We’ve heard the rumors for awhile but Team Honda Muscle Milk finally made it official today: Swedish privateer Fredrik Noren is getting to ride the injured Justin Barcia’s factory CRF450R. A few staffers who know Noren shared their thoughts, be sure to add yours in the comment section below.
Davey Coombs: Over the last dozen or so years, the idea of offering "replacement rides" has become very commonplace in our sport. Sean Hamblin was one of the first that I remember, getting the call-up for the oft-injured Travis Pastrana at Suzuki. Jimmy Albertson (Honda), Ricky Dietrich (Kawasaki), Jimmy Decotis (GEICO Honda), Cole Seely (Honda), Travis Preston (JGR Yamaha) and even Mike Treadwell (KTM) are just a few that come to mind. Even Brett Metcalfe, subbing for defending 450 Motocross Champion Ryan Villopoto, has been one of the more interesting stories of summer.
But this one really stands out to me, and the simple reason is that you have to be extremely happy for Fredrik Noren getting a spot on Team Honda Muscle Milk for the rest of the season. Noren is as "privateer" as it gets. He's chased his dream from Sweden to California, giving up sure support back home in the hope of making it big here in America. Even though they've fallen on harder times in the last decade, there's still something special about "Team Honda" and reaching the pinnacle of the sport. I don't think Noren is suddenly going to be on the podium, but I do think that he will help get the team a lot of positive attention and maybe get some top-ten finishes. He's earned this chance the hard way--on his own. And that alone makes this mid-summer pick-up move a very cool deal.
Teams need riders out there to satisfy their sponsors and get bikes out on the track. Hopefully this one works out well enough to give Noren a chance to do something special and Honda a chance to work with a really impressive and thankful young man.
Aaron Hansel: Spent New Year's Eve sleeping in a moto van? Check.
Worked random jobs to fund your racing effort, like construction and building huge engines for winches that lower things deep in the water? Check.
Had your girlfriend serve as your mechanic? Check.
Been forced to reuse spent gaskets due to budget constraints? Check.
Like DC said above, Fredrik Noren is about as privateer as privateer gets, and it's very cool to see a very appreciative person who works as hard as Noren get this opportunity. Noren has had some great results and has even sniffed the top ten a few times. Although he isn't going to win Team Honda Muscle Milk any races, I'm certain his new ride will generate some improved results. It makes the equipment look good; Honda gets brownie points for giving a very deserving racer a shot at factory equipment; and Noren gets the chance of a lifetime. Win, win, win.
Chase Stallo: Over the years, Fredrik Noren has blossomed from a shy kid with little knowledge of the English language, into one of the most delightful guys in the pits. Quick to flash a smile or extend a handshake, Noren, despite his lack of funding, was just happy to be racing. Moments after the deal was announced, I sent him a congratulatory text. You know he’s getting a ton of those right now. He responded within minutes: “Thanks buddy! I’m pumped.”
Now he will be racing for one of the most prestigious teams in the pits. It’s a move I didn’t see coming. A few weeks back, I gave it a ten percent chance that Honda would sign a privateer. It’s not really in their MO. The Honda name carries a certain prestige with it. But Honda made the right decision here. Noren was the best available rider on the market. Through five races, he’s nearly doubled his points from a year ago. As Hansel mentioned, there is privateer, then there is Noren.
Noren won’t bring wins to Honda, but he will bring pride, hard work and won’t ruffle any feathers. It’s just who he is.