Defending FIM Motocross World Champion Jeffrey Herlings will remain in Europe in 2019, according to a recent report on the Dutch website NOS.
After Herlings was ruled out for the opening round of MXGP in Argentina due to a foot injury sustained in a January training session, rumors began circulating that he could make the jump to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
According to the report, a meeting took place with KTM on Wednesday in Austria, where the decision was made to keep Herlings in Europe. "In Jeffrey's contract, only the WC is included in the MXGP. Participating in the MX circuit in America was a wish, an idea," said Red Bull KTM sports director Joel Smets to NOS.
"However, KTM already has two advantages there, the American Cooper Webb and the Frenchman Marvin Musquin. Another driver would cause unnecessary rivalry. We prefer to see him alongside Tony Cairoli in the MXGP.
"We know Jeffrey's drive and do not want to take any risks,” he continued. “He has made mistakes in the past and we think we should protect him against himself."
On Monday, Herlings will travel to Belgium to undergo X-rays on his foot, per the report. According to Smets, they hope Herlings can return to riding in April, but the team “will not put a date on his return.”
The second round of the FIM Motocross World Championship takes place this weekend at Matterley Basin for the MXGP of Great Britain. Herlings’ KTM teammate Antonio Cairoli went 1-1 at the opening round as he seeks a tenth world title.
[Update: Friday, March 22]
KTM released an official statement yesterday which you can read below:
MXGP World Champion Jeffrey Herlings will step-up his physical training regime in the coming weeks in anticipation of a return to the saddle of his Red Bull KTM 450 SX-F in late April and FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship action shortly after.
The Dutchman made a visit to Munderfing and KTM Race HQ this week in Austria to plan a tentative schedule in the wake of a complex operation on his broken right foot. In consultation with the factory Red Bull KTM team, race management and medical experts Herlings could be riding his #84 machine by late April. Much depends on the healing process but the 24 year old is already able to train harder and with more flexibility after having his initial protective cast replaced three weeks ago.
The four-times World Champion is certain to miss Grands Prix in Britain, Holland and Italy (four rounds in total) but will then hopefully be counting the days until he can again be behind a FIM World Championship gate, and join his Red Bull KTM teammates with Tony Cairoli and Jorge Prado currently holding the red plates of both MXGP and MX2 classes.
Jeffrey Herlings: “Rehab has been going very well and I cannot wait to be back and to throw a leg over the bike again. I want to be back at the GPs as quick as possible but we cannot say which race yet until I get some riding time. I’m also able to step-up my cycling and swimming now. For sure we’ll miss the next three rounds and we also don't want to rush things and risk a setback."
Robert Jonas, KTM VP of Offroad: “It is good to see that Jeffrey is making progress and we can perhaps see the end of this unfortunate injury that was so disruptive to our 2019 plans. It will be a big boost for us and the team to have Jeffrey back, fit and happy in MXGP. He is a very important rider for an important team for us in MXGP.”