The Red Bull Teka KTM Factory Racing team launches its racing season this weekend at the first round of the Internazionali d’Italia Motocross Championship on the Ponte a Egola MX track near Pisa.
MX1 World Champion Tony Cairoli. Photo: Freeman G.
The team, which last year won both MX1 and MX2 world titles in spectacular style, will use the Italian championship as its warm-up for the GP season.
Italian fans will give the reigning MX1 World Champion Tony Cairoli a huge welcome, along with his teammate Max Nagl of Germany. Cairoli had a near perfect season in 2010, his first for the KTM factory team, when he took the coveted title riding the brand new KTM 350 SX-F machine, a bike that he describes as “excellent”. Both Cairoli and Nagl ride the 350 SX-F this season.
The fans will also thrill to the spectacular riding of 16-year-old Dutchman Jeffrey Herlings who returns to competition after healing a shoulder injury incurred in the 2010 Czech GP at Loket. Jeffrey has worked hard at his rehabilitation and has been busy training ahead of the season. This season he is joined in MX2 in the factory squad by Jeremy van Horebeek of Belgium. Ken Roczen, the third MX2 rider, is still in the USA competing in the AMA SX series and will rejoin the team for the opening GP of the season in Sevlievo, Bulgaria at the beginning of April.
MX1 rider Max Nagl of Germany. Photo: Freeman G.
All the riders have had a busy winter preparing for the racing season. While Tony was in the USA in January taking advantage of the warm California weather to get in as much track time as possible, Max, Jeffrey and Jeremy went to train in Spain before returning to test themselves on the sand tracks in Belgium and the Netherlands. All four then met up in Italy in February to train and test and then on to Spain.
Both Tony and Max will race all four rounds of the Internazionali d’Italia – in Ponte a Egola this weekend, in Faenza (March 5-6), Cingoli (March 12-13) and Gazzane di Preseglie (March 26-27). At this stage it is planned that the two younger riders, Herlings and Van Horebeek, will compete in the first two rounds.
16-year-old Dutchman Jeffrey Herlings. Photo: Freeman G.
The weather can be a major player this weekend in Ponte a Egola, a track that can be hard clay with stones on a dry day but can be very slippery in wet weather. It is also a relatively narrow track with only one very fast line. As it is difficult to overtake it will be essential for the KTM riders to get away from the start gates fast and cleanly.
While Cairoli will be the center of attention for the Italian fans, he sees it as the perfect preparation for the upcoming GP season. “There are four races all close together and then the World championship will start. So this is the perfect opportunity to put in some race practice and to work on the final set up of the bike,” Cairoli said.