Team Suzuki Europe – Pichon out, Smets in
Direct from Team Suzuki Press: Suzuki sign Joel Smets for 2004 four-stroke assault
Team Suzuki have signed five times World Champion Joel Smets to spearhead their FIM MX1 Motocross World Championship effort with the new RM-Z 450.
The Belgian-based squad earlier today announced the end of their association with Mickael Pichon and have now captured the expertise of the 2003 650 title winner Smets with a two year contract to steer the team and factory into a new era of four-stroke racing.
34 year old Smets, who has claimed four 500cc World Championships on four-stroke machinery and holds the record number of GP victories in the old class, resides less than 30 minutes from the team’s workshop in Lommel and is seen to provide an ideal combination of experience, professionalism and determination to facilitate Suzuki’s introduction of the 450 on the GP scene.
“In some respects the decision not to renew the second year of Mickael’s contract was a hard choice, naturally because of the record we have enjoyed in the last few years,” commented Team Owner Sylvain Geboers. “However in another way we are delighted that Joel is coming on board and we are very pleased to have obtained a rider that can offer so much to the team. Joel lives close to our base in Lommel, he is one of the top riders in the World on four-strokes; his record is nothing short of excellent. I believe him to be also a very professional and dedicated individual, who is keen to compete away from the GP’s and this level is exactly what we need for the first year of the 450. This move may appear sudden or even strange to some, and the timing was not helped by the unlucky injury to Mickael, but Suzuki, the team and myself feel that Smets is the best man for the job with the conditions that face us regarding a new motorcycle in what will be a very tough MX category next year. I want to wish Mickael all the best. We had some great seasons together and some wonderful victories. I really hope that he recovers well and I have no doubt he will become one of our main rivals in 2004.”