When Ruben Fernandez made his full-time MXGP debut for Team HRC in Argentina back in March this year, nobody expected the young Spaniard to take the overall victory and yet he did, partly by taking victory in the second race of the day.
“Winning my first GP at the first round of 2023 season and on my debut with Team HRC was a fantastic achievement for me, especially because it was in Argentina, I’m Spanish, they speak Spanish there so it was like being at home but far from home.
I realised that we've come a long way and we've come so far already, joining HRC, getting my first GP win, it's kind of unbelievable but if you look back it seems also like the hard work paid off for all these years of going through difficult moments.”
As the son of Fuen and Paco he was not only one of four children, but his father was a national level motocross rider and on the weekends Ruben with his sister and two brothers used to go and watch their father race.
"The first memory of a motorcycle for me was going to see my dad race at the regional championships here. He used to race nationals as well, but we used to go see him at the regional races close to home and I remember having so much fun as a kid together with my brothers to go and watch those races.”
Those early days of two wheels gave Ruben the bug and his brothers Sergio and Francisco joined him on the tracks. Where at times all three of them plus their father were racing on the same weekend.
Naturally you’d have expected Ruben to follow in his footsteps and although he did, it wasn’t necessarily his dream to go racing, turn professional, or even race in MXGP as for him it was all about the fun aspect of riding. But that didn’t stop him becoming Spanish Motocross Champion multiple times!
His ascent to the top class of motocross came off impressive appearances in MX2 as he took a podium in Russia whilst riding for the 114 Motorsports Team which was under the tutelage of former racer and now team manager, Livia Lancelot.
“Looking back to my first time on the podium I can say it felt great. I’d had some difficult times and years before that where I hadn’t found the technical support to get the best results but then I jumped into a new team and since the beginning it felt good and I had a good machine to achieve good results. At that first race in Russia where I took second overall and achieved my first MX2 podium in the World Championship it felt like the hard work was paying off and that's always satisfying.”
Stepping up at the end of 2021 to cover for the injured Mitch Evans at Team HRC was Ruben’s chance to shine; an opportunity to show his potential on a stronger bike and although he went from one weekend of being on the 250 to jumping on the 450 in the MXGP class, it turned out better than he thought.
"The first moto I did I finished fourth, that was quite an achievement because I was racing with the fastest guys in the highest class so that was good for me as I’d had no preparation, nothing.
I wasn't really expecting anything from there, but then I got the chance to jump up to the MXGP class one year earlier for the 2022 season.”
That 2022 season showed him consistently in the top ten and he also took three thirds before he was drafted into the top Honda team for this year.
Argentina was such an impressive debut for the young Spaniard, but he was also without his new, experienced teammate, the legendary Tim Gajser who was recovering from a pre-season injury.
"Of course having Tim as a teammate is something good for me; he's a five times world champion. All I can do is learn a lot from him but it's also good because he's a very humble person, very nice and down to earth so it's really easy to talk with him. When he was not racing he used to send me texts, wishing me good luck and stuff for the races so that's something I really appreciated.”
Although Ruben is now based in Porto for the majority of his time, it’s at his parents home in Vigo where the many trophies and memorabilia are on display together with hundreds of photos in albums of the family on their motocross travels.
A close knit family, his mother Fuen prefers to stay at home on a race weekend, the nerves getting the best of her, preferring to clean their home from top to bottom! His father goes to watch when not attending to his vast vegetable garden, a quiet man, his influence has been important to Ruben.
“Definitely my dad has been my biggest inspiration and the one from who I learned the most. He's still by my side nowadays and well, we're still going strong.”
Like with all racers, there has been a period of difficulties, whether it’s financial or poor race results, but Ruben did have an alternative career path should his career on two wheels have not taken off.
“When I was at school and they used to ask us what we would have liked it to be when we were older I always use to say firefighter because it has something to do with fitness. I liked any kind of sport when I was a kid, I used to play football and basketball and I always thought it would be cool to be a firefighter because of course you have to stay fit and go through some physical tests, being at the office is not a kind of a job I would have liked to do.”
Thankfully, we’ve been able to experience his two wheel talent on the world stage and one day we hope to see the words ‘World Champion’ after his name. But if it all stopped, he has some wise words about what he’s achieved.
“Of course we have pictures with a lot of friends from all these years, as well as some trophies that show some good results or some good races.
But for me it’s mostly about the people you meet and the memories you make.”