MPG / DAILY BREAD / FEBRUARY 27, 2017
Fredrik Norén has established himself as a regular contender on the professional scene in America since the turn of the new decade. The Swedish native made the move across the Atlantic after finding success in his home country by winning their national championship in 2010. After making the move to the United States, he has done everything within his power to fulfill his dream of racing dirt bikes professionally and making money while doing so -- something that he decided to pursue as a part of a high school program that combined his education with his passion for the sport. Norén has been able to achieve a lot throughout past years racing on American soil; he got the opportunity to ride for HRC on the outdoor circuit multiple times, and has shown consistent speed which has propelled him to three consecutive tenth place finishes in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Norén has experienced some unfortunate mishaps and growing pains which have held him back from achieving the same success indoors, but he is aiming to turn things around this year. He contested the first three rounds of the 250 West series on a TiLube Racing CRF250 in the 450 class, subsequently making the main in San Diego and finishing nineteenth position at the end of the night. His west coast stint was put to bed a little earlier than anticipated due to an illness, but he’s back on the east coast and ready to make some waves after battling back to a thirteenth place finish in the opening round in Minneapolis. He continued to improve this past weekend in the last Monster Energy Supercross event at the Georgia Dome as he put in his best SX finish to date by way of an eighth place finish. We caught up with Freddie a couple days before the second round of the 250 East series to chat about what it was like attending a school that fully supported motocross, his favorite road snacks, and how he’s been feeling on the 250.
I’d like to start off a little bit by talking about racing back in your home country of Sweden. How was the racing over there and what inspired the move over to the U.S?
So, growing up in Sweden and racing all of my younger years in Sweden was a lot different than it is here; the tracks are different, the rider level is different. It was good racing back home, but it’s hard just staying there -- you have to go somewhere else if you wanna do better in the sport. You can’t live off of dirt biking in Sweden. But, umm...the reason why I came here too is that I won the Swedish Championship in 2010 and it was kinda ‘should we go and do the GP’s or like what should we do next?’ A coach of mine presented an idea like “Hey, you should go to America and race. I can help you, y’know, set it up a little bit,” and that coach I had at the time had actually tried to race some SX whenever he raced. And I was like “Thank you! Yeah, that’s cool, let’s do that!” So, as soon as he said that I was all sold on the idea to come to America. I mean, it seems so much cooler to come here and I was all for it. That’s kinda why I came here and watching it growing up, too -- we always used to watch the SX races when I was growing up like fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. So, I followed it over there a little bit and it just seemed a lot cooler to come here, so that’s why I came over.
I know you were actually a part of your high school’s MX team. Is that a common thing in Europe and how important was that to your development as a racer?
Yeah, I don’t really think it’s a common thing in Europe at all. In Sweden they have one, there’s only one. High school in Sweden is a three year thing, I’m not sure how it is here in America. But umm...so you combine schooling with dirt biking, so let’s say you start school at ten on Wednesday -- you would get to school at eight and then you would go train, ride, and do stuff like that from eight to ten. Then go to school, maybe get off school early at like two or something, and then train/ride or stuff like that, and then they would feed you dinner at six before you went home. So, you went to school from eight to six everyday but there was dirt biking and training combined. There’s seven kids in each school year, so twenty-one total. It’s a little bit different in Sweden going to house school, you actually have to pick what you want to become -- like if you wanna be a carpenter, or an electrician, or a car mechanic, or whatever -- you pick that in high school. It’s kinda like a mini college, I guess. So, the schedule is different for the different people that go to the MX school. I was only the dirt bike guy for the program that I went to, so your schedule is a little different, but you ride with other people almost all the time and train with other people almost all the time, or the twenty other kids that you’re going there with. But, it’s a cool thing. I lived about an hour and a half from there, so I got an apartment and moved away from home early. It kinda set me up for coming here a little easier actually, ‘cause I hadn’t lived at home for a couple years like full time. So, it made it a little bit easier coming here, but it was a good thing; I learned a lot. I became a lot faster when I went there and learned a lot more about training, and how everything works. So, it’s a good thing and a good program.
Coming over to the U.S. from Europe, obviously the biggest difference is that you didn’t get the chance to ride SX as much over there. How has the adaptation to SX been over the past five or so years and how’re you feeling indoors this year compared to where you’ve been in recent years?
If I compare myself now from when I started riding SX, it’s way different. I was way sketchy back then. But, like you said...back in Sweden you ride MX and the tracks are not even that similar to Europe or the GP’s in Sweden, so just from that it’s pretty different. And then during the winter you have snow a lot of the time, so you don’t ride during the winter and never really ride any type of SX or anything like that. It was hard, for sure, and the first years that I came here I just stayed during the summer; I only had a six month visa through the summer. So, I would race outdoors and then go home and work during the winter. I did that for a few years, so I didn’t start riding SX really until late ‘13, that was when I first kinda got introduced to it. It’s been a learning curve, that’s for sure. A lot of people that I race kinda get introduced to it on the 85 over here in America, so you have an idea. It’s been a learning process but it’s been a lot of fun and lots of ups and downs, but it’s been really good. Umm, I’m just really thankful to God and blessed that he’s put me here to do this, so I’m very appreciative of that.
Yeah, that’s definitely the direction that the sport is moving in over here.
Yeah, I like it though...sure, people come and say like “Aww, you don’t really like SX, do you?” and I’m like “No, I love SX. I might have better results in outdoors, but I’m working on being a better SX rider than an outdoor rider and it’s a lot of fun.” Like, I really love SX. Outdoors is fun and I love doing that too, but once you get to like October it’s like “I’m ready for SX!’
You decided to race your 250f in the 450 class on the west coast. How much did it help you to just get a little invaluable racing experience before kicking off the 250 East?
Yeah, it was good. I got help from the TiLube Honda Racing team -- Buddy Brooks and those guys kinda helped me get set up. I was under the O’Neal rig, so we kinda did it our own little way with help from the team, ‘cause the team is an east coast team, so they did as much as they could. The bikes are really good, Showa has done a really good job with the suspension as well. It was a really good experience and that’s what I wanted from it; I wanted to get more experience and more racing coming into the East and it was good. I kinda took it as more of a practice race. I mean, obviously you always wanna do good, but my main priority was to go out and learn more and try and be better -- kinda just get the jitters out of me. It was really good, it was fun. My goal was to make a main and it was nice to make that main in San Diego, and just to get to race in the 450 class on a 250 was pretty cool as well. No, it was a good experience and for sure something I’d like to do in the future again maybe. I understand why teams maybe don’t want that, because it’s an extra risk of getting hurt before you go east, but the TiLube guys were all okay with it, and I thought it was a good idea to do it.
Some of the west coast tracks probably prepared you a little bit more than you thought for what’s to come on the east — all the rain out in California made the dirt really soft and the tracks have really been breaking down and getting gnarly this year with the timed racing…
I only did the first three west coast rounds -- I was supposed to do the first four, but I had some issues with my tonsils, so we decided to take my tonsils out after the third round. I actually got sick before the third round, so I didn’t really race Anaheim II much either; I just practiced and did like a lap, and in the night show I just couldn’t ride very good so I decided to call it quits. But, like you said...with all the rain the west coast rounds actually got tore up pretty good, but I think they've done a really good job so far this year making sure the tracks are good for the night show and prepared. I’ve liked it, I feel like it’s been the most fun tracks that I’ve ridden in SX as far as racing goes compared to the other years. I think they’ve done a good job and same with east coast -- the first east coast round, I thought it was fun this weekend. I think they’re doing a good job, but the ruts definitely gave me a little practice getting used to it for the east coast, I guess.
Yeah, I’ve heard that’s really miserable for anyone that has gone through that.
They say the older you are the worse it is and I guess I’m considered being old, haha. They kinda warned me before and they were like “Yeah, it’s gonna suck,” like all this and that, and I was like “I’ll be fine, it’s whatever.” They took ‘em out and I woke up, and it hurt so bad. I couldn’t really eat good for like ten days and I lost some weight and all that, but once I started eating normal again I kinda got back to the normal routine pretty good. We also moved out to South of the Border out here in South Carolina, so that’s been really nice, too -- kinda regrouping a little bit and having a slower pace than California. It’s been nice staying here at the track and having the gym and everything here, it’s been good. I think that helped me get better faster as well.
So, you packed up and made the trip from California back over to South of the Border MX, what do you do to keep yourself entertained on a cross-country road trip like that?
Umm, yeah. It was a long drive. We kinda actually took our time though; the first couple days we just drove pretty much, but then we stopped by the team -- Buddy Brooks is in Louisville, Kentucky. We left on late Tuesday and kinda just drove, but we made sure since I had just taken out my tonsils pretty much that we stopped at hotels and I got a good night’s rest and all that. Once we got to him on Friday, he was like “There’s an AX tomorrow, do you guys wanna see it?” So, I was like “Alright, yeah. I’d like to see that.” We didn’t even know that there was an AX race on Saturday, so we got to go meet the team and ride a practice bike, then Saturday we got to go see the AX racing which was a lot of fun, and then Sunday we were at South of the Border. The trip wasn’t actually too bad and Amy drove quite a bit as well which helped out -- we could kind of switch off and do that, and then we had our dogs with us so they keep us entertained. Once they kinda cool down they’re just sleeping for the most part, so it was not so bad.
What’s your go-to car snack?
Car snack....uhhhh...I mean, I love snacking. That’s like my thing. But, most of the time I try to make sure that I eat good meals so I don’t have to snack too much in the car, ‘cause it’s easy to kind of forget to eat a good meal and just snack the whole way. But I dunno...some nuts, maybe some fruit, maybe some jerky, maybe some kind of bar, and stuff like that.
You’ve been training at SOBMX for a couple of years now, what do you like about the facility there and how was it kind of regrouping to get ready for East coast?
Yeah, I came here for the first time in ‘13 and stayed a couple months, went and did some SX early in ‘14, and then we came back here before we started outdoors, so I had been here before. I really like it here, it’s nice. Ryan is super good and it’s fun to be around a lot of dirt bikers too, helping you get the track all dialed and there’s good ruts and everything, so it’s fun to be back out here, for sure.
The first corner was causing carnage all night in Minneapolis and the track was really tight in a few spots, what did you think of the layout and how’d the racing go there for you?
Yeah, starting with the layout: I liked the track, I thought it was a good track. I like a lot of tracks though -- just me being on a dirt bike I have a good time. I mean, it was interesting I guess...we had some really tight sections and then it would open up a little bit and then it got tight, and like you said there was quite a bit of crashing in the start corner. Actually, my heat race I had a decent start -- I think I was fourth or fifth and that’s when AMart went down and kinda ran him over and fell down with him, so I had my share of the first turn carnage. But, the racing was okay for me. The results I wasn’t very happy with, I obviously wanna be a lot better than thirteenth. I felt like I rode pretty good all day though and in the heat race when we went down, he (Alex Martin) didn’t get past me which was good, and I went all the way back up to ninth. So, I felt like I rode good and same in the main -- I felt like I rode good, but I did some mistakes myself though and went down, dropped back, and had to come back up to thirteenth. So, the results weren’t very good but I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I rode decent so I’ve got something to build off of now for Atlanta, and I’m excited to go race there as well.
What was your first impression of that monstrous stadium?
That stadium was pretty cool. Actually...it was very cool. I dunno, they did a good job designing that thing with all the light and windows; it was big! It seemed like they sold a lot of tickets too, so that was pretty nice as well. It was kinda crazy whenever they announced Dungey for the opening ceremonies...like we were sitting on the line and the fans were just screaming, I can’t imagine how that feels if that was me! So that was cool, the fans seem to be really good there and um....it was the first time for me in Minneapolis SX. The only negative of the place was the pits, for sure; that wasn’t very good. But, other than that it was really good.
Is there anything in particular you’ve been focusing on improving this week at SOB heading into Atlanta?
Umm, I’ve kinda been doing what I was doing before Minneapolis too -- just getting lots of laps, ‘cause I didn’t ride for a while when I had my tonsils taken out. So, I’ve done a lot of laps and lotsa starts -- just workin’ on starts, I mean the start is the key. Actually, we’re working on riding some ruts and stuff, so I actually jumped out on the outdoor track a little bit with the other guys and did a couple laps just to get some rut practice in, like the longer ones. It’s good to get the SX practice too, but it’s nice to get that technique in, so I’ve been doing some of that, too. But, mainly just getting lots of laps in and feeling comfortable with the bike.
I know it’s a ways away now, but obviously your strong suit is outdoors and factory Honda has an open spot with Roczen’s injury — is there anything in the works there or do you know what your plans are for outdoors?
Ummm, as of right now I don’t really know what’s going on with a Honda fill-in or outdoors, haha. I’ve kinda just been focusing on SX and trying to do good in that -- that’s the main thing right now, and then hopefully something good will come from that. But, we’ll see what will happen. Hopefully I’ll know more about outdoors in the next couple weeks, obviously it’s gonna get a lot closer so I need to know, but as of right now I’m not really sure what’s going on.
Who would you like to thank?
TiLube, Honda Racing, O'Neal, Sidi, Eks Brand, Hjc, Dedicated Ride Co, SOB Mx, Gq-6, Rockwell, Cole Equipment Rental, Showa
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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