 2021 MX2 World Champion was promoted to the premier class for the 2022 race season by longtime employer Yamaha. A Grand Prix winner in 2022 (Renaux won the MXGP of Spain on May 29), the fifth year racer consistently ran inside and around the top five all season long, to where he placed a highly respective fourth in the final 2022 MXGP World Championship point standings.
With his rookie MXGP season done and dusted, the 22 year-old now has his sights set of the RedBud circuit and the U.S. where he will race for team France in the 2022 Motocross of Nations.
Over the weekend, and with the help of Yamaha Motor Europe Off-Road Racing Manager Alexandre Kowalski, RACER spoke with the racer who certainly left his mark on what was the 66th edition of the FIM Motocross World Championship season.
Q: When you take a long look at your first season in MXGP, what do you see?
MR: If I look at the season, it’s mixed emotions I would say because for sure I have been in a good place and fighting for the top position and fighting for wins. For that it has been a really good season. I’m happy.
For sure I am a little bit disappointed about the injury I got in Germany when I broke my back (Note: Renaux suffered a crash in Germany which left him with several fractured vertebra). That was really a tough pill to swallow because I was still fighting for second place and the podium there. That was a real bummer.
However, in the end I was able to come back quite quickly, This was really super-good compared to the injury and stuff as I was able to get back to the bike and get back to racing. In the end, I’m now fourth in the championship. So looking back on this year there is some disappointment about that because I could really be fighting for the championship straightaway this first year in the MXGP classification.
Q: Romain Febvre was the last French racer to win the MXGP World Championship and that was back in 2015. This being your rookie year in MXGP, are you enjoying it? Do you like lining up racing at the premier level?
MR: Yeah, sure I enjoyed it a lot. I think it is always a question for European riders and also for American rides when they step up to the 450 class because that class is really stacked.
We have the best riders from the past generations and the fastest 250cc riders and everyone joins the MXGP class, so we know we know we really have to fight the best of the best of the best. We never know where we can fit inside the class and the end it was a really great step for me and I could show that I was one of the best. It was really amazing to see that and I was really, really happy about it.
I was really competitive and I always have had bigger goals, I could see that I could fight with the top guys and now I want to be the top guy. I want to win championships – that will be my goal for this winter.
We already have a couple things to work on, especially the starts. My starts are not on point every time. I think we can get some good starts in 2023 and I want to keep working on my technique. Speed-wise, I’m not so worried about things.
Q: As far as this off-season we are now in, do you see yourself competing in any of the international supercross races or will you focus more on testing and training during the winter months?
MR: Yeah, primarily testing and training and then I will do some international races before the season.
Supercross stuff for the moment, I’m not on it so much because I really want to focus on trying to get my first title in MXGP. We have a lot of work to do for that. I want to keep an eye on everything here.
Once I get to that point and if I can reach the goal of being World Champion, then maybe why not start thinking about a different horizon. For the moment, though, I will focus especially on MX and then we will see how it is going.
Q: Are you pleased with your results and consistency? And what do you think, can you win the world title before all is said and done this year?
MR: Yeah, for sure I feel that it was a positive season apart from the injury I suffered in Germany. On the bike and not injured, I was barely outside of the top five. It was always five, four, three or at a GP winning pace. It was really great, but anytime I was out of the top five, it was basically because of starts.
I was starting in the back at times. Those starts are going to be really important during the season. I will need to find more consistency with the starts.
My goal next year is to beat everybody and to be the guy. I know it’s a really, really tough goal. I know it is going to be a big fight, for sure, but I’m going to prepare as much as possible and really try to reach my full potential on the 450 because I still think that I have something underneath to gain. I still feel I don’t ride the 450 as I ride the 250. Sometimes I still feel a little bit unexperienced on the 450, but we are going to work on that and I’ll try to feel really free on the 450 on every track.
Q: I was able to interview both Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton and Jason Anderson leading up and into the final Lucas Oil Pro Motocross National of the year and the guys talked quite a bit about how much you have to be absolutely all-in when riding and racing the 450 now. The motorcycle takes absolutely everything from a racer, doesn’t it?
MR: I think the 450 has really evolved over the past number of years. The more the years go by and the mire the bike is on point and strong and fast, so we have to always be on top of everything.
The 450 is a really high, high, high level class. I don’t believe that if you are great on the 250 that you will be great on the 450. This is really something based on the rider and the type of rider.
On the 250 bike you can be talented and you can be technical and you can be tough and then you can pick your place because the bike is not that heavy and not too powerful, so you can always compensate with technique. But then when you step on the 450, the technique that you bring from the 250 will help you and will always be a plus.
I will not say that I am a big guy, but I was maybe too strong for the 250 and too heavy. The 450 fits me well, but I feel at times the bike throws you where you don’t want to be thrown. I also believe that when some guys step up to the 450 from the 250 they hit the wall because maybe they don’t have that strength in some situations.
At times the 450 can really take you out of the comfort zone. You have to fight that bike to bring it back to the straight way. To me that is the main difference of the 450. It’s managing the power and managing the reaction of the bike. At times, there is a much heavier reaction from the 450 bike compared to the 250.
Q: How did you view your competition throughout the 2022 MXGP season?
MR: I really think the competition this year was pretty high. I really focused on myself and my teammates.
I think this year was the best season for a couple of riders. I think about Tim Gajser and Jeremy Seewer and I believe they had their best seasons ever. We saw Tim Gajser being really, really strong and consistent and with no crashes. He was so consistent and so steady on the bike. He was really fast and a tough customer this year. And Jeremy Seewer, he struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season, but then he got really consistent and got good starts all the time.
I think those two riders did their best seasons. The level of the class was really high. For sure we were missing Jeffrey Herlings in the class, so we will see how he goes in the class next year. Basically, I believe that the top three riders in 2022 were on a really, really high level. It was a really good season.
For the next season, I believe everyone is also waiting for Jeffrey Herlings to come back because he’s the reigning champ form 2021. Everyone is going to want to see how good he is going to recover from his injury. I’m really looking forward to fight Jeffrey Herlings. He has been mentioned as one of the best riders in the world.
I want to fight that guy. I want to make my name and I want to beat him and everyone else. It is going to be very interesting to have Jeffrey back in 2023.
Q: Do you also keep a close eye on the racing here in the USA?
MR: Yeah, sure, it’s super-interesting. I look at the American racing results almost every weekend when there is a race and look at how Chase and Eli are doing. I’m really impressed with the level they had this year because I believe they were both at their highest level This year we can see that those two really reached a level that no one else could follow.
It was really interesting to watch Eli and Chase battle all season long and now we all look to the Motocross of Nations. I’ve never been to the U.S. Never in my life. I’ve never ridden an American track. They told me the RedBud ground is very typical and very grippy and rutty. I’m actually very much looking forward to it because those kinds of tracks are all amazing. I’m really looking forward to enjoying that.
I’ll be there for the first time and I’ll be there to fight for my country. I’m expecting to try and try to do my best and that’s the only way I can have a chance to beat everybody!