Considering America is a hotbed of motocross, it is surprising that not many Americans make the journey over to Europe to test their skills against the best in the world. It has been more than two-decades since an American won a FIM Motocross World Title – the last was Bobby Moore, who won the 1994 125cc World Championship onboard a Yamaha YZ125 under the wing of Michele Rinaldi – who now owns and operates the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing Team. This year, 21-year-old American Tristan Charboneau joined the ASTES4-TESAR Yamaha Official EMX250 Team with high hopes of winning the 2018 EMX250 Championship before stepping up to MX2 next year. Yamaha Racing spoke to the talented kid from Tenino, Washington about his European experience, his GYTR kitted YZ250F, what has attracted him to racing in Europe, and his recent injury.
How has the experience in Europe been?
TC: “The experience in Europe is always awesome. You see new things every single time. For me, this is the second time I have been here. This time I am living in Italy, near Milan, right next to Malpensa airport which makes it super easy to travel and go places. I love the experience of being over here and going to the races here as well, it’s awesome.”
How do you compare racing in Europe to racing in the USA?
TC: “It would be different if I was racing MX2 right now, but I am only racing EMX, and that is more low-key and calm. We only race one race a day, but being able to see the MX2 riders and the work that they put in, I can see it’s a lot different to in the states. In the states you go out on the track four times per day. Here the MX2 guys go out three times each day, and I think that is a big difference. I really look forward to moving into the MX2 class and seeing how that all works out.”
What made you want to race in Europe rather than in the USA?
TC: “Honestly, it never crossed my mind to race in Europe. I can honestly say it’s not something I thought about doing, but after I finished my contract in America, my only other option was to come to Europe. It was really out of the blue, so I had two choices at that point. Go out and race in the US as a privateer, or come to Europe, so I chose to come here. My first season was difficult in the beginning, but at the halfway point I was winning races and enjoying every minute of it.”
How are you finding the ASTES4-TESAR GYTR kitted YZ250F?
TC: “I love it. I love Yamaha’s, and I have always loved Yamaha’s. I raced them throughout most of my amateur career. The bike has always been good to me, I think they are the best bike out. I have never had any major problems with them and I just feel more comfortable on a Yamaha than any other brand, so I just love it in general.”
Can you talk about your knee injury? What happened?
TC: “Two and a half weeks ago at Ottobiano, in Italy, I had a very small crash coming over the hump before the finish line. It was very cold out and the ground was really hard and cold. The front just came out from under me and I thought ‘I will slide this one out and get up’ but as I was sliding, I twisted my leg and heard my knee pop super badly, so I knew instantly that something was wrong.
Four days later I went and got an MRI, it was the soonest I could get in, and they told me I had a bi-lateral tear and that there was a piece of my meniscus that had broken off and was floating around. Apparently that is where most of the pain is coming from. It’s been difficult to accept.”
Up until you hurt your knee, how were you feeling going into the 2018 EMX250 season?
TC: “I was feeling great. At the Italian Championship in Mantova I had 10 minutes of a good moto, which was a good test of my speed. I started to refocus and go really really hard after Mantova to be as prepared as I can be for the EMX season. Before the knee injury, I felt like I was in great shape.”
Now what’s the plan?
TC: “I will head back to the US and get this knee fixed to be back on the track as soon as possible. I want to come back when my knee is 100%, I want to come back and win races, mid-pack will not be good enough.”
Last year Tristan entered his first full season inside the EMX250 Championship, which runs in conjunction with the FIM Motocross World Championship. The now 21-year-old won his first EMX250 race in Russia at round five, and then went on to dominate the seventh round in Portugal with a double-moto victory. He wrapped up his rookie season with more race wins at the final two rounds of the series, in Switzerland and France, taking his ‘win-tally’ to five.
Tristan won more races than any other rider inside the EMX250 category in 2017 and was one of the favourites heading into the 2018 EMX250 Championship. Unfortunately his knee injury meant he couldn’t race at the opening round in Spain last weekend, March 24th and 25th. He has since returned to the USA, on Wednesday, March 28th, to have his knee repaired. An update on his return to Europe will be posted on the Yamaha Racing channels when more news is available.