Eighteen-year-old Enzo Lopes will make his professional debut this weekend at the opening round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. A few weeks ago, he got the call from Autotrader/Yoshimura Suzuki to fill in for Jimmy Decotis, who is still recovering from a back injury he sustained in early March at the Daytona Supercross. (Decotis is slated to begin riding soon, but will need a few more weeks to get back up to speed on the bike before returning to racing.)
Lopes, a native of Brazil, has been turning heads on the amateur scene in the U.S. for several years. After inking this deal with JGR, Lopes went straight to North Carolina to train with the team to get ready for Hangtown. We caught up with him to see how testing has been going and what his expectations are as a new pro.
Racer X: First of all, I want to say congratulations on the new JGR deal. How is everything going over with the team?
Enzo Lopes: It’s pretty sick. It’s my first time on a factory team. I couldn’t be more happy. The guys feel like family already for me.
How did the JGR deal come about?
I’ve been getting some good results the past two months in the amateur scene. After the California Classic, my agent called me on Tuesday morning, then he told me I got that deal.
Can you give our readers a backstory on yourself for those that don’t know you already?
I started riding when I was three years old. My dad used to ride. I used to watch DVDs from supercross and stuff. My dream as a kid was to be on a team like this to be able to turn pro on a factory team. I’m from Brazil, but I moved to California in 2016 to pursue my American dream, let’s say. At first it was pretty hard. My results weren’t the best, but from Mammoth 2016, I started getting confident and my results got better. People started to see something in myself on the track. I got this opportunity.
You were obviously pretty successful back in Brazil before you came over here, right? Can you talk about the racing that you did in Brazil?
In Brazil, there’s no amateurs like this. Pretty much 50, 60, 85, and pro like MX2. The motocross scene is not that big in Brazil. I just wanted something bigger. I hope I can represent my country pretty good this year.
Was it always your dream to come the U.S. and race?
It was always my dream as a kid. I started riding in Brazil for the championship and started winning, so we thought it was a good opportunity to come over here to race. I used to go back and forth a lot. I started coming to the U.S. in 2009.
I see you all the time out at Glen Helen; you’ve definitely been riding well.
Yeah. As a privateer, it is so hard with those amateur guys to get a good start and stuff. I always give my best every time at the track.
Were you planning on turning pro at Hangtown before you got the call from JGR?
Yeah, I did. We had that planned since the start of the year. Even though I was still privateer, we would still make it happen. Me and my family were willing to drive our RV with my bikes to all the races. But as soon as I got the deal, that felt like a dream. I’ll never forget that Tuesday morning that I got the call.
Were you planning on doing all 12 rounds?
Yeah. I was gonna try to do some solid results and maybe get a fill-in ride. Fortunately, it happened before the season started, so that was perfect timing.
You've been in North Carolina for a few weeks now getting ready with the team. How's the preparation been going?
It’s been awesome! Since I got here, they have been a family to me, and I had some of the best moments of my life. I build friendships here that are more than just racing motocross, and that makes me happy. Everyone’s a family here and I love it. The place here is like Brazil, where I grew up, so it’s been a good time. They also have an awesome outdoor track where we have been putting our work in. The dirt here is prime, which makes for perfect days of riding. I’ve never been on a better place in my career [to train], and I can’t wait to go racing and get my first outdoor season under my belt.
What's it been like being a factory rider so far?
It’s hard to put it into words, to be honest. It’s been surreal! Being a part of a factory team has always been a dream of mine, and to be on one now, it’s like I’m living my dream every single day, and I don’t want to wake up from going to the shop every morning to go ride, to coming back to the hotel where I’m staying. It’s been an awesome three weeks testing and getting to know the team more. I enjoyed every single day of it, and I will forever cherish these moments.
Couple more days until Hangtown. Are you more excited or nervous? What kind of things have the team been telling you?
I’d say more excited. I’m trying not to think about it too much, and it’s been working well. I’ve sacrificed a lot of stuff and put in a lot of work to be where I am today, so that makes me feel great leading up to this pro debut. The team just wants me to go there, and get my first few motos under my belt, and get some experience. Obviously, they want me to do good, but sometimes that takes a few motos until you’re used to pro racing. But I’ve done some big races in the past and they all worked good for me, so I’m ready to go there and give my best every single time I hit the track and have fun with it. I’m living the best time of my life and I can’t wait to line up on Saturday.
What are your goals coming into the season? What are you shooting for? Top 20? Top ten?
I don’t really know because I haven’t raced those guys yet. I just want to get started in my pro career. I feel like I have the speed to be top-ten for sure. I’ll give my best every time I’m on the track.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I just want to thank my parents because I’m going to be here without them and all my friends in Brazil. They’re cheering me on. Everyone went nuts when we found out the deal came together, so I’m pretty stoked everyone’s happy. I hope I can make them proud this year. It’s the first time a Brazilian racer gets a factory ride. I have a lot of friends flying over to watch me race Hangtown and Glen Helen. Going to be a great experience.