The opening round of the 2013 FIM World Motocross Championships start this weekend in Qatar. What do the teams and riders have to say? Read on …
From Yamaha Racing: This coming Saturday the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship will burst into life under the lights of Losail and the desert night sky as the very first Grand Prix of Qatar will launch the eighteen round campaign. It will be a novel and unique way to start the racing season for the premier MX1-GP class (450cc four-stroke machines with the Yamaha YZ450FM as one of the protagonists) and the MX2 division (250cc four-strokes with the immensely fast and capable Yamaha YZ250F and prototype YZ250FM starring). Monster Energy Yamaha will once more have a sizeable, powerful and exciting presence in the paddock with two riders on their 450cc technology (Steven Frossard and Joel Roelants) and four on YZ250F machinery (Christophe Charlier, Maxime Desprey, Dean Ferris and Mel Pocock) distributed between the immensely professional and capable race-team setups directed by Michele Rinaldi (Frossard, Roelants and Charlier) and Steve Dixon (Desprey, Ferris and Pocock).
Among the nerves and expectation of the series’ inaugural visit to the Middle East will be the need to adjust to a new race program, introduced for the first time for the overseas events in 2013 (meaning four rounds in Qatar, Thailand next week, Mexico and Brazil). Instead of the two traditional ‘motos’ per class MX1 and MX2 will run one separate 35 minute and 2 lap sprint each before the top finishers of each category combine to form a forty-racer gate for a ‘Superfinal’ that will see the Grand Prix stars mixed; and scoring points for their respective divisions. There is a real buzz about the possibilities of Steven Frossard for the 2013 MX1-GP title. The Frenchman, who was runner-up as a rookie on the YZ450FM in 2011, recently took the number two plate in the Elite Italian Championship and is eager to get back to the front of Grands Prix. “I’m happy with those Italian races,” he said. “They were not perfect but they served a purpose because I got faster and more confident each time. I’ve been riding for three months now and I have to be pleased with how I feel and the level of my preparation for Qatar.”
“The first Grands Prix will be different, for sure, and it feels strange to be starting the championship so early but I think all of us are excited to race again,” he added. “I began with a podium in Holland last year and to get in the top three again in Qatar would be a great way to start. I think our potential in Losail will depend on the track we find and what kind of feeling I can get going. If we come away from Qatar with a top five finish and some good riding then this will be a solid way to open the season.” Frossard had spent over a month in Italy working closely with the Parma-based factory team and new MX1-GP rookie team-mate Joel Roelants not only to get himself in competitive shape but also chisel the YZ450FM. “We’ve been doing some testing in Italy as well as the races and the team have focused on the character and performance of the engine for this year. There was already a lot of power but we have worked on taking the best of it for the starts, and then also creating an engine that makes the whole riding process easier. It is a long championship with a lot of motos so the idea was to make the bike just a little bit kinder for racing right to the edge.” Roelants gained valuable mileage in Italy and now stands on the threshold of a memorable season in his career; the first in MX1 and the first as a team works rider. “Obviously I’m excited but I’m keeping realistic about these first races,” he said. “I’ve only been riding for a month and a half and we had an intense period of six weeks racing and testing in Italy. I was getting up to speed and it was heavy-going but now I’m back home and focusing on what I need to do for Qatar and Thailand. Together with Michele Rinaldi, Yamaha Rinaldi Research and Develop and Team Principal we made a plan not to go too crazy at these opening GPs outside of Europe and get some solid results.”
In MX2 Christophe Charlier affronts his second term with the YZ250FM prototype. In 2012 the former European Champion celebrated his first career podium result (in Brazil) and has been leading development on the bike into 2013. “During the winter, I made many tests with the team in Italy, Belgium and Sardinia and the YRRD staff have continued to evolve the engine and it is more powerful this season. We also used our time to find the best suspension setting as well I changed the position of the handlebars to improve my riding position. Overall I have a very good feeling with the bike.” Charlier kick-starts 2013 in full fitness and in decent form having recently celebrated his second Italian MX2 Championship. “I have continued working with my trainer Willy Linden this year and I have applied myself very seriously to his plans and advice,” the Corsican added. “The Italian championship helped to finalise my preparation. Now I know my level and I am ready for the first GP.” The 21 year old is joined in what will be a tight and unpredictable series for podium positions by Dean Ferris – who already boasts MX1 Grand Prix experience and was close to an Australian championship in 2011 – as well as MX2 European Championship graduates Mel Pocock and Maxime Desprey. Pocock will gather attention as the reigning Euro Champ and after having impressed with wild-card top ten results in the MX2 World Championship last year. “I’ve never prepared for a season as well as I have for this one,” he said. “I had a good month in America and also stepped up my work with Kirk Gibbons, trainer. Steve Dixon has made some tweaks to the bike and the suspension to make it handle even sweeter for this season and I cannot be happier with how the YZ250F is feeling. We already had a very quick motorcycle but now it is closer to the complete package. Last year I finished top ten at Valkenswaard in a wild-card appearance. My goal for 2013 is to be a top six rider at Grand Prix so if I can get close to that from the first race then I’ll be happy. It will definitely be different racing in Qatar and I cannot wait to get started.”
From Suzuki Racing: A short pre-season of preparation for Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 comes to a formal end this Saturday as the very first FIM Motocross Grand Prix of Qatar takes place at Losail and opens the 2013 World Championship campaign.
Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos will guide their factory RM-Z450 machines around the new rocky layout for part one of two overseas events that initiate the 18-round MX1 series.
The works Suzuki crew will again rely on the talents of two Belgian riders, Desalle and Strijbos – both former championship runner-ups – as the lights are turned on for MX Grand Prix racing’s first ever night meeting at the renowned and spectacular MotoGP venue.
It will be the fourth term in ‘yellow’ for 23 year old Desalle and also the fourth where ’25’ is expected to be a contender for the MX1 crown after claiming victory for the third year in a row at the Valence International recently. “We made a few changes to the routine with some cardio stuff but we are at a level now where we know our bodies and the job we need to do,” said Desalle “We go to Qatar for the first Grand Prix and for sure it will be different but it will be important not to put too much pressure on ourselves this weekend. This is the longest championship for many years and there is a lot of racing ahead.
“We’ve been working on the bike and the 2013 chassis has brought a bit more stability in the turns,” he added. “There have little changes to the new race bike but that’s how you improve an already good motorcycle, making small progressions here and there. The biggest difference has been with the air suspension. It is a bit difficult to explain how the unit behaves but basically it is a different feeling and it has taken some getting used to as well as some tests, but we have been working hard and we’re good to go.”
It could be said that Strijbos is a Suzuki man at heart. The veteran grew up with the team through MXGP and the initial years of MX1 at the beginning of the last decade; even marking the RM-Z450’s first ever GP win in 2005. He twice grabbed the ‘number two plate’ to Stefan Everts. Strijbos returned to the crew for several appearances as a substitute rider in 2011 and after a decent 2012 campaign where he gained three podiums (his first silverware since 2006) as a privateer, has been welcomed back into the factory fold. “Yes, this is like part three for me!” he said. “I’ve said many times before that this is a team and a way to work that I feel very comfortable with and I feel really good going into the season. It is interesting for me to work with Joel Smets, now that he is an integral member of the team, and having a five times world champion with all his experience is something very positive to have in your corner.”
The first round of 18 in the 2013 MX2 series will take place on a new track located in the confines of the Losail MotoGP complex and both Max Anstie and Julien Lieber, armed with their factory-backed RM-Z250s, will venture into the sand hoping to start their racing campaign shining under the famous lights.
The short pre-season spell has seen the German crew working in some diverse locations with Anstie using five rounds of the AMA Supercross 250 West Coast Supercross series to acquaint himself with the new works motorcycle and also get dialled-in for the Grand Prix year. Back in Europe, Lieber has been also busy with test responsibilities and even attempted a chilly Le Touquet beach race in early February.
Anstie is a new recruit for the squad but has already shown his mettle at MX2 level with two podiums in the past two seasons with different motorcycles. Lieber stepped in as a replacement for the last four rounds of the 2012 competition and the small Belgian’s speed and hard work on the RM-Z250 was impressive enough to win a contract for a full crack at the 2013 schedule.
Said Anstie: “I think being in Qatar for the first GP is going to be awesome: I have already done five races at night this year! I have had the best preparation for this season and I can honestly say the team and I have done absolutely everything we can to go and perform to our best.
“I am feeling great on the Suzuki and have had more bike time than any of my European competitors,” he added. “I cannot thank the team enough for what we have already done together and what we have achieved. It will be a good year, and we will be strong together. Let’s go racing.”
Said Lieber: “I’m really happy to be part of this team and to have a bike like the RM-Z250, it seems like we have a lot of possibilities and potential and I cannot wait to start the season for real.”
Team Manager Thomas Ramsbacher said: “I’m pleased. We did some good work with Max in America and he got some decent race time with the bike and came through those Supercross events without any injury. Julien came into the team late last year and was really trying to do the best he could without much time on the RM-Z and now clearly he has had many more kilometres on the track and a lot of testing to make the bike really his own. The Suzuki is ready for top results. We have the usual excellent support from SMC like we have enjoyed for the past few years and Jens and the guys have developed an excellent race bike for this season.”
Anstie and Lieber will also have the unusual task of battling the 450cc MX1 machines at Losail. For the first time in the history of the MX1 and MX2 classes, both categories will be mixed in a three moto format (MX1 and MX2 in two separate heats and then a Superfinal) used specifically for this Grand Prix and also in Thailand the following week. Points scored in the Superfinal will be relevant to a rider’s particular division.
From Honda Racing: Honda World Motocross team looking forward to Qatar season opener
Honda World Motocross riders Evgeny Bobryshev and Max Nagl are looking to kick off their 2013 season at the inaugural MX1 World Championship night race being held in Losail, Qatar this weekend with a firm start to their championship campaigns.
For Evgeny Bobryshev the off-season has been good, with an intense physical training schedule, followed by testing in Japan and races at the Italian Championship, in which he finished in third place, as well as the arrival of his baby daughter in the early hours of Sunday morning. The Russian racer is certainly feeling physically strong with the winter training programme from Padova University, and the Honda pilot is at ease with the 2013 CRF450R, which he hopes to bring back to the forefront of the championship following last season.
Max Nagl will make his Grand Prix Honda debut this weekend, and despite a pre-season marred with injury, which saw him sit off the bike for a large proportion of the training period, the 25-year-old German is aiming for consistency this weekend. Nagl will be looking to get back up-to speed in terms of refining set-up, despite only riding for the first time last week since breaking his left hand, although he is feeling relatively comfortable on the bike with the injury.
It will certainly be an interesting weekend with the races being held on Saturday March 2 under the floodlights that Losail has become famous for in the MotoGP championship. The motocross track, situated next to the road race circuit, has been built in the last few months and will be a new experience for the MX1 racers. In addition to this there is a new format for overseas races, in which riders across the two classes compete in a single race each followed by a combined Super Final.
Evgeny Bobryshev #777: “It’s the first race and for sure it’s exciting to come to the first Grand Prix after a long time without all of the top contenders racing together. For me it has been a long period of training and preparation, so everyone in the team is ready and it will be good to see who is up-to the mark with my MX1 competitors. I feel totally prepared and I feel very positive; the bike is fantastic and everything has gone in the right way. We will have to wait and see how things go from a racing perspective, but the season is long and I want to be smart in the beginning to avoid what happened last year. I need to keep it on two wheels and aim to achieve what we’ve been working for. I am not sure about how things will look riding in the night under the lights, as we’ve never done this, but it’s more cool in temperature at night, which is a lot better for m e. We have time to try different lenses to see what will be better with the goggles, as well as seeing if there are any shadows or anything. I have taken a look around Doha while I’ve been here and it’s been interesting to see the culture while we prepare for this race.”
Max Nagl #12: “I am feeling okay, but I am not expecting too much with the injury in my hand. If we count from last year since the Motocross of Nations in Lommel until now I have had only two complete weeks on the bike, so it’s nothing in comparison to what I would have liked. The bike set-up is still the setting from Japan in November, as I missed all of the tests since then with the injury, but it’s a decent base setting that we can work from. There are obviously going to be things we want to change as we start racing. That aside I am very pumped to be here racing in the night with the lights and the nice weather. We didn’t know how the injury would be, so I am just happy to be here and be in a good enough condition to race.”
Roger Harvey: Honda Europe Off-Road Manager: “It has been an intense off-season for us with a new bike to work with and of course inviting Max to the team. For Bobby (Bobryshev) things have gone smoothly, and we aim to take a calculated approach to the start of the season. Max (Nagl) hasn’t had as much time as he wanted on the bike, and he has missed a lot of the testing in the early part of this year due to a hand injury. We hope he will be able to get through this weekend without too much discomfort, and get himself back up-to full fitness as soon as possible. Finally, on behalf of Honda, I’d like to express our congratulations to Bobby and his wife Elena on the birth of their daughter, who arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning.”
Honda World Motocross riders Evgeny Bobryshev and Max Nagl comment ahead of the first ever night race at a Motocross Grand Prix
Red Bull KTM: Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teams head into the coming season from a position of strength as holders of both the MX1 and MX2 world titles but aware that the fight to stay at the top of the sport is a tough one and the competition fierce. Despite the challenges, the team goes into the season confident in their fitness, skills and equipment and riders are keen to show their form in the first GPs of the season in Qatar.
Six-times World Champion Antonio Cairoli will again spearhead the hunt for KTM’s next MX1 world title. His pre-season preparation has shown that he is already in winning form coming off a victory in the three-round Italian international Championship. Cairoli will again be on the light and agile KTM 350 SX-F, the bike on which he has sealed the last two MX1 World Championship titles and his performance on the three different surfaces of the Italian races indicate that he will be a force on all terrains.
Belgian rider Ken De Dycker will again partner Cairoli in the MX1 factory team. De Dycker stepped into the lineup in the first half of the 2012 season to substitute for the injured Max Nagl and his performance ensured that he was offered a factory ride half way through the season. De Dycker, who rides the KTM 450 SX-F, was also a strong performer at the pre-season warm-up at the Italian races. Cairoli won both the MX1 and Elite categories and De Dycker finished 2-3.
MX1 team boss Claudio de Carli said his team had been able to carry out a number of successful pre-season tests and underlined that the Italian series had been a great opportunity for his two riders to hone their track skills on different surfaces. “The races in the Italian Championships were very useful because they gave our riders the chance to race on three entirely different types of tracks. In Sardinia we raced on sand, then there was the hard pack track at Malagrotta and the round at Arco on loose gravel.” De Carli said his riders will face all of these types of tracks during the GP season. “I am very happy with the pre season preparation. We’ve done many tests with KTM and now we have had three perfect races,” he said after the successful Italian International Championship.
Should Cairoli take his seventh World Motocross Championship in 2013 he will have another important goal in his sights, and close to home in his own factory team. KTM team manager Stefan Everts has an amazing 10 World titles to his name and it remains to be seen if the popular Italian is able to surpass this impressive list.
Dutch teenager Jeffrey Herlings, the current MX2 World Champion will again lead the MX2 charge in 2013 for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. Herlings, spotted as a future star by Stefan Everts at an early age, got his first factory ride at the close of the 2009 season when he slipped under the MX2 age limit. His first full season, 2010, saw him injured in the second half and in 2011 he duked it out with eventual MX2 World Champion for KTM, Ken Roczen, who then went to race for KTM in the USA. Herlings took the title in 2012 and now his main challenger, Tommy Searle of the UK, now moves up to MX1. After some memorable performances in 2012, Herlings is widely recognized as the finest rider on sand but is increasingly impressive on other surfaces. He has already won 16 GPs and if he is able to retain his title in 2013 he will be the first Dutchman to win two World Championships in a row in the same class.
MX2 teammate Jordi Tixier of France rides for the factory team for the second season. He comes off 2012 in good form. He speculated at the beginning of the season that he hoped for a top 10 finish, which he in fact bettered by five positions. Tixier is expected to be amongst the podium contenders in 2013. Both Herlings and Tixier ride the KTM 250 SX-F.
MX2 team boss Stefan Everts, who is charged with developing the younger riders in the lineup said his two are in good shape, even though their pre-season race practice was reduced to one race outing at Round 3 of the Italian Championship. Both Herlings and Tixier were down to race at the Hawkstone International in the UK in February but the race was cancelled due to adverse weather.
Stefan Everts: “Herlings was ill before Christmas and missed some training weeks but I don’t think this will harm his speed. He was looking good at Arco and he’s also happy with his new 2013 bike. I expect him to be able to defend his title as champion. Tixier has had a really good winter. He started working on his preparation in November and his riding has been improving so the distance between him and Herlings has got smaller. Jordi also likes his 2013 bike and I am expecting him to race for top three positions this year.”
The 2013 season will be launched by a night race under lights in Qatar, followed by the second GP in Thailand. There are also two rounds of the championship in the Americas – one in Brazil and one in Mexico. There will be a new race format in these four rounds with MX1 and MX2 racing one moto each and then racing together for the third race. Everts said he believed that the new format will be difficult for the MX2 riders, although he is confident that Herlings will adapt. “Personally, I prefer the 2-race format for the development of our young motocross stars,” he said.
The season is made up of 16 GPs starting in Loisal (Qatar) on March 2, 2013 and finishing at a yet to be announced venue on September 8. The popular Motocross of Nations will be at Teutschenthal, Germany on September 29, likely to be an opportunity for Roczen’s home-town fans to see him ride at home.
From Youthstream: LOSAIL (Qatar). This weekend starts the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship season at Losail’s Motocross track in Qatar during the 1st and 2nd March. Many expectations have been generated around this event, not only because it will be the first race of the 2013 season, but also because it will be a reference in the History of the sport for being the first ever MXGP in the Middle East, the first MXGP celebrated at night under the floodlights and with the new Super Final format.
Losail Motocross Track is the first Motocross track in Qatar and for the first time they will host an International event. However, the facilities of Losail are well known worldwide since many years, as they regularly host one round of the MotoGP Championship. The cooperation between Youthstream and QMMF has been outstanding and together with Musco Lighting System, the same company that illuminates the Losail International Circuit for MotoGP, they will write their names in the History of the sport for having celebrated the first ever Grand Prix under the floodlights.
Another highlight of the weekend is the fact that Livia Lancelot, 2008 FIM Women’s Motocross World Champion, will be taking part in the MX2 class during the MXGP in Qatar. She will be the second woman to take part in the FIM Motocross World Championship, after Mariana Balbi, who took part in the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2009 classifying 24th overall.
MX1 defending Champion Antonio Cairoli has recently admitted that he is really excited to race in Qatar under the floodlights and he is also looking forward to visiting the country and getting involved with a different culture. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, who has six FIM Motocross World Titles under his belt, took part in the Italian National Championship some weeks ago and he proved that he is fully fit to the defend the Title already in the first Grand Prix.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki World’s Clement Desalle, who finished second last year, is determined to start the 2013 season fighting for the top of the podium. The Belgian rider was the only one who led the MX1 standings last year apart from Cairoli, so he is one of the clear favourites to stop the Italian to claim another MX1 Title. Desalle took also part in some international off-season races and he also obtained excellent results. This year Desalle will have his compatriot Kevin Strijbos in the team, so the Rockstar Energy Suzuki World squad expects to be fighting for a double podium position in several Grand Prix.
Another candidate to be fighting for the top three positions is the Monster Energy Yamaha rider Steven Frossard, who is coming back to the FIM Motocross World Championship fully fit again after having missed almost the whole 2012 season due to a knee injury. The French rider finished second in 2011 in his rookie year in the FIM MX1 World Championship, so he is for sure another rider to be looking at not only for this Grand Prix, but also during the whole season. Joel Roelants will be the new MX1 teammate of Frossard and the Belgian is looking forward to starting his rookie season in the FIM MX1 World Championship.
For Gautier Paulin it will be the second year in the FIM MX1 World Championship and he has recently admitted that he feels much more comfortable with his bike this season and he is ready to be more often on the rostrum. The Kawasaki Racing Team rider finished third last year and he managed to win the second Grand Prix of 2012, which took place in Sevlievo, Bulgaria. Belgian rider Jeremy Van Horebeek, who finished third last year in the FIM MX2 World Championship, has joined the Kawasaki Racing Team this season on his debut in the MX1 class.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Ken De Dycker was the big surprise last year finishing fifth in the FIM MX1 World Championship and fighting for the top three positions at every Grand Prix. It will be the second season for the Belgian rider in the KTM factory team, so his main goal is to be more consistent and try to be as close as possible to his teammate’s level.
The Honda World Motocross team is also very excited to starting the new season with Evgeny Bobryshev and their new rider Max Nagl, who had an extraordinary end of 2012 season after his comeback from a serious back injury. Bobryshev had a difficult season last seasn, but he wants to prove that he is able to be fighting for the top three positions, and his teammate Nagl will do his best to join the Russian at every Grand Prix, even if he is still recovering from a hand injury he suffered a month ago in the Starcross of Mantova.
CLS MX1 Monster Energy Kawasaki Pro Circuit’s Tommy Searle will take part in his first Grand Prix in the FIM MX1 World Championship after having finished second in the FIM MX2 World Championship in 2012. Last year the British rider had already the opportunity to test the 450cc bike, as he represented Great Britain in the MX1 class in the Motocross of Nations. Searle has always said that he feels very comfortable in the 450cc bike, so he will have to prove already this weekend if he is able to be fighting for the top positions in his rookie year.
Xavier Boog, who finished seventh last year in the FIM Motocross World Championship, and Rui Gonçalves will be teammates this year in the renovated Kimi Räikkönen’s structure of ICEONERACING. The whole team has had a great off-season preparation, so they are now ready to test their speed and their settings with the rest of the teams.
2008 FIM MX1 World Champion David Philippaerts, who is fully recovered from the wrist injury he suffered last year in the Grand Prix of Sweden, will be back this weekend fully motivated wearing the colours of Honda Gariboldi. Another rider who changed team for this 2013 season is Shaun Simpson who is looking forward to race with his brand new TM Factory Racing machine.
The Losail circuit hosted its first motocross race less than two weeks ago. Located a short distance from the capital of Doha the terrain is believed to be rocky and loose and placed on a flat landscape. Temperatures in the Middle East mean that the Grand Prix will be staged at night and Qatar will also see the introduction of a new three moto format with MX1 and MX2 classes mixed for a Superfinal that will start at 23.10 local time.