PJ Larsen spent 2010 racing for the JDR KTM team in Australia before returning to the States to join the squad’s new U.S. arm for 2011. But injuries thwarted his season. He has another shot to make good in 2012, and we called him this morning for an update.
Racer X: What’s up today, PJ?
PJ Larsen: I was supposed to go to some holiday festivities with my team. They’re going go-karting at Pole Position, but I think I’m going to skip the festivities and go riding instead.
Oh c’mon, Peej! Don’t you ride enough?
No, I don’t ride enough (laughs). I’m actually having fun riding my dirt bike, okay? Lay off of me.
So where are you going if the team won’t be around?
The KTM track is being rebuilt, so I’ll go have some fun at Starwest, and my buddies are actually trying out a shifter cart next door, so I may go over there and try that out when I’m done riding.
Dude, you can’t skip go-karting with the team just to go go-karting with someone else!
Well, what would you rather do? An electric go-kart, or one with a two-stroke 125 motor that goes like 120 miles and hour?
A wrist injury would cut Larsen's 2011 SX season short.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson
Fair point. Those things have motocross engines, right?
Yeah, it has an old RM125 motor. They say the thing flies. I wonder how they start them? Kick starters? I’m lost on that one.
Maybe bump starting? I don’t know either. So you don’t go home to South Carolina for Christmas?
No, I did go home for Thanksgiving, but that was only for one day. I was busy, we had a lot of testing to do. I don’t get to make it back there very often.
I think it says a lot that you could have a break today but you don’t want to take one.
Yeah, I feel like I’m in a good position with my riding. I’m having a lot of fun so I don’t want to take days off. I’ll take a few days off this weekend for Christmas and just try to get fat from eating candy. I’m planning on tearing into it heavy (laughs). Just kidding.
So you had some injuries last year. First you had a wrist injury. How’s the recovery going?
Well, the wrist, realistically I broke it the Tuesday after the Houston supercross. I rode with it for a few weeks, and it didn’t feel very good. In Dallas I had another crash and hurt it again. So we decided to have CT scans done. I had surgery that week. I was back on the bike a few weeks before High Point, and I was riding rough tracks out here and felt pretty good. But I came back for High Point, and once I was into race mode, I just couldn’t hold on. So I took more time off. I came back at Millville, felt okay but ran into some problems. But I didn’t feel good at Washougal. On the harder tracks, the square edge bumps, it bothered me more. Then we went to Unadilla, and I had a dumb little crash there and got hurt again.
A neck injury, right?
Yeah, I did C4, C5, and C6. But it didn’t seem that bad at first, I even tried to ride the second moto, I was like “I can do this!” But it got stiffer throughout the day. I still rode the second moto, and it hurt so bad. So after the race, I had CT scans done again, and realized I was hurt again.
The injury bug would follow Larsen to the outdoors, as he suffered a neck injury at Unadilla.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson
Well that’s what made this injury so strange, you raced both motos, but then we heard you were out with a neck injury. And three vetebera! That sounds serious.
Well anytime you’re dealing with something in the spinal cord, it’s serious. But I got lucky, because it was nowhere near, you know, it wasn’t a big risk. My C4 5 and 6, I had two chips and a crack. It wasn’t safe to be riding, that’s for sure. And once we knew what was wrong, we took it seriously, and I wasn’t allowed to do anything. It was just sitting on the couch and not moving it.
No surgery or anything?
Yeah luckily it wasn’t bad enough to need surgery or a halo or anything. They put me in a neck brace.
Wow. Was it one of those foam dollar collars that laywers stick on people to get sympathy?
It was! Man I felt so stupid. If I went out in public, I wouldn’t wear it. I didn’t want people to say, “Look at that guy, he’s trying to get insurance money!” I’m like, “I’m really hurt right now! Don’t make fun of me. And don’t touch me!”
So when were you back on a bike?
Unadilla was in August, and I didn’t get back on a bike until just before Monster Energy Cup. So it was just over two months. It was six weeks of doing nothing, then a few weeks before I started riding, I did some rehab.
So is that two month gap an issue, or are you back where you need to be?
I feel good. My fitness and riding has come a long way, and I feel good where we are at. I can’t wait to get some racing in soon.
It’s year two for this team in the U.S. Is there anything much different based on what they learned?
I think last year those guys did a really good job. But everyone is always learning things, even Pro Circuit is learning things. So you’re going to see changes throughout JDR Motorsports, and the main thing is, the group of people we have, they all get along. Everyone knows their job and what they have to get done. Everyone helps. Malcolm [Stewart] is in Florida a lot, but his mechanic Craig always comes out to the track with us to help me and Matt Moss, for example.
This will be Larsen's second year with the JDR KTM team.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson
Okay so you and Matt Moss are teammates now. Two years ago you had a killer battle for the Australian SX title in Lites. Now he’s joined the JDR team and you have to work together. Was there ever any heat there?
No, I wouldn’t say there is heat, we were just two guys that really, really wanted to win badly. We got heated a few times, but we look back on it now and laugh. All of it came from wanting to win bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. We have no problems and we get along really well.
Okay last thing, and I know no one can ever answer this question, but I will try: do you know what coast you’re riding?
I always know that. I’m throwing it out there right now, I’m racing west.
Well then you may be the champion by default, because no one is committing to anything yet.
(Laughs) Oh okay, so no one else is racing it? I think I know where everyone is racing. But it doesn’t matter, you just need to go out and do your job.